The Thief On The Cross In Heaven – 65

The Anchor Holds – First Baptist Church Jacksonville, FL

Marriage of the Lamb – First Baptist Church Jacksonville, FL

Luke 23:42-43J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus answered, “I tell you truly, this day you will be with me in paradise.”

The above short conversation took place when Christ and a thief were hanging “side by side” on a cross in Jerusalem. Both knew that death was imminent. Our Lord, God the Son, knew that after His death he would be in the Presence of God the Father. The thief, based on His exhibited faith in Christ, knew that he could be saved from the eternal absence from God, and be placed in God’s immediate Presence. So, the thief “called on the Name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13). Based on this introduction, let’s continue with our discussion of whether the thief ended up that day in Heaven, or in Paradise. Let’s consider a key verse of this whole discussion.

Key verse: John 3:3

New American Standard Bible

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

When we consider Heaven, the thought is often related to the “eternal state,” which occurs after the Great White Throne Judgment (for unrighteous people) has taken place (Revelation 20:11-15). In the eternal state we find the New Heaven and New Earth and New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-2). The eternal state is the place where all born again, righteous, saints of God will spend their eternity, in the Presence of God. That is the place where the thief on the cross will be found, but not yet. All righteous, born again saints of God/believers in Christ, will find their place with the thief on the cross, “in the eternal state,” where all of the saints of God, of all of the ages, will be present and will see the face of God (Rev 22:4). (Repetition was used here to ensure that all designations of: righteous, born again, saints of God, believers in Christ relate to the same group of people who will spend their eternity in the eternal state with God.)

The normal usage of “heaven,” as is spoken today, relates to the place of “righteous spirits,” whether they are of righteous people who may be alive, dead, resurrected or caught up and in the Presence of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). So, let’s consider the word, “spirit.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23 New American Standard Bible

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Spirit, soul and body. The body is our “fingers, toes and nose, etc.” Soul relates to our “mind,” our emotions, our intellect, in essence, it is “who we are,” the three words of a lady who is now in the Presence of God. I like to say that my spirit is in the center of my chest, immediately above my heart. I often make a fist and pound it on the heart area of my chest, and say, “God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), I know that you’re there; thank you!” Our spirit is that part of us that prompts our mind to thoughts of righteousness or unrighteousness, depending on whether we have been born again, which is actually, “whether our spirit has been born again.” We have no control over our spirit. If our spirit has been born again, God will prompt our mind to righteous thoughts. If we have not been born again, Satan prompts our mind to unrighteous thoughts. Those who have not been born again, have no Godly wisdom residing within them. A born-again believer in Christ is the recipient of God’s wisdom, and receives His wisdom each and every day of life (John 16:7-11). So, let’s consider the reason that our mind is so easily swayed. We must go back to the Garden Of Eden.

After the creation of the world by God (Elohim), we read the following:

Genesis 1:21 New American Standard Bible

“God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Yes! Everything in the garden, in creation everywhere, was “very good.” All remained “very good” until the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen 3:6), and the curse that quickly followed (Gen 3:8-22), which was a curse on all of God’s creation. Up until the time of the sin of Adam and Eve, there was total perfection in the Garden. There was no sickness or death. Alligators didn’t eat little dogs, etc. There were no imperfections of storms, earthquakes, etc. But, after the sin of Adam and Eve, sin and death entered the world, with catastrophic results.

Romans 5:12 GOD’S WORD® Translation

“Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.”

We can also see that, today, the state of nature is no longer present in the world, as it was in the is no longer perfect. The perfect state of mankind (body, soul and spirit), also became cursed. The mind and body entered a death spiral upon conception. Our spirit does not die; it is eternal. It’s eternal place depends on its state, whether it is righteous or unrighteous. Upon the moment that we were conceived, our mind and body began developing (sorry pro-choice people; check out Dr. Louis Pasteur’s “Law of Biogenesis;” life comes from existing life.”) …Each of us is flawed at birth, due to the curse, even in our embryonic state. Within each embryo is a mature spirit, that has been flawed. A body and soul are developing. Life comes from life, due to the “life” that is present in each sperm and egg. That life will come into our world, and will find its way to death (body and soul). The spirit will have a flawed and unrighteous presence, which will exist into eternity, unless it is made righteous. A righteous and non-flawed spirit comes from our spirit being born again (John 3:3), which is a result of the action of God’s Holy Spirit (John 3:8).

Consider the following verses that show a transition from flawed sinner to perfected saint of God.

John 1:29 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The sin of the world that needs to be taken away, which will allow unsaved people to have eternal life with Christ, “is the sin of unbelief.”

John 3:16-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

belief in Christ (vs 16) or unbelief (vs 18). Belief results in eternal life with Christ. Unbelief results in condemnation, such as is shown in the tribulation (Revelation 6-18 Judgments of God), and in the lake of fire (final and eternal judgment)

John 3:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

God’s Holy Spirit causes the new birth to happen.

If you believe in Christ, you have been born again. If you have been born again, you believe in Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

A simple faith in Christ as Lord and Savior makes all of the above happen (John 1:29 to Ephesians 2:8-9).

The following things happen after a person has been born again.

Our spirit dwells with the spirit of Father/Son/Holy Spirit

John 14:20 New American Standard Bible – This verse relates to the knowledge that the Apostles will have after the resurrection of Christ. This intermingling of Spirits includes the spirits of all born again believers of all times.

“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

Romans 8:1 New American Standard Bible – After we have been born again, no condemnation of God, awaits any believer in Christ.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 5:8 New American Standard Bible – Upon the deaths of believers, their souls and spirits are in the Presence of God
“we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5:10 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Relate vs 8 to vs 10. In vs 8 Paul is discussing where believers will be, if they are not in the body, whether by death, resurrection or rapture. From vs 10, the next step is the marriage of the Lamb, Rev 19:7, where the raptured and resurrected saints of God, step out from Heaven (Paradise/3rd Heaven/Presence of God), with Christ and begin their descent to earth for the Battle of Armageddon (Rev 19 11-21). More of the discussion of things related to the return of Christ to earth will be discussed later on in this post.

10 For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.

2 Corinthians 5:17 New American Standard Bible – Upon new birth, the saint has a new spirit which will prompt the believer to righteous living. The original, sinful spirit, has passed away; it will no more prompt the believer to unrighteousness.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 New American Standard Bible – Upon our new birth, Christ has taken our sin on Him, making Him to be “sin” (not a sinner) so that He can take sin’s judgment. Our spirit of sin has been replaced by a spirit that is as perfect as the Spirit of Christ.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Colossians 1:27 New American Standard Bible – After we have been born again, the Spirit of Christ dwells within our born again spirits.

“to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

1 John 5:19 New American Standard Bible – This verse explains that which makes it all possible for us to be “in God.” Until we were born again, we were “darkness.” Upon our new birth, we became “light.” Without the new birth, we would have continued to be “darkness,” and would not have been permitted to be “in God.” (John 1:9)

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

Now, let’s consider Lazarus and the rich man.

Luke 16:22-23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

In the following discussion, “Kingdom of God,” and “Millennial reign of Christ,” both relate to the same thousand year period which immediately follows the tribulation and second coming of Christ to earth. A saint is any righteous person. A righteous person is anyone whose spirit has been born again. Tribulation is the time of the judgment of God on unrighteous people, which is also known as “the 70th week of Daniel, which follows the rapture of the church, and ends when Christ returns to earth with His raptured saints.

Lazarus was the righteous poor man. He died and was taken to the bosom of Abraham, which is the Old Testament name for the Presence of God. The rich unrighteous man died, and was placed in Hades (see note below), which is the place of death for unrighteous people, where their souls and spirits remain until the bodily resurrection of unrighteous people takes place at the end of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 20:5). The translation of “hell” is incorrectly used in Luke 16 in some translations. In Luke 16, both of the bodies (Lazarus and rich man) are in the grave. Notice that both men are conscious of their surroundings, with the rich man being in torment, experiencing “God’s condemnation.” His next stop is the resurrection of the unrighteous (Rev 20:5), with the Great White Throne Judgment and the lake of fire soon to follow (Revelation 20:11-15). Lazarus was also conscious of His surroundings, and was having “the time of His life,” in the Presence of God. His next stop is the resurrection of the Old Testament saints (Rev 20:4). (The Old Testament lasts until the crucifixion of Christ; “it is finished,” John 19:30.) At the resurrection of the saints, which is at the end of the tribulation, and at the beginning of the Kingdom of God, the bodies of the Old Testament saints, and tribulation saints, will be resurrected, and reunited with their souls and spirits. All righteous saints (Old Testament, New Testament and Tribulation), will go through the Kingdom, and then enter the eternal state, Rev 21:1-7. These saints are over-comers through their faith in Christ (1 John 5:4).

MacArthur Study Bible note, Dr. John MacArthur.
Luke 16:23. “Hades” was the Gr. term for the abode of the dead. In the LXX, it was used to translate the Heb. Sheol, which referred to the realm of the dead in general, without necessarily distinguishing between righteous or unrighteous souls. However, in NT usage, “Hades” always refers to the place of the wicked prior to final judgment in hell. The imagery Jesus used paralleled the common rabbinical idea that Sheol had two parts, one for the souls of the righteous and the other for the souls of the wicked—separated by an impassable gulf.

Before we arrive at the cross, where the conversation took place between Christ and the thief (also on the cross), we must consider two occurrences that took place, that use the words, “Paradise and third Heaven.”

To set the stage, we must consider a passage where the Apostle Paul is taken up to the third heaven, also called Paradise, while he is still alive. Paul is talking about himself. He mentions Paradise and the third heaven as being the location of God.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Paul’s Vision

1 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.

Paul’s conversation with God follows.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Consider the three heavens.

1 Corinthians 15:40 King James Bible – The first heaven is terrestrial, and is where birds fly. The second heaven is celestial, and is where space ships fly. The third heaven is where God resides, and is also known as Paradise. The third heaven is where Paul was taken, and is generally known as Heaven.

“There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial”

Heaven, the third heaven, the location of God, is also the place where the born again, new testament, believers in Christ will be taken when the rapture of the church takes place. (Rapture: English for “caught up, snatch away.” Latin, rapio. Greek, harpazo). Remember that these are the bodies of New Testament saints, and are not of Old Testament saints. Those caught up, will have their bodies, whether in the grave or alive, to be caught up to the third heaven, where their bodies, souls and spirits will be taken to the judgment seat of Christ for rewards and the marriage of the lamb.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB) (also, 1 Cor 15:50-54 and John 14:1-3)

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:10 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) – Works are judged. This is not a place for determining the salvation of believers; that took place at the time of the new birth. These believers are the church, the bride of Christ. They are treated with the respect of a cherished bride, the bride of all brides, by Christ, the bridegroom of all bridegrooms. Eph 5:25, “Husbands love your wives.” Christ is not going to humiliate His bride prior to the marriage of the Lamb, which will take place in Heaven at the end of the tribulation, when Christ and His bride begin their ascent to earth at His second coming to earth. Neither will Christ cause His bride to go through the judgments of the tribulation. (The bride of Christ can not be in Heaven, and on earth, at the same time.)

10 For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.

Revelation 19:7-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Marriage of the Lamb

7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

9 Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God.” 10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

The marriage of the Lamb, Christ and his saints (the Church), has taken place. They now ascend to earth, where Christ will be successful in a spiritual battle and victory over the followers of Satan, and where Christ will stand on the mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-4).

The Coming of Christ

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”

19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

Doom of the Beast and False Prophet

20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

At the second coming of Christ, after the Tribulation (Matthew 24:29), he will judge the nations/gentiles for how they treated the Jews during the tribulation (Matthew 25:31-32…33-46).

Since we have “thoroughly” discussed Paradise and Heaven, let’s consider the thief on the cross. Did the thief go to heaven, or did he go to Paradise?

Luke 23:39-44 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour,

Question. Did the thief go to Heaven? Because he was not a bird, he did not go to the first heaven. Because the thief was not a space ship, he did not go to the second heaven. But, just as Paul found himself (spirit and soul), in the third heaven, which is Paradise, in the Presence of God, that is where the thief on the cross had his reunion (spirit and soul) with Christ. It appears that the death of the thief took place prior to the death of Christ, which would have him dying before the age of the New Covenant began. With that understanding, the thief died as an old testament saint. Therefore, he will not be bodily caught up in the rapture of the new testament saints, as is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The thief will not experience a bodily resurrection, where his body, soul and spirit will be reunited, until after the end of the tribulation (Rev 20:4). But, until that time, the thief, along with all other Old Testament saints, will be in the Presence of God in Paradise.

As a parting thought, at the time of the rapture of the church, which includes the resurrection of the deceased new testament saints, all bodies, souls, and spirits will be united and reunited in perfection. Bodies will never age and die. Minds/souls will never think a sinful thought. Spirits will continue their dwelling within the Spirit of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The term “dead in Christ, and we who are alive,” shows that it will be born again new testament believers in Christ who are caught up in the rapture (1 Thes 4:16-17).

When the saints are caught up in the rapture, they will be given perfect, glorified, imperishable bodies. The tribulation saints (those who miss the rapture, but come to know Christ during the tribulation, those who will be martyred during the tribulation), will also be given perfect, glorified, imperishable bodies when they have their bodily resurrection, at the end of the tribulation, with their bodies, souls and spirits reunited (Rev 20:4). Such will be the case for the old testament saints who are also bodily resurrected at the end of the tribulation (Rev 20:4).

1 Corinthians 15:50-54 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Mystery of Resurrection

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.

Throughout this discussion, it has been shown that there is one thing that has made the salvation of saints possible, which is the born again spirit. Whenever a person has been born again, that person can not be unborn. Our Lord made that fact clear in John 10:27-30

John 10:27-30 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

The born again spirit is the anchor that holds each believer secure in Christ. It was the spirit of Lazarus, and of the thief on the cross, that kept their total beings of body, soul and spirit, anchored to Christ. The words of the opening song say, “the anchor holds.” Lazarus, the thief on the cross, and anyone else who has been born again, will receive a raptured or resurrected glorified “being,” (body, soul, spirit). We, too, will have the same perfection of “being,” as that which Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden before they sinned…if we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, and have been born again. Only perfect beings of “spirit, soul, and body,” will be present in the eternal state, as will be the perfect things of nature (there is no Mother Nature), as was its presence during the time of the Garden of Eden. (Revelation 22:1-5)

For information that relates to the preparation of this post, and to sources of information, please click onto the following link.










Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s