TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE
In recent weeks I have been asked again about the “Thief on the Cross” and the fact that Jesus told him, “today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Again, I really encourage you to do your own study on this. The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5:21 to “examine everything and hold fast to that which is good” and I hope you will do just that in reference to what I am about to present to you.
This passage is often used to teach that when you die you immediately go to “Paradise.”
But now, if there is a place for the “righteous” to linger, there must also be a place for the unrighteous to linger, so consequently there has to be a place of torment; and from this the idea of a Purgatory has evolved; where the wicked will languish until the final judgment; and out of the idea of a Purgatory comes the idea of praying for the dead; and communicating with the dead; and paying penance for the dead.
And when you take into account other passages of scripture like John 5:25-29 and 1 Thess. 4:13-18 which indicate that no one goes to heaven until the Lord comes again; and compare those passages to this one it causes a lot of confusion; and also causes some to criticize the scriptures as being contradictory and therefore unreliable.
So, did Jesus really tell this thief that when he died that day that He would go straight to “Paradise?”
Well, understand this; the original Greek manuscripts did not have any punctuation. If you go back to the Tyndale Bible which was published 1536 you will see this. And it was long after the King James Bible was written in 1611 that punctuation was added.
However, Jesus did not go to Paradise that day. Jesus went to the tomb to be raised on the 3rd day.
And in John 20:14 and following, three days after the crucifixion, Jesus appeared to Mary and He told her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
I do not believe that Jesus lied and I also believe the answer is rather simple.
If the coma is placed in what I believe is the proper place; if it is placed after the word “today” the verse will say, “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
John 5:25-29 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. 26 “For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28 “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 29 and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
1 Cor 15:20-24 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
1 Thess 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
There is no Purgatory; praying for the dead or praying to the dead, or paying penance for the dead avails nothing; but a great, final judgment will come, and we each must be ready when it does.
Now, let’s look at the second issue: The issue of salvation that comes out of this passage. I am sure you have heard it.
Look with me at Matthew 9:2-6: And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk’? 6 “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– then He said to the paralytic– “Rise, take up your bed, and go home.”
But, what happened after Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross?
And just before He ascended into heaven what did He do? Look at Acts 1:1-2. “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.”
Here they are:
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
Matt 28:18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. ”
And that is exactly what his disciples did.
When Christ was here on this earth He exercised his authority to forgive sins as He saw fit.
Yes, the indication is that Christ saved the thief on the cross without the thief being baptized.
Look at this again. Look at Acts 1 again. In verse 2 it says that Jesus gave His apostles His “orders”…now look at verse 3.
3 To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
The thief never came under the command of the great commission.
To look at the thief on the cross and say that baptism is not essential for salvation is to look back to a time prior to our Lord’s ascension…and the orders that He gave for us to follow.
Now, one last point.
Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.
It is entirely possible that the thief on the cross had heard John preach…and that he was baptized for the remission of his sins (Mark 1:4)…and on that cross his statement of repentance may have prompted Christ to forgive him of his sins and save him.
A great multitude of people today…perhaps even someone here this morning…have turned to the example of the thief on the cross to claim salvation simply by “calling on His name.”
I know the example of the thief on the cross is a very popular teaching…and the idea of salvation apart from baptism is one that many ascribe too.
What is right…and what we must ascribe too is what Christ commanded for us to do while He is gone…and He commanded us to be “baptized in His name…or by His authority, for the forgiveness of our sins.”
Judgement is coming; the Lord will return and all who are in the graves will be raised; some to a resurrection of life; others to condemnation. Christ promised the thief on the cross that on that day resurrection he would be in Paradise with Christ. Jesus could do that when He was here.