A Question I Was Asked:

How Could the Thief on the Cross Be In Paradise That Day? Aren't There Complications With This?

I'm sure you are very familiar with this reasoning as it is not a new one. Now here is the problem. Christ died, was buried we believe on the Friday....was in the grave Saturday....and arose Sunday morning early...on the first day of the week. On that morning, He appeared to Mary and said..."Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I will ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God." (John 20:17.KJV.) If Christ had not yet ascended to heaven, how is it that the thief could be with Christ in Paradise on the same day of the crucifixion?

UK Apologetics Reply:

This is a very interesting question for sure, and here, I believe, is your explanation:

It appears that after Christ rose from the dead He ascended to Heaven sometime during The First Day of the week - I mean that very day but after speaking to Mary etc. This was typified in the wave sheaf offering during the Days of Unleavened Bread - this offering had to be offered on the day after the Sabbath, that being Sunday. Jesus fulfilled an Old Testament festival upon being resurrected. This festival, in which a priest waved "a sheaf of the firstfruits of [Israel's] harvest" before the Lord, was held each year on the day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:10-11). After acceptance in Heaven on that First Day, Christ returned to earth until Pentecost, but now He was fully glorified. Now others could touch Him, as He encouraged Thomas to touch Him (John 20:24-28).

Christ was the very first of the "firstfruits," the first and very finest offering one can give to God. Those who, as Christians, have laboured with preaching the Gospel during their present lives will, it seems, make up the remainder of the 'firstfruits.' The 'latterfruits' - if one may use such a term - would be a much bigger group of perhaps lower quality who find mercy from God right at the end of time. All of this roughly mirroring what happens in the crop cycle when one grows vegetables.

But What of the 'Day' to the Thief on the Cross?

Regarding the thief on the cross being in Paradise that "day," that is, the day of the crucifixion, is there not a slight problem? After all, even Jesus would not be raised until the Sunday. But I think that we have to accept that 'day' might sometimes be a little bit looser in Scripture than in our way of using it. First we must, I believe, reject the 'punctuation argument' which I am not going into here since I think we have covered it elsewhere. We must understand that - in his next moment of consciousness - the thief was indeed in Paradise. So this does not mean that he would eventually get there at some far off point in time, no, he was there in his next second of consciousness and is that not "this day" for all intents and purposes? As we count 'days,' he might not have been there for two or three days (after Christ was raised) but - spiritually - he was there 'that day' - enough said. The problem comes in when a few start to say, okay, if 'day' is looser in Scripture, perhaps the days of creation are also just loose eras of time. No, in that particular case they are wrong, I believe, because in the creation account the text is very, very careful to point out that these were literal days (the evening and morning were the third day' etc., etc).

Robin A. Brace. November 14th, 2015.