Friday, July 29, 2011

This Side of Paradise

And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43 NAS)

This Side of ParadiseIn a 1967 episode of the sci-fi TV series Star Trek titled ‘This Side of Paradise,’ a story was told of starship USS Enterprise arriving at a planet called Omicron Ceti III, a Federation colony. The mission was to evacuate all the colonists from the planet, which has been bombarded by cosmic rays for several years. What the starship crew discovered, however, was a thriving community in perfect health with no desire to leave their home. Unknowingly, they were actually under the influence of plant spores which were keeping them in good health and in a placid state of happiness and contentment.

Under the spell of the spores, starship first officer Spock, a half extraterrestrial humanoid known for not expressing emotions, responded to the love of an old friend, Leila. All the starship crew members eventually became affected by the plant spores as well, except for James Kirk, captain of the starship. In his attempt to return his crew members to sanity, Kirk provoked and stirred up strong emotions in Spock to restore him to his senses. Once Spock recovered, he created a device to send subsonic frequency through the crew’s communicators, which irritated them enough to end the spores’ influence.

Like the Star Trek's story of a paradise that promises happiness and contentment, the Bible also mentioned of a place where there shall be no tears or sorrow (Revelation 21:3-4). The word ‘paradise’ according to an article at Keyway.ca is derived from the Greek word paradeisos, which originated from an ancient Persian term meaning wooded park. This word is found only three times in the New Testament in most Bible translations (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7), referring once to God’s abode in heaven, and twice to the future Kingdom of God on earth.

Where exactly is the paradise mentioned in the Bible had been discussed by many people with varied conclusions. Some suggest it is not where God dwells, but a place in the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:3-4). Others say it is the Garden of Eden or one like it since ‘paradise’ in Hebrew means a fenced garden (Genesis 3:23-24; Revelation 2:7). What is important to know, however, is simply this—paradise is where our Lord is present. So long as we are in His presence, we need not fear where we will be. The only way to get to paradise is to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Luke 23:42-43; John 14:6). For as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).

In the meantime, before we meet our Lord face to face, let us not forget there remains on this side of paradise a mission we have yet to fulfill. Who will be in the presence of our Savior depends on us bringing them to Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). Just as Captain James Kirk in the Star Trek story knew what had to be done while on this side of ‘paradise,’ as believers of the Lord we ought also to know our mission here on earth. Like Kirk who provoked Spock to stir up strong emotions, let us also seek to challenge our fellow believers and ourselves to do our part in the Great Commission. Unlike the device which sends subsonic frequency to irritate the crew into recovery, however, let us not irritate but gently encourage and nudge one another to action by showing the right direction.

Rather than be influenced by the ‘spores’ of enticement from this world, let us put to death our earthly entanglements and lay aside the love and draw of this world (Colossians 3:5; Hebrews 12:1). Remember always to take up the shield of faith to defend by the word of God against the ‘cosmic rays’ and bombardment of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16). Be shrewd, that we may not fall prey or under a spell to vices created to mislead us (Matthew 10:16; 24:11-13).

Remind us dear Lord of our mission here on earth while waiting to see You face to face some day. Help us not be influenced by the ‘spores’ of this world that we may not be misled into believing the lies of the evil one. Stir our hearts Lord that we may encourage and challenge one another to fulfill Your call to the Great Commission.

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