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When discussing the state of the dead from the Bible, many people quote the story of the thief on the cross with Jesus and what Jesus said to the thief as proof that there is life immediately after death. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Now, this verse alone should not be taken against all the other Bible verses in the Bible that describe the dead as sleeping waiting for the Resurrection at the coming of Christ. The meaning of Christ’s statement in Luke 23:43 is determined by a scriptural answer to one very important question: Did Jesus Himself go to heaven on that day?
The answer is no, according to Scripture. On the day of the resurrection, when He met Mary at the garden tomb, His words were: “Touch me not for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John 20:17). Jesus could not have gone to paradise on Friday if He hadn’t yet ascended to the Father by Sunday!
Why then did Jesus say, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise?” The apparent problem vanishes when you consider that the original Greek manuscripts had no punctuation. The commas and periods were introduced into the text of Scripture by translators, who inserted them where they thought they should be. And believe it or not, a single comma can change the meaning of an entire sentence!
The Lord’s statement in Luke 23:43, should read: “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” This is what Jesus was really saying. Today, when all seems lost, when I do not look like a Lord or King, I can still save you!
The thief, with the rest of the righteous dead will claim the promise of the resurrection and be with Jesus in paradise.
In His service,