LUKE 23:42-43 (Amplified Bible):
 Then he [the criminal] said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingly glory!
 And He [JESUS] answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
I first began THE WORD DETECTIVE study on Paradise, Heaven, Or Someplace Else, actually, by reading and enjoying reading various EPITAPHS (Inscriptions of Tombstones).
I know you might be thinking, “You actually got inspiration from reading notices of DEATH?” Well, no, I receive inspiration from reading daily in Scripture, prompted by Holy Spirit to write on a theme, topic, subject from God’s Word.
That said, I thought I would SHARE one Epitaph I enjoyed reading [see Footnote [i] ]:
“Here lies the body of old man Peas,
Buried beneath the flowers & trees.
But Peas ain’t here, just the pod,
Peas shelled out & went to God.”
PARADISE REGAINED –
In reading the two previous verses in Luke one morning, some questions came to my mind:
Are heaven and paradise the same thing? Did the criminal on the cross next to Jesus go to heaven or paradise?
JESUS told the church at Ephesus,
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God (Revelation 2:7~ NAS).
So apparently, PARADISE is where God is at, because it is called the “Paradise of God.”
JESUS told the robber, He would be with him in Paradise that very day. The words in Luke 23:43, is taken as a great source of COMFORT & HOPE by most Christian believers. Many say, this is clear proof that we go to HEAVEN when we die.
Church Doctrine of Heaven Exposed
One of the most misunderstood doctrines within the Bible is the Doctrine of Heaven. There are a lot of false myths about Heaven and it’s easy to get caught up in them if we’re not careful.
The Bible tells us that we are going to spend an eternity there, so it made sense to me to investigate the place where we are going to LIVE FOREVER & FOREVER.
So what is up with HEAVEN & PARADISE…are they the same?
The word “Paradise” is a transliteration of the Greek word, “paradeisos”. It is a word used only three times in the New Testament. Also, the context of each of the three uses is different from the others, by three different authors.
As far as the original meaning of the word PARADISE:
- (Persian) A grand park or hunting preserve, enclosed, protected, well cared for, but sealed off or contained.
- A pleasure garden.
- A grove or park.
- (“Later” [?] Jews) The part of Hades set aside of the souls of the righteous until the resurrection [Also known as the Bosom of Abraham].
- Heaven (possibly including multiple levels of “heaven” – sky or atmosphere, outer space/universe, God’s abode).
In 2 Corinthians 12:4, it appears to parallel or point to, the term “third heaven” in verse 2.
Since God is apparently immediately present there, this seems to be a reference to what is considered “HEAVEN”.
However, since the passage refers to Paul’s vision, it is difficult to relate directly to JESUS’ statement made in Luke 23:43.
In Revelation 2:7, this is given as the LOCATION of the “tree of life” – again, what we typically believe as an attribute of “HEAVEN”.
In this case, the word is modified with a prepositional phrase– “of God” — to set apart it from any other paradises.
Now in Luke 23:42-43, the meaning is somewhat more cloudy at first reading. First of all, we have to understand JESUS’ destination after death on the Cross–did JESUS descend into Hell/Hades, and if so, how long did He remain there? In other words, does “PARADISE” refer to an understanding of Hades as a “holding area” for the dead? Or, would was He speaking in a sense outside of space and time, actually referring to HEAVEN?
Now THE STUDY gets really down to the ‘nitty gritty’ !
Teaching the Bible to others for over 30 years, in addition to my own study notes, I have utilized many available sources in helping me understand the application of God’s Word.
This study was no different [See Footnotes & Credits].
Here is one example pertaining to the bible verse in Luke 23:43 [The NET Bible Notes]
Note, #4 – sn. In the NT, paradise is mentioned three times. Here it refers to the abode of the righteous dead.
In Rev. 2:7, the restoration of Edenic paradise predicted in Isaiah 51:3, Ezek. 36:35.
Sheol/Hades/Paradise: IN THE BEGINNING…
Because of the CURSE of sin, all mankind faces the reality of physical death–100% Guaranteed (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12).
NONE can evade it by their own power, nor can any man or woman escape SHEOL/HADES/DEATH on their own.
While PARADISE is NOT now a part of Sheol/Hades, I wanted to mention here, that it was located in Sheol/Hades at one time.
Before the death, burial, AND resurrection of Jesus Christ, everybody who died went to Sheol/Hades, which at the time was divided into TWO compartments. One was a place of TORMENT (“Tartarus”) and the other place of BLESSING, referred to as Abraham’s Bosom–Paradise (Luke 16:22-25).
We know that since the CROSS, the souls of those who die “in Christ” do not go to Sheol/Hades (See 1 Cor. 15:19, 20, 51-57).
After the RESURRECTION and the ASCENSION of JESUS, PARADISE was moved to HEAVEN. The area for the RIGHTEOUS (Paradise) was emptied out.
The BELIEVER goes directly to HEAVEN–
From the New Testament teaching, we can find that the new location of PARADISE is in heaven.
Tree of Life Location –
In the first PARADISE, The Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life was located in the “center of the garden (Gen. 2:8, 9).
After Adam and Eve’s SIN, disobedience to God’s Word, God “drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden the cherubim and flaming sword which turned every way, to keep and guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).
I can imagine that the Great Flood, no doubt, geographically speaking, the GARDEN PARADISE was destroyed…but NOT lost!
Revelation 22:1-3 Amplified Bible:
Through the middle of the broadway of the city; also, on either side of the river was the TREE OF LIFE…
There shall no longer exist there anything that is accursed…”
In PARADISE REGAINED, the Tree of Life is “on either side of the river” where “the leaves are used for the healing and the restoration of the nations.”
JESUS Words Spoken On The CROSS…
In the gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus responding to the religious leaders of His day. And when asked if He would give them a miracle or sign, that He was the Promised One, Jesus said, “No sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet JONAH” (Matt. 12:39 b.).
The Given CLUE (verse 40):
“For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
He was saying that He would spend the time between His DEATH & RESURRECTION in Sheol/Hades (“in the heart of the earth”).
We know that JESUS went into the depths, the heart, the center of the earth (Ephesians 4:9) for three days and nights while His body lay in the grave (Matt. 12:40).
The Lord Jesus told the repentant criminal that He would join him in PARADISE that same day. This tells us the PARADISE was located in Sheol/Hades at that time. I believe this evidence given, in God’s Word, was the same place referred to as Abraham’s Bosom in Luke 16.
However, AFTER Jesus rose from the grave, He ascended to the Father, taking the saints who were in Abraham’s Bosom to HEAVEN with Him.
He took “captivity captive”–including the thief on the cross–with Him.
“Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men.
[But He ascended?] Now what can this, He ascended mean but that He had previously descended from [the heights of] heaven into [the depths], the lower parts of the earth?
He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).”
That PARADISE was moved to HEAVEN (2 Corinthians 12:3-4) –
JESUS’ WORK COMPLETED…
With Jesus’ work now completed…FINISHED, the believers who had previously been confined in Sheol/Hades, are now taken to HEAVEN to wait in God’s presence until the time of their resurrected bodies to enter His Kingdom on Earth.
Sheol/Hades: The Present Location of the Unrighteous Dead –
HADES refers to a place of temporary torment; referred to as the immediate, or present HELL.
What I mean by this is, that at the time of DEATH, the souls of the LOST–the unbelievers–the unrighteous– that don’t confess Jesus is the Son of the living God–God incarnate, go directly to HADES to suffer in torment until the Great White Throne Judgement; where they will be resurrected and cast into the Lake of Fire–“This is the second death” (Revelation 20:13,14; 21:8).
The souls of ALL the lost who have already died and presently there, and… those who die now in their sins, immediately go there to join them.
The Simplicity of the Three Crosses –
One criminal’s REPENTANCE and acceptance of JESUS as his Savior went to PARADISE that day and then to HEAVEN.
The other criminal’s soul was delivered Sheol/Hades–the place of torment.
Three Crosses: Rejection, Repentance, Redemption:
The REPENTANT CRIMINAL didn’t have a degree in Theology.
He didn’t have the opportunity at this place in time to clean up his life (he couldn’t if he tried!).
He didn’t have time to “work his way to Heaven/Paradise (and he couldn’t if he did have the opportunity).
He didn’t have to offer a long and detailed “prayer of Salvation”. There wasn’t a counselor at the foot of his cross telling him to “repeat after me.”
He simply TRUSTED in JESUS and CRIED out loud for Him to SAVE HIM!! His life was changed because of what JESUS was doing on the Cross right next to him!
Both criminals made choices that day on Mt. Calvary:
- REPENTANCE/REDEMPTION/PARADISE (Heaven).
Which CHOICE have you made? You don’t have to be nailed to a cross when making a decision for Christ Jesus. You can make it right where you are. Remember, your choice is for an ETERNITY.
Footnotes & Credits:
Footnote [i] : EPITAPH from Vernon Caruthers Sermons About Heaven.
Bible Hermeneutics Stack Exchange (PARADISE); Hell, Sheol, Hades, Paradise and the Grave – Berean Bible Society; What did Jesus mean by Paradise? www.bible-uk.com
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