An examination of Luke 23:43

What happened to the evil doer who trusted Jesus?

Brian Kuehmichel
March 5, 2023

"And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." Is this the correct form of the text? Did it convey what Jesus said consistent with other Scriptures?

All mankind are under the death penalty

Jesus commended the belief of the malefactor (evil doer, criminal) upon the cross by assuring him of a future life. This concept of death under the curse upon Adam and his progeny (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 5:12; 6:23; 1Cor 15:2, whether naturally occuring by advanced age, disease, trauma, or punisment) with the subsequent disolution of the body (Job 17:6; 19:26; 21:26; Psa 16:10; 49:9; Pro 1:12; Jon 2:6; Eze 28:8; 31:14; Jn 11:39; Ac 2:31; 13:34-37; Rom 8:21; 1Cor 15:42; 2Pet 2:12) was consistent throughout the scriptures. [See: Levitical Offerings and Sacrifices]

All of those dead await the resurrection body for them to live again (Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 1Cor 15:20, 23). Thus the text in Revelation 20:4."And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls [i.e. resurrected bodies] of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

Figurative language about death

Earlier, Revelation 6:9 had stated, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held". In Exodus 29:12 the priests when presenting a burnt sacrifice were to "pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar" (Lev 1:15; 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34; 5:9; 8:15; 9:9). These souls "under the altar" "that were slain" and where the blood of the dead Levitical sacrifices was poured (following the heavenly pattern in the earthly tabernacle, Exo 25:40; Heb 8:5; 9:23) were surely dead. But true justice regarding their unjust termination from among the living was necessary.

These souls could not in reality speak while dead but only be referred to as speaking in a symbolic sense, "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" This very graphic word picture expressed an immense injustice. Before these saints died they could have expressed this concept regarding others who were so mistreated, and others could have said this about these saints.

But the dead, whether saints or not, do not 'speak' in words or even think for "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa 146:4). And since we know that evolution's spontaneous generation into life is patently false, for the Holy Scriptures declare that God is the only source of life (Psa 36:9; Isa 45:12; Rev 21:6), neither can the dead in their return to dust 'speak'. Therefor this can only be symbolic or figurative language. The description given in the previous word picture by symbolic or figurative language and a similar one given in Genesis 4:10-11 are to be understood in complete alignment with the death and decay of the human body.

Death by injustice

After Abel was killed by his brother (Gen 4:8) Abel's spilled blood was described by God in Genesis 4:10-11 as communicating, "the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground" and in Hebrews 12:24 it was described as 'speaking'. But blood dropping upon the ground says nothing itself. "For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth" (Isa 38:18). The whole scenario must be taken into account in Genesis 4:3-7. The death of Abel was testified by God and declared unjust. After Noah and his family had exited the ark God said to those eight adults in Genesis 9:6, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." This requirement was true for man or beast.

The unjust action by any image bearer, in removing another image bearer from God's precious gift of life by direct cause, called for justice to be accomplished as was previously presented in Genesis 4:11-15 upon Cain. In Genesis 9:6 the death penalty for murder or unjust death was directly commanded to all mankind, all eight of them at one time. Consistent with this the Mosaic law required capital punisment for murder (Ex 21:11, 13-14, 15, 16, 23; Num 25:15-21; 35:31) but unintended or accidental death required compensation (Ex 21:13, 18-22, 28-31; Num 35:11-15; Dt 4:42; 19:6; Josh 20:3-5, 9) and living separated until the death of the current high priest (Num 35:22-28).

Raised the third day

First Corinthians 15:20 stated, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." And Matthew 12:40 stated, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." This was affirmed in Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:64; Mark 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 13:32; 24:7, 21, 46; Acts 10:40; and in 1 Corinthians 15:4. When combined with all resurrection accounts it meant that Jesus was dead part of the first day, all of the second day and part of the third day. And Jesus became "the firstfruits of them that slept." "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1Cor 15:22).

Raised before the Savior?

If this is the correct translation and punctuation for Luke 23:43 it reads this way, "And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." How is it possible then for this evil doer to be in paradise with Jesus on the first day, the day of Jesus' death and of this believing evil doer's death, since Jesus declared explicitly he would not arise until the third day? For this believing evil doer to arrive in paradise the same day of his death, on the first day, it would mean that this evil doer was the real firstfruit from the dead but not Christ Jesus! In contrast Apostle Paul stated, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1Cor 15:20).

How is this possible that a sinner has priority over the Savior? Is the evil doer greater than Christ? "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (1Cor 15:23). Why is he made first to rise from the dead to eternal life by the incorrect translation and punctuation of Luke 23:43 instead of the true translation and punctuation, "Verily I say unto thee today, 'Thou shalt be with me in paradise'." Jesus spoke in Luke 23:43 without using the Greek word hoti, declaring this to be true without immediacy, but that it would come about later, in due time at the promised resurrection.

The use of hoti

About one week earlier Jesus used the same Greek word hoti translated "[t]his" in Luke 19:9, "And Jesus said unto him, 'This [hoti] day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.'" The use of hoti meant "this" day, consistent with Lk 2:11; 4:21; 5:26, versus some later day. It showed immediacy, i.e. beginning at that moment, of tangible salvation benefits to Zacchaeus (and any of his believing household, Lk 19:9). Zacchaeus lived in that salvation while growing as a disciple. Note the very next statement in Lk 19:11 used the Greek hoti, "because." There hoti was used to declare the immediate need for the parable presented. Likewise in Lk 19:3, 17, 21, 31. But later in Luke upon a Roman cross that believing evil doer died that same day, moments after Jesus died, with his legs broken (John 19:31-33).

In Luke 23:43 Jesus spoke without the use of hoti [without immediacy, to come about later, at another time] meaning the benefit of salvation was delayed to the evil doer on the cross unto the future resurrection day (1Cor 15:20; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 1Th 4:14-17; 5:9; 2Th 1:7, 10; 2:1; 4:16) at Jesus' second advent. The evil doer would only get to live in his salvation at the future resurrection day. In accord with the purpose of Jesus' ransom for all (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45; 1Tim 2:6) and required belief in Jesus (Acts 3:16; Rom 3:25; Gal 3:26) this evil doer was promised eternal life!

A body by which to live

A strong proof of death for Christ Jesus was in the numerous witnesses for the crucifixion event and cessation of life in the body of Jesus while in public view upon the Roman cross. One of the great proofs of the resurrection of Christ Jesus was the absence of the old body and the revealment of the new healed and restored body. The proof of his resurrection was not in a spiritual body, invisible and incomrehendable by humans, but in the complete embodiment of Christ Jesus in another human body, albeit with more capacity.

Life for humanity is only in the form of the earthen body fashioned for man of the dust of the earth and through which man was made in God's image. This human form was the body prepared for Jesus (via virgin conception and gestation within Mary) in His first advent and to which form He was restored to life by the resurrection from the dead. By God's sovereign choice this human form body will be His for eternity. [See: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ]

How then can the believing evil doer be alive without a body in which to live (Jn 5:28-29)? We cannot argue for proof of Jesus brought to life again by an invisible spirit form body. Nor can we argue that the believing evil doer can possess a body prior to that great day in which Christ Jesus will give him a resurrection body as stated in 1 Corinthians 15:23. "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."

"But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body." (1Cor 15:35-38)

Only one conclusion

The correct punctuation for translation of this statement in Luke 23:43 into English, 1) per E. W. Bullinger's notes (Jn 11:25; Acts 26:23, 1Cor 15:20, Col 1:18, 1Th 4:15-18, and Rev 1:5), 2) consistent use of the Greek word hoti, and 3) the other resurrection texts, was this, "Verily I say unto thee today, 'Thou shalt be with me in paradise'," i.e. at that future promised day (Job 19:26-27; Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). All believers in Christ who were dead (especially those witnesses for Jesus the Christ whose life was unjustly taken away, Rev 6:9-10; 20:4) are raised to life again upon Jesus' return in his second advent (1Cor 15:23; 1Th 4:14-17) but not before.

Formed - Breath - Soul - Death || Luke Presents Jesus || Messianic Prophecies || New Testament Parables || The Journeys of our Lord Jesus || The last seven days of our Lord Jesus || The Lord Jesus Prays