NKJV - 43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.
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Some denominations that do not subscribe to a belief in an immediate post-death existence of the soul prior to the resurrection of the body at the close of the age address this issue by saying that, by the word "today", Jesus was referring to when He was speaking the words, rather than to when the crucified robber would be with Him in Paradise (the temporary abode of the souls of the righteous dead who were awaiting Jesus' resurrection, and which was not the same as Heaven). Although death by crucifixion could, in some cases, take days to occur, the point of breaking the legs of the condemned in this particular instance (because the beginning of the Sabbath was so close) was to assure that they would die and be taken down from the crosses before the beginning of the Sabbath at sundown, as the Bible specifically notes in John 19:31. Therefore, it can be concluded that Jesus and the robber both died that day, which removes any impediment to Jesus' use of "today" to be referring to when the thief would be with Him in Paradise, rather than to when He was speaking. Also, although Jesus did ascend bodily to Heaven forty days after His resurrection, He had a spiritual afterlife between His death and His resurrection (as did the crucified robber to whom He was speaking). This is based on 1 Peter 3:19, which speaks of Jesus being made alive in spirit after His physical death, and preaching to the "spirits in prison" (generally interpreted as being the "sons of God" (referenced in Genesis 6:1-4) -- spirit beings who fathered children with human women, and who were confined by God as punishment). Therefore, both Jesus and the robber would have been in Paradise prior to Jesus' bodily resurrection and ascension. When Jesus ascended to Heaven after His resurrection, he took with Him the souls of those who had been in Paradise (Ephesians 4:8). Further discussion of this subject can be found at the following website: https://www.gotquestions.org/where-was-Jesus.html
Reading Luke 23:42-43 it seems that Jesus is telling the thief that on that very day, both of them will be in heaven together. However, three days later, in John 20:17 Jesus tells Mary “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Here is clear that Jesus was talking about the Paradise where the Father’s throne is located. (Rev 2:7; 22:1, 2). Another big problem with “today you will be with Me in Paradise” is that Jesus and the thief did not die on the same day. On that Friday, just before the sunset, when the soldiers came to take the bodies off the cross, Jesus was already dead (John 19:32-34) - however, the thieves were still alive, and their legs were broken to hasten death. Remember that Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead (Mark 15:44). The cruelty of the cross was that it was a agonizing long death, sometimes it took several days to die. There is no question that the thief lived past sunset into Saturday, the Sabbath, and possibly even longer. So how could Jesus assure the thief of being with Him in Paradise that very day (Friday) when the thief was still alive on “that day”? The answer is rather simple: the original New Testament was written in Greek Uncials, all uppercase letters with no punctuation, no spacing, stops, or verse breaks as we now have. It was only after 1500 AD that verse divisions and punctuation marks were introduced to the English Bible translations. Bible translators had to discern the correct placing of verse breaks and punctuation marks. Although in other Bible texts the placing of punctuation might not matter that much, in Luke 23:43 the placing of this particular comma is vital for the correct understanding of the text. If the translators were to place the comma after the "today," the text would make more sense and be in harmony with the chronological events of that day and with the rest of the Scripture. Please be mindful that there is no authoritative basis for the divisions and punctuation marks in the Bible.
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