In Christianity, there are two paradise: the earthly paradise and the heavenly paradise.
According to Catholicism
(Adam and Eve in Paradise in a painting by Lucas Cranach)
The earthly paradise
The “earthly paradise” expression does not exist – as such – in the Hebrew text of Genesis (the first book of the Old Testament).
The term is used in chapter titles added in some editions (like the Vulgate), to make the original text easier to read. The original text of Genesis is written without a chapter heading (see for example the Jerusalem Bible) and does not mention any earthly paradise. On the merits, the term means the place God created for Adam and his wife (the man appointed her by Eve, since she gives life to his descendants: Eve would mean Life) and where they should live as well as their descendants.
According to the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis describes a garden of delights or Garden of Eden, a wonderful garden with all kinds of trees and plants, delicious fruit, and where coexist in harmony all animals under the direction of Man.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil, present in Paradise is an allegorical picture of the Book of Genesis according to which God planted in the Garden of Eden “two mysterious trees”:
“And the Lord God made a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had made.
And out of the earth the Lord made every tree to come, delighting the eye and good for food; and in the middle of the garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
– (Genesis 2:8-9)
(The serpent tempting Adam and Eve (Notre-Dame de Paris), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P1330790_Paris_IV_Notre-Dame_facade_ouest_Adam_et_Eve_rwk.jpg)
However, the snake, later understood as Satan (see (Rev 12:9), convinced Adam and Eve to be emancipated. This emancipation led them explore and experiment their human nature, made of “good” but also “evil”.
- They lose their status as first innocence: they discover they are “naked” and out of the illusion of the “primeval perfection”;
- They discover that they are not God. This decision leads to bitter consciousness conscience, guilt, original sin. The downgrade is symbolized by the fact that they feel “expelled from paradise”;
- The snake (symbol) of evil at work in themselves and the world is “cursed”;
- The experiment of the reality principle, in the form of finitude, scarcity and the need, is experienced by them: “Now you will work with the sweat of your brow.”
Some fundamentalist Christian denominations prefer to focus on less symbolic visions of Paradise and favor stricter interpretations centered on ideas of punishment, drop, and original sin.
The heavenly paradise
Unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament (Greek text) uses the word Paradise.
According to the common idea, the heavenly paradise is the abode of the righteous souls after death. This is not a material but a spiritual state place where the righteous will experience rest, eternal happiness, perfect and infinite in the contemplation of God. The earthly paradise was the image of the heavenly paradise.
It is also by choice, in contrast, that the souls of those who refuse God are separating on him, and this “self-exclusion” (Catechism of the Catholic Church) is hell, because it is a self-exclusion de facto from Love and Happiness, God being one and the other.
In the Gospel according to Luke (Lk 23:42 to 43), the good thief, crucified next to Jesus, asks:
“And he said, Jesus, keep me in mind when you come in your kingdom.
And he said to him, Truly I say to you, Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Note: Other translations render this text as:
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
based on the fact that Jesus was resurrected two days after and not the day of his death. Moreover, after his resurrection, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene:
“Do not put your hand on me, for I have not gone up to the Father: but go to my brothers and say to them, I go up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (Jn 20:17)
This suggests that the promise Jesus made to the former evildoer will be done the day of the Resurrection as announced by Jesus himself in John 5:28-29.
According to Protestantism
The Protestant liberal thought rather envisages the sky design in the sense of a “service of God for the benefit of a universal moral progress.”
According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The definition of paradise, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), is based on Chapter 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Corinthians (chapter 1), in the Bible.
The afterlife is first divided into two parts till the Last Judgement; it is then divided into four levels, three of which are called degrees of glory, as an illustration, are compared to the celestial bodies.
Before the Last Judgment, the spirits, separated from their physical body at death, go either to heaven of the spirit or to prison based on their merits acquired in life.
- Paradise is a place of rest while his people continue to learn and prepare for the Last Judgment.
- The spirit prison is a place of anguish and suffering for the wicked and the unrepentant, but missionary work is accomplished among the spirits in prison to allow them to repent, to accept the gospel, atonement and to be baptized, by the practice of baptism for the dead.
After the resurrection and the last judgment, people are sent to one of four levels:
- The celestial kingdom that is the highest level, with its power and glory comparable to the sun. Here, the faithful and courageous disciples of Christ who accepted the fullness of his gospel and kept their alliances through the prophets of their respective dispensation, are reunited with their families and with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for all eternity. Those who have accepted the gospel with all their heart if they had had the opportunity in life (following judgment by Christ and God the Father) are also in the heavenly Kingdom.
The Latter-day Saints do not believe in the concept of original sin, but think that there are innocent children through the atonement. Therefore, all children who die before the age of accountability will inherit that glory. Men and women who contracted celestial marriage are eligible, under the tutelage of God the Father, to become gods and goddesses as co-heirs with Jesus Christ.
- The terrestrial kingdom, whose the power and the glory are comparable to that of the moon, is for:
- those who have heard and rejected the full Gospel in life, but lived a righteous life,
- those who have accepted the gospel but did not continue the alliance by continuing the process of faith, repentance, and service to others,
- those who died without law (D&C 76:72) but accepted the full Gospel and repent after death through missionary work carried out among the spirits in prison.
God the Father does not come in the earthly kingdom, but Jesus Christ’s visit and the Holy Spirit is with them.
- The telestial kingdom is comparable to the glory of the stars. Those who go into the celestial kingdom suffer the pains of hell after death because they were liars, murderers, adulterers, blasphemers, etc. They finally are saved from hell and are redeemed by the power of the Atonement at the end of the millennium. Despite its lesser status in eternity, the telestial kingdom is described as better than the Earth in its current state. Suffering is the result of a full knowledge of sin and choices that have permanently removed a person of extreme joy that comes from being in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ, even though it has the Holy Spirit with him.
- The realm of perdition, or darkness, is the lowest level and has no glory. It is reserved for Satan, his angels, and those who committed the unpardonable sin. This is the lowest state in the eternities and to which very few people born in this world will be reduced, since the unpardonable sin requires the person know with a perfect knowledge that the gospel is true, that they rejected and then opposed to God. The only son of perdition is Cain, which is generally accepted that probably has lived through the centuries.