Did The Thief On The Cross Enter Paradise That Very Day?

Most any of the popular Bible translations of Luke 23:42-43 will tell you he did including the King James

Luke 23:42-43

“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

If verse 43 as written is correct then it conflicts with the Bible’s teaching as to where Jesus went that day, also to where the thief did not go that day. Since we know that God’s word, properly understood, does not contradict, we must dig deeper and look below the surface to find the truth.

1. Just where did Jesus actually go that very day? Let’s ask some who knew.

Where did Paul say Jesus went that day?

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1Cor. 15:3-5).

Sometimes it’s even more important to consider what a verse does not say as well as what it does say. Paul did not say His body was buried and His soul went to paradise.

Where did John say Jesus went that day?

“Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus…” (John 19:41-42). Note that John did not say that there laid they Jesus’ body but his soul went to hell where he preached to the sinning angels.

Where did Jesus say He would be that day?

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:40). That is a 72 hour period of time.

2. What is meant by “the heart of the earth?”

Peter (in acts 2:31) quotes David as saying that “His (Christ’s) Soul was not left in hell …” (Gk. hades, Heb. Sheol, both mean grave), So, we see that “the heart of the earth” is simply the grave, a place of burial. Some actually teach that the heart of the earth is the hell of everlasting fire and brimstone full of unrepentant sinners who have died but yet live and can’t die throughout eternity.

3. Is the grave hell?

The simple answer is yes, but some believe in the hell as described by “Dante’s inferno” (A DIVINE COMEDY) a hell of unquenchable, forever burning fire, reserved for unrepentant sinners who aren’t really dead but live forever in unbelievable pain. However, when the Hebrew word hades is used or when the Greek word sheol is used they both mean grave, as previously noted. Therefore hell as used here is simply a burial place for the dead.

4. Is there thought, feeling, action or memory in the grave (or hell)?

Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 gives us an excellent description of hell / grave. “For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. 6 Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun” NASU. So, when in the grave you are in all points really dead, but don’t forget there is a book of remembrance (Mal. 3:16), sometimes called the book of life (Phil. 4:3).

5. Jesus compared death to sleep:

Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead (John 11:11-14). (Ask for the free Bible study guide UNDERSTANDING HELL).

6. Jesus promised the thief they would be together in paradise. Is the heart of the earth Paradise?

A dictionary definition of paradise: 1: heaven, 2: place or state of bliss. The Bible definition: 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 where Paul speaks of one who was caught up to the third heaven in a vision. “He was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words…” (Note, our atmosphere is the first heaven, the stars are the second heaven, God’s throne is in the heaven of heavens or third heaven). Obviously then, the heart of the earth is not paradise. The paradise that Jesus promised the thief was in the heavenly realm or third heaven.

7. Did Jesus go to paradise that day?

Jesus said He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. 40 “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:40). Even into the morning of the fourth day after His death He told Mary that He had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). So, He could not have gone to paradise the day of His crucifixion.

8. Did the thief go to paradise that day?

Impossible! Had the thief gone to paradise that day he would have superseded Jesus as the first born from the dead. Paul said: as “…He (Christ) is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:17-18). The thief was buried along with the other malefactors that very evening. He is in the same condition as described in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6. He is asleep in his grave (or hell) awaiting his own resurrection at his own appointed time.

9. Did Jesus preach to the spirits in prison while dead in His tomb?

What does that passage in 1 Peter 3 really tell us? Let’s start in verse 18. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (If Christ was still alive in the spirit after being put to death why did He have to be quickened by the spirit? Perhaps it would be clearer if that verse read, ‘but then quickened by the spirit’.) 19 “By which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison;” (Verse 19 tells us He preached by His spirit but does not tell us when this occurred, however, verse 20 tells us both when and why.) “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Peter 3:18-20). Jude 6 corroborates what Peter has told us: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” The hell reserved for the sinning angels is called Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4).

10. Was Jesus fully and totally dead according to the Biblical definition of death?

If not then we have no savior and are yet dead in our sins.

The biblical description of death:

Reference Ecclesiastics 9:5-6 again.

“For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks” (Ps. 6:5)?

“The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17).

“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Ps. 146:4).

Jesus being the second Adam had to be a physical and mortal being just like Adam in order to take the place of Adam. Therefore, He was neither physically nor spiritually conscious while in the tomb. He was in a deep sleep as Jesus Himself often described death. (See free Bible study guides LIFE AFTER DEATH booklets 1and 2).

11. Why did the translators misinterpret verse 43?

The original Greek had no punctuation, it was added about 14th century by the translators. they punctuated it to the best of their understanding. But they had hundreds of years of Catholic dogma to overcome. In Luke 23:43 they mistakenly put the coma before “today” instead of after. The Lamas and some other translations quote the correct intended meaning of this verse as follows:

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” Jesus was emphasizing the time of His promise not the time he would enter paradise. Thus, by digging deeper and looking below the surface, the conflict between Luke 23:43 and the rest of the teachings of the Bible is resolved. However, let’s not disregard the wonderful message that this episode illustrates. No matter the situation, your condition or your sinful past, as long as you have breath it is not too late to repent.

As it turns out the causation of this scriptural oxymoron is nothing more than a misplaced coma.

© Del Leger 2021

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