Monday, March 17, 2008

On Jesus Last Words: The Second

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)

Some of my musings on the words “today” and “paradise”:

Christ addresses the repentant thief on the cross.

Jesus ascended into “paradise” with the thief that very day after He died? There is a considerable debate on the exact meaning of the word “paradise” as used in Jesus Christ’s promise to the repentant thief. The common inference is that Jesus took the thief with him to heaven on that very day after He died, though equating “paradise” with heaven in the context.

There are even interpretations which claim that a supposed placement of a comma between the words “today” and “you” reveals the correct orientation of the message, meaning that Christ emphasized “truly I say to you today, you…”, which only assigns a superfluous use of the word “today”. However, we note from the Apostles' Creed that Jesus "was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead."

By further reference to 1 Peter 18-19, Scripture tells us “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison”.

Afterwards, Jesus stays another 40 days with his disciples (Acts 1:3) and then was received up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God (Mk 16:19).

Catechism stands for a clear reference at this point:

633. Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into ‘Abraham’s bosom’. (see Luke 16:22-26).

Paradise in the statement clearly then is 'Abraham’s bosom' - that intermediate stage where the righteous of the Old Testament await Christ’s saving sacrifice, where Jesus Christ descended and proclaimed the good news of salvation to the imprisoned souls after His death. It was a place a step short of heaven but where the righteous are comforted (Luke 16:25). Only after Christ’s death were the gates of heaven opened, for all the righteous in Abraham’s bosom - and for the repentant thief, just as Christ promised.

The second word is even debated by fundamentalists as disproving the necessity of baptism as essential for salvation. To this it is simply noted that baptism as it is now commanded became part of the new covenant only after Christ’s death and resurrection – the thief was saved before the new covenant began. All of which reminds me again that Scriptures can be quite perplexing, especially when one digresses from the essential message at hand. We simply track back a few verses from Luke 23:43 to understand that Christ’s second word is in response to the thief’s Repentance and Faith, which is the real essence which Jesus’ second word addresses.

1 comment:

Brother Paul said...

Hi Fellow Believers,

It is a mystery but perhaps can somewhat be unraveled. We know that Christ had the power on earth to forgive sins. It was just as easy for Him as to perform a physical miracle on someone. Had the theif in fact been baptized under John's baptism. We just don't know. Maybe he had been, and maybe he hadn't. Only God knows, but the possibility does exist.

Baptism is certainly important, but is it essential to salvation. I think it is essential. Let me use an example: He who eats and digests shall live. Now you don't have to add he who eats not and digests not shall die...example being...if you are not going to eat, then you are certainly not going to digest something you didn't eat. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. You can see my point. He who believes is only half of the proposition doesn't work by itself.

Acts 2:38 says it is for the remission of sins...I didn't put it there...God did. You can eat and not digest and live, and you can't believe and not be baptized and be saved. It's just that simple...and hard for others.

For more information on the early church please read

Blessings to all,

Brother Paul