72) Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise

The other day someone who visits my blog emailed me a question. As with many Theological questions that come up when we are looking at Realized Eschatology or Redemption these are usually valid questions. Therefore, I felt it could be helpful if I shared the question and my reply so far, in this article. I invite you to also send me any of your questions you may have around these Theological topics, if you like. If I do not know the answer, I will tell you. But I will use it as an incentive to study and do the research. When I do get some answers in due time, I will share what I have learned.

Question:   

Hallo Patrick,

Luke 23: 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, T0DAY shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Why does Jesus say here that he will be in paradise with him today? According to Full- Preterism, that does not work, does it? And yes, there is the possibility to translate this as follows: “And he said to him: Truly, I tell you today: You will be with me in paradise”. This in turn would contradict Jesus‘ „habitual prefixes“, when He consistently said, „… I tell you …“, (I told you) I hope you can help me.

Answer:

There are three verses in the Bible with direct references to Paradise.

Luke23:43
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

2 Corinthians 12:2-4
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Revelation 2 King James Version (KJV)
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

The word Paradise used in these verses is the same Greek word; Parádeisos

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states the word Paradise means:

  1. A garden, pleasure ground, grove, park
  2. The part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of the pious until the resurrection: but some understand this to be a heavenly paradise
  3. The upper regions of the heavens. According to the early Church Fathers, the paradise in which our first parents dwelt before the fall still exists, neither on the earth or in the heavens, but above and beyond the world
  4. Heaven

The inconsistency is baffling. Meanings have been given to this word Paradise, which seem to be presuppositions based on the biases of the Theological perspective of the translators, yet with very little scriptural support.

Talmudic Judaism and modern Christianity have made references to Genesis 2:8 stating that the garden of Eden is also an Earthly Paradise. According to Talmudic Judaism the garden of Eden on Earth was „the lower Gad“ i.e. Paradise. There is no doubt that the garden of Eden was a Paradise like place, but I see no scriptural support for it being the Paradise as mentioned in Luke 23:43.

Verses like;  Nehemiah 2:8 ; Ecclesiastes 2:5 ; Song of Song of Solomon 4:13 ; Genesis 2:8; Numbers 24:6 ; Isaiah 1:30 ; Jeremiah 29:5 ; Ezekiel 31:8-9 all speak of a garden but they do not directly use the word Paradise.

First, lets look again at the main verse for this topic.

Luke23:43
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

Luke 23.43As per copy of the Greek Interlinear you can see that there are no comma’s or colons in the sentence. As Jesus makes His statements, He would often begin with His usual; “truly I say to you”.

There is a long list of Bible verses from the four Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John where Jesus applies these words as a prefix before He makes a statement. From this list, it appears that most of the time Jesus would use something like „Truly/Verily/Amen I say to you“, the words very often convey a meaning like „Here is an important truth“. The emphasis is not on the idea that Jesus is telling the truth, but on the fact that the truth Jesus is telling is significant and important to listen to.

If Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today”, it would obviously be correct to conclude that the thief was going to be with Him in Paradise that very day. If however, the comma belongs after the word today then this would read as; “Truly I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise”. This is not an impossibility. I hold it more as a possibility rather than a dogmatic fact.

The word „Today“ is translated in to two English words as „This Day„. When the word is spoken it is usually referring to that current day, or to the previous night. The word „this“ has it’s root meaning in the word „that“ and could therefore be “That Day” or in context “In That Day”, which then supports the argument that the “Today” is a reference to the Day of the Lord, when at the last trump when the dead in Christ would be raised.

1 Corinthians 15:52 King James Version (KJV)
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

This seems to be somewhat of a “Yoga stretch” for the meaning of the word „Today“, especially as the same word, „Semeron“ in the Greek, is used over and over again in the same book of Luke and throughout the New Testament mostly referring to that specific day when it was spoken. Except there are several verses in the New Testament where the word „today“ is used to refer to a time or period within an age. A good example is;

Hebrews 3 King James Version (KJV)
7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,

Here the word „Today“ is applicable to the very day one would hear the Spirit of God calling them, yet it was a „today“ which covered the period of approximately 40 years, to allow the Jews then the opportunity to turn to Christ as their Messiah, before He would return in judgment 67-70 AD.

Because the thief is already asking Jesus about his eternal security for the afterlife, for Jesus to refer to the great Hope of Israel i.e. the great resurrection seems natural to the flow of the context. It is a strong hermeneutical argument that this is the exact meaning of the “Today”, „That Day“ being the day of the resurrection and Jesus was assuring the thief he would experience that day. According to Full-Preterist Eschatology that day did not occur on the day when Jesus died but approximately 40 years later at His coming in Judgment on Jerusalem and apostate Israel.

We know Jesus went to proclaim His victory in Sheol/Hades, (the realm of the dead)

1 Peter 3 King James Version (KJV)
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Protestant Theology has also taken Jesus story of the Rich man and Lazarus and created a paradigm, suggesting that Abraham’s bosom was the section in Hades, separated by an impassable gulf from where the rich man and all the wicked were suffering in flames. Abraham’s bosom has erroneously been projected with the image of it being Paradise.
It is near to pathetic that theologians with time on their hands to study could not see that Jesus‘ analogy of „the rich man and Lazarus“ was in no way a reference to Hades, or Paradise.

Some have argued this was not a parable but rather a literal description of the two separations in Hades and others have claimed it was purely a symbolical metaphor.
This was, however, an analogy with literal historical and traditional reference and spoke of the change of Covenants that was about to take place in that generation. The rich man representing the wealthy Sanhedrin. More precisely the High Priest and his five brothers, all members of the High Priestly family during the time when Jesus was betrayed and at His coming when Caiaphas was still alive in 70 A.D.

Lazarus being a representative of Abraham’s servant Eleazar in Genesis and represents the gentile nations who were considered poor being outside the covenants and promises of God, but now grafted into the vine as in Abraham’s bosom. The apostate Sanhedrin and religious elders of Israel were going suffer judgment by means of Gehenna, the fires, which destroyed Jerusalem, whilst those who truly walked in the faith of Abraham, which later also included the Gentiles, had the promise of deliverance from that judgment. The Abrahamic Covenant has a central meaning in this analogy as Jesus was the promised seed of Abraham and the one who would be raised from the dead as the first fruit, in whom the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled.

Galatians 3 King James Version (KJV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

For a detailed study (only in German at this point) on Luke 16:19-31 please go to:
38) Die Hölle und ihre Unwichtigkeit 5 – Der Reiche Mann und Lazarus – Teil 1

What about Paul’s experience?

2 Corinthians 12 King James Version (KJV)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Revelation 2 King James Version (KJV)
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

It seems clear that Paradise is a part in or of heaven. The Apostle Paul seems to be evasive about who had the experience of being taken up to the third heaven. The fact that he uses “the Third Heaven” and “Paradise” interchangeably makes it clear that Paradise and the Third Heaven are the same thing. If there is a third heaven, would there be a second and a first? Some have explained that the first heaven would be the earths atmosphere, the second is galactic space beyond the earths gravitational field and the third heaven, is Heaven as in the spiritual dimension where God’s throne is.
However, all major world religions refer to seven heavens. This includes Ancient Babylonian Paganism, Islam, Hinduism, and Jewish Talmudism and Jewish mysticism. I tend to believe that God’s heaven is huge. I guess we will find out when we get there. Of course, the Apostle John in his Revelation, had a vision of heaven or was taken up into heaven. Was he the man who was taken up into the third heaven who saw unspeakable things instead of Paul? Maybe John conversed with Paul about his experience. It remains speculative. What we do know is that Revelation was written before the beginning of the Jewish war whilst the Temple was still standing. Revelation 11.
Now, just to clarify, I do believe it was Paul himself who went up to the third heaven as Satan actively tried to prevent him from sharing and teaching his abundance of revelations by means of inspiring available candidates to raise persecution against him.
2 Corinthians 12 King James Version (KJV)
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

The Resurrection of the dead out of Hades

Even though Jesus ascended into heaven as the first fruits of the dead, the rest of the dead could not yet be resurrected until His coming in judgment 67-70 AD. Therefore the thief in Luke 23 could not have gone straight to Paradise or heaven on the same day he died. But he had the promise that he would experience the great Day of the resurrection of the dead.

There are several reasons for that, which I will only briefly point out.

  1. The Jewish generation alive at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection had a right under the Sinaitic Covenant to claim their allegiance to that covenant. Whilst they held on to that covenant, God was equally obligated to keep His end of the Covenant.
  2. Whilst that Jewish generation was in Covenant with God (The Sinaitic Covenant), either party had to die before that covenant could fully end. 70 A.D. was the judgment unto physical death for that generation, and it ended that covenant at the time of their death.
  3. Whilst the Jerusalem Temple was still standing the way into the Holy of Holies in heaven had not yet been opened to receive the dead out of Hades.
  4. Whilst the Jewish generation still alive after Jesus’ ascension, Christ had to fulfill His High Priestly duty completing the atonement and intercession until He returned as King of Kings to claim His Kingly reign.

There are more reasons, each justifying a thorough study on its own.

In summary:

Jesus’ promise to the thief strongly appears the be an assurance that on the Day of the resurrection he will be with Jesus in Paradise in heaven.

The resurrection of the dead out of Hades took place between 67 – 70 A.D.

Paradise was not Abraham’s bosom, and Abraham’s bosom has nothing to do with a section or part in the then Sheol or realm of the dead.

The Garden of Eden was “a Paradise like place” but is not the Paradise referred to by Jesus.

Both Paul and John appear to have had a temporary insight into Paradise or the third heaven. This could have been a temporary literal catching up into heaven or a Theophany, i.e. a vision into the heavenly realms whilst they were still on earth.
Isaiah and Ezekiel both had Theophanies of the extreme kind just like Paul and John.

One more thought on this; As per the thief’s request of Jesus in;
Luke 23:42
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

If the Lord could only assure him entrance into the Kingdom (The word Kingdom is used interchangeably with Paradise, and Heaven), at the great resurrection of the dead, which, according to futurist eschatology would only come several millennia later, would the same thief been as keen or encouraged by Jesus statement? I think not. Just imagine, “you will be with me in Paradise thousands of years from now????” No, the immediacy of Jesus promise to him is rather emphasized here.