JESUS’ PROMISE OF PARADISE
4. What outstanding man pointed to a grand future for humankind, and why should his words be believed?
4 Words stated over nineteen centuries ago by an inspired man to a criminal clearly point to a grand future. That inspired man was Jesus, who is widely recognized as a prophet and one of the greatest teachers that ever lived. The Bible identifies him as the promised Messiah or Christ, the Son of God, who existed as a spirit person before his being born a human. (Matthew 16:13-16; Luke 1:30-33; Philippians 2:5-7) To the evildoer Jesus Christ said: “You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43.
5, 6. (a) What has caused Jesus’ words at Luke 23:43 to be understood differently by various persons? (b) What gives us guidance as to how Jesus’ words to the evildoer are to be understood?
5 This promise of Jesus Christ has been variously understood by Bible readers. Many Bible translations quote Jesus as saying: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Common Bible) In view of the punctuation, a person might conclude that the evildoer would be with Jesus in a paradise that very day. It should be noted, however, that little or no punctuation appears in the original Greek text. This makes it necessary for the translator to choose the placement of punctuation. Hence the words may also be punctuated to read: ‘Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.’ The thought thus conveyed points to the evildoer’s being with Jesus in Paradise at some future time.
6 This understanding of Jesus’ words harmonizes with the rest of the Bible. That day, upon dying, Jesus did not go to heaven or to some intermediate place. He was dead in Hades,* gravedom, for three days (or parts thereof).—Matthew 27:62-66; Acts 2:24, 27.
7. (a) How did the people understand the word “paradise” at the time Jesus Christ made his promise to the evildoer? (b) How can we prove that the man to whom Jesus spoke had no idea of going to a heavenly paradise?
7 Moreover, the evildoer would have understood Jesus’ reference to “paradise” in harmony with the then current usage. And what was that? A paradise was a garden or park. The man was not a disciple of Jesus and so had no idea about a heavenly paradise. The books of the Bible available at that time did not hold forth to believers the opportunity of living in the spirit realm with God. It was not until the coming of Jesus Christ that attention was drawn to the hope of life in the invisible heavens. (2 Timothy 1:10) Though Jesus’ disciples heard him talking about the “kingdom of the heavens,” even they did not grasp fully just what was meant. (Matthew 13:24, 31, 33) Later, they asked the resurrected Jesus Christ: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6; compare the apostles’ earlier words to Jesus at John 16:17, 18.) So they still thought in terms of the earth, expecting that Jesus would establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. Since Jesus’ own disciples did not fully comprehend heavenly things at that time, how, then, could the evildoer possibly imagine that Jesus was speaking about something other than an earthly paradise?
8. How was Jesus’ promise to the evildoer in harmony with the Hebrew Scriptures, with which the Jews were generally acquainted?
8 Jesus’ promise to the evildoer is in agreement with statements in the Bible that the earth was made for a purpose. God “did not create it simply for nothing, [but] formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18; Psalm 104:5)
[Picture on page 27]
Greek text of Luke 23:42, 43 from Vatican MS. 1209, with literal rendering, line for line, at the right
committed and he was saying Jesus
remember me whenever
you might come into the kingdom
of you and he said to
him Amen to you I am saying today,
with me you will be
in the paradise and