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Jehovah’s Witnesses

English

The Watchtower  |  No. 4 2017

Praslin, Seychelles, where in 1881 General Gordon found his garden of Eden

Paradise on Earth​—Fantasy or Reality?

Paradise on Earth​—Fantasy or Reality?

Paradise! Colorful travel brochures make tempting offers for us to fly away to some distant “paradise” to relax and forget all our worries and troubles. But as we know all too well, when we return home, the realities of life remain much the same as they were when we left them.

Nonetheless, the fascination with paradise is powerful. We cannot help but wonder: ‘Is “paradise” nothing more than a pleasant fantasy? If so, why the fascination? And can it ever be a reality?’

PARADISE TRADITION

Over the centuries, people have been intrigued by the idea of paradise. For many, their interest was prompted by the mention in the Bible of “a garden in Eden, toward the east.” What made that garden so attractive? The account tells us: “Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree that was pleasing to look at and good for food.” That garden was a pleasing and good place. Most captivating of all, there was “also the tree of life in the middle of the garden.”Genesis 2:8, 9.

In addition, the Genesis account mentions four rivers flowing out of the garden. Two of those rivers are still known to us today—the Tigris (or, Hiddekel) and the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14; footnote) These two rivers flow into the Persian Gulf through what is now Iraq, formerly part of ancient Persia.

Understandably, earthly paradise is very much a part of Persia’s cultural heritage. A 16th-century Persian carpet, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., shows a walled garden with trees and flowers woven into its design. The Persian word for “walled garden” also means “paradise,” and the scene on the carpet mirrors the Bible’s description of the beautiful and luxuriant garden of Eden.

In fact, stories of paradise are retold in many languages and cultures around the world. As the human family migrated to different parts of the earth, they carried with them versions of the original account, which, over centuries of time, became blended with beliefs and legends that developed locally. Even today, people almost instinctively describe places of great natural beauty as paradise.

THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE

Some explorers claimed to have located the lost paradise. For example, Charles Gordon, a British army general, on visiting the Seychelles in 1881, was so impressed by the luxuriant beauty of the Vallée de Mai—now a World Heritage site—that he declared it to be the garden of Eden. In the 15th century, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus wondered if he was close to rediscovering the Edenic garden when he landed on the island of Hispaniola, now the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Mapping Paradise, a modern history book, contains details of more than 190 ancient maps, many showing Adam and Eve in Eden. Among them is an unusual map from a 13th-century copy of the Beatus of Liébana manuscript. At its top is a small rectangle with paradise in the center. From there flow four rivers, labeled “Tigris,” “Eufrates,” “Pison,” and “Geon,” each to one of its four corners, supposedly representing the spread of Christianity to the four corners of the earth. Such depictions show that although the location of the original Paradise was unknown, memories of it evidently remained as attractive as ever.

 John Milton, a 17th-century English poet, is known for his poem Paradise Lost, based on the Genesis account of Adam’s sin and expulsion from Eden. In it he highlighted the promised restoration of everlasting life on earth for humans, declaring: “For then the earth shall all be paradise.” Subsequently, Milton wrote a sequel entitled Paradise Regained.

A CHANGE OF FOCUS

Clearly, the concept of a lost earthly paradise is a golden thread running through human history. So why is it now ignored? Basically because, as Mapping Paradise observes, “theologians have . . . turned their back firmly on the issue of the location of paradise.”

Most churchgoers are taught that their ultimate destiny is heaven, not life in an earthly paradise. Yet the Bible says at Psalm 37:29: “The righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever on it.” Since our world today is hardly a paradise, what hope is there that this promise will ever be fulfilled? *

THE REALITY OF AN EARTH-WIDE PARADISE

Jehovah God, who created the original Paradise, has promised to restore what was lost. How? Recall that Jesus taught us to pray: “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” (Matthew 6:10) That Kingdom is a world government in the hands of Jesus Christ that will replace all human rule. (Daniel 2:44) Under the rule of that Kingdom, God’s will regarding a paradise earth will “take place.”

Earlier, the prophet Isaiah was inspired to describe conditions in the promised Paradise, where all the tension and conflict plaguing mankind today will be gone. (Isaiah 11:6-9; 35:5-7; 65:21-23) We urge you to take a few minutes and read those scriptures in your own Bible. Doing so will reassure you of what God has in store for obedient mankind. Those then living will enjoy a paradise as well as God’s favor, both of which Adam lost.Revelation 21:3.

Why can we be sure that the hope of Paradise on earth is not fantasy but reality? Because the Bible tells us: “As for the heavens, they belong to Jehovah, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.” The hope of Paradise on earth is one that “God, who cannot lie, promised long ago.” (Psalm 115:16; Titus 1:2) What a wonderful prospect the Bible offers—Paradise forever!

^ par. 15 It is also interesting that the Koran, in verse 105 of sura 21, Al-Anbiya’ [The Prophets], declares: “The righteous among My servants shall inherit the earth.”