And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
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.
~ Lk 23:38-43
Many interpret this to mean that immediately upon death the thief ascended into Heaven and was with Jesus there forever. What you will see in this article is that the truth is that the thief could not have met Jesus in Heaven “today”. Jesus did not ascend to the Father on that day, and this can be proven Scripturally. Since Jesus did not lie, then we have to interpret His remarks in the correct context as explained in the article “The Myth of the Immortal Soul: Where Is the Thief On the Cross?“
Most realize that Jesus rose to Heaven to sit down on the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 8:1). He did this after being with the disciples for 40 days after His crucifixion (Ac 1:3, 9-11). We who are His are awaiting His return to establish His Kingdom. Now, it is evident that 40 days later is not “today”. So, we must look elsewhere for evidence that Jesus went to Heaven on that same day.
Some would argue that when Jesus said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” that He then went into Heaven. However, as is argued in the article “The Myth of the Immortal Soul: Do Souls ‘Depart’ Upon Death?”, we know that this was His temporary human spirit that He was asking His Father to care for. Jesus taught that souls can be destroyed. No, He is simply trusting that the Father will resurrect Him back to life from the dead.
Can we know for certain that Jesus did not ascend to the Father that day? Can we know without a shadow of doubt that He did not sneak off to Heaven that day? Yes, and we can prove it by Jesus’ own words!
The simple and sad fact is that mainstream Christianity does not believe Jesus. Reality is clouded by false traditions that are not even based upon the Bible. They would rather keep their traditions than believe Jesus’ own words. They teach that Jesus died on Good Friday and was resurrected on Easter Sunday, when it clearly violates Scripture. They will reason and twist Jesus’ words to satisfy Jesus’ clear words that He would be in the grave for 72 hours.
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah:
For as Jonah 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.
~ Mt 12:39-40
Could anything be clearer? You cannot get 3 days and 3 nights between Friday night and Sunday morning! At best, you get 1-1/2 days! Try it! Friday night (1 night), Saturday (1 day), Saturday night (2 nights), Sunday – oops! He supposedly arose Sunday morning, so you can’t count that!
Think about this, now. If Jesus really was in the tomb for 3 days and 3 nights, how did He meet the thief “in Paradise”? Did He split Himself into 2 so He could be in 2 places at once? Perhaps He just “spiritualized it away” as so many do with various portions of Scripture. Maybe He just asked the Father to tell the thief, “Well, you see, He really meant He would be here spiritually but not literally. His thoughts would be with you, you know. He wasn’t really lying to you, as we can just spiritualize these things away, you see.” How preposterous!
Jesus Himself said at one point He had not yet gone to Heaven. Even after His resurrection from the dead, He had not yet ascended to Heaven.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for 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; and to my God, and your God.
~ Jn 20:16-17
Notice that He had not at that time yet ascended to the Father. However, He now was going to do so.
Christianity as a whole has abandoned the religion that Jesus started. Instead of keeping Biblical holy days and festivals, they have replaced the commandments of God with traditions of men. Therefore, they do not understand the deep spiritual meaning of much of the Bible!
Shortly thereafter, we see Jesus allowing people to touch Him (vv 25-27; Mt 28:9; Lk 24:39). We look at the ceremony of the wave sheaf offering that occurred on the 1st Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread, and we can surmise that after sunrise (and after He initially met Mary Magdalene) Jesus ascended to the Father for final acceptance of His sacrifice on the cross. Afterwards, He came to tarry with His disciples 40 days in order to prepare them for the events that would occur on the Day of Pentecost.
The short of it is that Jesus’ own words show that 3 days and 3 nights after His crucifixion, He had not yet ascended into “paradise”. He could not have met the thief there because He wasn’t there to meet him! Therefore, we must conclude that either Jesus lied to the thief about meeting him in paradise “today” or that it was a figure of speech that meant something else. Liar or Savior: Which is it?