The phrase “paradise earth” does not occur in the Bible. However, the promise of a paradise earth is the foundation of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ hope for the future. Watchtower publications are often laden with idyllic imagery of smiling people in lush, verdant landscapes.
Witnesses are often encouraged to use their imaginations to envision paradise as a beautiful Utopia.
“Imagine the future blessings that you will enjoy if you listen to Jehovah! You will have perfect health; no one will be sick or infirm. There will be no bad people, and you will be able to trust everyone. There will be no pain, sorrow, or tears. No one will grow old and die. You will be surrounded by friends and family. Life in Paradise will be a delight. There will be no fear. People will be truly happy.Listen to God and Live Forever, Part 10
Even young children are encouraged to imagine the endless possibilities of a paradise earth.
Watchtower is typically vague about what this paradise will be like, particularly in their tracts, books and articles aimed at the public and children. However, at times they have been quite specific in their vision of just exactly what this “new earth” will entail. In this article we will examine what the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses tell their followers to expect of “the new system of things.”
Preceded by Genocide
The “good news” that Witnesses preach is of the coming “new heavens” and “new earth” described in Revelation chapter 21. It is hardly remarked upon in their door to door ministry that this “new earth” will only come about after Jehovah commits the greatest act of genocide in human history.
The vast majority of people living on earth today will not survive this world’s end…The idea that God might destroy millions, yes, billions of people whom he considers ungodly might be shocking to some. But keep in mind that God “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) No, God does not enjoy destroying even wicked people: “I take delight, not in the death of the wicked one, but in that someone wicked turns back from his way and actually keeps living.” (Ezekiel 33:11) However, God must be true to his Word and must fulfill his purpose for this earth. To do that, those whom he regards as lawless must go.”Awake! December 8th 1986 pp. 8-11
Many Witnesses are unaware of this teaching, but Watchtower publications have been quite explicit in stating that only Jehovah’s Witnesses will survive Armageddon into the new world.
“Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil.”Watchtower 1989 Sep 1 p.19 par. 7
“Lotta Dead People”
During a talk at Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 2009/2010 Special Assembly Day entitled “The Time Left is Reduced–How Will You Use It?” Governing Body member Anthony Morris III gave a rather grim account of the sort of carnage and mutilation Witnesses can expect during Armageddon:
“You see, I was in Vietnam, a medic in that war. I’ve seen what happens to humans when they’re mangled. And you see it on TV and some of that, well–until you smell human flesh burning from a helicopter crash, people that look like humans, like a hot dog on a grill, blackened and splitting open…I know what’s coming at Armageddon. Lotta dead people. Lotta dead people. So it’s absolutely urgent for us to get our minds off ourselves, and let’s get out there and help as many people as we can. Because when it comes, it’s gonna be numbing for you. You think seeing a deer mangled on the side of the road from the truck that it it is upsetting? You’ll see humans like that. So, it’s gonna be numbing.For audio/video of the above quote click here
These mangled dead bodies will not simply dissipate after the destruction of “Satan’s system of things.” Watchtower has stated on several occasions that birds and beasts will pick the rotting corpses of their flesh:
Their bones will be picked clean by the wild birds and beasts so long ill-treated by godless men.”Watchtower 1953 12/15 p. 763
“Come on, birds and beasts! Have your fill then from the human corpses…”You May Survive Armageddon Into God’s New World (1955) p. 342
The bones of billions of non-Witnesses, though, will have to be cleaned up by those who have inherited the new earth.
Yet the survivors of Armageddon will not let the earth lie littered with bleached bones, but will bury them to cleanse the land, as Ezekiel 39:12 states: “And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land.” The Mosaic law declared unclean for seven days anyone touching a corpse, and the land would likewise be polluted by such remains. For an executed criminal to remain exposed was a defilement of the land, and the law required his burial to avoid this. (Num. 19:11; Deut. 21:23) Topheth of the Valley of Hinnom was defiled by its becoming a dumping place of garbage and dead bodies. (2 Ki. 23:10) Hence in time there must be a burial of the bones of those slain at Armageddon, but only to cleanse the land, and not to memorialize their existence or imply hope of resurrection.Watchtower 12/15 1953 p. 763
God apparently will not immediately, miraculously restore the earth to its Edenic state. Watchtower claims that this will be a millennium-long process that will take place during a period known as “The Thousand Year Reign.”
The Thousand Year Reign/”Judgment Day”
Per Watchtower theology, The Thousand Year Reign (mentioned obliquely at Revelation 20:4) is a literal period of time immediately following Armageddon. During this time, Satan is “abyssed” and, according to Insight on the Scriptures, “a thousand-year period begins in which Christ Jesus and his associates rule as kings and priests over earth’s inhabitants.—Re 20:1, 6.” This thousand year period is how Witnesses’ define “Judgment Day.”
Judgment Day will be a period of a thousand years during which humans will have the opportunity to regain what Adam and Eve lost.* Notice that Acts 17:31, quoted above, says that Judgment Day will affect those living on “the inhabited earth.” Those receiving favorable judgment will live on earth and will enjoy everlasting life in perfect conditions. (Revelation 21:3, 4) Thus, Judgment Day helps to accomplish God’s original purpose for humans and the earth.Awake January 2010 p. 10
One of the main promises Witnesses proclaim is the ability to “live forever in perfect conditions.” However, Watchtower has made it increasingly clear that these perfect conditions will only come into effect after the thousand year “judgment day” is completed.
It seems that all mankind will gradually grow to perfection during the Thousand Year Reign of Christ. It is only at the end of the thousand years that Jesus will hand the Kingdom back to his Father. Then the Kingdom will have accomplished its work completely, including the raising of mankind to a perfect state.—1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:1-3.Watchtower–Study Edition August, 2020 par. 9
Paradise, then, has a sort of dualistic meaning within the religion, one part consisting of an imperfect thousand year period of restoration, and the second a “perfect” paradise after one last apocalyptic event, which will be described later in the article. This delineation is rarely made in Watchtower publications, however, and its members use terms such as “paradise,” “the new world” and “the new system” interchangeably. This gives casual readers of Watchtower publications as well as Witness children the impression that beautiful, perfect conditions will immediately follow Armageddon. A deeper dive into Watchtower literature reveals that true, perfect paradise is a long way off, and the “thousand year reign” is full of provisos and restrictions.
As mentioned earlier, Watchtower encourages its members to use their imaginations to envision paradise–their dream houses, their dream jobs, the sort of exotic animals they’d like to have as pets, etc.
When you envision a paradise, what do you see? Does your mind’s eye visualize a gorgeous garden or park? Do you see multicolored flowers, shrubs, well-kept lawns, fountains and calm, clear pools? Do you also envision cascading waterfalls, rushing streams, lush green meadows fenced by towering trees, and tangy air filled with the fragrance of deep woods and the songs of birds? Would you desire to live in such a paradise, free from the worries and threats of this present system of things?Watchtower May 1, 1968 p. 259
To sharpen your mental image of God’s Kingdom, look “intently” toward your life in Paradise. Use your imagination. For example, when you study the lives of pre-Christian Bible characters, consider what you might ask them when they are resurrected. Imagine what they might ask you about your life during the last days. Envision how excited you will be to meet your ancestors from centuries ago and to teach them about all that God has done for them. Picture your delight as you learn about many wild animals by observing them in peaceful surroundings. Reflect on how much closer you will feel to Jehovah as you progress to perfection.
Watchtower April 15, 2014 pp. 3-7
Watchtower frequently quotes the book of Isaiah to imply that all those living in paradise will be able to live where they want, grow their own food, and be completely independent of human rule.
They will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eatingIsaiah 65:21, 22 New World Translation
For Witnesses, such quotes and verses conjure images of a world beyond imagination, one with complete freedom, though governed by “God’s Heavenly Kingdom.” This is all at odds with the restrictive vision of paradise described in recent publications.
In this world, Satan wants people to think that they can do whatever they like. Many feel that it is important to be independent and that there is no need to obey God. What has been the result? Much suffering and unhappiness. (Jeremiah 10:23) But Jehovah is a loving Ruler. How much better life will be in the new world when everyone obeys him!
In the new world, we will enjoy following direction from Jehovah’s organization to help make this earth into a beautiful paradise and help teach those who are resurrected. Jehovah will have much work for us. But what if those taking the lead asked us to do something that we do not really like? Would we obey? Would we do our best to fulfill and enjoy our assignment? To prepare for everlasting life in the new world, we need to obey the direction from Jehovah’s organization now.Watchtower Simplified Edition August 15, 2015 p. 15 par 6
Not only is the idea of “doing whatever [you] like” to be viewed as Satanic, Paradise may well not live up to your boundless imagination. You will evidently still be assigned by humans to do things you may not want to do. The same article goes on to say that you will likely not be able to live in your dream home in the new world; in fact, you’ll be assigned to live somewhere.
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were assigned where to live. (Numbers 26:52-56; Joshua 14:1, 2) We do not know where each one of us may be assigned to live in the new world. But if we have learned to cooperate, we will be happy to do Jehovah’s will wherever we live.Watchtower Simplified Edition August 15, 2015 p. 15 par 7, 8
…What if, in the new world, we would love to live in one area but Jehovah’s organization asks us to move to another? At that time, it will not matter where we live or what we do. We will simply be thankful to be living in the new world
Perhaps the most appealing promise of the New World is that of seeing one’s dead family and friends again, resurrected to youthful, perfect bodies. But this miraculous event is also presented with caveats:
In the new world, at times we may need to be patient. For example, we may hear that some people are very excited because their relatives and friends have been resurrected. However, we may have to wait for the resurrection of our loved ones. If that happens, will we rejoice with others and be patient? (Romans 12:15)Watchtower Simplified Edition August 15, 2015 p. 15 par 9
When Jehovah through his Son resurrects countless millions, we may assume that not all of them will come back to life at the same time. Why not? Because an explosion in the earth’s population would likely cause chaos. And Jehovah never does anything in a disorganized, chaotic way.Watchtower Study Edition August, 2020 p.16 par. 6
Recent JW Broadcasting videos, such as Just Around the Corner depict resurrections as scheduled events, with a party planned for the resurrected person in a gazebo. A recent public talk by a Branch member in the Philippines described a “resurrection calendar.” (Though this does not necessarily reflect canonical Watchtower doctrine) And the above quotes show that Witnesses will have to refrain from showing impatience–an “imperfect” quality–as they wait for family and friends to come back from the dead.
By now it should be obvious that Watchtower’s depiction of “The New World” seemingly includes many of the human imperfections of the old world. Qualities such as jealousy, impatience, resentment and disobedience will still be allowed to persist during the “thousand year reign.” The primary difference will be that humans will be ruled by Jehovah’s Witnesses, who will somehow receive guidance from Jesus.
Who will govern or direct activities on the paradise earth? All laws and instructions will come from the “new heavens” above. But on earth there will be faithful men appointed to see that these laws and instructions are carried out. Because these men represent the heavenly kingdom in a special way, the Bible calls them “princes.” (Isaiah 32:1, 2; Psalm 45:16) Even in the Christian congregation today men are appointed by God’s holy spirit to care for and direct its activities. (Acts 20:28) After Armageddon we can be confident that Christ will see to it that the right men are appointed to represent the Kingdom government, for then he will be taking a direct hand in earth’s affairs.You Can Live Forever in a Paradise on Earth chap. 19 p. 165 par. 21
All of this paints a rather stipulated, rigid, even bureaucratic picture of the “new system” that’s far less fantastical than Watchtower’s artwork would have one believe. Many Witnesses have put off having children, learning a new instrument, or pursuing a hobby “until the New System.” Its publications actively encourage such ideas:
Think of how good it will be to spend time with your family and friends, including those who will be resurrected. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) You will have time to learn new skills and become better at the things you enjoy. For example, you could learn more about science. Or you could learn how to play musical instruments or how to design your own home.Watchtower Study Edition August 2015 8/15 p. 15 par 1
Watchtower’s descriptions of the “thousand year reign,” however, leave one to wonder whether there will be any time for personal enjoyment for the first millennium after Armageddon.
Let your mind dwell for a moment, please, on some of the monumental tasks that will need to be accomplished in that new, divine system of things. For one thing, a vast educational program will be required to teach a new language to the millions of resurrected dead as they come forth from the graves. (John 5:28, 29) And, further, think of the work required in order to transform the hearts and minds of these people, many of whom have never heard of the Bible, or of God’s laws and purposes for mankind. Then, think of the program that will be inaugurated in order to transform this earth of ours into the lovely garden that God has purposed. When one thinks of how long it takes to clear just one acre of ground, cultivate the soil and plant it so that it will bring forth shrubs and trees and other plants in a manner that makes that area worthy of being called a garden park, one gets some idea of the colossal undertaking to transform the whole earth into a global paradise with sufficient food-producing areas to sustain a comfortable population on the earth.—Gen. 1:28; Ps. 72:16; 67:6; Ezek. 34:27.
Watchtower August 1, 1972 pp. 462-468
The “vast education program” of the recently-resurrected described above has been an increasing focal point for Watchtower.
You’re Not Done Preaching Yet
The August, 2020 Study Edition of the Watchtower contains a vivid and bizarre description of the sort of teaching work that is to take place after Armageddon. The description for the picture below reads:
A native American man who died hundreds of years ago is resurrected during the Thousand Year Rule of Christ. A brother who survived Armageddon gladly teaches the resurrected man what he needs to do to benefit from Christ’s ransom.
Watchtower August 2020 August p. 16; picture description (footnote)
Teaching resurrected individuals about Jehovah’s Witness theology is said to be “the most important” part of the first thousand years of life in the New World.
Most important of all, those who survive Armageddon will need to teach resurrected ones about God’s Kingdom and about Jehovah’s requirements. Why? Because the majority of those who return to life will be among “the unrighteous.” (Read Acts 24:15.) They will have to make many changes in order to benefit from Christ’s ransom. Just think of the work involved in teaching the truth about God to millions of people who have no knowledge of Jehovah. Will each person receive individual instruction, similar to the way we conduct Bible studies today? Will these new ones be assigned to congregations and be trained to teach those who are resurrected after them? We will have to wait and see. We do know, however, that by the end of Christ’s Thousand Year Reign, “the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” (Isa. 11:9) What a busy but enjoyable thousand years that will be!
Watchtower Study Edition, August 2020 p. 16 par. 6
No scriptures are cited for any of the speculative claims made above. Acts 24:15 merely mentions the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous; Isaiah 11:9 mentions only “the earth” being “filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” The not-so-rhetorical questions are tempered only with a “we will have to wait and see.”
But so far it’s evident that the majority of one’s time in the New World will be spent obeying organizational direction, attending congregation meetings, engaging in “theocratic construction projects” and conducting Bible studies–all things that Witnesses are expected to do currently. Given that all this is purely speculative fantasy, one has to wonder why Witness leaders would put so many limitations on its followers’ future hope?
The reason can be found in the title of the August 15th Study Watchtower : “Prepare Now for Life in the New World.” For the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the notion of paradise is not just a hope–it is a method of control.
If we want to live forever in the new world, now is the time to “get a firm hold” on everlasting life. We know that the end is coming soon, so we must live in a way that shows we expect the end to come at any time. We need to do everything we can now to prepare for life in the new world.
ws15 8/15 p. 15 par 3
If we want to be ready for life in the new world, we need to learn to be content and to cooperate with Jehovah’s organization and with one another. For example, when we are given a new assignment, we willingly cooperate and do our best to be happy and content. If we learn to cooperate with those taking the lead now, we will likely do the same in the new world.ws15 8/15 p. 16 par. 7
How can you show that you are eagerly awaiting God’s “new heavens” and “new earth”? By doing everything you can to meet the requirements for living in that righteous new systemYou Can Live Forever in a Paradise on Earth chap. 19 p. 165 par. 21
Such statements stress that, since the New World will supposedly operate much in the same way that “Jehovah’s Organization” today does, if a Witness wants to survive Armageddon and make it into the New System, they must live by Watchtower standards. If you don’t preach now, how will you be able to preach in the New World? If you’re impatient with the organization now, how can you be patient with Jehovah as you await the resurrection of your loved ones? If you don’t expect to survive this Armageddon, how could you possibly expect to survive the next one?
As mentioned previously, Watchtower claims that Satan is to be banished to an “abyss” for the duration of the thousand year reign. After the thousand years are up, he will be set free again to cause one last bout of genocidal destruction.
“It all depends upon the resurrected ones. Will they let themselves be incorporated into that righteous “new earth,” or will they return to their former bad ways that they pursued during this present system of things? Those who do so will be judged and condemned as unworthy of the gift of eternal life in human perfection and godliness.w72 4/15 p. 240 par. 33
This test does not only apply to resurrected ones, however.
…Pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah were declared righteous as to friendship with God; and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were spoken of as “living” even though they were physically dead. However, they and all others who are resurrected, as well as the great crowd of faithful other sheep who survive Armageddon and any children that may be born to these in the new world, must yet be raised to human perfection. This will be accomplished by Christ and his associate kings and priests during the thousand-year Judgment Day, on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. By the end of that Day, “the rest of the dead” will have “come to life” in the sense that they will be perfect humans. As we shall see, they must then pass a final test, but they will face that test as perfected humans.Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand! p. 290 par. 15
Who could possibly side with Satan after a thousand years of joyful, upbuilding theocratic rule? Well, do not forget that Satan was able to mislead the perfect Adam and Eve while they were enjoying life in the Paradise of Eden. And he was able to lead astray heavenly angels who had seen the bad results of the original rebellion. (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6) So we should not be surprised that some perfect humans will be enticed to follow Satan even after a delightful thousand years of rule by God’s Kingdom.Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand! p. 292 par. 21
Surviving Armageddon, then, is not enough. After a thousand years humans will once again be tempted by Satan, who will once again succeed in misleading many. How many? The Revelation book goes on to say that “The number of those who join Satan in his revolt will be ‘as the sand of the sea.'” After this, those who followed the Devil will be destroyed, and Satan will be not merely “abyssed.” “This time,” the Revelation book continues, “Satan, the original serpent, will actually be crushed out of existence, pulverized, completely annihilated as if by fire.”
It is only after all these things, after two Armageddons and a thousand years of reconstructing the annihilated earth, after burying the bones of billions, that the “perfect conditions” of paradise seen in so many pieces of Watchtower artwork can be attained.
All of this reinforces the culture of fear curated by the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses–they tell their members that even if they manage to survive Armageddon, they have another thousand years to potentially screw up and start serving Satan. Perfection will not be enough, since the perfect Adam and Eve were misled. And all the while, even in paradise, members will be subservient to human representatives of “Jehovah’s organization.”
Wittingly or not, when Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door with colorful pictures of a paradise earth, this is the hope they are describing.