The Thief on the Cross
Did the Thief on the Cross go to Heaven?
The thief on the cross has many Christians believing that they go straight to heaven when they die. The problem is, they ignore some key important points regarding this issue. So in this Bible study we will look at these points and find out the real Bible truth about what happened to the thief on the cross.
First, let's look at the Bible text itself about Jesus and the thief ... Luke 23:42-43 ...'And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.' ... So, where is paradise?
Revelation 2:7 ...'To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'
Revelation 22:1-2 ...'And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river was there the tree of life.'
So paradise is where God dwells, which is in the highest heaven. So the question is, did the thief go to paradise with Jesus THAT day as the Bible verse in Luke 23 suggests? And is the thief now dwelling with God in heaven? Well, we know that Christ died on the cross and then was buried in the tomb, but did He rise again THAT same day and go to heaven? Let's take a look:
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ...'Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.' ... So according to this Bible verse, Christ didn't rise from the dead until the THIRD day after His death on the cross. Do you now see the problem with the statement: "TODAY you will be with Me in paradise"? Well, maybe Christ went to heaven when He died? The answer to that question is found in the next verse:
John 20:17 ...'Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am NOT YET ascended to My Father.'
So Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day after His death, and meets Mary and says to her, "I have NOT YET ascended to My Father". So do we have a contradiction with what Jesus said to the thief and what actually happened? We know we cannot question the truthfulness of Christ, because He is without sin and perfect. So we must look for harmony between His statements.
What was really the request of the thief on the cross? ... Luke 23:42 ...'And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom.' ... Now when did Christ say that He would take His followers to be with Him in His kingdom? ... John 14:2-3 ...'In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.' ... Do you see? It is at the second coming that Jesus takes His people to be where He is. If Jesus didn't come back again, then we couldn't be with him, as Jesus confirmed above when He said, "I will come again... SO THAT you can be where I am."
We can also confirm this in the following Bible verse ... 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 ...'For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.' ... We will meet the Lord WHEN HE RETURNS at the second coming, not before. It is also during this time that the thief on the cross will be remembered by the Lord and given a place in His kingdom.
So why Did Christ use the word "today" when saying that the thief on the cross would be with Him in paradise? Well, the original scriptures that were inspired by God did NOT have punctuation marks. They were ADDED by man later on. So could the comma be in the wrong place? Let's take another look at the verse with the comma in another place:
Luke 23:43 ...'And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.'
Wow! We now have harmony with what Jesus said to the thief on the cross and what He said to Mary about not yet ascending to paradise. Jesus was basically saying to the thief, "This is what I'm going to CONFIRM TO YOU TODAY, you WILL be with Me in paradise." Do you see this truth? The comma comes after the word today, not before. The inspiration of the scriptures has nothing to do with punctuation marks, they were added by man and should never be used to establish the meaning of scripture. We must use other scripture to interpret scripture. The thief on the cross is not in heaven, he is in his grave awaiting the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the saved. THEN he will be with Jesus in paradise.
If Christians would just understand the Bible teaching of what happens when we die, then there would be no need for confusion over this subject of the thief on the cross. The plain truth is, we return to dust when we die and wait in our graves until the resurrection at the second coming of Christ Jesus. And this is where the thief on the cross is, in his grave. Awaiting THAT DAY when he will be with Jesus in Paradise.