Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 73 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House.  This is Pastor Bill and over the next 10 minutes, or so, we are going to be talking about the miscorrelation of the thief.

If you’re listening to or reading this when it was released, then we’re just coming off Easter and if you attended a church broadcast as part of social distancing, and you should be social distancing right now, then you undoubtedly heard some semblance of the passion of the Christ story.  The story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem then his betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection.  If you were told this story, then undoubtedly the two men that were crucified with Jesus were mentioned in that story.  Let’s take a look at their part of the story.

While the Gospels of Matthew and Mark mention the men crucified with Jesus, only Luke goes into detail.  It’s not surprising that Luke would have these details since his whole Gospel account is from eyewitness testimony, he must have gotten some face time with a centurion or two at some point. Luke 23:32-43 CSB says, “[32] Two others—criminals—were also led away to be executed with him. [33] When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. [34] Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots. [35] The people stood watching, and even the leaders were scoffing: “He saved others; let him save himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!” [36] The soldiers also mocked him. They came offering him sour wine [37] and said, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” [38] An inscription was above him: This Is the King of the Jews. [39] Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” [40] But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? [41] We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” [42] Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [43] And he said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I’m going to cut to the chase.  This interaction is being widely misrepresented and misused to paint a correlation that doesn’t exist.  Just to be clear, I’m saying that the passage is being misrepresented and misused.  The focus here is on the passage and its usage, this is in no way a commentary on those using the passage.  The goal is not to tear down another minister of The Gospel, but to teach and inform.

I’ve heard over and again that this thief’s confession and Jesus' response is evidence that salvation is by faith alone and proof that no works or baptism is required.  While the Bible does teach that salvation is by faith alone and that no works or baptism is required, that’s not what’s happening here.

This word, Paradise is the Greek word;

G3857 παράδεισος paradeisos par-ad'-i-sos Of Oriental origin (compare [H6508]); a park, that is, (specifically) an Eden (place of future happiness, “paradise”): - paradise.

Paradisos is only used three times in the Bible.  The first, we’ve just talked about.  The second is in 2 Corinthians 12 when Paul talks about “knowing a guy” you know like when you’re “asking for a friend.”  Anyway, Paul “knows a guy,” who was taken into the third level of Heaven that he then identifies as Paradise.  The final use is in Revelations 2 when Jesus tells us that those who overcome will be given fruit from the tree of life from the Paradise of God.

You can’t fully understand what’s going on in these Biblical accounts without context, mainly you need context for the references to culturally accepted concepts used in the text.

So let’s explain a couple of things here that would’ve been understood by first-century readers that we just don’t get anymore.  Paradise was long believed by the Jewish people to be in the third of seven levels of Heaven.  It was also known as Abraham’s Bosom and was the widely accepted resting place of righteous spirits after death.  Whereas the un-righteous would be placed in one of seven levels of Hades.  With those in the top level of Hades able to look up and see those in Paradise, and even have conversations with them.  The Garden of Eden was also believed to exist in Paradise, but the entrance to it guarded by two large Cherubim with very large flaming swords.

Now the term Heaven or Heavens was used for the sky, universe and beyond.  With the first level of Heaven being where the birds flew, and clouds were “hung.”  The second level of Heaven was where the heavenly bodies and stars were placed.  The third, Paradise, and we don’t get to what you and I think of as Heaven until the seventh and highest level of Heaven, the home of God the Father.

In Genesis 15:6 when Moses writes, and Paul echoes in Romans 4:3, that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, they’re talking about Abraham’s faith creating in him righteousness that redeemed him from having to be placed in one of the levels of Hades and made his spiritual destination Paradise instead.

When the thief makes this declaration of faith that Jesus is the Messiah, he attains righteousness that makes him Paradise bound.  Sin and death hadn’t been defeated, so what you and I know of as salvation wasn’t a thing, yet.  Salvation wasn’t a thing until after Jesus died and was resurrected, two things that hadn’t happened yet.

Jesus did then die, and according to Acts 2:31 went to Hades, I’m guessing probably the lowest level since He took into Himself all the sin of the world for all time.  It says, “Seeing what was to come, (David) spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay.”  We’re not sure how long Jesus was in Hades.  We know from what Jesus said to the thief that it was less than twenty-four hours Earth time.  But 2 Peter 3:8 gives us pause to consider that our perception of time isn’t necessarily accurate to all of creation, certainly not accurate to God’s perspective on time.  “Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”

The main takeaway, more important than anything else in this podcast, is that Jesus did defeat sin and death, was resurrected, and we are saved, or can be, by grace through faith, and this is not from ourselves, by works; it is God’s gift.

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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