Many people believe that when you die you go straight to heaven or hell. But while He walked on this earth Jesus Christ taught that death was but a sleep. He said this about Jairus' daughter in Mark 5:39, "Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." Likewise with Lazarus, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. . . . Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." Luke 11:11, 14.
What about the thief on the cross? Jesus said to him, "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43. I believe the words of this text are accurate, but the placement of the comma, of which there were none in the Greek manuscripts, is in the wrong place. Why do I think this?
For one thing the thief did not die that day, as it usually took 2 or 3 days to die on the cross, but as the Sabbath was drawing nigh, the priests requested that the thieves have their legs broken and be thrown into a pit to die.
Secondly Christ, although He did die of a broken heart that day for all mankind and was the only perfect person who ever lived on this earth, did not go straight to heaven. He told Mary this by the tomb on Sunday morning, "Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." John 20:17.
Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived tells us, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." Ecclesiaties 9:5, 6.
There is a very special promise for those who die in the Lord. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:16 - 18.
© S. D. Goeldner, February, 2013. Last updated July, 2020.
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