said to Jesus, Remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom.
And he [Jesus] said to him [the penitent thief], Indeed I say
to thee this day, thou shalt be with me in Paradise." `Luke
who consider salvation to be an escape from everlasting torture
to a paradise of pleasure, and dependent only on accidental circumstances
of favor, think they see exemplified in this narrative the doctrine
of election--that our Lord Jesus, pleased by the consoling words
of the one thief, elected him to heaven, and equally elected that
the other should suffer to all eternity, unpitied and unrelieved.
Truly, if God has made salvation such a lottery, such a chance
thing, those who believe it to be such should have little to say
against Church lotteries, and less against worldly ones.
this is not the case. This scripture has been much misunderstood.
To get its true importance, let us take in the surroundings and
Lord had just been condemned, and was now being executed on the
charge of treason against Caesar's government, in saying that
he was a king; though he had told them that his Kingdom was "not
of this world." There, upon the cross above his head, written
in three languages, was the crime charged against him: "THIS
IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." Those about knew of his claims
and derided him, except one of the thieves crucified alongside.
Doubtless he had heard of Jesus and his wonderful character and
works, and said in his heart: This is truly a strange and wonderful
man. Who can know that there is no foundation to his claims? He
certainly lives close to God. I will speak to him in sympathy:
it can do no harm. Then he rebuked his companion, mentioning the
Lord's innocence; and then the conversation above noted took place.
cannot suppose that this thief had correct or definite ideas of
Jesus--nothing more than a mere feeling that, as he was about
to die, any straw of hope was better than nothing. To give him
credit for more would be to place him in faith ahead of all the
Lord's apostles and followers, who at this time had fled dismayed,
and who, three days after, said: "We [had] trusted that it
had been he which should have redeemed Israel." `Luke 24:21`
can have no doubt as to the importance of his petition. He meant
that whenever Jesus reached his Kingdom power, he desired to be
favored, cared for. Now note our Lord's answer. He does not say
that he has no kingdom; but, on the contrary, he indicates by
his response that the thief's request was a proper one. The word
translated "verily" or "indeed" is the Greek
word "amen," and signifies "So be it," or
"Your request is granted." "I say to thee this
day [this dark day, when it seems as though I am an impostor,
and I am dying as a felon], thou shalt be with me in Paradise."
The substance of this promise is that, when the Lord has established
his Kingdom it will be a Paradise, and the thief will be remembered
and be in it. Notice that we have changed the comma from before
to after the word "today."
makes our Lord's words perfectly clear and reasonable. He might
have told the thief more if he had chosen. He might have told
him that the reason he would be privileged to be in Paradise was
because his ransom was then and there being paid. He might have
told him further that he was dying for and ransoming the other
thief also, as well as the whole gaping and deriding multitude
before him, the millions then entombed, and the millions yet unborn.
We know this, because we know that "Jesus Christ, by the
grace of God, tasted death for every man," "gave himself
a ransom for all," that all in due time might have opportunity
to return to the Edenic condition, forfeited by the first man's
sin, and redeemed for men by Christ's righteous sacrifice. `Heb.
2:9`; `1 Tim. 2:5,6`; `Acts 3:19`
garden of Eden was but an illustration of what the earth will
be when fully released from the curse--perfected and beautified.
The word "paradise" is of Arabic origin, and signifies
a garden. The Septuagint renders `Gen. 2:8` thus: "God planted
a paradise in Eden." When Christ shall have established his
Kingdom, and bound evil, etc., this earth will gradually become
a paradise, and the two thieves and all others that are in their
graves shall come into it, and then by becoming obedient to its
laws they may live in it and enjoy it forever. We doubt not, however,
that the kind words spoken in that dark hour to the suffering
Savior will no more lose a special and suitable reward than the
gift of a cup of water, or other small kindnesses, done to those
whom this King is "not ashamed to call his brethren."
the Scriptures Paradise is used to describe man's primeval state
of bliss, in harmony with his Creator, before the curse and blight
of sin entered into the world. This Paradise lost to mankind is
promised to be restored; and in a more or less vague manner the
whole creation has been and is waiting and hoping for the Golden
Age thus to be inaugurated. The Scriptures present to us the thought
that the Paradise state has been redeemed for man by our Lord
Jesus' death, and that as a consequence a part of his glorious
restitution work will be to restore Paradise--"that which
was lost"--the purchased possession. `Matt. 18:11`; `Eph.
1:14`; `Rev. 2:7`
have we a right to alter the position of the comma? Certainly:
the punctuation of the Bible is not inspired. The writers of the
Bible used no punctuation. It was invented about four hundred
years ago. It is merely a modern convenience, and should be so
used as to bring out sense, in harmony with all other scriptures.
of a similar use of the word "today" in modern literature
are quite frequent; and in the Scriptures we call attention to
I command thee this thing today." `Deut. 15:15`
have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil."
command thee this day to love the Lord thy God." `Deut. 30:16`
would to God that not only thou but also all that hear me this
day were both almost and altogether such as I am, save these bonds."
only does the sense of this passage require the punctuation suggested,
but its harmony with all the remaining scriptures similarly demands
it, and there can be no reasonable or valid objection to it offered.
To suppose that our Lord went to Paradise immediately, would be
to suppose an impossibility, for Paradise has not yet been re-established.
Furthermore, it is distinctly stated that our Lord's body was
buried in Joseph's tomb, and that his soul, or being, went to
sheol, hades, oblivion, and that he was dead, and not alive in
Paradise or elsewhere, in the interim. The Scriptures distinctly
assure us, not that our Lord came down from heaven, or from Paradise,
at his resurrection; but that he "rose from the dead, on
the third day, according to the Scriptures." (`1 Cor. 15:4`)
Our Lord's own words, after his resurrection, were, "Thus
it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise
from the dead the third day." (`Luke 24:46`) Again he said
to Mary, "I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my
brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your
Father; unto my God and your God." `John 20:17`