March 6, 2001, re-edited November 28, 2005
Paradise was a spiritual place in the center of the Earth, prior to Jesus' resurrection. Since HE had not died for their sins the righteous could not enter Heaven. I am speaking about the Old Testament believers. Prior to 33 A.D. Jesus' blood had not been shed to pay the price of forgiveness. Deceased believer's spirits were housed in a place of joy and rest called Paradise. Abraham was put in charge of Paradise. He was the head of the Jewish family and God made Abraham HIS emissary over Paradise. That is why the place was also called Abraham's Bosom.
If you will read the story of Lazarus and the Rich man [Luke 16:19 and following] you will hear a true story told by Jesus Himself of how things were prior to 33 A.D. in Paradise and in Hell. The place of torture, Hell, was on one side of a huge chasm and Paradise on the other. The entire Paradise/Hell system was all housed in the center of the Earth.
In 1st Peter 3:19 it says that Jesus went and preached to the spirits that were in prison. This is speaking not of those in Hell, but those in Paradise. As wonderful as Paradise was it was NOT Heaven. Comparatively it was a prison. Jesus, during HIS three days of burial traveled into the center of the Earth. It is my opinion that the powers of darkness tried to incarcerate HIM as a prisoner of sin, death and Hell. But Hell could not hold the Holy and pure Son of God. He instead wrenched the keys of death and Hell from Satan's hands and proceeded to Paradise, across a great chasm that had never been crossed. HE went to the saints who had been detained in Paradise and gave them the glorious good news of the Gospel... what they had been waiting so long to hear...the news that "It is Finished!" [See John 19:30] The work is done...you may now enter the glorious City of God...their sins were finally truly washed away by HIS blood, if they chose to believe.
Then in Ephesians 4:8 we read: "When he ascended on high he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men." Many believe that this is referring to those who were held in Paradise, who were under a kind of house arrest waiting for their sins to be totally atoned for. When Jesus entered Paradise he released these captives and their captivity became a captive of Jesus Christ! Glory to God!!
Then a fourth and final scripture comes to mind. Isaiah 5:14 speaks of a time when Hell enlarges itself to swallow a greater multitude. Many believe that this is the fourth piece of the puzzle in the matter of Paradise. Since the Old Testament saints departed with Jesus from the Paradise "holding tank" to Heaven, then Paradise is swallowed up by Hell to make room for the billions more who will fill that place and are filling it now. Some believe that Paradise itself was physically moved to the precincts of Heaven. Whatever happened the place of darkness and pain, where the most evil fallen angels are kept in chains, and where sinners and God haters reside, that place grew larger. Millions are suffering in that awful place today. It breaks the heart of God. And it should break our hearts as well. Hell is so horrible that you wouldn't wish it for even the most wicked of all wicked people. It is infinitely beyond anything we can imagine, just as Heaven is beyond our imagination.
These scriptures are the basis for the belief that all believers now go to be with the Lord in Heaven, thanks to the suffering of Jesus whose blood had to be shed to pay the price.