On Saturday, April 17, 2004, Norbert Link will be giving the sermon, titled, “Our Reward.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
The Thief on the Cross
by Rene Messier (Canada)
Many in orthodox Christianity teach that the “immortal soul” goes to heaven or “Paradise” at the time of our death. They use the famous statement of Jesus Christ to the thief on the cross as a “proof” text to support their belief. We must understand, of course, that the concept of an immortal soul going to heaven was taught long before the birth of Christianity, and that New Testament Scriptures are often used by some to “prove” this concept adopted from paganism. The passage regarding the thief on the cross is no exception.
Did the thief on the cross go to heaven on the day Christ told him, in Luke 23:43: “Assuredly , I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”?
There are several problems with thinking the man went to heaven that day. The first problem is that Christ was not resurrected until three days later. Even then, He Himself did not go right away to heaven at the moment of His resurrection, since He told Mary at the grave to “touch me not; for I am not yet ascended.” (John 20:17, Authorized Version).
We need to understand that there was no comma in the original text of Luke 23:43. The church has consistently taught until Mr. Armstrong’s death that the coma in the Bible had to be — and was in fact — inserted by the translators at the wrong place. Christ told the thief on that day what would happen in the future — not, that He and the thief would enter “Paradise” on that day. Correctly, the verse needs to be translated: “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
Also, “Paradise” does not have to mean, “heaven.” There is NO Scripture in the Bible promising us to go to heaven when we die! Paradise in the Greek means a park or place like the garden of Eden. We read in Revelation 2:7 that the tree of life is in the midst of the Paradise of God. Revelation 21 tells us that the Heavenly Jerusalem will descend to earth in the future, and that the tree of life will be in it — that is, in Paradise (Revelation 22:2). At that time, Paradise, with the tree of life, will be on earth — not in heaven.
Did Christ say that the thief would die and be on the very same day of his death in Paradise on earth? That would pose another problem since Paradise is not here yet — and almost 2000 years have passed since Christ made His promise to the thief. We also have a clear statement in regard to King David, a man after God’s own heart. We read in Acts 2:29 that “he is dead and buried and his tomb is with us today.” So, even after Christ’s resurrection, David was still dead and buried in his tomb. He saw corruption (Acts 13:36), and he did not ascend to heaven (Acts 2:34). Rather than believing that the souls of dead people go to heaven, the disciples believed in a future resurrection of the dead, as stated by Paul to King Agrippa in Acts 26:8: “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” Just when would this resurrection occur? For those “in Christ,” at the last trumpet, as stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 — not before then.
There are actually several possibilities as to what Christ might have promised the thief. Christ could have forgiven his sins and promised him that he would be in the first resurrection, in which case he would be resurrected at Christ’s return, when He comes to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth (compare Luke 23:42). This would occur when everyone “in Christ” will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). As an immortal spirit being, the thief would of course be in “Paradise,” when it would descend to this earth after the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment.
Another possibility is that the thief would be resurrected in the Great White Throne judgment period (Revelation 20:11-12) — when all those will be resurrected who have not received God’s Spirit in this life. If this is the case, then the thief would work out his salvation with fear and trembling, and Christ knew that he would “make it” at that time. In either case, the thief would be in Paradise with Christ, when Paradise will be established here on earth — after the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment.
In addition, by extension, the earth can be compared with “Paradise” or a beautiful garden during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. Therefore, even if we don’t replace the comma in Luke 23:43, Christ’s statement would still make sense in this way: If Christ was referring to the earth’s beautiful condition during the time of the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment, when He made His promise to the thief, then the thief would be in Paradise “that day”: He will come back to life — either in the first or the second resurrection, NOT in the third — and this would be on the “very same day” of his death, insofar as his CONSCIOUSNESS was and is concerned. As all those who have died sleep the sleep of death without any consciousness, so did and does the thief. But when he is resurrected, it will be for him “on that day” — as if just one second had passed.
The thief never went to Paradise on the day of his death, but he is awaiting a future resurrection. If “Paradise” is a reference to the earth during the Millennium and/or the Great White Throne Judgment, then the thief will be in Paradise with Christ on that day. In any event, he will be in Paradise (as mentioned in Revelation 22:2), with Christ, after the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. He will be with Christ in Paradise here on earth — not in heaven.
This Week in the News
MEL GIBSON’S MOVIE — HOTLY DEBATED
As Zenit reported on April 8, “Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ broke all box office records for a first night showing in Italy… The film took 1.22 million euros ($1.5 million) Wednesday, beating the 1.11 million first-night takings for ‘Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.’… In Germany, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders have made a joint statement to warn the film could fan anti-Semitism.”
The Austrian magazine, “Profil,” quoted a Jewish author, as follows: “Now comes Mel Gibson, the son of a notorious Jew hater and a dissenter of the Second Vatican Council, and he does, what he and the likes of him have been accusing the Jews of for the last 2,000 years.”
At the same time, as Zenit reported, “Four Anglican churches in Kent gave away $37,000 of tickets hoping to attract people back to Christ.”
Germany’s Die Welt am Sonntag published an article, titled, “The godless republic.” It noted that only 15% of the people in western Germany and 11% in eastern Germany regularly go to church, stating, “Germany is becoming a country of religious illiterates.” It pointed out that fundamental questions, such as why God allows evil to happen, are regarded as insignificant. People are only interested in a god, according to the paper, that will get them through the world comfortably. The paper stated that schools are finding it more difficult to teach the history of Christian beliefs because many children from immigrant families have little knowledge of Christianity.
AMERICAN INTERNMENT CAMPS
The BBC reported this week on the forgotten history of German Americans who were detained in American Internment Camps during World War II. The paper pointed out:
“Crystal City [in Texas]… was, during World War II, the site of a vast internment camp for Germans and German-Americans alleged, by the US authorities, to be Nazi sympathizers.” The paper quoted eyewitnesses, stating that a “family could be taken to a concentration camp, that’s what it was, for no reason other than because [the] father was German.”
The paper continued: “A growing number of campaigning German Americans are now asking for — at the least — recognition from the American government for what happened to them. That has not so far been forthcoming. People of Japanese nationality or descent held at the same camp during the war have had a full and public apology. A monument records that on the site. There is no equivalent marker for the Germans held… Altogether 10,905 Germans and German Americans were interned in the US during World War II.” Others, according to the paper, were deported to wartime Germany, a country which some of them had never visited before (!). Others were sent back to Germany, although they had left Germany when Hitler came to power (!).
The paper concluded: “For these proud Americans, there is a part of their past that they feel is denied by their own government.”
WHO IS GOD?
As Der Stern reported on March 30, 2004, a new German Bible translation is being prepared, scheduled to be published by 2006. The proposed title of the translation is: “The Bible in a Just Language.” More than 50 male and female theologians are involved in the project that is sponsored by the Protestant Church in the states of Hesse and Nassau. One of the stated goals is to replace the words “LORD” and “Father” with terms that are “less masculine.” It is claimed that there were female apostles (!), and that Paul’s admonition to women to be silent in the churches was an unauthorized addition by a later “Church father.” The incredible and appalling consequence of the project is, for instance, to translate the Biblical statement, “And God saw every thing that he had made,” as, “And God saw every thing that she had made.” When the Bible speaks of “Father,” the new translation adds the word “Mother,” or it changes it to “Origin” or “Eternal” — but in German, the word “Eternal” can be male and female, depending on the context.
In addition, the project wants to eliminate all Biblical statements that might be viewed as “anti-Semitic” (note the following article).
IS THE NEW TESTAMENT ANTI-SEMITIC?
If one wants to believe Pofil, an Austrian magazine, it is the Bible, and mainly Jesus Christ, Matthew and John, who are responsible for anti-Semitism. In its April edition, the magazine claims that only the Romans were responsible for the death of Christ, but that John changed the facts to make it appear as if the Jews had something to do with it. The magazine states that especially the records of Matthew and John are “problematic.” Jesus is charged with “blatant” anti-Semitism, when He says to his audience, in the gospel of John, that “Ye are of your father the devil.” It is claimed that John recorded this statement, as he allegedly did not want to be viewed any longer as a Jew. Profil points out that Jesus Christ does not play any role in Judaism. “The crucifixion, as it is being portrayed in the gospels, is unfortunately the central background for Christian Anti-Semitism and therefore the root of modern Anti-Semitism.” The magazine continues to claim that Jewish scholars have presented a modified version of Christ’s crucifixion, thereby dismissing portions of the gospel accounts as being inaccurate and “contradictory.”
We can only encourage our German readers and the German people in general to hold on to their current German translations (see last article), and to BELIEVE the Bible — not human reasoning and interpretations, which are inspired by ulterior motives and agendas. While no translation is perfect, some of the good and basically accurate current German translations of the Bible are: The Revised Luther Bible of 1984; The Revised Elberfelder Bible of 1987; The Revised Menge Bible of 1994; and The Zuercher Bibel.
Please explain the difference between the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. Does the Great Tribulation stop when the Day of the Lord begins? Does the Day of the Lord begin when Christ returns?
For a thorough understanding of the time frames referred to as “Great Tribulation” and “Day of the Lord,” please study our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”
In short, the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21) is followed by the Heavenly Signs (Revelation 6:12-14; Joel 2:30-31; Matthew 24:29) and by the Day of the Lord (Revelation 6:17). The indication is, from Scripture, that the Day of the Lord begins one year before Christ’s return (compare, for example, Isaiah 34:8). But even as the Day of the Lord does not end with Christ’s return, but is ongoing, so the Great Tribulation (which begins approximately 2 1/2 years prior to the Day of the Lord) does not end, either, when the Day of the Lord starts. Rather, it continues until Satan, who causes the Great Tribulation to occur, is removed from his throne.
Christ returns to cut the Great Tribulation short (Matthew 24:21-22). This means, the Great Tribulation is still ongoing — it overlaps for one year, in that sense, with the Day of the Lord. So, all in all, the Great Tribulation lasts approximately 3 1/2 years, but during the last year of the Great Tribulation, God starts to intervene — approximately one year before Christ’s actual return. That the Great Tribulation does not stop when the Day of the Lord begins, can also be seen in Jeremiah 30:7. Although technically speaking about the time of the Day of the Lord, it still refers to Jacob’s trouble, i.e. SATAN’S wrath (Revelation 12:12) or the Great Tribulation that Satan will bring upon the modern descendants of Jacob or the houses of Israel and Judah — as well as the Church of God or spiritual Israel.
The Day of the Lord is the day of GOD’S wrath. Revelation 15:1 says that the seven last plagues COMPLETE God’s wrath. Revelation 16 describes how the angels will pour out the bowls of God’s wrath (compare Revelation 15:7) onto this earth. Please note that these plagues will be poured out BEFORE Christ returns. We read in Revelation 16:14 that the sixth plague PREPARES the way for the kings to come to Jerusalem “for the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” That battle is described in Zechariah 14, and it takes place exactly at the time when Christ returns. After all, the kings will try to fight the returning Christ (Revelation 19:19).
So, we see again that the Great Tribulation lasts, technically, approximately 3 1/2 years, but the last year of that time period overlaps with the beginning of the Day of the LORD — which describes the time when God intervenes in human affairs. The Day of the Lord, then, does not BEGIN with the return of Christ, but when God starts to intervene in human affairs — which is somewhat prior to Christ’s return. Also, as we pointed out before, there is the possibility, of course, that the Great Tribulation might not even last exactly 3 1/2 years, as these days will be cut short (compare Matthew 24:22).
Set forth below are the statistics pertaining to U.S. Webpages for January – March, 2004.
“Unique Visitors” are the total number of visits by a unique internet address.
“Number of Visits” are the total number of visits by all visitors. If one individual visits a site and then comes back four more times, he will be counted as one “unique visit” and as “five number of visits.”
“Pages” is the total number of pages (only HTML and CGI type files) viewed by visitors.
“Hits” is every file requested by visitors, including pages and images.
Unique Visits Pages Hits
Jan 1451 2597 9704 40727
Feb 1688 2887 11103 55709
Mar 2099 3955 12575 47495
Jan 282 517 935 1517
Feb 267 551 905 1461
Mar 258 534 770 1300
Jan 72 113 1648 8980
Feb 68 90 395 3234
Mar 83 112 199 1128
How This Work is Financed
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