Luke 23:43—Did Christ err when He told the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise the day Christ died?
Problem: If Christ did not go to heaven until at least three days after His death, how can the thief be in paradise the day Christ died?
Solution: Christ’s soul went immediately to paradise, which is the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2–4), but His body went to the grave for 3 days. Jesus said on the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46, niv), which indicates His soul went to be with the Father in heaven the very instant He died. When Jesus said to Mary after His resurrection, “I have not yet ascended to My Father,” He was referring to His body ascending into heaven 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1), not to his soul going to heaven between death and resurrection. Thephrase “descended into hell” is not in the earliest Apostles’ Creed but was added much later. (See comments on Eph. 4:8.)
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.