Is there a holding place before Heaven? Is that what Paradise is? Or was paradise the place before Jesus died and came back?
I have thought deeply about this very issue. Since my undergraduate studies and doing some reading within the Scripture, assigned books for class, and some extracurricular books I’ve bought, I’ve come to actually think something rather different than before. I use to think, because I was taught, that there was a temporary holding place where the righteous go before Christ comes back and takes everyone to heaven. You hear people sometimes make a distinction between heaven, the kingdom of heaven, paradise, or Abraham’s bosom. Abraham’s bosom and paradise are seen as temporary holding places until the return of Christ when he allows all to go into an eternal state e.g. heaven. Since then I have come to have a fuller understanding of those things. In fact, it is heaven that is temporary. Yep, heaven itself is temporary. Abraham’s bosom, paradise, and heaven are temporary realities. They all are metaphors for the same place (Matt. 6:9; Luke 24:51; Acts 7:55-56) where God most fully makes known his presence to bless. This is where people go when they pass on here from earth. They go immediately into God’s presence (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 23:43; Heb. 12:23). On a side note, the Bible does not teach purgatory, soul sleep, or that heaven is some sort of state of mind that can be achieved here on earth. Heaven, Abraham’s bosom, Paradise, and other words used are actually referring to what is called the intermediate state, the place where believers go before the glorious second coming of Christ when God will raise the dead, judge the earth through Jesus, and reign forever.
Biblical eschatology and the afterlife do not end with death where we go off to sit on a cloud playing a harp forever. In fact, we go there until an appointed time when God decides to merge heaven and earth at his second coming. After the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15; Acts 17:30-31; Rom 2:5; Matt. 25:31-46), believers will enter into the full enjoyment of life in the presence of God forever. Christians often talk about living with God forever “in heaven,” but the biblical teaching is that there will be a new heavens and a new earth, a renewed creation. Isaiah said “”For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (65:17; again in 66:22).” Peter said, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Pet. 3:13).” John picks up on the Isaiahan metaphor when he envisions, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Rev. 21:1).” God plans to renew creation and dwell forever with his people. His people will dwell with them after receiving their promised resurrection body (1 Cor. 6:14, 15; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 4:13-17). That is why you find very few passages devoted directly to heaven or the intermediate state. The New Testament (and the old) is mainly concerned with Resurrection. This is why Jesus’ resurrection was so inspiring and earth-shattering for the early Christians. It was the beginning of God putting all things within his world to rights, to renewing his creation back to “very good.” Our future is very earthy and Edenic-full of wonder, beauty, love, and a whole lot more than our wildest imagination could conceive. His resurrection basically was saying, “This is the beginning…I will finish my work…I am bringing new life to all things…people through my salvation…culture as my people transform the world with my message…and eventually the groaning creation itself when I return.” So, to sum it all up, the main thing isn’t the life after death (Heaven). The main thing is the life after the life after death (Heaven and Earth being renewed and merged forever).
Some helpful books on this topic are as follows: N.T. Wright’s “Surprised By Hope, “Randy Alcorn’s “Heaven,” and Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.”