Q. Re. Paradise or Heaven? After reading your answer regarding 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I did some research. All the translations I have looked up show “paradise” as the English translation. Are Heaven and Paradise the same, or different?
A. Looking at 2 Cor. 12:2-4 carefully you can see that something doesn’t make sense. In verse 2 Paul said he was caught up to the 3rd Heaven, and the Greek word for Heaven in that verse is ouranos. As I said in my answer that word is never translated paradise. Then in verse 4 it says he went to Paradise and there the Greek word is paradeisos. The problem is that the two places aren’t the same.
Greeks believed the first heaven was our atmosphere, the second heaven was what we call outer space, and the third heaven was the place where God has His throne. These days when we say heaven, we mean the third one, where God dwells.
According to both Hebrew and Greek tradition Paradise was the part of Hades where the believing dead went to await the Lord’s once for all time sacrifice, while unbelievers went to another part of Hades to be tormented until their judgment. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus we see Abraham and Lazarus in one part of Hades and the Rich man in the other, visible to each other (Luke 16:23).
When the Jews asked for a sign Jesus said He would be in the belly of the Earth for 3 days and three nights (Matt. 12:40). As He hung from the cross He told one of the men being executed with Him that they’d be in Paradise together that very day (Luke 23:43). This confirms that Paradise is in the belly of the earth.
But nobody believes God’s throne is there. His throne is in heaven, beyond space. Therefore Paul could not have gone beyond space and into the belly of the Earth at the same time. The most logical reconciliation is that Paul went to the place where the people of Paradise had been taken after the resurrection, not to Paradise itself. In both 2 Cor.5:8 and Philippians 1:22-23 Paul said that the spirits of departed believers are with the Lord, and the Lord is in Heaven.