Did the thief on the cross go to heaven? A lot of Christians would say, “yes.” However, a deeper understanding of the Scripture will reveal to you the shocking truth. A truth that will change the way you see heaven, grace, and salvation.
A lot of Christians believe that the thief on the cross went to heaven with Jesus Christ (Yahshua the Messiah). Apparently, the thief on the cross proves that you can live in sin all your life and simply repent of your sins at the last moment and you will still be saved. In some cases, just pray the sinner’s prayer and you should be on your way to heaven.
However, are all these teachings and beliefs accurate? Did the thief on the cross really go to heaven? Or, is there a shocking truth in this story that most Christians don’t know?
It’s time for us to remove all the lies and deception. In this post, I will prove to you that the thief on the cross did not go to heaven and that most Christians are wrong in their understanding of this particular story.
Who is the thief on the cross?
During the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, there were two thieves crucified together with Him. One was on the right side and the other was on the left side (Matthew 27:38). One of the thieves blasphemed the Messiah while the others later asked for God’s saving grace.
For ease of reference, generally speaking, the thief on the cross is a term used to refer to the thief who later asked for Christ’s mercy.
We read the story in Luke 23:39-43:
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
You can compare these verses to:
- Matthew 27:38-44
- Mark 15:27-31
With this in mind, let us now go through the 7 proofs that the thief on the cross didn’t go to heaven.
1. No one has ascended to heaven
Here’s a startling declaration of Jesus Christ that most Christians willingly or unknowingly ignore:
13 “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13).
These are the very words of our Master and Savior. Yahshua said that no one has ascended to heaven except Himself! This was written many years after Christ’s resurrection.
Yet, millions of Christians will tell you that good people will go to heaven when they die including the thief on the cross.
If Christ said that no one has ever gone to heaven, then why do we insist that the thief went to heaven?
2. There’s no mention of heaven
Go ahead, read Luke 23:39-43, Matthew 27:38-44, and Mark 15:27-31. Do you see the word “heaven” ever mentioned? No, there’s none. People have only assumed that the thief went to heaven because of the word “paradise,” which leads us to the next proof.
3. Paradise is not heaven itself
In Luke 23:43, we read:
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Many assume that the word paradise here refers to heaven.
Is this understanding correct?
The Greek word for “paradise” here is, “paradeisos.” The word itself is of Persian origin. It means an enclosed ground, park, and garden.
This is how Vine’s Dictionary defined the word paradeisos (3857):
Paradeisos is an Oriental word, first used by the historian Xenophon, denoting “the parks of Persian kings and nobles.” It is of Persian origin (Old Pers. pairidaeza, akin to Gk. peri, “around,” and teichos, “a wall”) whence it passed into Greek.
To better understand this term, we must understand a few things.
First, where is this paradise? Paul gave us the answer:
2 “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
We can see here that the Paradise is currently located in the third heaven, which is the dwelling place of the Most High God.
Second question, where will the Paradise be in the future?
In revelation 2:7, it says that the “tree of life” is found in the midst of the Paradise of God. In Revelation 22:2, it says that the tree of life is in the New Jerusalem.
Where is the New Jerusalem? It will be established here on the earth!
We read in Revelation 21:2:
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
So, we see here that the Paradise, which is currently in the third heaven will be brought down here on the earth.
Instead of us going to heaven, the Paradise will be put here on the earth!
What an incredible revelation from the Bible!
If you read through Revelation 21, it gives us the timing that the Paradise Jesus talked about would happen after the Millennial reign and when Satan is already put away.
This world would once again be a Paradise, like Eden, that is full of joy, prosperity, blessings, and life!
4. Jesus was talking about a future event
As we have just read, the Paradise that Jesus talked about will be established here on the earth. By taking into consideration all relevant verses, we can confidently conclude that Jesus was actually giving a prophecy of the future event when He will establish God’s Kingdom here on the earth.
Notice carefully what the thief said to Christ:
“Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
The thief himself knew that He will not go to heaven when he died. His words clearly show us that his request will be fulfilled in the future, not immediately.
Remember when Christ taught us how to pray, He said this:
“Your Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10).
Jesus didn’t say, “Your saints will go to heaven.” The Kingdom of God will be established on the earth!
Again, this is a future event. It didn’t happen when Christ died and was resurrected, but rather it will happen in the future as we have read earlier.
5. Translators made an error
Now, here’s where things get really interesting.
First off, we must understand that the original Greek manuscripts or texts of the Bible don’t use punctuations.
While translators made a wonderful job in adding punctions in the English translation, their bias forced them to make a huge and blatant error in translating Luke 23:43.
Here’s what Dr. E.W. Bullinger mentioned in his book, The Companion Bible, about punctuations in Bible translations:
“None of our modern marks of punctuation are found until the ninth century…The punctuation of all modern editions of the Greek text, and of all versions made from it, rests entirely on human authority, and has no weight whatever in determining or even influencing the interpretation of a single passage” (1990, Appendix 94, p. 136, emphasis in original).
Because there are no punctuations in the original Bible text, it is up to the translators where they will place punctuations such as a comma.
With this in mind, could it be that changing the placement of a comma in Christ’s statement would make a huge difference?
Let’s read that again:
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Do you notice the comma placed between the word “you” and “today?” What if you place the comma AFTER the word today? Let’s read:
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”
That COMPLETELY CHANGED the meaning of Christ’s statement!
If we change the placement of the comma in Luke 23:43, Christ was just saying that he is making a statement today — on that day!
6. Jesus didn’t go to heaven that day
Let’s take this to another level of understanding.
After the death of Christ, where did He go?
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The Scripture tells us that after the death of Christ, He didn’t go to heaven or paradise!
Instead, we read that He died and was buried and stayed in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40)!
If you read John 20:17, Christ even said that He has not ascended yet to His Father after His resurrection.
IF Christ meant that the thief will be with him ON THAT DAY in Paradise, then Christ lied. We don’t have Savior because obviously, Jesus didn’t go to heaven on that day.
Of course, Christ didn’t lie. The problem lies in the incorrect understanding of theologians and scholars.
Was the dying thief more righteous than Christ that he would go immediately to heaven while Christ was still in the grave?
7. Jesus was using a Hebrew idiomatic expression
Did you know that the statement, “Assuredly I say to you today” is a Hebrew idiomatic expression? This is a common Hebrew idiom that is used to emphasize an important or solemn statement.
The same idiomatic expression can be found in the following verses:
- 26 “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26).
- 18 “I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess” (Deuteronomy 30:18).
Thus, because of the wrong placement of the comma in Luke 23:43, the idiomatic expression Christ used was lost.
The correct placement of the comma in Luke 23:43 has been recognized by the following Bible translation and reference:
- The Concordant Literal New Testament
- Rotherham Translation
- A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament
- The Emphatic Diaglott
Why does this truth matter?
We have proven that the thief on the cross didn’t go to heaven. Instead, we have seen how the Scripture gives us ample pieces of evidence that he died and went to his grave.
The thief on the cross is waiting for the second resurrection, together with the rest of the day, where they will be taught God’s way of life and be given a chance to be part of God’s Kingdom.
Now, we come to the final question that I have for you:
Why do we even bother to know the truth about the thief on the cross?
The Bible tells us that the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32) and that we must worship God in truth (John 4:23-24).
Knowing what really happened to the thief on the cross gives us a better understanding of God’s plan of salvation. It also gives us more confidence in God’s word that they don’t contradict each other but rather they complement each other.
God is in the process of saving mankind and everyone has their own timing. Everyone will be given a chance to learn God’s way of life and truth.