The Thief On the Cross

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 (All day)

What did Christ mean when He said to the thief, "today"?

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[Steve Myers] In our discussions about the resurrection, about heaven and hell, an interesting question came up. One of our viewers wrote in and asked about the thief on the cross. And the question that automatically comes up regarding that is the fact that did Jesus Himself promise that thief that he would be in heaven with Him?

So many people think that. They get a little bit confused on a particular passage and that's a passage that's found over in Luke:23:43. Let's read that and then we can get a little bit of a context when it comes to this particular question. So here we are looking at the crucifixion itself, and this criminal who is being crucified with Christ says to Christ in Luke:23:43, he says, "Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom." The very next verse, Jesus responds, "Assuredly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise" (Luke:23:42-43).

So, of course, many people then feel that that thief automatically went to heaven when he died. Now is that the case? No, it's not at all because later that day Christ died, does that mean Christ went to heaven and that criminal immediately went to heaven? No, it doesn't. Now, how do we know that?

Well, the interesting part is over in the book of John. If we were to look over in the book of John after the resurrection, John:20:17, it's a very interesting passage. Christ has been resurrected. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and she finds Christ. And Christ says something interesting to her here in John:20:17. Notice what He says. He says, "Touch Me not for I am not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren and say unto them, 'I ascend unto My Father and to your Father and to My God and your God.'"

So, you see something interesting is hidden sometimes in the meaning of what Christ said. This is three days and three nights after the crucifixion. And Christ had not ascended to the Father. So, is it possible then in Luke:23:43 to understand that the thief immediately went to heaven upon his death that very day? You see, you can't expect that to be the meaning. Christ didn't say, "Today you'll be with me in paradise." That's not what the meaning is because Christ wasn't there Himself. Three days and three nights later, Christ is right before Mary saying He hadn't yet ascended to the Father.

So, it would've been impossible for Luke:23:43 to mean that today, that very day, that the thief would've gone to heaven. That would go against the whole meaning of Scripture, the whole plan of God.

So, what does it mean? Well, most specifically it helps us to understand that we have to realize punctuation in the Greek is missing. It's missing. So when Christ said, "Assuredly I say to you today" this is another way of saying, "Wait, a second, I'm telling you now" or "Today, let Me have you understand you will be with Me when My Kingdom comes, when paradise comes to this Earth, you will be with Me." In other words, in the resurrection this criminal would have an opportunity to understand the truth of God. Christ could perceive that he would understand the truth and eventually would be in the Kingdom of God.

So if we were to punctuate that correctly in our English version of the Bible it would say, "Assuredly I say to you today (comma), you will be with Me in paradise." So that makes sense and continues to be with the Scriptures itself to be a continuing understanding that they do match. It's not a contradiction. It is what Christ was saying to the thief.

That's BT Daily . We'll see you next time.


rajiimmanuel's picture

But sir, once a prophet said that there's a place called paradise between earth and heaven where souls of godly persons rest in peace. please do reply to this sir...


Skip's picture

Hello rajiimmanuel,
Jesus was a prophet (among other things) and He said to one of the men who were crucified with Him, "Assuredly I say to you today,
you will be with me in paradise."

Please notice where I placed the comma in the quote.
It is placed differently in most Bibles.
There were no commas in the Greek.
The comma changes the meaning of the quote dramatically.

The thief on the cross will be with Jesus in paradise when he
(the thief) is resurrected. Now he is dead and in the grave.

When Christ returns to earth as King of kings, He will turn this earth into the paradise it has the potential to become. Then all who have been accounted worthy of the first resurrection will be in "paradise."

D. Miller

D. Miller's picture

I understand the punctuation explanation & agree with you Steve on that completely. But you make a leap in saying the thief will be in the ressurection to the physical, which he'd have to be in order to "understand the truth & eventually be in the Kingdom"... I'm not saying the thief went to heaven with Jesus. No, it's clear Jesus didn't ascend to heaven that day & u'r right about that also. I think it's possible that Jesus was saying that Jesus was simply stating to the theif that he'd be in the Kingdom. After all, the thief was the only one who believed Jesus, up there on the cross/stake/whatever, actually was the son of God and that he would have a real kingdom. We know this by him asking Jesus to remember him when he was in his kingdom. So this "truth" you speak of Steve, is maybe don't you think just believing the truth that Jesus IS the son of God, and that He IS going to be ruling a kingdom?. That's how I read it. And so I think if that's true then it's also interesting that Jesus is stating that this guy IS going to be in Paradise with Him and yet, as we can see, this same guy/thief was not baptized, didn't have hands laid on him, had not lived according to the physical 10 commandments (thou shall not steal). All he did was believe and have faith....and for Jesus, that's all it took to gaurentee this guy a place with Him in paradise. I bet you thought of all that though huh? That might be why the physical ressurection statement?? Just a thought. I don't know what you I. Thanks

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