Immortality and Mortality
Did the thief, who was crucified with Jesus, go immediately to heaven that same day? Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
The setting is as follows.
Jesus is nailed to the cross. Alongside Him two criminals have also been crucified. The surrounding crowd are calling out abuses to Him. One criminal joined in the accusations. "If you be the Christ...," he called. (Luke 23:39)
The second rebuked him. "Don't you fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? We indeed are punished justly, for we are receiving what we deserve; but this man has done nothing wrong." And to Jesus, he said, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23:40-42)
Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Consider Two Views
"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
There is an apparent emphasis on today. This word is obviously important and prominent in the passage.
The original Greek text has no punctuation. There are no equivalents to commas and full stops; therefore punctuation needs to be supplied during translation. The context surrounding what is stated is important to the translators to determine an accurate reading.
'Today' is emphasised and important in Jesus' statement. Leave it out, and the verse will read. "Truly I tell you, you will be with me in paradise."
Did the thief go immediately to heaven that same day? Let us test this by looking closely at 'what Jesus promised,' then at the 'outcome of His promise.'
What Jesus promised
An appropriate translation is this. "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
If this is correct, the thief would be in paradise that very self-same day. Jesus would be there with him.
The outcome of His promise
"Today you will be 'with me' in paradise."
Where was Jesus on this day?
The Nicene Creed presents an accurate order of the events of the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.
The Nicene Creed states -
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven.
We notice that 'on the third day Jesus rose again' (in accordance with the Scriptures). This would make Him two days late in keeping the promised appointment. To further confirm this course of events, we note Jesus' words to Mary on the morning of His resurrection. Jesus said, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." (John 20:17)
Jesus and the thief 'were not together in the kingdom' on the day of crucifixion.
An alternative translation is this. "Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise."
(Notice that the comma has been repositioned.)
What Jesus promised
If this rendering is correct, the importance Jesus placed on 'today,' is that 'He made the statement on this very day.' "Truly I say unto you today,..."
The outcome of His promise
Jesus is hanging on the cross. He has been condemned by humankind. The religious leaders have been foremost in accusing Him. The civil leaders provide the legal process and the means of execution. The rabble in society have joined their leaders in mocking Him. From the highest to the lowest He has been rejected by all. Jesus' own few followers forsook Him and fled. The only voices one can distinguish are raised in mockery.
Amongst all the babble there is one voice that calls upon Him as Lord; and asks to be remembered in His kingdom. It is a criminal also crucified on a cross who calls to Jesus; a criminal justly condemned for his sins. Why should he in the midst of this turmoil and rejection recognise the Son of God? To every other eye this Jesus is now a lost cause. When all around everything looked so lost, it was here that Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise."
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Don't you fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
43 And Jesus said to him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with me in paradise.
This view can be substantiated. Jesus and the criminal 'will be together in paradise' exactly as Jesus promised.
And the all-embracing wonderful news is that since a criminal under those circumstances will be there, so can you and I. In fact our admission to paradise will be on the self-same basis (Luke 23:40-42).
In the parable recorded in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus gives details of a conversation between Abraham in heaven and a rich man in hell. Does this parable present an accurate picture of heaven and hell?