40 blogs of Lent, day 33
7 words from the cross
Today you will be with me in Paradise
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him,“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:39-43
I say to you, today you will be with me
I say to you today, you will be with me.
Where the comma goes is important, it changes the meaning of the text. A lot of it is inconclusive, so it will not help to waste any words on trying to find the definitive meaning where the text is inconclusive. Instead I an thinking about what the two readings agree on. The destination — paradise.
But is heaven the same as paradise?
In popular culture Heaven is a place on Earth but Paradise is twice as nice. Milton’s Paradise Lost, was a picture of the Garden of Eden. Which is closer to the truth than old pop songs. The word paradise is based on an old word for garden, Eden is there in the meaning. Paradise is a place on Earth and Heaven is twice as nice is more accurate, but it isn’t very poetic.
Somewhere between the derivation of the word and the modern use is the meaning that was in Jewish usage at the time of Jesus. It was still a garden but had moved on from Eden to be a metaphor for the place where God is.
So Paradise is just another name for Heaven?
Yes and No.
No because there is a distinction. Paradise is used here and elsewhere in the new testament as a spiritual place, but Jesus has been teaching about the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Heaven using earthly terms. The kingdom of Heaven is here, he taught.
Heaven is to be found on Earth, but the garden, Paradise is a spiritual place. Theology has been stood on its head.
I named this blog Assurance because those who trust in Jesus have assurance that they will be where God is. Whether that is immediate on death or at a resurrection at the end of time is not clear, but the outcome is clear, our ultimate destination is to be with God.