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"And he was saying, 'Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!' 43 And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'" (Luke 23:42-43)
Read: Luke 23:33-43
Consider. For the person who puts their faith in Jesus, upon the death of their body, their soul goes immediately to be with Jesus in Paradise.
Two thieves were crucified with Jesus that day - one on the right and the other on the left (Luke 23:33). Both thieves were next to the One who could save them. Yet, one thief hurled abuse (literally, blasphemed) at Jesus (Luke 23:39, Ref. 1). The other, penitent thief recognized that he himself was guilty yet Jesus was innocent. The penitent thief said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!" (Luke 23:40-42). To this thief, the penitent thief, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Jesus' promise to the penitent thief has brought hope to millions of believers over the centuries since Jesus' death and resurrection. Jesus' promise to the penitent thief brings believers hope today as we consider the destination of our souls upon our death and the destination of the souls of our loved ones.
In the next two sections, I would like to focus on two important points, or "take aways" from Jesus' promise to the penitent thief.
Paradise is Where Believers Will Be with Jesus After Death
Jesus could have told the penitent thief, "Today you will be in Paradise." But Jesus did not say that. Jesus said, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, underline added).
Paradise in Greek is paradeisos (par-ad'-i-sos), which is "an ancient Persian word meaning 'enclosure, garden, park'" (Ref. 2). Paradise is mentioned in the New Testament only three times - in Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians 12:4, and Revelation 2:7.
The Apostle Paul expressed his desire (his passionate longing) to be with Jesus after his death when he wrote, "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Philippians 1:22-23, Ref. 3). Likewise, the early Christians were encouraged, that when they were absent from their body, they would be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8, Ref. 4).
Note that Jesus' promise to the penitent thief, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise," did not apply to the unrepentant thief who verbally abused Jesus and did not believe in him. Scripture teaches that the souls of the unrighteous go to the place of torment Jesus described in Luke 16:22-26 . There they await judgment and the second death (Revelation 20:11-15). It is far better to believe in Jesus during our earthly lifetime and to have his assurance that upon the death of our body our soul will be in Paradise with him.
The Souls of Believers Immediately Enter Paradise to be with Jesus After Death
Jesus told the penitent thief, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43, underline added). Not tomorrow. Not some time in the future. Today. Jesus spoke to the penitent thief in language that he would understand. Even though their dead bodies would be on the cross or in the grave (Luke 23:50-53), the souls of the Savior and the penitent thief would be alive and in Paradise together that day (Ref. 5).
Another biblical example illustrates a believer's expectation of going immediately to be Jesus upon his death. At the time of his death from stoning, Stephen the martyr said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!," and then he died (Acts 7:57-60).
Apply. Let the words of Jesus to the penitent thief comfort you as you consider the destination of your soul upon your death. "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Put your faith and trust in Jesus who is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. You will receive God's gracious gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23), and upon the death of your body, your soul will go to Paradise to be with Jesus.
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)
"Life eternal, then, is not mere conscious and unending existence, but a life of acquaintance with God in Christ." (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Ref. 1)
This lesson describes the biblical definition of eternal life. This lesson primarily uses the Scriptures about eternal life in the Gospel of John. In the next lesson in the series, we will focus on who receives eternal life and how to receive eternal life.
Consider. Think for a moment. How would you define eternal life? How would you explain eternal life to an inquisitive unbeliever, or to a new Christian? For believers in Christ, eternal life certainly includes living with God after our physical death (John 11:25-26). However, the Bible has much more to say about the characteristics of eternal life.
Eternal life is a free gift of God to believers in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul states, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). In this verse, the Greek word for gift is charisma. Charisma means a gift of grace, an undeserved favor (Ref. 2). Thus, eternal life is not something we deserve or earn. Eternal life is an undeserved gift of God's grace and favor. "In spite of your sanctification as Christians, still you will not have earned eternal life; it is the gift of God’s grace" (Ref. 3).
Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).
For the believer, eternal life begins in the present, the here and now.
Jesus described eternal life in the present tense. Thus, eternal life is not just in the future, but is a present possession of the believer which continues into the future.
John 3:36 - "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 5:24 - "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
John 6:47 - "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life."
In John 5:24, note the importance of hearing Jesus' words. Jesus said, "He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life."
For believers in Christ, eternal life continues with God after our physical death.
Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).
To the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43).
Jesus said to his disciples, "In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3).
Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God experientially.
"Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:1-3).
In John 17:3, the Greek word for know is ginóskó. Ginóskó means to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand acquaintance) (HELPS Word-studies, Ref. 4). Knowing God experientially requires knowing Jesus who is the truth (John 14:6), as well as knowing and living the Word of God on a daily and life-long basis. "This life eternal, then, is not mere conscious and unending existence, but a life of acquaintance with God in Christ" (Ref. 1).
Eternal life is a quality of life, not just the duration of life.
The Greek word for eternal is aiónios, which means perpetual, unending, age-long (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 5). Aiónios includes the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting (Ref. 5). "Aiónios does not focus on the future per se, but rather on the quality of the age it relates to. Thus, believers live in eternal life right now, experiencing this quality of God's life now as a present possession" (Helps Word-studies, Ref. 5).
Summary. Eternal life is a free gift of God to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Eternal life begins when we put our faith in Jesus. As believers in Christ, eternal life continues with God after our physical death. Eternal life is the quality of life that results when we know Jesus Christ by experience, on a first-hand basis.
Apply. Think for a moment. In your own words, how would you describe eternal life? Write down your description of eternal life in a few sentences. What Scripture verse would be your key reference?
"Paradise, Jesus, and the Penitent Thief" (Luke 23:42-43)
"Made Alive Together with Christ - A New Quality of Life" (Ephesians 2:4-5)
"Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (Job's Question, Jesus' Answer)" (Job 14:14, John 11:25-26)
Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
I plan to provide new postings about every four weeks.
(subject to change)
(most recent three months)
25Aug19 - "Characteristics of a Child of God - Part 1" (Matthew 7:16)
Questions & Answers
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)