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WHAT and WHERE is PARADISE ?
What does the BIBLE have to say about WHERE Jesus and the thief on the cross went when they died?
One day a dear brother in Christ asked me if the thief on the cross went to heaven? He knew that Jesus said to the thief beside him, "TODAY you shall be with me in PARADISE", but he was not sure what paradise meant. In other words, he was asking me if the phrase that Jesus spoke in Luke 23:42,43, "..., TODAY you shall be WITH me IN PARADISE." is synonymous with what many Christians refer to as going to heaven? Well I myself had never really thought about what this verse actually meant at the time, so I could not give him an answer right then and there. It was only after I studied this verse for myself that I learned its true meaning, which I will share with you in this study of God's word.
Also I would like to point out that there is more than just one INTERPRETATION of this verse, and one such interpretation states that the comma before the word ", TODAY" was misplaced by the translators and therefore gives us the incorrect impression that Jesus meant that very selfsame day that the thief on the cross would be with him in "PARADISE". In other words, this view or interpretation of the misplaced comma states that the dead are dead and that there is absolutely no consciousness when a person dies so therefore the thief could not have possibly went to paradise that very selfsame day that Jesus spoke these words to him.
Another INTERPRETATION or false misconception that causes Christians to not properly understand this verse is their equating the word "HEAVEN" with the word "PARADISE" at the time that Jesus spoke these words to the thief on the cross. And yet another misleading term that we understand differently in modern times in how the word "TODAY" is used as opposed to how God uses this word "TODAY" in the scriptures. In other words, a DAY to Almighty God in the Bible is as a thousand years and a 1000 years is as a DAY therefore some conclude that Jesus may have meant that the thief would indeed someday be with him in paradise but not necessarily that very selfsame day.
So then, the purpose of this study is to find the Biblical meaning of the word "PARADISE", the Biblical meaning of the word "TODAY", and whether of not the translators incorrectly placed the comma in this passage of scripture. In other words. the goal of this study is to examine all the evidence in the light of the WHOLE word of God in order to arrive at the TRUTH of what Jesus means by these words "...,TODAY you shall be with me in PARADISE." that he spoke to the thief on the cross beside him that asked Jesus to REMEMBER him when Jesus came into his kingdom.
With that being said, let us begin this study in God's word by reading the account in Luke 23:42,43 where we are told about the thief on the cross to whom Jesus was speaking when he told him that he would be with him in PARADISE that very selfsame day. In other words, we are going to FIRST look at this verse with the comma where it has been placed by the translators which does indeed place the emphasis on the word "TODAY" as in meaning that very self same day in which Jesus spoke these words and then died on the cross was the very day that the thief was indeed WITH Jesus IN paradise. Then after we look at this verse with this understanding we will look at these other interpretations and the arguments they use to try and support what they believe.
“And he (the thief on the cross) said unto Jesus, Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily (or truly) I say unto you, TODAY shall you be with me in PARADISE.”
We know from other passages of scriptures that when Jesus gave up the ghost on the cross that he, as a spirit and soul being, descended into the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
Please take a look at Mathew 12:40, which PLAINLY tells us this fact.
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the HEART of the earth.”
Also please read Ephesians 4:9,10 which again clearly teaches us that BEFORE Jesus ascended into heaven that he FIRST DESCENDED into the LOWER PARTS of the earth.
"(Now that he ascended , what is it but that he also DESCENDED FIRST into the LOWER PARTS of the earth?
10. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)"
In other words, right after Jesus died and his body was placed in the grave or tomb the soul and spirit of Jesus DESCENDED into the LOWER PARTS of the earth to into the HEART of the earth. This is NOT speaking of the grave, but rather the the HEART of the earth is referring to the UNDERWORLD where the all the dead spirits and souls of the dead were kept to be judged on the day of judgment. So the question is, “Did the thief on the cross beside Jesus enter into PARADISE on that selfsame day?” Or in other words, was the HEART of the earth, or the LOWER PARTS of the earth where the word of God clearly states that Jesus descended into on that very selfsame day that he was crucified and was there for three full days and three full nights actually PARADISE? Was this UNDERWORLD, this place where the dead were kept also known as PARADISE? Please keep in mind that he plainly told the thief on the cross beside him that "TODAY you shall be WITH ME IN PARADISE." So the word of God makes it quite CLEAR that where ever Jesus WAS when he gave up the ghost and died, SO ALSO was the thief on the cross, because Jesus PLAINLY and CLEARLY stated the the thief would be WITH HIM that VERY SELFSAME DAY. And the word of God ALSO plainly states that Jesus DESCENDED into the BELLY or the HEART of the EARTH for three days and three nights IMMEDIATELY upon his death the VERY SELFSAME DAY.
So now let us explore some other questions and compare some scriptures. Let’s begin by looking at what Jesus did WHILE he was in the HEART of the earth for three days and three nights.
The sole purpose or reason that Jesus laid down his life on the cross was to redeem ALL of mankind back to God, which would include those who died under the Old Testament from Adam to Jesus, but who died before Jesus fulfilled the scriptures of being the redeemer of the sins of the people. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:20 that NO FLESH is justified by the law. Also we are told in John 14:6 that the ONLY WAY to the Father was through his Son Jesus. And Acts 4:12 clearly teaches us that there is NO OTHER name given among men other than the name of Jesus whereby we MUST be saved.
In other words, if the Bible is to remain consistent and not contradict itself, then something needed to be done in order for all of the Old Testament saints to be saved, because NO flesh is saved or justified by the law, which would include those that died BEFORE Jesus died for their sins.
The word of God also teaches us in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that it pleased God by the foolishness of PREACHING to save them that believe. So then, in order for the whole whole of God to be in agreement and not contradict itself, then it would be necessary for those who died before Jesus was crucified to hear the gospel preached to them in order to be saved. And this is EXACTLY what took place in the HEART of the earth where Jesus went the selfsame day that he died on the cross. He went to PARADISE to PREACH the GOSPEL to the Old Testament saints. Now please say with me. I know right now that the word "PARADISE" does not sound anything like what we picture the underworld or the place of the dead to be. But it will all come together if you finish reading this study in God's word.
Please take a look at 1 Peter 3:19 which teaches us this TRUTH that Jesus did indeed PREACH to the SPIRITS in the heart of the earth.
“By which (referring to by the power of the Holy Spirit) also he (referring to Jesus as his inner man made up of soul and spirit) went and PREACHED unto the SPIRITS (speaking of the SPIRITS of the dead saints of the OLD testament who were being kept by the law unto the age of grace and the first resurrection for only the righteous. Jesus went to PREACH the GOSPEL to the SPIRITS who were) in prison.”
Well when I first read this verse while thinking about Jesus going to "PARADISE" I thought to myself that the word "PRISON" used here in this verse does NOT sound like PARADISE to me. So I was impressed to look this word "prison" up in my Strong's exhaustive concordance and found that this word translated as the English word "prison" has several meanings in the original Greek language. This Greek word also means a holding place or a place where something is kept watch over. In other words, in the original language these spirit in this holding place were being PROTECTED and kept. A little further on in this study you will learn that even some of these spirits of dead men were being COMFORTED. But just who were these spirits Jesus preached to in this holding place and why were they being kept watch over? We ALREADY KNOW the reason of WHY they needed to hear the PREACHING of the gospel, which was so that these spirits of dead men who died under the OLD covenant could be saved under the NEW covenant?
To answer or rather confirm these questions please look at 1 Peter 4:6, which compliments the reason of WHY these dead souls or spirits being watched over in the HEART of the earth NEEDED to HEAR the message of the GOSPEL.
“For this cause (or for this very reason) was the gospel preached ALSO to them that are dead (these spirits of those Old testament saints who DIED and who being being kept in PARADISE or the heart of the earth where Jesus descended for three days and three nights) that (or so that) they (speaking of the spirits of dead MEN) might be judged ACCORDING to men in the flesh (that is to say, so that these dead saints might be judged in or judged with the SAME MANNER as men that are presently alive in the flesh.), but (who) live according to God in the spirit (or in other words, in order for ALL of mankind to be judge the SAME, then ALL of mankind NEEDED to hear the PREACHING of the GOSPEL).”
So then, these dead men or these spirits of dead men, these souls of those who had died during the Old Testament times to whom Jesus went to PREACH the gospel, where being kept in this holding place, which I believe Jesus referred to as PARADISE. Again we will take a closer look at this word "PARDISE" a little further on in this study, but for now I will say that Jesus also spoke in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus of the RIGHTEOUS dead, which were represented by Lazarus were being kept in the bosom of Abraham. You see the central meaning of this parable of the rich man and Lazarus was to teach us that the patriarchs of the Old Testament were being kept, watched over and even comforted in a holding place for the dead. These Old Testament saints were being watched over or kept from evil or COMFORTED in the bosom of Abraham, which was the side were the RIGHTEOUS were kept separated from the wicked by a great gulf that no man could cross over from one side to the other. This is why I believe Jesus referring to this holding place of the dead, or at least the side for the RIGHTEOUS as being PARADISE.
You see, there was a great gulf that separated the righteous from the evil spirits or the spirits of evil men that were also being kept there in this prison, or this holding place, but to me the side or part where the evil or wicked souls where being kept did not seem to be described as a PARADISE as we think a paradise should be like. In other words, the BIBLICAL meaning of the word "PARADISE" means more than what we of today view this word to mean. Let us continue this study in God's word to find out more about this word "PARADISE".
Please read Luke chapter 16 verses 19 through 31 which contain the account of the rich man and Lazarus who both died and went to the grave or Hades. But for now, here is a brief summary of this passage of scripture. Basically there were two men, a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, and both men died and went to this holding place in the HEART of the earth, which in this verse this holding place is called HELL or HADES. Now this word that is translated as the word HELL is the Greek word HADES, which simply means the GRAVE, or the place of the DEAD also known as the underworld. We are told that Lazarus went to the side called, the bosom of Abraham, which was the side of comfort and rest side of this holding place in the belly or the HEART of the earth that Jesus called PARADISE, and the rich man went to the side called hell where Jesus spoke of in this parable was great torment of flames.
Now it appears obvious that in the Old Testament times that both the good spirits and the evils spirits were being held or kept in this SAME place called HELL or PARADISE by Jesus, that is to say, in the HEART of the earth, because they could see and hear each other, and talk to each other. However, there was a great gulf that separated them so that neither side could cross over to the other side. Jesus went to this holding place of the dead, this UNDERWORLD for three days and three nights for two reasons.
Again, one reason Jesus descended into these LOWER PARTS of the earth was to PREACH the GOSPEL to these patriarchs of the old covenant so that the word of God would not be broken, in that NO flesh is justified under there law and that salvation shall come only through the name of Jesus through the foolishness of the preaching of the gospel. Therefore it was needful for these DEAD men or the souls and spirits of these dead men who died under the OLD covenant to HEAR the gospel, just as much as those who lived after the resurrection of Jesus need to hear the gospel in order to be saved, because it pleased God by the foolishness of PREACHING to save them that believe. So since they died BEFORE Jesus ever was crucified does not mean that Jesus did not die for them as well as for all of mankind that is living, because Jesus was crucified for their sins as well.
Now the Bible also teaches us that we are saved by faith and that faith comes by HEARING the word of God. But how could these Old testament saints HEAR unless the gospel of Jesus Christ was PREACH to them and how could the gospel be preached to them if Jesus was not sent to PREACH to these SPIRITS of MEN who were being kept in the LOWER PARTS of the earth? In other words, it was needful for Jesus to DESCEND into the LOWER PARTS of the earth and PREACH the gospel to these dead SPIRITS of men who died under the old covenant in order for them to be saved under the NEW covenant where the name of Jesus is the ONLY NAME given among men whereby we MUST be saved.
Ephesians 4:8-10 says it like this,
“Wherefore he says, When he (Jesus) ascended up on high, he led captivity captive (that is to say that Jesus led a multitude of captives) and gave gifts unto men.
Now that he ascended, what is it but that he ALSO descended FIRST into the LOWER PARTS of the earth?
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above the heavens, that he might fill (or fulfill) all things.”
You see, it was needful for Jesus to fulfill the word of God and be the sacrifice for those under the old covenant as well as the new covenant, so that is why he descended first into the HEART of the earth to preach the gospel to those who died under the law.
When Jesus rose from the grave he led a multitude OUT of PARADISE or this HOLDING PLACE for the dead WITH him. But I am certain that he led ONLY those spirits that were held captive which BELIEVED the words that he PREACHED unto them all. It may be that some on the side that were being torment heard the GOSPEL as well and REPENTED, or it may be that those on the side of torment already made it quite clear to whom they wanted to serve BEFORE they died. But to ME it is CERTAIN that those who LIVED RIGHTEOUSLY in the Old Testament CHOOSE to BELIEVE the message of the GOSPEL of their salvation and ROSE from the DEAD WITH Jesus when he arose from the grave.
Please understand that just because these Old Testament saints rose from the dead with Jesus and are now in heaven under the altar of God does not mean that they have actually received eternal life or their new immortal bodies as yet. I will explain what I mean by this further on in this study, but for now I want you to see and understand that many saints were indeed resurrected from the dead at the same time that Jesus arose from the grave. In other words, Jesus was raised from the dead and after Jesus arose from the dead he led many saints OUT of the grave with him.
Please take a look at Mathew 27:52, 53, which clearly shows us that MANY SAINTS arose from the GRAVE or PARADISE right along WITH Jesus when he arose from the grave.
“And the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints which slept AROSE. And came out of the graves after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared unto many.”
Now to ME it does NOT make any sense what so ever for these dead saints who have just risen from the dead and came OUT of their graves to go right back into the GRAVE. Personally I myself believe that these resurrected saints ASCENDED into heaven with Jesus when he ascended into heaven the FIRST time BEFORE he came back with his glorified body to be seen of men for forty days.
Now some may argue and use John 3:13 and try to use the argument that Jesus himself plainly states that NO man has ASCENDED to heaven except he which descended from heaven, which we all no that Jesus is speaking of himself. So therefore based upon their interpretation of John 3:13 some reason, conclude, or interpret this passage of scripture to mean that absolutely NO ONE, including the thief on the cross is in heaven or paradise except Jesus who we all know is seated at the right hand of the Father. And some go on to say that the dead are dead as a door nail so to speak, which means that the dead have absolutely NO CONSCIOUSNESS whatsoever in the grave. In other words, some believe that absolutely NO ONE except Jesus has ascended into heaven, but rather ALL the dead except Jesus are still in their grave totally without any consciousness and will be in their graves until their resurrection whether it be the righteousness to eternal life or whether the unrighteous to eternal damnation where the wicked are destroyed in the lake of fire.
But is this INTERPRETATION of the dead being without any consciousness whatsoever and no one going to heaven to be present with the Lord truly what this passage of scripture in John 3:13 means? Does John 3:13 truly teach us that absolutely NO person has ever ascended to heaven except for Jesus? Now IF this interpretation is true, then this would mean that absolutely no person goes to heaven or goes to be present with the Lord when they die. Let us take a side journey for a moment and read John 3:13 in it's context to learn what this passage of scripture is truly teaching us. Please read John 3:1-18, where Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus a master or teacher of the Jews who is having trouble UNDERSTANDING the things that Jesus is teaching.
"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him.
3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4. Nicodemus said unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
8. The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
9. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be ?
10. Jesus answered and said unto him, Are you a master of Israel, and know not these things?
11. Verily, verily, I say unto you, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and you receive not our witness.
12. If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
13. And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15. That whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18. He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
The verse in question is again verse 13, which some INTERPRET to mean that NO one goes to heaven when they die, but rather they remain DEAD with absolutely NO consciousness until they are resurrected from the dead and given new immoral bodies at the second coming of Jesus.
First of all I am not teaching that the physical BODY of a righteous person in Jesus Christ goes to heaven, but rather that the SOUL and SPIRIT of the righteous go to heaven when they died while their physical dead body remains in the grave. Some of you may already know or it has become obvious to you that I do NOT believe in this false teaching that the dead are dead and that the SOUL and SPIRIT have absoluetely no consciousness once they leave the physical body when a person dies. And by the way I might also add that many who teach this false line of reasoning also teach the fasle doctrine which staes that ALL of mankind will eventually one day be saved and granted immortality. And even some who teach these fasle doctrines go on to teach that we shall be GOD. I will give you the link to one of these websites so you can check it out for yourself, but before you do I strongly implore you to read the study that I have that exposes the errors of interpretation that are made by those that teach "UNIVERSALISM", which states that eventually ALL of mankind will be saves in the end. The study that I wrote is called "IS UNIVERSALISM A SOUND BIBLICAL TEACHING?" and here is the link that falsely teaches that the dead are dead and that no one goes to heaven to be present with the Lord when they die, but rather supposedly remain in the grave in a state of total unconsciousness until the resurrection. http://www.askelm.com/essentials/ess022a.htm
But for now let us take a closer look at John 3:13
"And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."
But again, is this interpretation that no one goes to heaven when they die truly BIBLICAL in that it agrees with all other scripture? I mean, IF the words NO man has ASCENDED to heaven except the Son of man truly means that ONLY Jesus alone has ever ascended to heaven, then consequently one must conclude that absolutely NO ONE goes to heaven when they die. But do these words truly mean that no man has ever ascended into heaven except Jesus, because IF they do, then this verse CONTRADICTS other verses of scripture that clearly teach us that the SOULS and spirits of the righteous who have died are PRESENT with the Lord IN HEAVEN.
First of all IF the dead are dead with NO consciousness, then HOW did Jesus PREACH to the SPIRITS in the heart of the earth? You see, Jesus himself DIED, but yet the clear word of God states that he PREACHED. Can you not see my dear brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ that believe that the dead have no consciousness and that no one goes to heaven when they die simply cannot be the truth of the whole word of God, because Jesus himself DIED and yet Jesus while his physical body laid lifeless in the tomb for three full days and three full night the SPIRIT and SOUL of Jesus PREACHED the gospel to the SPIRITS in this heart of the earth. In other words, an UNCONSCIOUS spirit and soul cannot possibly PREACH nor can unconscious spirits in the heart of the earth HEAR the gospel being preached IF so be that the INTERPRETATION of Psalm 146:4 truly means that the dead have absolutely NO consciousness in the grave. So let us take a closer look at this verse in the Psalms when it is left in it's CONTEXT in order to learn it's true meaning in the light of the whole word of God.
"Put not your TRUST in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is NO help. (WHY? Why are we taught in God's word NOT to place our trust in MAN, but rather to place our trust in God? The answer is given to us in the very next verse, the verse that has been taken OUT of context and incorrectly INTERPRETED to me that the soul of man has absolutely no consciousness in the grave.)
4. His breath goes forth (or when a man draws his last breath and dies), he returns to his earth (or the physical body of a man turns back to earth or the dust of the earth from which it was made); in that very day his thoughts perish (or in that very day in which a man dies his THOUGHTS, as in, speaking of the PLANS of that man perishes or comes to and end).
5. Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
6. Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keeps truth for ever (in others words, you can be sure that if you place your trust in God that God who does not die will keep his word of truth):"
The Hebrew word that is translated as "THOUGHTS" here in the King James version literally means the PLANS of man come to an end when a man dies. Please read this same verse from the New Living Translation, which says,
"Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.
4. When their breathing stops, they return to the earth, and in a moment all their PLANS come to an end.
5. But happy are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.
6. He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He is the one who keeps every promise forever,"
So clearly this verse is NOT speaking of people having absolutely no consciousness when they die and they are buried in their grave, but rather this is just a FALSE INTERPRETATION that some have concluded by taking this verse out of it's CONTEXT.
Well some continue to argue and say what about Psalm 6:5 that says, "For in death there is NO REMEMBRANCE of you; in the grave who shall give you thanks?"
As I have said many times any verse when viewed alone and apart from the whole word of God may SEEM to be saying something that it is NOT TRULY saying. So yes, apart from the CONTEXT and the rest of God's word this verse may SEEM to be saying that there is no remembrance in the grave, but I assure you that this is NOT what this verse of any other verse in the word of God teaches us, because this INTERPRETATION of absolutely no consciousness in the soul and spirit of a person who dies contradicts the more clear, plain and simple verses some of which we have already examined.
Here is Psalm 6:
Now getting back to John 3:13 to understand it's true meaning you must first of all realize that Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about his own FUTURE death, resurrection, ascending into heaven with a body that Jesus does NOT allow anyone to TOUCH and his descended back to the earth with a body that he NOW now only allows people to TOUCH, but asks them to TOUCH his new glorified immortal body to be assured that he is NOT a SPIRIT and his ascension into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father BEFORE it ever happened. The truth of the matter is that no one actually knows exactly what Jesus meant by these words in John 3:13. In other words, all we can truly do is INTERPRET verse like this in the light of the whole word of God.his verse can be interpret.It may be that Jesus meant that no man has ascended to heaven BEFORE this time in history that Jesus himself would one day very soon ascend into heaven. keep in mind that at the time in which Jesus was speaking these words to Nicodemus Jesus had not yet died on the cross let alone ascend into heaven.
You see, in verse 14 we see Jesus using the Old Testament of the serpent being lifted up on a pole to teach Nicodemus and us as well of his own death on the cross, which had not yet taken place at the time he spoke these words to Nicodemus. In other words, Jesus is teaching us a time line so to speak of what has not yet taken place at the time he was speaking to Nicodemus. The time line goes as follows: First Jesus was to be crucified on a cross, and then Jesus was to give up the ghost and commit his spirit to his God and Father as he drew his last breath and died for our sins. Then Jesus as a soul and spirit being was to DESCEND into the heart of the earth to preach to the dead spirits in paradise. Then after three full days and three full nights being in the lower parts of the earth Jesus was to arise from the dead and appear to Mary Magdalene and tell her NOT to TOUCH him because he had NOT YET ASCENDED to the Father. Then Jesus obviously ASCENDED to the Father and then DESCENDED back to the earth, because a little later Jesus appears to his disciples and tells them to TOUCH him so that they would know without a doubt that he is NOT a ghost or a spirit, but rather has a BODY of flesh and bone. Then after being seen for forty days after his resurrection Jesus then ASCENDED into heaven with his new immortal glorified body of flesh and bone where he remain unto this day and will remain until his second coming back to the earth to gather his bride and execute the wrath of God upon the disobedient to the gospel and the ungodly.
In other words, Jesus was NOT teaching us in John 3:13 that absolutely no one has ever or will ever ascend into heaven when they die, but rather Jesus was teaching Nicodemus of his own yet future crucifixion, ascension into heaven along with his brief return to the earth before he ascended back to his Father, which again were all still yet FUTURE event at the time Jesus was speaking these things to Nicodemus. Also keep in mind that Jesus is the only one who has ever ASCENDED into heaven with a glorified immortal body of flesh and bone. In other words, these resurrected SAINTS that rose with Jesus did NOT have new glorified immortal bodies of flesh and bone when they ascended into heaven with Jesus who was clothed with his resurrected OLD body that he would not allow anyone to TOUCH. We just do not KNOW with absolute certainty what kind of body Jesus had when he first arose from the dead that he would NOT ALLOW any one to TOUCH.
So this leads me to believe that Jesus must have ascended into heaven the first time in his OLD body that was just resurrected in which he had when he died that he would not allow anyone to touch and then while he was in heaven Almighty God gave his Son Jesus a new glorified immortal body before Jesus descended back to the earth to be seen of men for forty days. In other words, like we are taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 about the resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ. We are taught that the dead in Christ shall rise FIRST, and THEN we shall ALL be CHANGED in a twinkling of and eye. It may be that after Jesus arose from the grave in his OLD physical body that it still yet needed to be CHANGED into a new glorified IMMORTAL body. So it may very well be that Jesus meant by no man ascending to heaven except he who has descended from heaven that no man has been given an immortal body as yet but the Son of man that ascended to heaven in his OLD physical body that had been resurrected and then while he was in heaven he was CHANGED and given an immortal glorified body of flesh and bone. Or it may be that no man has ascended to heaven with a PHYSICAL body resurrected or not except the Son of man. As I said before no one KNOWS for sure what Jesus truly meant by these words in John 3:13. All we can do is compare scripture with scripture until we find an interpretation that does NOT contradict any other part of God's word.
Moving on to another point. As I said earlier, I would explain what I meant by the righteous dead being in heaven, but yet they have not yet actually received their reward of eternal life nor have they been given their new immortal bodies. In other words, the Bible speaks of these dead saints in heaven as "SOULS". Please read Revelation 6:9-11, which clearly teaches us that the righteous are present with the Lord in heaven under the altar of God waiting for God to judge the wicked.
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the SOULS of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10. And THEY cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11. And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was SAID unto THEM, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
Here in this passage of scripture we can clearly see that there are SOULS up IN HEAVEN of the righteous dead that are under the altar of God who obviously have MEMORY or CONSCIOUSNESS that God will one day judge the wicked. Also please notice as you read this verse again that these SOULS of the righteous who have DIED can SPEAK and that they are speaking to Almighty God himself asking him HOW LONG or how much longer will it be until he judges the wicked? Now to me, this clearly shows that these SOULS in heaven have a recognition of time. We also see they they can HEAR as well as speak, because they are told that they should REST yet for a little season until their brethren are killed as they were for the testimony of God and Jesus. So to ME, these SOULS of the righteous who have died without a doubt are CONSCIOUS. They have MEMORY, they can HEAR, and they can SPEAK. So obviously they are not dead as a door nail with absolutely NO consciousness whatsoever as some falsely teach.
While we are on this side journey to see if the SOULS and SPIRITS righteous dead are PRESENT with the Lord IN HEAVEN we may as well take a look at a few other clear plain and simple verses that teach us that the righteous who have died are indeed IN HEAVEN. So then let us begin with 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, which clearly teaches us that our INNER man goes to be PRESENT with the Lord when our physical OUTWARD body dies.
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan , being burdened : not for that we would be unclothed , but clothed upon , that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
5. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6. Therefore we are always CONFIDENT, KNOWING that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are ABSENT from the Lord:(In other words, while we are yet alive still abiding IN our BODY we are not PRESENT with the Lord IN HEAVEN)
7. (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent FROM the body, and to (or so that our inner self our SOUL and SPIRIT can) be PRESENT with the Lord.
9. Wherefore we labor, that, whether PRESENT OR ABSENT (in other words, whether we are dead and PRESENT with the Lord IN HEAVEN, OR we are yet alive and remain in our physical bodies being ABSENT from the Lord IN HEAVEN at the coming of Jesus) and we may be accepted of him.
10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad."
Now this does NOT mean that as soon as we die and go to be present with our Lord in heaven that we immediately receive our new glorified immortal bodes of flesh and bone like Jesus now has. In other words, the righteous shall not be glorified until the coming of Jesus. This in made clear to us in Hebrews 11:39,40 which teaches us that the Old Testament saints will not be made perfect UNTIL we ALL are made perfect TOGETHER and this takes place AT the second coming of Jesus.
"And these all (speaking of all of the Old Testament saints), having obtained a good report through faith, received NOT the promise: (WHY? Why have these Old Testament saints not yet been given the promise of eternal life our the new glorified immortal bodies? The answer is in the very next verse.)
40. God having provided some better thing for us (In other words God has a better plan for all of us than for each and every believer to receive our reward of eternal life one at a time so to speak but rather that we all receive our new immortal bodies at the same time together at the marriage supper of the Lamb), that they without us should not be made perfect."
So then, the righteous going to heaven to be present with the Lord does NOT mean becoming immortal the very moment one dies. And just because the SOUL and SPIRIT leave the body when it dies does NOT mean that the soul is IMMORTAL as some falsely teach. Please read the study "IS THE SOUL OF MAN IMMORTAL?", but for now let us continue with this study in God's word to learn what and where is PARADISE and if the thief on the cross went to paradise with Jesus the very self same day that he died.
Now some who hold to the misplaced comma theory in Luke 23:42,43 make the claim that the translators incorrectly placed the comma in the wrong place and thereby this misplaced comma has mislead Christians to believe that Jesus was saying that the thief would be with him in paradise that very self same day, when actually Jesus was saying something more like "TODAY I say unto you that you shall be with me in paradise." Here is Luke 23:42,43 again without any comma before the word "TODAY".
“And he (the thief on the cross) said unto Jesus, Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily (or truly) I say unto you TODAY shall you be with me in PARADISE.”
Now to ME, why would Jesus even use the word "TODAY" if he was just meaning that he was telling the thief on that very day that he would indeed remember him and that he would one day in the future be with him in paradise. I mean why even use the word "TODAY" at all, because they were being crucified and were about to die in a few hours. So obviously the thief already knew without a doubt that Jesus was telling him that particular day or that moment in time that he would remember him. It just makes no sense to me for the word "TODAY" to be used at all, UNLESS Jesus wanted to assure the thief on the cross that "TODAY" this very self same day that he would be WITH Jesus IN PARADISE so he need not be afraid of dying. In other words, I myself do NOT buy into the misplaced comma theory to try and change the meaning of this already clear passage of scripture that agrees with the rest of God's word with the comma left right where the translators have place it where it emphasizes the word "TODAY" as meaning that very self SAME day the thief would be IN PARADISE WITH JESUS.
Now the second reason Jesus descended into the heart of the earth was in order to triumph over the enemy and get back the keys of hell and death.
Take a look at Revelation 1:18.
“I (speaking of Jesus) am he that lives, and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hell and death.”
While Jesus was in the lower parts of the earth where the dead were kept he defeated all principalities and powers and rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places for you see by the simple fact that Jesus was crucified as an innocent man without just cause the enemy of God was defeated. The word of god teaches us that had they KNOWN they would NOT have crucified the Lord of glory. You see, when Satan and his devils deceived men to crucify Jesus they sealed their own doom so to speak and therefore Satan was then forced to surrender the KEYS of hell and DEATH to Jesus. Now Satan is still the god of this world for awhile longer, until Jesus returns to bind him for 1000 years in the pit. Then AFTER the 1000 years are finished Satan will be loose for a little time to once again DECEIVE the nations to rebel against God and his people. At this time the final part of God's WRATH will be poured out and Satan will be cast into the eternal lake of fire. I cover all of this in some of my other studies and I cover the reason of WHY Satan is let loose AGAIN after he has been bound for 1000 years in the study called "UNDERSTANDING WHY?".
But for now let us continue this study in God's word to learn more about PARADISE. Please take a look at 1 Corinthians 2:8, which says,
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they had known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
In other words, had Satan known that by crucifying Jesus an innocent man, a lamb without spot or blemish he would be setting free ALL of mankind whom he held in bondage by causing them to sin and disobey God, then Satan would have NEVER nailed Jesus to that cross by deceiving men to crucify him.
Now that we have taken a look at what Jesus did in PARADISE those three days and three nights let’s take a closer look at this place in the HEART of the earth and see why Jesus referred to it as PARADISE.
The word “PARADISE” is only found three times in the entire Bible. The Strong’s number is 3857 and the Greek word is "parsdeisos", which means a place of blessedness. The base meaning of the word means garden. Here are the three places that the word “paradise” are found.
In Luke 23:43, which is the verse in question, or the verse we began this study in God's word where Jesus told the thief on the cross that TODAY you will be WITH ME IN PARADISE.
“…Today shall you be with me in PARADISE.”
Then in 2 Corinthians 12:4, we read,
“How that he (speaking of Paul) was caught UP into PARADISE.”
So in this verse we see that PARADISE is UP, rather than DOWN in the HEART of the Earth. So then, are their TWO different PARADISES? It may surprise you that the Bible speaks of even MORE the TWO paradises. So let us keep reading to learn WHERE these other paradises are found. Please read Revelation 2:7 where we learn that the TREE of LIFE is located in the MIDST of the PARADISE of God.
“To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the MIDST of the PARADISE of God.”
Now all three scriptures at first don’t seem to be connected in any way, but rather lead one to believe that there are three different paradises.
In order to bring some clarity on this we need to go back to the first PARADISE in which we read about that is found in Genesis 2:7,8, which says,
“And the Lord God planted a GARDEN eastward in EDEN, and there he put man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the MIDST of the GARDEN, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
Please remember and keep in mind that the base meaning of the word “paradise” means GARDEN. Also please note that we just learned from the word of God that the tree of life was in the MIDST OF THE GARDEN here in Genesis 2;7,8, and when we compared scripture with scripture and compare Genesis with what we have just also learned in Revelation 2:7
“…the tree of life, which is in the MIDST OF THE PARADISE of God”,
then this gives us an important clue, seeing and knowing that the word PARADISE means GARDEN. In BOTH places, the GARDEN of God and the PARADISE of God, in the MIDST of BOTH of these places is found the TREE of LIFE. So then are these TWO trees of life, or is there just ONE PARADISE or GARDEN of God in which there is ONE tree of life. For me personally I believe there is just ONE tree of life that is found in the MIDST of the PARADISE or GARDEN of God seeing that the base meaning of the word "paradise" means GARDEN.
The whole idea or meaning of PARADISE is a place of comfort and blessedness, such as a GARDEN. Remember that the original garden of God was planted in EDEN. Now the word "EDEN" gives us another clue, because this word "EDEN" means PARADISE, delight or flat land. It is quite obvious that God’s desire or will for mankind is to live in a state of comfort and blessedness from simply observing the first GARDEN of God found in Genesis and the description of the PARADISE of God found in Revelation. Again remember that the word “paradise” means garden. But what about the PARADISE Jesus referred to as being in the HEART of the earth. It doesn’t sound like it would be a place of comfort and blessedness.
Please keep in mind what we already learned about the Old Testament saints being kept COMFORTED in the bosom of Abraham, while the ungodly souls SUFFERED on the other side of the great gulf as you take a look at part of Ezekiel 31:14, which says,
“…they are all delivered unto death to the NETHER parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the PIT.”
This word “nether” means depths, or below. Sometimes this word refers to the UNDERWORLD, and the realm of the dead. The word "nether" simply means that it is the lower or lowest parts, or in other words the HEART of the earth. Now skip down to the last part of verse 16.
“…I cast him down to HELL with them that descend into the PIT and all the trees of EDEN, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be COMFORTED IN the NETHER parts of the earth (or IN the HEART of the Earth, or more precisely all that drink water shall be COMFORTED IN PARADISE which is IN the HEART of the Earth or the NETHER parts of the Earth).”
Now put it all together and you have the HEART of the earth or the NETHER part of the earth, which are the LOWEST and DEEPEST part of the Earth that Jesus called PARADISE. This place was were the ALL of the dead BOTH the righteous and the wicked were kept in the OLD Testament times, because Jesus DESCENDED into this prison or holding place in order to PREACH the GOSPEL to these dead or these spirits of dead men in paradise. Now the dead would include those under the covenant as well as the uncircumcised. Please keep in mind that this area in the HEART of the earth was divided into two parts that were separated by a great gulf. One part or side was called the bosom of Abraham which was the side of REST and COMFORT, which most likely was the side called PARADISE by Jesus,because only the righteous saints were being COMFORTED in the bosom of Abraham. Now the other side is not named, but it is known as the side with NO REST and a side of being in the torment of the flame. Also remember that ALL those that drink WATER shall be COMFORTED. Now this could be referring to the WATER of the WORD of God, which those while they were ALIVE were partakers of and therefore where given WATER to quench their thirst and COMFORT them while they were being KEPT and WATCHED over until the TIME that Jesus would come and PREACH the GOSPEL to them in this place called PARADISE in the HEART of the Earth and then lead them OUT of this holding place to a NEW holding place IN HEAVEN in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now whether Jesus preached the gospel to both sides or not to me it is not clear, but it is certain that the gospel was preached to the spirits in this prison or holding place, and since both sides could hear each other and see each other, then it therefore seems reasonable to conclude that ALL who were in the HEART of the earth at this TIME heard the gospel preached. I say at this TIME, because I am persuade that this was a one time deal for the dead to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also we can be assured that this PARADISE that WAS in the heart of the earth is now IN HEAVEN, because ONLY the WICKED are spoken of as going DOWN into the pit when they die. You can do your own research in the word of God on the wicked only going down into the pit.
It is also certain that Jesus went to this place in the heart of the earth FIRST right after he gave up the ghost on the cross, that is to say, BEFORE he ascended into heaven and came back to be seen of men for forty days. We know this because Jesus said to the thief on the cross next to him, “TODAY shall you be with me in PARADISE”, therefore it would be safe to assume that Jesus was referring to this place in the HEART of the earth, rather than heaven. We ALSO know this to be true because of what we read in Ephesians 4:8-19, which says,
"Wherefore he saith , When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended FIRST into the lower parts of the earth (or Jesus DESCENDED into PARADISE to PREACH the GOSPEL and led these CAPTIVES to HEAVEN when he ASCENDED to the Father)?
10. He that descended is the SAME also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)"
Or that Jesus might FULFILL all the scriptures including the one which teaches us that NO man shall be SAVED by the LAW. The word of God teaches us that mankind was only KEPT by the law UNTO the TIME of Jesus Christ. Also it is clear that this place in the heart of the earth is not the only PARADISE that the Bible tells us about. Please keep in mind that the word "PARADISE" means a place of comfort and blessedness no matter where it is located. Also please keep in mind that our permanent home is not IN heaven, but rather we shall live and reign with Jesus ON the EARTH. Then when Almighty God creates a NEW heaven and a NEW earth we are told in the word of God that Almighty God the Father will come down and dwell with man. Beyond this we are not told any thing but it has not entered the mind of those who love God what he has prepared for them.
Now I find at least four different paradises referred to in the Bible. The first PARADISE is the garden that God planted in Eden, where man walked with God in the cool of the day. The second PARADISE is the heart of the earth, where the Old Testament saints where comforted in the bosom of Abraham. The third PARADISE is the third heaven, or the throne of God where the presence of Almighty God resides and where the presence of God is there is joy unspeakable and full of glory. And the forth PARADISE is the New Jerusalem where every tear shall be wipe away and there shall be no more sickness, sorrow, pain or death. And there may perhaps be a fifth and final PARADISE in the age to come after the 1000 years reign. Bu again, it may be that there is just ONE paradise and this ONE paradise is moved to where ever the people of God who have FINISHED the race will abide for all eternity in COMFORT and BLESSEDNESS in the presence of Almighty God and his Son Jesus our Lord and savoir.
Nonetheless I find that PARADISE is in essence a place of comfort, a place of blessedness and rest. So the fact that Lazarus was COMFORTED in the bosom of Abraham would be enough for me to conclude the Jesus was referring to the HEART of the Earth as at least “a” PARADISE or "a" place where the righteous are comforted while they await their resurrection to receive their new immortal glorified bodies of flesh and bone like Jesus. Therefore for ME, there is no doubt that the thief on the cross joined Jesus that very SELFSAME day in which they both died and gave up the ghost or spirit by leaving their dead BODIES on the cross and their spirits and SOULS went to this paradise in the heart of the Earth. I hope this little study answered your question about WHAT and WHERE is PARADISE my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord. May God bless you richly as you continue to study the Holy word of God. Thanks for reading. As far as those of you who may still be clinging to the false teaching of soul sleep that states that the dead are dead and therefore completely in an unconscious state, then I encourage you to read the study "IS THE DOCTRINE OF SOUL SLEEP BIBLICAL?"
Yours always in Christ Jesus,
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