“You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43
[From ws 12/18 p.2 February 4 – February 10]
After giving us the usage and meaning of the Greek word “paradeisos” (an unspoiled naturally beautiful park or garden) paragraph 8 gives us accurate information. In summing up the scriptural evidence provided it says the following: “There is no indication in the Bible that Abraham thought that humans would get a final reward in a heavenly paradise. So when God spoke of “all nations of the earth” as being blessed, Abraham would reasonably think of blessings on earth. The promise was from God, so it suggested better conditions for “all nations of the earth.””
It follows up in paragraph 9 with David’s inspired promise that “the meek will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” David was also inspired to predict: “The righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever on it.” (Ps 37:11, 29; 2 Sa 23:2)”
The next paragraphs deal with various prophecies in Isaiah, such as Isaiah 11:6-9, Isaiah 35:5-10, Isaiah 65:21-23, and King David’s Psalm 37. These talk about “the righteous will possess the earth and live forever upon it”, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah”, the deserts having water and the grass growing there again, “the days of my people will be like the days of a tree” and similar wording. All together they paint a picture of a garden-like earth, with peace and everlasting life.
Finally, having set the scene convincingly, paragraphs 16-20 start discussing the theme scripture of Luke 23:43.
Discussing Jesus prophecy[i] that he would be in the grave 3 days and 3 nights and then raised up, paragraph 18 correctly points out “The apostle Peter reports that this happened. (Acts 10:39, 40) So Jesus did not go to any Paradise on the day he and that criminal died. Jesus was “in the Grave [or “Hades”]” for days, until God resurrected him.—Acts 2:31, 32;”
One might reasonably conclude that on this occasion the NWT translation committee got it right by moving the comma. However, another possibility is worthy of our consideration and is discussed in detail in this article: A Comma Here; A Comma There.
However, we want to draw attention to the following points:
First, the continued absence of any proper references to quotations from other sources, authorities, or writers, they are using to prove a point. Unusually there is one reference as a footnote to paragraph 18. However, the usual lack of any verifiable references resumes with the example in paragraph 19 when it says: “A Bible translator from the Middle East said of Jesus’ reply: “The emphasis in this text is on the word ‘today’ and should read, ‘Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
Is this Bible translator a scholar of the same faith? Without knowing, how can we be assured there is no bias in his evaluation? Indeed, is this a recognised scholar with qualifications or just an amateur without professional qualifications? This does not mean the conclusion is wrong, just that it is far more difficult for Beroean-like Christians to have confidence in the conclusions provided. (Acts 17:11)
As an aside, even today with agreements intended to be binding we usually sign and date documents. A common wording is to say: “signed this day in the presence of “. Thus, if Jesus was reassuring the impaled criminal that it was not an empty promise, then that wording “I tell you today” is what would have reassured the dying criminal.
The second point is that it ignores “the elephant in the room”. The article points out correctly that “We can thus understand that what Jesus promised must be an earthly paradise.” (Par.21) However, the previous sentences briefly allude to the teaching of almost all Christendom and also the Organization, namely that some will go to heaven. (The Organization restricts this to 144,000). They state “That dying criminal did not know that Jesus had made a covenant with his faithful apostles to be with him in the heavenly Kingdom. (Luke 22:29)”.
There is a difficult question that needs answering, which is avoided by the Watchtower article.
We have established that the criminal will be in paradise here on earth.
Jesus clearly states he would be with him, so that would imply Jesus would be here on earth too. The Greek word translated “with” is “meta” and means “in company with”.
It therefore follows that if Jesus is on earth with this criminal and others, then he cannot be in heaven at that time. Also, if Jesus is here on earth or in its close vicinity in the atmospheric sky of the earth then the chosen ones have to be in the same place as they are with Christ. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
“The heavenly kingdom” alluded to in that statement is described in the Scriptures in terms such as “the kingdom of the heavens” and “the kingdom of God”, describing who the kingdom belongs to or comes from, rather than where it is.
In fact Luke 22:29 cited in paragraph 21, only refers to the covenant Jehovah made with Jesus and in turn Jesus with his 11 faithful disciples. This covenant was to rule and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. The Organization interprets it as extending further, but that is by no means certain or clear from the scriptures that this particular covenant is for more than his faithful 11 disciples. Luke 22:28 states one of the reasons for this covenant or promise to them was because they were the ones who had stuck with him through his trials. Other Christians who accepted Jesus from then on would not be able to stick with Christ through his trials.
More interestingly, in the same paragraph says “Unlike the dying criminal, Paul and the other faithful apostles were selected to go to heaven to share with Jesus in the Kingdom. Still, Paul was pointing to something to come in the future—a future “paradise.””
Here the article does not quote or cite a scripture in support. Why not? Is it perhaps because one does not exist? There are a number of scriptures that are or can be interpreted that way by the Organization and by Christendom. However, is there a scripture that categorically and clearly states that humans will become spirit creatures and go to live in the heavens? By “heavens” we mean Jehovah’s presence somewhere beyond outer space.[ii]
Third, the Apostle Paul states that he believed “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Acts 24:15). If the righteous are to be resurrected to heaven as a limited number of 144,000 as taught by the Organization, where does that leave those who will live on or be resurrected to earth? With this teaching of the Organization these ones would have to be considered as part of the unrighteous. Remember too that this would also include the likes of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Noah and so forth, as they did not have a hope to go to heaven according to the Organization. Simply put, does splitting those considered righteous between heaven and earth make sense and agree with Scripture?
Food for thought for all thinking Witnesses.
[i] See Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:22-23, Mark 10:34
[ii] Please see a series of articles on this site discussing this subject in depth.