Wrested Scriptures

Heaven - Place of Reward

  Matthew 5:12
  Matthew 17:1-9
  Matthew 22:32
  Luke 23:43
  John 14:2
  2 Cor. 5:8
  2 Cor. 12:2-4
  Colossians 1:5
  Phil. 1:21-23
  Phil. 3:20
  1 Thess. 4:17
  Hebrews 11:5
  2 Peter 3:10
  Revelation 5:10

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Luke 23:43
"And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

This passage is used principally by Evangelicals to prove the immortality of the soul and the departure of the "saved" to heaven at death.

  1. This passage mentions neither souls nor heaven.

  2. The thief did not request a place in heaven. He said, "Lord remember me when thou comest into ["in" not "into", R.S.V.] thy kingdom." (vs. 42). The same hope was expressed by the Apostle Paul. (2 Tim. 4:1,8). The thief was not thinking of "going to be with the Lord", he was requesting a place in the coming of a future event.

  3. Jesus answered: "You ask me to remember you then, but I say unto you now . . . " (Luke 23:43). This repunctuation is not merely tinkering with the text. The Greek word "semeron" translated "today", "this day" is used as a term of emphasis.1 In the following references "semeron" qualifies this preceding verb: Luke 2:11; 22:34; Acts 20:26 ("Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men."); 26:29; 2 Cor. 3:14,15. Rotherham in his translation places the comma after "this day"2 and there are a large number of passages in the Septuagint translation in which the Greek construction corresponds to that of Luke 23:43: "I say unto you this day" corresponds to the emphatic, "I testify unto you this day", e.g. Deut. 6:6; 7:11; 8:1; 10:13; 11:8,13,28.

  4. [PK note added] The oldest Greek manuscripts from which we get our New Testament were written in uncial script, which had no lower case letters, no punctuation, and no spaces between the words. Example:.


    Both Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus are uncial manuscripts. To see a picture of a portion of Mark's Gospel in Codex Sinaiticus, click here.

  5. If the argument on repunctuation proves ineffective, the disputant can still be led to the desired conclusion by assuming that by "today", Jesus meant the thief would go to paradise the day he died. But where did the thief go that very day? (Since the thief was promised a place with Jesus, by establishing where Jesus went the day he died, it follows that the thief went to the same place.) Most will quickly assert that Jesus went to heaven. The Christadelphian need only demand proof to show that this assertion is foundationless.

  6. The disputant should be pressed for an explanation to the following passages:
    1. Jesus said, "So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. 12:40 cf. Matt. 16:21). How could the Son of man be both in heaven and in the earth at the same time?
    2. Jesus after his resurrection, said, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." (John 20:17).

  7. Since Jesus lay dead in the grave on the day of his crucifixion, therefore this passage offers no proof for the immortality of the soul, nor for the belief that the thief went that day to heaven. The thief was with the Lord in the grave. By implication, if the expression "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise" be read as meaning the thief went with Jesus to the grave, then the grave must be paradise. Is that what the immortal soulist wants?

  8. Hopefully at this stage in the discussion the merit of repunctuation will have become evident. It remains to be shown that Jesus really did answer the thief's request to be remembered in his kingdom. Paradise in Scriptures is always associated with a place on earth, never in heaven. Consider the following:
    1. Those who overcome will "eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Rev. 2:7). The allusion to the Garden of Eden is unmistakable. The Garden of Eden (paradise) is often used to describe the paradise-like condition of the earth in the kingdom of God. (See Gen. 13:10; Is. 51:3; Ezek. 36:35).
    2. Paradise is translated from the word "paradeisos" which Bullinger says was used by the Greeks "to describe a large pleasure-garden with trees, or park of an Eastern monarch."3 The word itself, therefore, is descriptive of an idyllic place on earth, not in heaven.4

  9. Jesus taught that eternal life is preceded by the resurrection and judgment of the last day.
    1. "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." (Matt. 16:27).
    2. Those that have done good come forth "unto the resurrection of life . . . " (John 5:29). They are raised up at the "last day". (Jn. 6:39,40,44,54).
    3. The righteous go "into life eternal" after the judgment (Matt. 25:31-46).

    The thief will receive his reward, therefore, at the last day, when Christ comes in his kingdom.

  1. Bullinger repunctuates and comments as follows: " ' And Jesus said to him, Verily, to thee I say this day, with Me shalt thou be in Paradise.' The words to-day being made solemn and emphatic." Ethelbert W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, 8th ed., (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd., 1957, p. 811). Return

  2. Joseph Rotherham, The Emphasized Bible: A translation designed to set forth the exact meaning, the proper terminology, and the graphic styles of the sacred original, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1967). Return

  3. Ethelbert W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, 8th ed., (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd., 1957). Return

  4. The Septuagint translation uses the Greek word "paradeisos" for the garden of Eden. (e.g. Gen. 2:8). Return