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Jesus: “Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

by Dr. D ~

Q: In Luke 23:43, Jesus tells the thief- “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Yet on his rising from the dead, he states to Mary in John 20:17- “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.” One passage says he’s going up to Paradise the same day, the other states that he has not yet ascended. Which is it? Also, what and where is paradeisos (original Greek). -D.O.

A: Jesus tells the repentant thief- “…today you will be with me in paradise.” (NIV) Years ago (20+ yrs) when I was taking a coarse in Jewish theology and Rabbinical studies, I did a major theological paper on ancient Jewish teachings on the afterlife. According to the prevailing understanding in first century Judea (based upon the Older Testament), when one died, the body was to be buried in a grave but the soul went ‘down’ to ‘Sheol’ and waited for the end of time and final judgment.

‘Sheol’ (or ‘Hades’ in Greek), was not the abode of God or Heaven, but a holding place for the dead. It was divided into two major areas–a place for the unbelieving wicked, & ‘Abrahams Bosom’ or ‘Paradise’ (paradeisos-Greek) -for the righteous believers. The dead were to stay in this holding place until the end of time and the Final Judgment.

Another tradition based upon the OT prophecy, was that the righteous of Israel would be Resurrected when the Messiah came, and would live in peace and prosperity for a long period of time–at the end of which would come the Final Judgment. Of coarse, we are off of point at this juncture, but it is helpful I believe, to see the full soteriological progression. Some of what I speak of, is recorded in the story of ‘the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus’ (See: Lk 16:19-31). Note in the story that Abraham is in charge of the ‘Paradise’ side of Sheol. This is not the abode of God or Heaven.

Now back to your question–when Jesus died on the cross, he went ‘down’ into Abraham Bosom or Paradise for three days. After he was resurrected, he spoke to Mary in the garden (John 20:17), and then ascended to his Father in Heaven. Therefore, the two accounts are not contradictory. One of the earliest Christian creeds–“The Apostles Creed”, which is said to preserve some ‘Apostolic’ traditions, records this progression of events:

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the lower world. (‘inferna’)

On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into Heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I add the following at no extra charge!–To complete the eschatological picture. According to early ‘Apostolic’ tradition–Jesus also returned to Abrahams Bosom/Paradise and led the righteous believers into Heaven where they now reside with him. Now when ‘believers’ die today, they immediately ascend into the presence of the Lord Jesus in Heaven (See: II Cor. 5:8). At the Second Coming, believers will come back to earth with Jesus, and live & reign with him. Later comes the Final Judgment and our final assignments–the wicked to ‘Gehenna’ or ‘outer darkness’, and the believers to ‘a new creation’–an eternal abode with God (See: Rev. 20:5).


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8 Responses to Jesus: “Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

  1. DeWayne Benson

    Regarding Abrahams bosom and Paradise, I have heard of this place in which Abraham and Lazarus are mentioned as called Paradise. Yet scripture appears to call both this place and the place where the rich man is found as Sheol, but of apparent different levels and seperated by an uncrossable chasm or gulf.

    In Old Testament scripture this is said where the Upright rest in peace, and the wicked have no peace. The King James Bible also appearing to tell of even a lower region or Pit where the angelic are thrown in everlasting chains.

    Gods’ rest is Paradise, so isn’t calling this region of the grave as Paradise unlikely or a misunderstanding>

  2. Dr. D

    Paradise (paradeisos-Greek)

    The word is found three times in the New Testament (Lk 23:43, IICor. 12:3, Rev. 2:7).

    Originally the word came from the old Persian language and meant: a park or garden. It was used to refer to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8) in the Septuagint (LXX-Greek OT).

    During the intertestamental period (between the OT & NT), the word was used numerous times in Apocryphal and pseudepigraphal literature to refer to the afterlife destination of the righteous. Sometimes it was used to refer to the best level in Sheol, other times to a final destination after a resurrection and judgment.

    The most common usage of the word in the first century was to use it interchangeably with Abraham’s Bosom. In Luke 23:43, when Jesus told the thief that “Today you will be with me in Paradise”, the context demands the ‘Abraham’s Bosom’ destination rather than a final destination following the resurrection and final judgment. Anyone listening to Jesus that day would have understood it that way.

    From our perspective, Paradise has come to mean or refer to the final destination. The word as used popularly in the first century was a far more general term that needed context or qualifiers in order to properly interpret.  All three uses of ‘paradeisos’ in the NT are different.

    1. When Jesus used it on the cross, he was not saying that the thief and he would both be resurrected and enter into a final destination ‘today’. Therefore, the common 1st century usage of the term to denote a favorable section of Sheol is preferred. Particularly since it is also supported by early Apostolic teachings. 

    2. When Paul uses it in II Cor. 12:3, the context is the ‘third’ heaven. In the common Greek usage of the day, the ‘first’ heaven was the sky & clouds, the ‘second’ heaven was the spiritual realm, and the ‘third’ heaven was the abode of the gods or in Paul’s usage, God. The final destination usage was also not in view here.

    3. In Rev.2:7, is the usage of Paradise that we have come to understand as the final destination of believers. Notice that it is qualified with ‘of God’ to identify the context. This is not just any ‘garden’, nor Abraham’s garden, but the final garden ‘of God’ complete with the ‘tree of life’ like the original ‘garden’ (‘paradeisos’-Greek) of Eden, therefore, believers come full circle and fulfill the creator’s plan.

  3. jim stanton

    when was paradise done away with and how

  4. Dr. D

    It hasn’t. Abraham’s Bosom/paradise (luke 16:19-31) is no longer in use. Believers now go directly to be with the Lord in Heaven following death (2 Cor. 5:8). The ultimate Paradise of God in Rev. 2:7 is yet in the future following the resurrection and eternal judgment.

  5. DeWayne

    I agree, Christ comes for each in their turn, in the first resurrection was the upright and righteous, following thereafter with each in their turn having a part in the first resurrection.

    Christ was the firstfruits, it would then be after the ascension and transfiguration that Christ comes for each in their turn beginning with the first resurrection.

    After death (Sheol/Satan) has no power over saints that instead go immediately to be with the Lord. This does not mean saints are in the promised heavenly/spiritual body, but with robe promised at resurrection.

    It is interesting that preacher’s will conduct a funeral saying the saint after death is now with the Lord, and just as often saying saints are not raised from Sheol/grave until the return of the Lord. Christ now is omnipresent, however His place is not in Sheol but at the right hand of God in heaven.

    Paul in Thessalonians talks about this issue, mentioning in warning a separate ‘Coming of the Lord’ to gather, and a ‘Day of the Lord’ also known as the ‘Return of the Lord’ for final Judgment. The former or coming of the Lord will be innumerable, consider the instance’s where two or more a gathered in His name, and there the Lord is also.

    Some preacher’s say saint’s are only gathered at the return of the Lord (not to bear sin again but for final judgment), saying the soul/saint only then is raised from the grave/Sheol. Yet at the return or day of the Lord (and there is only one return), the angels are sent to gather (all) of the saints (no longer on earth) but from the heavens.

    Certainly there are ‘heavens’ mentioned in scripture meaning plural, however of scripture describing the living when finally gathered, it is described as passage putting them together with them (already) in the air/heaven/ly with the Lord.

    This raises the question of Satan/Devil now in a heavenly realm where he is spiritually the deceiver as spirit at work in those disobedient. Certainly Satan is not in the New Jerusalem where the Temple built by God has always existed, nor below the alter here were John saw the souls of saints, these waiting for the (last) saint as they to meets death, after which judgment is promised.

    I do not believe a single upright/righteous or New Testament saint will ever again be found in the grave/Sheol and this includes the thief upon the cross, but that there will be another or second resurrection, and these will be the unredeemed for final judgment.

  6. DeWayne

    Paradise or Garden of God is where the Old Testament upright and righteous believed they would eventually be resurrected (from Sheol).

    If the original Temple made by the hand of God has always been in Heaven/Paradise, and this is the same that John describes in heaven, then Paradise must be the New Jerusalem that comes down or is revealed… from heaven.

  7. Roger

    2 Corinthians 12:2-4, seems to indicate that the third heaven and paradise are one and the same . Some see the first heaven as the earth’s atmosphere, the second heaven as outer space and the third heaven as the dwelling place of God.

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