Sunday, October 16, 2011

Prison or Paradise?

Paradise. When we hear this word, we think "heaven". But is that what it really means? I was reading questions on a Catholic forum where someone asked about the thief to whom Jesus said "Today you will be with me in Paradise". This person wanted to know if the thief, now forgiven by Christ, would still have to pay the consequence for his sin. Protestant knee jerk reaction would say "NO!", but then I remembered Jesus' words when He had risen. He was speaking to Mary (of Magdala) in the garden (John 16:17). He told her not to hold on to Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father. We know the Father is in heaven... so apparently Jesus hadn't been there yet. And if Jesus hadn't been there, neither had the thief to whom He said "Today you will be with me in Paradise". Well, where did He go then? What was He doing all that time? We know from 1 Peter 3:18-20 that in spirit, He went to preach to the souls "in prison" that had been there since the time of Noah. Could this prison otherwise be known as "Paradise", a sort of midway point between heaven & hell? Could it be another way of describing the concept of purgatory? Even Paul talked of being caught up into a third heaven... according to tradition, there are multiple "layers" of heaven... is Paradise one of them? If Jesus told the thief he would be with Him in Paradise on that day, might it be logical to assume that Jesus took the thief with Him when He went to "prison", so he might also hear the gospel? I don't know. It was just a thought.

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