Dr. Kluane Spake
"I tell you the truth, TODAY you will be with me in paradise." (Lk. 23:43 NIV)
Recently I heard again that famous old song by Tony Bennett. The lyrics said, “Take my hand, I’m a stranger in paradise… And I stand starry-eyed as a stranger in paradise; I’m lost in a wonderland, (etc). Those words suddenly reminded me of my search and how I’m a stranger in this strange new place – of Paradise.
Perhaps you have also begun to walk in this realm where “No man has ever dared to go before.” We who live in the dawning of a new day are the generation moving spiritually into that new place that is BEYOND WORDS. An unexplained force of revolution from within propels us forward discovering how to live in creative intention. We‘re discovering how to begin SEEING and BEING the GLORY. And, there’s no one ahead of us to take our hand and lead us there -- except for God.
For centuries, the church has been a stranger to apprehending the fullness of its inheritance. We’ve assumed that the promises as well as Paradise are for after we die and for later on in heaven. After all, Paradise is where we’ll sit on clouds with harps and sing eternally – isn’t it? We’re much like Martha to whom Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25-26) She exclaimed that oh yes, she did believe. But, somehow, even though Martha was the first person to hear this revelation, she still thought it was a promise for a time to come in the hereafter, not realizing that He was talking about NOW.
We’re still unfamiliar to how to really begin to live in Paradise today. Jesus is the resurrection and the LIFE (Zoë) for us today. Heaven is wherever God is and Paradise is God’s objective for His own. For us, it can all start here on earth in this present day.
From the beginning, Genesis tells us of a world without form, a world of chaos and hostility. In that desert place of rebellion, God planted the most splendid garden. Into that pre-planned paradise, humankind was birthed to rule in dominion.
CO-EXISTING: These two first people were able to simultaneously live in two realms... the spiritual (open communion with God) and physical (temporal, natural, on this earth planet) – at the same time. We have no way of knowing how long they lived that way. What we do know is that the intention of the Creator from the very beginning was for people to live in BOTH realms, to function vitally on earth because they also are walking and talking with God. That’s co-existing. God’s initial mandates never changed, we’re supposed to live in Paradise dominion rule RIGHT NOW. The function of this apostolic moment is to successfully demonstrate how to live in both realms at the same time.
The Fall removed the first couple from the garden Paradise. After this, humanity lost their continual communion with God and therefore lost the ability to totally co-exist. Jesus came in the temple of flesh, as a human being (Jn. 1:14) to demonstrate and restore co-existing. Jesus “dwelt” (Strongs #4637 – meaning tabernacled among us) in a space both spiritual and temporal life realms at the same time. His life modeled to us how to live in this synchronized state. He re-established that the same positional reality that existed in the “paradise” of Eden.
Jesus bridged the gap for us — His death allows us to LIVE like He did. His resurrection brought everything back into creational order. He alone could ransom His life to purchase what was lost. Our salvation enables within us the “potential” to return to the Paradise realm of co-existing.
Jesus waits for us. He is still held in the heavenlies until the RESTORATION (“apokatastasis” derived from “apo’ meaning back again, and “kathistemi” meaning to set in order or bring restitution) of all things (Acts 3:21). He waits for a fullness of time when we are able to fully understand and begin to apprehend that which was God’s intention from the beginning.
The fullness of Redemption = receiving ALL that Jesus promised as ours today.
Our salvation contains the potential for us to actualize the initial Garden commands. Even though at first we may feel like strangers to this possibility, we must begin. “By faith he (Abraham) made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country” (Heb. 11:9 NIV). By faith, we choose to take this possibility into custody. We must begin to activate and restore the full portion of our inheritance.
Believers must begin to ascend and once again be restored to our promised land – which is an Eden like Paradise. Yes, PARADISE on earth is for us to obtain now. The word Paradise literally means “God’s delight.”
Being in Paradise means that we rule in dominion within both the spiritual and physical realms together at the same time. CO-EXISTING is “God’s delight.”
THE SWORD: Paradise was the dazzling lifestyle that man lost, and which afterward was guarded by cherubim wielding the flaming sword (Gen 3:24). Notice how God guarded that garden and also provided provision to restore humanity to His fellowship. The flaming sword is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12) that keeps the unbeliever and the carnal Christian OUT; but at the same time, also provides the way for the elect to re-enter the garden. Those who return back to Paradise and the Tree of Life must go THROUGH the flaming sword which turns every direction. The Word purifies and refines us in ever possible way. Truth is… the more we incorporate the Word of God in our lives, the more we find Paradise.
We all know how easy it is to do “good things” in our own effort. It’s easy to go to church, easy to eat of religious mixture of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil. That’s because this familiar tree is unguarded. But, the command remains -- we must not eat of the wrong tree or we will die. What is it and who is it that stifles our understanding and velcros our mind to old mindsets?
We are only limited in our expression by what we can perceive and apprehend. Only activating the Word of God can enlarge our capacity of understanding so that our once limited concepts will no longer hinder our lives. Becoming Christ-like demands that we volutionally choose to “put on” new mindsets and allow new ways of multi-dimensional thinking.
IF YOU WANT TO EAT FROM TREE OF LIFE YOU MUST WALK THROUGH THE FLAMING SWORD THAT TURNS IN EVERY DIRECTION. The Word must be allowed to do its work.
The Word causes us to pursue… to REACH as far as we can. To what? To reach “forward to those things which are ahead, (and)... press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-16). PRESSING = to stretch to reach. We pressssssss toward IMAGE AND LIKENESS. In doing this pressing into new realms, we become the NEW BREED that forges ahead, the PIONEERS who initiate the breaking of new ground. We are the first fruits of many who will come after us. We are those who see afar off without limitation and beyond restriction. We don’t LOOK AT FLAMES – but at THE PRIZE just past the flames of the Sword.
Many of us have had difficult times lately -- even long seasons of delay and frustration. But, in spite of circumstances, and in the midst of what seems like possible failure, we press into the Sword of the Word which divides the soul and the spirit (Heb. 4:12). Our eye becomes focused like a flint with renewed determination to re-enter Paradise here on earth today.
“Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the GARDEN OF EDEN, behind them, a desert waste, nothing escapes them” (Joel 2:3 NIV). Passing through the fiery sword that has guarded Paradise brings us to the Tree of Life. Ours is not a puny salvation. But it is a genuine encounter with Christ.
THE SEED: In that first garden, seedtime and harvest became the universal principle and every seed reproduced its own kind. Into our desert lives of great chaos and rebellion, God planted Jesus (the incorruptible seed) into the garden of our hearts (1 Pet. 1:23). Jesus, the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9), lives in us (Gal. 2:20). We’re God’s garden where He grows. Everything that we are, whether we call it our personality, our soul, or our mind-set – and everything around us -- is the garden that grows. The more we press into Him, the more it grows. Our commission is the same as Adam’s: to “tend and guard” that seed that grows in the land that has been given to us. From that principle of seedtime and harvest, we eventually reproduce after our own kind and become God’s Paradise “delight.”
This means that we reproduce the fullness of His Person, of His Spirit and Nature. The fruit of the fullness of God dwelling IN US will spontaneously flow OUT OF US with the demonstrations of His love and power toward others.... We can only minister out of the overflow. That SEED continues to grow until it bcomes a Tree (see Mk. 4:27, Jn. 15:1-7, 1 Cor. 15:37-38).
TREE OF LIFE: Truly, each one of us must tend and guard the seed of Christ so that it grows within our garden (area of responsibility) until it becomes our Tree of life. He either grows in the center of our lives, or we make “good and evil” the center. When Christ is the centered Tree, believers become a Paradise of delight.
Redemption returns us to the Paradise intention. It yields to us the fruit from the Tree of Life. This was fruit that Adam was supposed to eat, but didn’t. The Tree of Life is Jesus Himself. “To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b). We eat the communion of Who He is. As we partake in communion, we eat in “re-MEMBER-ance” of Him – that action connects us back together with His likeness and image (glory). As believers, we have an obligation to pursue this mandate, because it defines our destiny.
Like Adam, we can choose to eat from either tree, but we cannot eat from both at the same time. If we eat from “good and evil,” we walk in the flesh and cannot grow the Tree of Life. At first glance, that Tree of Life may not appear “good, pleasant, or desirable” (Gen. 2:9). Finding Paradise demands that we eat of the right Tree.
Prov. 3:18 – Wisdom is Tree of Life.
Prov. 11:30 -- The fruit of righteousness is the Tree of Life.
Prov. 13:12 -- Longing fulfilled is the Tree of Life.
Prov. 15:4 -- A tongue that speaks life is a Tree of Life.
Rev. 2:7 -- To him that overcomes shall eat of the Tree of Life.
Rev 22:14-15 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and may go through the gates into the city.”
Rev. 21:27 -- Our name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (which is the Tree of Life).
To the repentant thief on the cross Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Right now, as you believe – you too can be with Him in Paradise. He says that you don’t need to physically die to get there. Paradise is co-existing on heaven and on earth. Paradise is dominion living here. It’s the life we were created to have – to live and be like Him.
“We know that when he appears, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2-3 NIV).
“…In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because IN THIS WORLD WE ARE LIKE HIM” (1 Jn. 4:16-18 NIV).
PERCEPTION: We speak and act for a God who is complex in nature and far advanced from us. How can we do that? His communication is light-years beyond our capability. In a millisecond, He can give us information that believers for centuries have longed to know. (Paul went to PARADISE and heard things so astounding that they were beyond a man’s power to describe or put into words – (2 Cor. 12:2-4 LB).
In these exciting days of the renewal of the church, we desire to hear those astounding truths and to live in the Paradise lifestyle of co-existence with God. Only then can we experience the light of His GLORY appearing upon us (Is. 60:2). Only then do we become those beacons of light to the world... the city set on the hill.
There was a time when David finally PERCEIVED that he was king – even though he had been king for many years (1 Chron. 14:2). One day David realized his kingly position. In much that same way, we rule and reign through the POWER we PERCEIVE. We must perceive that the Creator’s intention is still in effect for ransomed believers. Finding Paradise occurs because of accurate perception. If we actualize and internalize our redemption, we will begin to transform into the image (shape, duplication, representation) and likeness (model and shape) of the Lord Who lives within us. “Now we SEE but a poor reflection (we can’t quite see it yet – but we’re changing) as in a mirror (as in the face of Christ); then we shall see face (literally, we see the “Genesis face” of how we were created at the beginning) to face…” (1 Cor. 13:12 NIV).
One of my favorite scriptures escorts us to the finish line! “Come closer,” He calls, “let me show you who I Am.” “Thou shall no more be termed Forsaken... But thou shall be called Hephzibah” (Is.62:4). (Hephzibah = “My DELIGHT is in you – the same meaning as Paradise.) “I will adorn you with honor and clothe you with heavenly light.”
Certainly, redemption restores us to the pre-fallen Eden-paradise and that desired relationship. “Delight yourself in Him and He rejoices” (vs. 5). Stand in totality, trusting only in Him -- without excuse, without reaction or anger, and without looking for acceptance from people. Where our desert was dry (Forsaken), now it has become a verdant paradise no longer limited by natural ability, but created for victory. His bride is healed and whole. She emanates the keeping power of God. She’s been brought forth as gold, without spot or blemish, molded into His image. She stands with His eternal, ethereal beauty bestowed upon her. Extremely pleased, Jesus adorns this long-awaited companion with His honor, and clothes her with heavenly light. As “His delight,” she is restored to the Eden-paradise relationship that becomes her present reality (2 Cor. 6:2). Holiness radiates from the awareness of the emerging Christ person within.
The four winds have blown life into us (Ez. 37:1-10); we’re no longer strangers but the conspirators (con, together, spire, breath) made to breath together in Christ. We have united TOGETHER as one with Him (Eph. 5:30). He seals up inside of us and we become enveloped into Him -- fused flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. Rev 22:2-3
We co-exist in Paradise only for the “DELIGHT” and pleasure of Christ; Who is the absolute final purpose of life. And the leaves of our Tree of Life are for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2-3).