THE THIEF ON THE CROSS,
and the place of the dead
Throughout the Old Testament there is the teaching of a holding area for the faithful as well as for the unfaithful.
Abraham in Gen.25:8 says when he died he was gathered to his people.
David said that when his son died (2 Sam. 12:28) I will go to him he will not come to me. Jacob said in Gen.49:29 "I am to be gathered to my people." There was a definite location that was being spoken of, it did not mean they would go the way the wicked would, nor does it mean to be buried in the ground only. The Old Testament writers certainly believed in an after life existence.
In the New Testament we find in Luke 16 Jesus also believed in an afterlife, he describes the story of the rich man and Lazarus in which Lazarus was taken to Abraham's bosom the place of rest for the righteous and faithful. Lazarus was taken nearby but in another compartment. All this proves is that their is a conscious existence after death.
Abraham's bosom is found frequently in the rabbinical writings. The Greek word has its Hebrew counterpart meaning a royal park or garden. This is where all the righteous from the time of Adam went awaiting their redemption. This holding area was necessary since the Old Testament sacrifices did not take away sins but only covered them. While this sacrificial system was able to keep them from the punishment in hell they needed their sins to be totally removed to enter heaven. So they waited in faith (the only exception would be one who received a glorified body incorruptible to live there).
At the transfiguration Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus discussing with him the future events that are about to transpire. This shows that Moses had a continual conscious life existing in the intermediate state after dying which was before the resurrection. Elijah was taken to heaven without dying (we don't know if he stayed there?) and still existed in consciousness also. Both appear in some form at the Mountain discussing Jesus' departure from earth.
Jesus said to the thief on the cross who repented "Today (Present tense) you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). This thief was neither baptized nor partook of the Lords supper he believed and was promised to be with Jesus.
He did no works but only believed. This is hard to accept for those who add requirements to be saved or busy themselves to earn their way to heavens abode.
What was the location of paradise when Jesus spoke this?
At that point in time paradise was located inside the earth in Hades which was divided into two primary parts as seen in Luke 16. The righteous went to the side called paradise (Abraham's bosom) the unrighteous went to Gehenna (hell). Some argue that the word "today" is not the timing of where the thief would be, but when Jesus was saying it to him. While we can it pick over words, the meaning is obvious in the context of the statement. He would be with Jesus, where did Jesus go that day? Paradise.
Eph. 4:8-10 Therefore he says "when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men" "Now this he ascended what does it mean but that he first descended into the lower parts of the earth. 10: He who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens that he might fill all things."
Those who had been waiting in faith in the compartment called Paradise (Abraham's bosom) were led in ascending to heaven with Jesus in his ascension. Jesus descended to the lowest parts first means he went from the farthest heights to the lowest. The lower parts of the earth is the word Hades. The word Sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek) are two different words for the same thing. Mt. 12:40 tells us that the location of Hades is in the center of the earth. This could refer to the incarnation although in its context it appears to mean he descended into the area of Hades to receive those out he would ascend with.
1 Pt.3:19: "Being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. By whom also he went and preached (proclaimed) to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah..."
Here is another account of Jesus with those who have passed from this life and still exist. Those who were believers in Jesus before he died were then presented his victory at the cross. The verb preached is not the Greek word evangelize to preach the good news but kerusso meaning to announce or proclaim which would fit judgment not a redemptive call.
This event occurred between Christ's death and resurrection, While his body was put in the tomb His God / Spirit went to the place of confinement for the angels to announce their coming judgment. There are numerous views of who these beings are. The view that is best supported is actual spirits (angels or demons) because of its consistent use in this manner throughout the New Testament.
Peter writes in his 2nd epistle about the angels in prison (in the abyss and Tartarus) that are awaiting the judgment indicating they are the same beings he is addressing in 1 Pt.
Hades is divided into two parts of which no one can cross over from one to the other. On the Hell side of Hades there are both angels and humans being confined awaiting their eternal punishment. In this 2nd compartment there is a division for both angels and humans. For the humans their is Abaddon and the pit. For the fallen angels there is the Abyss which is a temporary place of confinement in which they will be let out during the tribulation.(Rev.9)
The other division is Tartarus which is a permanent place of confinement for those angels of Gen.6 (Jude 6, 2 Pt. 2:4) 1 Pt.4:5" Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6: For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." There are numerous views for this passage some relate this to Noah's preaching. but this couldn't be since the gospel was not yet known. One thing we know it does not mean the gospel is preached to those who are currently dead. The better fitting view is that the gospel was preached to those who were at the time alive and then died, just as it is currently being preached to those alive. That they were judged in the body by dying but are alive now (live in the Spirit like God).
After the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus paradise was moved to heaven. The area for the righteous was emptied out, now the believer goes directly to heaven. From the New Testament teaching we find that the new location of paradise is heaven. Christ when seated at the right hand of God sends the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and gave spiritual gifts to the new entity, the Church.
Paul also stated before he recalled this account of his visit to the third heaven that all believers go there when they die 2 Cor.5:8 "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. not Soul sleep , not purgatory. There are three heavens distinguished in scripture. the first heaven our immediate atmosphere, where birds fly.(Gen.1:20; Jer.4:25 ; Mt.8:20; Acts 10:12).The next heaven is a level above our atmosphere called outer space where the planets, the stars and the sun and moon are located.(Gen.1:14-18,22:17;Mt.24:29;Rev.6:13) These first two are visible portions of the universe. The third heaven is invisible, and references are found in many of the major books of the Old Testament. In the New Testament the Gospels, the book of Acts, 2 Cor.; Eph.;Col. and other epistles mention it. Jesus testified of its reality saying he came from there.
Paul testifies of it and writes of his experience in 2 Cor.12:2 where he was brought to the third heaven where God dwells and in vs.4 calls it Paradise. Yet he did not tell anyone of this revelation for 14 years because it was so awesome and unlawful to speak of. Today we have so many claims of people going to heaven one would think there are daily flights of the Spirit going. It has become very lawful to write about their experiences. If one checks out what is being said from the heavenly travelers they will find it is contradictory to each others tall tales and especially to the bibles.
Jesus stated in Jn. 14:2-4 that he went ahead of us to prepare a place in heaven which is where his father dwells. That where he is we may be also.
When Stephen was martyred he looked up to heaven seeing a vision of the Lord standing- and said Lord Jesus receive my Spirit (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit). He knew he was going to be immediately transferred into heaven the location of the Lord.
When Christ ascended he led captivity captive (Eph.4:8-10), those who had waited in faith in Abraham's bosom for their sins to be removed were gathered together in another place, the new Paradise in heaven.
Rev.2:7 "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God which is now in heaven. In Rev.22:2 we find this tree is located in the new Jerusalem (Heb.12:22-24). (Whether this is symbolic or literal is a matter of view, the fact is we will partake of it). The location of paradise will again change in the future to be on the new earth, as the new Jerusalem comes down and the dwelling place of God is with man forever (Rev.21:1- Rev.22). The same tree that Adam was forbidden to eat from, so that he would not become eternal in his fallen state, will be offered to everyone that has received their immortal resurrected bodies.