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 the 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 “all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28, 29).
The believers will be raised, given immortal bodies, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, … and the dead in Christ shall rise … and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17). “We shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, … and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. … For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death.
In His service,
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