Did the Thief on the Cross go immediately to heaven?

Jesus said he would, therefore he did.

But there are many false teachers who want to change the punctuation of Luke 23:43, where Jesus made the promise to the thief on the cross:

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

Our final destiny is not to live in heaven forever, but on earth forever with our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is made quite clear by Matthew 5:5,

Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Until then, however, if we die physically before the Rapture, if we are truly saved, we will go to heaven to be with our Lord Jesus Christ, who is surely there upon His throne.

No human beings are slated to live in heaven forever. There is only ONE hope and destiny for all those in this current age, often called the “church age” by theologians and careful Bible students, FOR there is only ONE BODY, and one hope of our calling, as Paul absolutely and unequivocally affirms (Ephesians 4:4,5). The idea of some that 144,000 are the only ones who have a heavenly hope, while the rest of us are consigned to a mere earthly hope is nonsense in terms of what the Bible teaches, and in plain language this view is utterly false doctrine, soul-destroying doctrine at that for any who believe it.

There are some who assert that there is no consciousness after death. In the not too distant past I visited Robinson Crusoe’s Desert Island (my metaphor for genuine independent Bible study using a plain text Bible) and found evidence for well over a dozen Scriptural proofs of consciousness after death being the Bible’s teaching. The body is dead upon our decease, but souls and spirits are eternal: they do not die physically, only spiritually. The body returns to dust, the soul does not! They who have died in faith are very much alive, awaiting eagerly the resurrection of their bodies.

They who have died in unbelief are also very much alive and conscious, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies 1000 years after the resurrection of the righteous dead.

But the main point I wish to address is the absurd notion that Jesus told the thief on the Cross (note carefully the wrong punctuation), “I say unto you today, you will be with me in paradise.” To postulate such a response on the part of our Lord Jesus Christ is absurd because it is contrary to Greek grammar. As recorded in the Greek New Testament, this cannot be the meaning. Even though Greek has very little punctuation in the original manuscripts, it is most obvious in terms of the grammar what the punctuation must be. To argue otherwise indicates a lack of study in the field of grammar, or an axe to grind.

Jesus had no need to instruct the thief on the cross that he was speaking to him on that very day: that point is beyond the obvious! The notion that Jesus said that is most absurd.

Jesus was addressing the thief, correcting and instructing the thief’s hope of being in Christ’s Kingdom here on earth upon Christ’s Return in Glory. Jesus is asserting to the thief you will not need to wait until then, for this very day you will be with me in Paradise.

Jesus was NOT speaking to the thief about some future time on the earth when the thief would awake from an unknown length of time of soul-sleep at the resurrection to regain consciousness as if no time had passed, so seeming to be but an instant between the thief’s moment of death and his conscious presence with Christ in the earthly kingdom.

This concept can directly be proven to be utterly false because Jesus used the term Paradise, which is the same as what Paul calls the “third heaven,” when Paul was consciously caught up to the third heaven, which Paul absolutely asserts was Paradise (See 2 Corinthians 12:2, “caught up to the third heaven” and 2 Corinthians 12:4, “How that he was caught up into paradise”).

Jesus promised the thief “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

You may be certain, therefore, that consciousness continues after death, and that like that thief on the cross who trusted Christ and believed His work for him on the Cross, we too share in that blessed promise, if we have put our trust in Christ for our salvation.

If consciousness does not continue after death, Jesus could not have told the thief “Today you will be with me in paradise,” for if unconscious, the thief would never know he was in Paradise, and could not know he was with Jesus, according to His promise.

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56 Responses to Did the Thief on the Cross go immediately to heaven?

  1. A. Way says:

    If you are asking, do we have free will? Absolutely.

    If you have a Bible text you would like to bring up, please do so.

    A writer once wrote the following:

    In the creation of man was manifest the agency of a personal God. When God had made man in His image, the human form was perfect in all its arrangements, but it was without life. Then a personal, self-existing God breathed into that form the breath of life, and man became a living, breathing, intelligent being. All parts of the human organism were put in action. The heart, the arteries, the veins, the tongue, the hands, the feet, the senses, the perceptions of the mind–all began their work, and all were placed under law. Man became a living soul. Through Jesus Christ a personal God created man and endowed him with intelligence and power.[/blockquote>That pretty well sums it up.

  2. Jerry says:

    Dear A. Way,

    In your quotation, the writer states “man became a living soul.”

    The Bible states (KJV):

    Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.

    My question remains, according to your understanding of what the Bible teaches, does man consist only of flesh and blood, or does man consist of flesh and blood + an indwelling spirit and/or soul that is a permanent and integral part of the person?

    From some other English translations:

    The MKJV,

    Job 32:8 But a spirit is in man giving them perception, even the breath of the Almighty.

    The ESV,

    Job 32:8 But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

    Young’s Literal Translation,

    Job 32:8 Surely a spirit is in man, And the breath of the Mighty One Doth cause them to understand.

    Bible in Basic English,

    Job 32:8 But truly it is the spirit in man, even the breath of the Ruler of all, which gives them knowledge.

  3. A. Way says:

    A single text – but what is the context?

    Job 32:4-10 AKJV Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he. (v5) When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled. (v6) And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and you are very old; why I was afraid, and dared not show you my opinion. (v7) I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. (v8) But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding. (v9) Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. (v10) Therefore I said, Listen to me; I also will show my opinion.

    Here Elihu gives his reason for presuming to speak, even though he is the youngest of the group. He has concluded that understanding comes, not from age, but from the Spirit of God. Inasmuch as wisdom is a gift of God, youth may have it as well as age.

    Yes, we are flesh and blood. Is a brain dead person still conscious? As I have pointed out by the testimony of the OT, the dead do not know anything.

  4. Jerry says:

    Dear A. Way,

    It is always good to note context.

    The question still remains, does the Bible teach that man has, beyond his strictly physical nature of flesh and blood, an additional element called “spirit” or “soul.”

    Most of the time the terms “spirit” and “soul” do not refer to any immaterial part of the person in Scripture, but there are instances where “spirit” and “soul” do refer to that immaterial part of man.

    Of course, a brain-dead person in terms of this physical life is no longer physically conscious. That does not mean that all consciousness of the person is gone.

    If all consciousness of the person is gone, that would mean the total cessation of that person’s being, and this would be a most extreme denial of the doctrine of bodily resurrection of the very same or identical person that died.

    To re-animate the body is not in itself resurrection. Lazarus was dead for four days. He was re-animated, resuscitated, brought back to life, but NOT resurrected. Yet he, when brought back to life, was the same person that died. We can perhaps assume he had all his memories, for he was capable of language, of hearing, of walking, of seeing, of action, of understanding, for he responded to the call to come forth of the Savior who addressed him by name. As to whether Lazarus had any knowledge or memory of the state he was in during those four days that the body was dead, we have absolutely no record, so the silence of Scripture in this regard furnishes no evidence one way or the other about these matters with regard to Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha.

    To deny conscious existence after death is the ultimate denial of resurrection, for if the once dead body is raised from the dead, if consciousness has been interrupted and lost, the person must be re-created. Thus the position of theological materialism must deny the continuity of the individual, which is not the teaching of the Bible at all.

    It is not the teaching of the OT that the dead do not know anything. The passages that appear to teach this are speaking only of the fact that upon death, the person can no longer execute their own plans, and are otherwise not aware of what goes on in this world after they have died.

    Consider Psalm 146:4 (KJV),

    Psa 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

    Then consider Ps 146:4 (ESV),

    Psa 146:4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.

    Confirmed by the NET Bible for Ps 146:4,

    Psa 146:4 Their life’s breath departs, they return to the ground;
    on that day their plans die.

    The passage from Psalm 146:4 is therefore not denying conscious existence after death, but affirming that the plans the person may have had for this life are cut short by death.

    My question remains, according to your understanding of what the Bible teaches, does man consist only of flesh and blood, or does man consist of flesh and blood + an indwelling spirit and/or soul that is a permanent and integral part of the person that survives the physical death of the mortal body?

  5. A. Way says:

    Lets look at Psalms 146:4
    Thoughts. Heb. ‘eshtonoth, a word occurring only here. It comes from the verb ‘ashath, which occurs only twice, once in Jeremiah 5:28, translated “shine,” and once in Jonah 1:6, with the meaning, “to give thought to.” An Aramaic verb, ‘ashith, meaning, “to intend,” “to plan,” occurs once in Daniel 6:4. The translation “plans” (RSV) evidently comes from considering ‘eshtoneth to be based on the Aramaic ‘ashith. Such a relationship is doubtful, however, in the light of the Davidic authorship of the psalm. It appears more reasonable to consider ‘eshtoneth as from the Heb. ‘ashath, “to give thought to,” and hence to retain the translation “thoughts.” The LXX and the Vulgate support this translation.

    Perish. That is, consciousness ceases. The Bible lends no support to the popular doctrine of a conscious state between death and the resurrection and furthermore emphatically refutes such a teaching (see Psalms 115:17; Ecclesiastes 9:5). A common metaphor for death is “sleep” (Deuteronomy 31:16; 2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Kings 11:43; Job 14:12; Daniel 12:2; John 11:11-12; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; etc.). That such a “sleep” is not a conscious fellowship with the Lord on the part of the righteous is clearly implied in the statement of Jesus, who comforted His disciples with the thought that at the second advent, not at death, the disciples would be united with their Lord (John 14:1-3). Paul similarly pointed to the second advent as the time when all the righteous, those living at the time of the advent, and the dead who will be raised at that moment, will together be united with Christ, with no precedence on the part of the living (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

    Again my answer to you is the testimony of the OT (Isaiah 8:20)

  6. Jerry says:

    I most certainly agree with the testimony of Isaiah 8:20,

    Isa 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

    We must go by what the Bible itself teaches, the Bible alone and in its entirety.

    Upon death, the body sleeps, but there is nothing in Scripture which affirms that souls or spirits do.

    In physical death, clearly the person in a physical sense is “brain dead.” That hardly affirms that the immaterial soul or the immaterial spirit is dead.

    Souls and spirits do not die. Bodies do.

    Souls and spirits are not raised from the dead, bodies are.

    The Bible teaches from beginning to end that man is a complex creature consisting of both the material body and the immaterial being that we call soul or probably better, spirit.

    Many who believe in theological materialism, like the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, and a few others, make much of the usage of “soul” and “spirit” in the Bible.

    Not one of these individuals or religious groups or denominations has made an honest, thorough induction of ALL the relevant evidence in Scripture that touches upon this theme.

    In my preparation of The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, I have made an absolutely complete induction of all the evidence based on the original Hebrew and Greek terms, and have placed the results starting at my note at Genesis 2:7.

    In my note on Genesis 2:7 I point out that “Soul or spirit is distinguished from the body it inhabits, refuting materialism, Genesis 35:18. 1 Kings *17:21. Job +*14:22. Ecclesiastes +*12:7. Zechariah 12:1n. James 2:26.

    Consider carefully what is affirmed in Zechariah 12:1,

    Zec 12:1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.

    Notice that Zechariah speaks of the creation of the heavens and the earth, and speaks here as of equal significance (the force of and) the formation of the spirit of man within each individual man as also a work of creation.

    This is the complete upsetting and overthrow of the materialistic theory in theology advocated by JWs and Seventh Day Adventists.

    The spirit of man is formed within him.

    It is a separate entity then in each individual man, not (like the breath of life) a common principle shared by all.

    With regard to the nature of man, materialists in theology agree perfectly with what we know of the position of the Sadducees in Jesus’ day regarding the nature of man and life after death, only the modern materialists often do believe in the doctrine of bodily resurrection. But they surely are off base Biblically on the rest of the issues Jesus addressed in his refutation of the Sadducees, which Jesus said were greatly in error. I would not wish to be classed with them by holding such a view.

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