What does the biblical term “Paradise” mean?
In Old Testament times (including the times referenced in the Gospels), when people died, their bodies went into a grave, but there was a temporary holding place for their souls. The Bible uses a term called hell, such as in Matthew 5:22, but the terminology is slightly different than what we normally use. Hell is actually the lake of fire where all unbelievers will spend eternity (Revelation 20:14-15). However, the temporary holding place (sometimes called Sheol, or Purgatory) had separate compartments for believers and unbelievers (paradise and Hades). Unbelievers spent this period in the chamber called Hades (Luke 16:23), while believers spent this time in the chamber called paradise (Luke 23:43, 1 Corinthians 12:3-4, Revelation 2:3-7), or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:19-31).
Then, upon the event of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, the Old Testament saints were resurrected (Matthew 27:52-53), and transferred from paradise to Heaven. Today, now that Christ’s resurrection has already occurred, when Christians die, we are taken directly to heaven. The strongest argument I find for this is 2 Corinthians 5:3-8, which says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” This says that for we believers of this age, being in this current body is mutually exclusive from being in the presence of God in heaven. So, at the point of death, we’re no longer in the body, but with the Lord.
In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31 refers to Hades, or torments, which is where the rich man was. This is the opposite of the place of Abraham’s bosom where Lazarus was. Bible scholars have associated Abrahams’s bosom with the word “paradise.” This confirms that, in Old Testament times, those who died were taken to one of these temporary chambers, awaiting their transfer either from paradise to heaven or from Hades to Hell.
Incidentally, this probably also explains the origination of the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, which would equate to Hades in this case.
Also, the passage in Matthew 7:52-53 is a very difficult passage. You may also be interested in my article on Matthew 27:52-53 at https://www.christiandataresources.com/matthew2752.htm.
I hope this helps.