One of the most popular passages of Scripture which is quite often used to prove man is immortal and that he goes to his reward at death is the scriptural account of the repentant thief on the cross. “Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42, 43
1. Did Jesus promise the repentant thief that he would go to heaven on the day of his crucifixion?
As written originally the Greek was without punctuation. The adverb today is between two clauses which in the Greek read “truly to you I say” ans “with me you will be in paradise.” According to Greek usage the adverb could modify either clause. So the question is, what did Jesus mean to say? Did Christ promise the thief he would be with Him that day in paradise,or did He simply tell him that day He was giving him the assurance of salvation? The only way to know what Jesus meant is to understand the Bible answers to the remaining questions in this particular study.
NOTE: It is well know that there is no punctuation in the earliest preserved manuscripts of the New Testament. Punctuation is said to have been introduced by Manutius, a printer, who lived in Venice in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Therefore the Bible punctuation is human and variable. It is entirely possible to change the mean of a passage of Scripture by the position of a comma.
2. Where is paradise?
In the New Testament the term paradise occurs only in Luke 23:43; 2Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4,makes paradise synonymous with heaven. The tree of life mentioned in Revelation 2:7 is said to be “in the midst of the paradise of God.” And in Revelation 21:1-3, 10; 22:1-5 the tree of life is associated with the new earth, the New Jerusalem, the river of life,and the throne of God. It is evident that in the New Testament the usage of paradise is consistently synonymous with heaven.
3. Where is Jesus go on the crucifixion day?
“This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.” Luke 23:52, 53.
4. Did Jesus go to His Father in heaven the day he died?
No, for after His resurrection Jesus said to Mary, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” John 20:17
5. What did Jesus teach about the time when men would enter into their reward in paradise?
Less than twenty-four hours before making the promise to the thief Jesus had given to His disciples the promise recorded in John 14:1-3. He had talked about the mansions in His Father’s house and the time when He would come for them to receive His own unto himself. Read Matthew 16:27; 25:31, 34.
To say that the thief went to heaven on the crucifixion day and to use this to support immortality depends on the wrong use of a comma. This is not the right way to interpret the Bible to make this text the foundation of a doctrine which contradicts all other plain scriptures on the subject. Then too it is clear according to John19:31-33 that the thief did not die on the day of his crucifixion.
There is only one way to have eternal life after the resurrection and live forever. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36. The resurrection of Christ makes certain that a person who is in Christ will be given eternal life. Read 1 Corinthians15:16-22.