Did the criminal who died beside Jesus go to paradise on the day that he died?
(2) Due to the widespread and repeated preaching from the prophets (Matthew 3:1,2; 4:17,23; 6:10; 9:35; 10:5,7; Mark 1:14,15; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:1,2,11; 16:16; 21:31), the people of Israel in general, including this sinner, knew of the coming kingdom.
(3) We believe the Bible teaches that the kingdom has two phases: (a) its invisible, heavenly phase: Jesus and His joint-heirs, His Bride, (Romans 8:16; Revelation 21:2; Ephesians 5:23-32; Luke 12:32); (b) its visible, earthly phase: the rest of spiritual Israel, heirs of God (though not joint-heirs) including the Bridesmaids, the Great Company (Psalm 45:14, 15; Revelation 7:1-17; 19:9); the faithful ones of old (Hebrews 11:39, 40; Genesis 13:14, 15; Acts 7:5; Matthew 11:11; Luke 13:28-30) and its subjects-mankind in general. -- Psalm 37:9-11, 22, 29, 34; Isaiah 60:21; Amos 9:14, 15.
(4) By teaching His disciples to pray, "May your kingdom come. May your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth," Jesus showed that His kingdom on earth was future.
(5) The fulfillment of Bible prophecies shows that this reign of righteousness and peace over all the earth (Daniel 2:35, 44; 7:13, 14, 18, 27; Zechariah 14:9; Haggai 2:7; Hebrews 12:27, 28; Isaiah 9:6, 7; 2:2-4; Jeremiah 3:17) will soon come.
(6) Contrary to the views of some, the criminal never asked Jesus to take him to heaven.
(7) He did not ask Jesus to remember him on the day they were put to death, but rather at a future time -- "when you come into your kingdom". Not even the disciples at that time had knowledge of being in the kingdom in heaven. They were still thinking of the kingdom being established in earthly Jerusalem. -- Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6.
(8) In reply Jesus solemnly assured him that his request would be granted, that He would indeed remember him when He would come into His kingdom, saying: "Verily [Amen, or Assuredly], I say unto thee this day: With me, shalt thou be in Paradise." -- Luke 23:43, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible translation.
(9) Except for being used of various specific gardens (Deuteronomy 11:10; 1 Kings 21:2; etc.), the word paradise, meaning garden, is used in the Bible to refer to: (a) the garden of Eden, "the garden of God" (Genesis 2:8-15; Ezekiel 28:13), i.e., the perfect abode of Adam and Eve while sinless; (b) the symbolic paradise of God from which the overcomers of this age are symbolically given fruit from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7 -- compare Ezekiel 28:13; 31:8,9); (c) the earth after the kingdom is set up on it, as and after its curse of sin and death is increasingly removed (Revelation 22:1-3, compare Genesis 2:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:26), and it becomes increasingly (Daniel 2:35) "like the garden of Eden" (Ezekiel 36:35), i.e., Paradise Lost becomes Paradise Regained, which new earth was seen in vision and prophecy together with the third, the new heaven -- the spiritual control of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:1-4; 2 Peter 3:6, 7, 12, 13; Revelation 21:1-3)-that will supplant the spiritual control of Satan, "the god of this world." -- 2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:2.
(10) Of the three Biblical paradises mentioned above, (a) was destroyed long before Jesus' death, (b) is only a symbolic representation of the original paradise(a) as symbolically given to the overcomers of this age; (c) is still future; hence all refer back to or forward to the earthly paradise and none of these refer to a place where Jesus was to go when he died. Additionally, on the third day thereafter Jesus stated that He had not yet gone to be with his Father (John 20:17), nor did He go there until 40 days later. -- Acts 1:3-11.
(11) Therefore the comma should have been placed after the word "today" in Luke 23:43, and not before it, as is done in many Bible translations.
(12) Placing the comma before the word "today" (thus, as in the King James Version: "I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise") would make Jesus a falsifier, for it would mean that He promised the criminal that he would be with Him in paradise on the same day they were put to death, when He knew from the Scriptures that He was not going there that day, but on that day was to pour out His soul unto death (Isaiah 53:10, 12) and His soul was to descend into hell (hades - the oblisios death state - Acts 2:30-32; Eclessiastes 9:10), in which he was in silence and not able give thanks to or praise God (Psalm 6:5; 88:11,12; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18), and from which His soul would not be raised until the third day -- Luke 18:31-33.
(13) Placing the comma after the word "today" (thus: "I say to you today, You will be with me in paradise") creates no such difficulties, for it shows that Jesus merely made the promise to the criminal on that day, though the promise would not be fulfilled until Jesus would come into His kingdom.
(14) Commas and other punctuation marks, found in various Bible translations to aid the reader, were not placed there by Divine inspiration, since they are not found in the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament -- in fact, punctuation marks were not even invented until the ninth century after Christ -- so there is nothing at all in the Divinely inspired record that requires the comma to be before instead of after the word "today".
(15) Some have tried to force an explanation by saying that paradise was a part of Hades until after Jesus' resurrection when, they claim, it was transported to heaven. This idea is based on apostate Jewish philosophy adopted from the Greeks. However, there is not one scripture to support this view, and in contrast with this view is the scripture that relates that Jesus HAD to be in the ground for three days and nights in order to fulfill scripture. (Matthew 12:40) Surely if one is in paradise at death, he would be able to give thanks and praise to God, but we read in the scriptures that the righteous in hades are not able to gives thank to God nor praise God. (Psalm 6:5; 88:11,12; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18) All the way through the Old Testament, every place where the Hebrew word for paradise (usually translated 'garden' in the KJV) appears it always refers to an earthly condition, not as an imagined compartment of Sheol or Hades.- See Genesis 2:8,9,10,15,16; Ezekiel 28:13; 31:8,9; 36:35.
(16) Heaven is a prepared place (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Hebrews 10:34) for a prepared people (Romans 9:23, 24) -- i.e., those only who by self-denial and world-denial attain the prize of the high calling. (Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:26, 27; Philippians 3:13,14) These are begotten of the holy spirit (1 John 5:1, 18; 1 Peter 1:3; John 3:3-8), and then faithfully follow in Jesus' steps. (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6) Such must by patient continuance in well-doing, including bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, attain the perfection of faith so that they might put on incorruption, and attain this glorious prize of the high calling. -- Romans 2:7; Galatians 5:22,23; Philippians 3:10-14; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Hebrews 12:14; James 1:4; 2 Peter 1:5-11.
(17) God holds all accountable for the sins they commit (Matthew 12:36; 1 Timothy 5:24) and commands them to repent -- Acts 17:30; 3:19.
(18) Jesus appreciated the dying criminal's manifestation of reverence for God and true repentance for sins committed (Luke 23:40, 41), and therefore on that dark day graciously granted his request and gave him the comforting assurance that he would be with Him in paradise -- the earthly phase of His kingdom -- when it is established, for it is evident that the criminal's repentance, so close to the time of his death, did not give him time to be properly prepared for a place in the heavenly, spiritual phase of the kingdom.
(19) God did not promise that any who will be in the kingdom's heavenly phase or its earthly phase -- including the penitent criminal -- would be rewarded at death; rather, He showed that they would sleep in death (1 Kings 2:10; Daniel 12:2; John 11:11-14, 44; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) and get their rewards at the time of Jesus' second advent, in the resurrection awakening. -- John 14:3; Matthew 16:27; Luke 14:14; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:7, 13.
(20) At Jesus' return in His kingdom (Luke 19:11, 12), His reward is with Him (Revelation 22:12), and "all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come forth," either "to the resurrection of life," or "to the resurrection of judgment" -- for "there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." -- John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.
(21) Then Jesus will remember the penitent criminal -- he will awaken him from Adamic death with the "unjust," who were not previously on trial for life, for whom also he died (1 Corinthians 15:21,22; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2), and he will give them a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4) and a trial for life during His reign on earth (Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6), in the thousand-year judgment day (John 12:47,48; 2 Peter 3:8), when ee will "judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31; Psalm 96; 98) and make the entire earth into a paradise.
(22) Then "whosoever will" (Revelation 22:17) of these will gradually attain human perfection on the highway of holiness then cast up -- "they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:8, 10; 62:10); all found worthy (the unworthy will be destroyed -- Isaiah 65:20; Revelation 20:7-9; 21:8; Psalm 37:9,10; 145:20) will inherit everlasting life, not in heaven, but in the paradise on earth. -- Psalm 37:11,29; Matthew 5:5; 25:31-46.
(23) In addition to the above, we present below P.S.L. Johnson's comments regarding the comma placement in Ephiphany Studies in the Scriptures - Vol. 12: The Bible, (1949) by P.S.L. Johnson, Laymen's Home Missionary Movement. On page 621, referring to Panin's studies, "the numeric value of the words of every sentence, paragraph, section and division of each Biblical book does total in multiples of seven." (page 621)
(24) Regarding Luke 23:43 he states on page 632:
"By what is called neighborhood numerics God points out errors that He foreknew would arise. By neighborhood numerics is meant heptads that are not exact, but that, if allowance is made for a number to be one or more short of a heptad, or one or more long of a heptad, the rest will come out by heptads, e.g., the figure 104 is short 1 of being a heptad, 105; but if treated as 105 it will make figures connected with it in the same connection come out in heptads. It is very apparent that such a way of treating heptads violates the principle of heptads, for the strength of Biblical Numerics lies in its working in perfect sevens; . . . . As to the punctuation of Luke 23:43 as given in the A.V.: 'Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise,' . . . . Here Biblical Numerics comes to our rescue. It shows that if the comma is put before the word today, as in the A.V., neighborhood numerics result in both clauses of the statement, but if it is put after the word today each clause comes out in perfect heptads. This is God's way of showing that error would prevail on this subject, and His way of correcting the error. This phenomenon occurs quite frequently in the Bible in passages foreseen as misused."
We have been accused of having to rely on Paul S. L. Johnson's statement to support placing the comma after the word "today" rather than before it. Those who make this argument appear to be simply using it to distract from the real presentation on this matter. We do not rely, nor do we have to rely, on Paul Johnson's statements concerning this, for the evidence from the scriptures as a whole is overwhelmingly in favor of putting the comma after the word today, rather than before it, even without the usage of Johnson's presentation of numerics on this matter. Joseph Rotherham, E. W. Bullinger (See Appendix 173, The Companion Bible), as well as many others, recognized the correct placement of the punctuation long before Johnson ever made the statement regarding Biblical numerics.