16.01.14 Lk. 23:39-43
THIEF ASKS REMEMBRANCE
39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”
40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”
43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
“I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” This second of the last Testaments on the cross is the promise of eternal life to one who was condemned to die.
There is a strong possibility that both revolutionaries knew Jesus or knew of Him, before their appointed executions. In fact, Jesus became so popular, that there was not a person who had not heard of Him. The primary reason for this opinion is that the one thief simply addressed Jesus by His name. Furthermore, he had knowledge of the kingdom Jesus preached as did the other criminal, but the second one never asked about it, although he seems to have had sufficient knowledge to reject it.
One of them recognized his spiritual condition, his need for forgiveness, and appealed to Jesus for mercy. To comprehend the holiness of God in light of one’s state of being (i.e. a sinner) results in a plea for mercy. Jesus is not a respecter of persons, but He is a respecter of motives and attitudes. The request of the thief was accepted and he was forgiven while the other maintained his hardened heart and attitude.
How interesting is this scene with the two dying revolutionary Zealots, one on either side of Him. This scene reflects those of future generations when some will accept Him and others will reject Him. Jesus said two would be grinding corn, and one would be gone and the other left; two would be in the field, one would be gone, and the other left. So it was as He was dying on the cross.
16.01.14.Q1 Did Jesus take the repentant thief to heaven on the day they died (Lk. 23:43)?
The passage in Luke 23:43 has been problematic because Jesus said He would take the repentant thief to paradise “today,” but it is well known that Jesus did not ascend to heaven until forty-three days later. Like many others, this writer once believed that paradise was the same place as heaven. It isn’t. Consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The former was in a world of torment while Lazarus was in paradise – but not in heaven. Paradise was a holding area that had two areas:
- One for those going to heaven
- Another for the damned
The word paradise is a/k/a “Abraham’s bosom” to which Jesus referred to in Luke 16. The Apostle Paul also made a reference to it in Ephesians 4:8 when he said that Jesus led “captivity captive” – those in paradise destined for heaven. When the plan of salvation was completed, the captives went to heaven and therefore, there is no problem or conflict with Jesus having said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Godly saints of the Old Testament period went to paradise, not heaven, because their sins were covered by sacrificial animals (Heb. 10:1-4) but not removed by the blood of Jesus. No one can enter heaven with covered sins. Jesus paid the price for all pre-cross sins. Since no one could/can enter heaven without the blood of Jesus removing their sins, the saints of the Old Testament era stayed in Paradise, a/k/a Abraham’s Bosom, Hades, until Jesus paid the price of their sins. But when Jesus died, He went to Paradise with the last “new” saint of the Old Testament era – the Zealot – and proclaimed the gospel. Only His death could accomplish the removal of the pre-cross sins. From there the fellowship of Old Testament saints were then taken to their heavenly abode.
The classic example is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31. It is the story of the rich man who died and was in torment while Lazarus was on the other side of a great gulf – in paradise – from where he would eventually go to heaven. Sometimes paradise is called “Hades,” especially the section of torment. Jesus is the triumphant Lord of heaven and hell (Rev. 1:18; Phil. 2:10) and has ultimate power over death (1 Pet. 3:19).
The Apostle Peter, in his first letter, said that Jesus preached to those who had died. Obviously, they were unaware of future events and had not heard of the gospel until Jesus shared it with them. Peter stated:
For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged by men in the fleshly realm, they might live by God in the spiritual realm.
1 Peter 4:6
The Apostles Creed on the end of line 4 states “He [Jesus] descended into hell.” An earlier form of the Apostles Creed formed the basic structure of the Nicene Creed, which led to the fifth century Athanasian Creed, which states that “[Christ] suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.” Because of His descent into hell and rise to life, He conquered sin and death, and more importantly, Jesus took the keys of Satan’s authority.
This does not indicate that those who died can still be saved, nor should one pray to or for the dead. Rather, it states that Jesus went to those who had died and told them of Himself. That is why Ignatius said,
He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude; and rent asunder that means of separation which had existed from the beginning of the world, and cast down its partition-wall.
Ignatius, Letter to the Tralhans
Finally, the names of the two Zealots who were crucified with Jesus have been lost in human history. Only one of them will be known throughout eternity. However, that has not prevented self-inspired writers for becoming creative historians. Several books within the classification of Pseudepigrapha, have listed their names. Unfortunately, there is some serious disagreement on their identity. Suggested names are Dismas and Gestas, as in the Acts of Pilate. But other books identify them as Zoathan and Chammata, or as Joathas and Maggatras, or as Titus and Dumatchus. Clearly this demonstrates why the Pseudepigrapha books must be evaluated with great suspicion.
. http://www.bereanbiblesoceity.org/articles/1115147624.html Retrieved October 15, 2011.
. Acts 17:30; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:15, 10:4.
. See 12.03.08.
. Scaer, “He did descend to Hell: In Defense of the Apostles’ Creed.” 93.
. Thomas, The Golden Treasury of Patristic Quotations: From 50 – 750 A.D. 39.
. Creative writers and other “false teachers and prophets” have existed throughout the centuries. Ron Charles has gathered scores of fanciful legends and myths, mostly written between the sixth and sixteenth centuries, that pertain to the life of Christ in his book titled, The Search: A Historian’s Search for Historical Jesus. (Self-Published, 2007). Another researcher is Nicholas Notovich, whose book, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. Trans. (Virchand R. Gandhi, Dover Pub.) is a so-called historical account of when Jesus went to Asia to study between the ages 13 and 29. All of these accounts are truly fanciful.
. Jordan. Who’s Who in the Bible. 240.