Luke 23:43 “Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
In our Good Friday service later this week, different people have been asked to give a 3 or 4 minute thought on the 7 last words of Jesus Christ. The verse here is what I’ve been asked to speak on. I’d love to do a fuller fleshing out of so much that is packed in here, but for time/worship purposes, will probably end up reading a poem-thing I’m writing from it.
I’ve posted on the topic before, mainly copying from an interview where NT Wright spoke on the difference between “heaven” as we think of it, and where we believe God is ultimately taking/directing all things toward. As seen in the above verse, we do not believe that “paradise” is the final resting place for either Jesus or the man hanging on the cross next to him.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 reminds us that “the dead in Christ will rise”, which means even those who have already passed from life as we know it, await further happenings. But the verse mentioned from Luke assures us they are not simply stored away somewhere, frozen in time. We believe, and scriptures point to an existence for those who have passed away, that is fully present with Christ, described as “paradise”, and yet still waiting for God to complete His work fully. That is, the work of bringing a New Heaven and a New Earth together, married in a way that all things have become new. Those who have died, and those living, will receive new “resurrection” bodies (similar to the existence we see in the resurrected Christ).
So what is it like in paradise?
The word used here, denotes a place of rest and refreshing. A garden-like place. But we read this verse from a different vantage point than the man hanging next to Christ. He knew what “paradise” meant, but may not have known who Jesus was. We lack a first-hand knowledge of what Jesus means by “paradise”, but we know who Jesus is. It is enough for us, to know what where we rest between death and resurrection, is in the full presence of Jesus Christ. Whether we play hockey and drink coffee, tend a garden, or float around in orbs of light – obviously I have opinions and preferences….but I’m not too worried…
It’s kinda neat to know that whatever he’s up to….great great great grandpa and I are both anxiously awaiting the full arrival of God’s complete renewal of all things. (great great great grandma too, for that matter)