Here is the question: “Jesus said to the thief that he would be in Paradise that day. … but is that a guarantee for those that believe in Jesus as Christ, the Son of God?”
Here’s the verse: Luke 23:43 “Jesus said to him, “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me.'” (The Bible in Basic English) It seems that Luke was the only Gospel writer to record this, so there’s no other record to compare. But there are some things to consider. When Jesus died, did He go to Paradise that very day? According to Acts 2:25-27 Jesus was in Hades, or the place of the dead, until the resurrection.
Also, the New Jerusalem, or Paradise, hadn’t been built yet. Even the thief knew this. He told Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Like 23:42) John 19:41 and 1Cor. 15:3-4 tell us that Jesus was buried. It does not say that Jesus body was buried, signifying that maybe His spirit was in Paradise, but that “Jesus was buried.” Jesus said the repentant malefactor would be with Him in this Paradise, but the New Jerusalem is not yet finished. Jesus is still preparing a place for us in it (John 14:2), for it will not be fully ready until after the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-5).
I think that what we are looking at is the fact that punctuation was not used in the Greek of the first century, In fact, it was almost 300 years before the Bible was punctuated. The comma that separates the statement in question was not there when Luke wrote this and, I believe (as do a large number of Bible scholars and professors) that this comma is misplaced in the English texts.
But, back to your question: “is that a guarantee for those that believe in Jesus as Christ, the Son of God?” Yes, I believe it is. As much as it was for the thief. Throughout the New Testament we are reassured that those who “run the race” and “fight the good fight” will be rewarded with Paradise and union with Christ. But will this be instantaneous when we die? Personally, I don’t think so. I believe that the Scriptures teach that there will be a resurrection and then a translation (often called the Rapture) that will take place in the end. In the Revelation, John saw the souls of those who had been slain (martyred) for the Gospel crying out to the Lord. These were certainly not in Paradise.
I know that researching this question has caused me to have even more questions. I also know that God has everything planed and timed to perfection, literally. Many people with a lot more education can be found on several sides of this question, but somehow I don’t think that will sway God’s plan at all. I would love to know exactly how, when and where, but I don’t think that some things are going to be revealed to us until we see them happening.
Hope I have helped to, somewhat, answer your question.
© 2021 Tim Lehmann. All rights reserved.
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