As Jesus was taken away to be crucified, there were two criminals taken with him to be put to death. This fulfilled Isaiah 53:12, which said he would be numbered with transgressors. Luke says that they came to a place known as the skull. It is also known as Golgatha which comes from an Aramaic word for skull. There, they crucified Him and the criminals with one on each side of Him. Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The soldiers cast lots and divided his garments among them, which fulfilled what was written in Psalm 22:18. People watched and the rulers scoffed at Him, saying “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked, offering Him sour wine to drink.
One prisoner began to mock as well, but the other rebuked him and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus told him that this day he would be with Him in paradise (verse 43). Jesus, as we saw in other passages, did have the authority to forgive sins, and He exercised it there. So what did Jesus mean by that? Since His body was to be in the tomb for three days, after which He would arise from the dead, how could He be with this criminal in Paradise that day? And just what is this Paradise?
This is a point that many of us have spent some time reflecting upon, as much confusion is caused surrounding this topic. Does the soul merely sleep after the body dies until resurrection day? Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “…we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve…” Or was that merely a statement that they are not really dead? When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:54-55), he had told those present that she was merely sleeping.
The scripture also says that on the occasion of that girl’s resurrection, her spirit returned. We have other scripture where people are dying, saying their souls departed (such as Jacob’s wife Rachel in Genesis 35:18). There is, of course, much we do not yet know, but we can surmise from all of this that there is a place indeed called Paradise that our souls do go to when we die. Paul also spoke of it in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4.
The parable Jesus told in Luke 16:22-26 about the poor man, Lazarus, who died and was at Abraham’s bosom may be allegorical, but it certainly contains some truths about death and what happens to the soul thereafter. Jesus told parables to instruct. This writer does not believe that He would have done so with misleading or even incorrect facts in those parables. The rich man of that parable was consciously aware of what was going on in the place where his soul went. And he saw Lazarus in his place also alert to his surroundings. I believe that at the very least, this depiction of their states must be a fair representation of the status of the soul upon death of the body.
It appears then, that the Christian can take comfort in knowing that faithful loved ones who have gone on before are not just unconscious souls waiting for judgment day. Like Lazarus in Luke 16:25, they are being comforted there. And because of Jesus’ victory over death, we will be raised in a new spiritual body one day.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.