This Week's Focus Passage

Luke 23:43 ‘Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.’

Luke 23:43 ‘Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.’

When anyone passes away from this life, we invariably hear someone make the statement that ‘they are with God,’ or, ‘they are in heaven.’ And although the Roman Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of purgatory, we virtually never hear it said of one of their communicants, upon passing, that they are in purgatory. What is their doctrine of purgatory? We initially reached for a dictionary, but to be fair, let us consult their teaching from their very own catechism. It is found under the title of, “The Final Purification, or Purgatory.” In the words of this document:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.”

“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.”

Does that align with your concept of Paradise? Whatever Paradise is, have you not had the idea from youth that it was something to be desired? Well, now let’s turn to a dictionary, We have a copy handy of Webster’s New World Dictionary which defines for us ‘Paradise’ in the following language. They have actually given three options for us to choose from; of course, we may choose all three if we like.

  1. “The Garden of Eden. 2. Heaven. 3. Any place or state of great happiness.”

These seem to be three very happy choices. We would even expect to see obituaries with similar platitudes; ‘John has gone to heaven,’ ‘John is in a better place,’ or even ‘John always loved keeping his garden,’ yet nowhere do we expect to ever read an obituary, ‘John has gone on to purgatory.’ No, Jesus told the repentant thief in words unmistakable, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.’

There are but two other passages in the Bible where we may find the word, or the term, ‘Paradise.’ And in this matter, there is agreement between the major English translations of the Holy Scriptures; KJV; NJKV; ASV; and NASB. The first, next to our focus passage that is, is found in Paul’s epistle to the church that was at Corinth. In his second epistle to that particular church, the apostle wrote these enigmatic expressions to his readers in Corinth about a certain vision or revelation that he had experienced; he began with the following:

I must needs glory, though it is not expedient; but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up even to the third heaven. and I know such a man (whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth), how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeak -able words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.—2 Cor. 12:1-4.

Here then is Paul’s experience of Paradise. As we already allowed, it is enigmatic. And we cannot honestly report precisely what Paradise is, and what it is like. But we can, without reservation, say what it is not, and what it is not like. One may actually hear words unspeakable in purgatory, but I seriously doubt that it would be anything like to what the apostle referred. What Paul was speaking of was glorious, for he was most concerned that the revelation or vision would not lead him to glory overmuch. Certainly, if it had been anything even approaching the fires of purification in Purgatory, there had been no danger of Paul feeling excessively exalted.

The third occasion where we may find the employment of the term, or word Paradise, is in the last book in our Bibles. In Revelation 2, and in the closing of the first letter to the churches in Asia Minor; namely to the church in Ephesus, John was commanded to write, among other things, that they had left their first love. He exhorts them to ‘hear what the Spirit saith to the churches, closing with this promise:

To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.—Revelation 2:7.

This epistle from Christ to the angel of the church in Ephesus absolutely overflows with accolades from ‘he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand.’ His only charge against them is that they had left their first love. But by no means whatever diminishing that most blameworthy neglect, he calls them to repent and do their first works. He exhorts them to hear what He says to them, and calls upon them to do, adding the promise for obedience that it will be granted them to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. Through this we learn that Paradise involves a fruit that gives life and gives it eternally. It is the garden of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. It is heaven, yes; and it is a place or state of great happiness: being with Christ.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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