The Thief on the Cross and Paradise
Jesus said to the believing thief on the cross, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The meaning of Christ’s statement in this passage 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 Jesus met Mary at the garden tomb, He said to her: “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!
The Meaning of Jesus’ Words to the Thief
Why then did Jesus say to the thief, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will 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: “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will 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!
Rewards and punishments are given at the resurrection at the second coming and not at death. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:17). “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).
The thief, with the rest of the righteous dead will claim the promise of the resurrection and be with Jesus in paradise. For “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 also 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death.
In His service,