Question: The thief on the cross?


Last night my wife (a Baptist) and I debated on the differences in our faith. Her points were: 1. Did not see the need for confession to a priest when she felt in her heart that God personally absolved her. 2.Why should a Baptist not take communion at Mass vs. why should a Catholic refuse to participate in the Lord’s Supper at a Baptist church, etc. The one good point she did make was about purgatory. Her point was the Jesus told the thief as bad and sinful as he had been that “today you will be with me in paradise” meaning that the theif did not have to suffer the pain of purgatory so therefore there was no such thing as purgatory. I did not really know how to answer that??

I was just wondering how would purgatory be explained to someone who throws that back at you. I was able to explain the other aspect of our beliefs to her but not that one. Please help.


Well…if we really want to look at it, the thief made a confession…so in my opinion, he received the Sacrament and was in the state of Grace when he passed…

Purgatory doesn’t mean that you will NEVER get to Heaven, and today, well, how many times have you heard people say that God’s time and our time are different?

Then I like to ask people, “are you holy enough right now, at this moment to be beside Christ in Heaven?” usually, they say “no”…well, that’s what purgatory is for…to get you there.

I’m not a good debater or apologists, or whatever…


the thief … when I read that passage the other day for some reason, I knew that it was speaking about reconcilation. And it was really the first time I had thought about it. :rolleyes:


The thief very well could have suffered his purgatory on the cross. I believe that God uses suffering as a way to purify us. Suffering is needed to humble us. It reminds us of our need for God’s mercy and grace. The theif showed us an example of this. While he was suffering on the cross he realized his need for God’s love. The other thief, however, even dying on the cross, did not find the need for God’s love. And I don’t know if he wanted it or not, but I heard that people suffering in purgatory are longing for nothing more than to be with God. They are in so much anguish just at the feeling of not having God in their lives.

Another way to explain this is… Heaven is timeless. I don’t know if purgatory is timeless or not but Jesus said “today you will be with me in paradise”. Maybe that meant that, because he was dying “today” and because after life is timeless, he will be in heaven “today” even though he has to suffer purgatory.

Either way that you look at it, you still uphold Catholic beliefs.


First, read and study your faith!

  1. Jesus specifically gave the Apostles power over sin - just after He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. Confession of sin was an ages old Jewish practice as part of the atonement process. So, there is a linkage from OT to NT as far as confession goes. Also, when Christ forgave sins, He told the person each time, “Your sins are forgiven”. Why? So that they would know the moment of grace. He never forgave sins without telling them. The Apostles , once given this unprecedented power over sin, continued the practice exactly as Jesus had shown them.

  2. As Saint Paul said, if you eat and drink the Lord’s Supper without discerning the body and blood, knowing that it is Christ’s Flesh and Blood, you eat and drink damnation unto yourself. It’s in 1 Corinthians. The Catholic church does in no way want Christians to eat and drink damnation unto themselves by failing to discern, or by eating unworthily. Likewise, you need not sin by partaking of a snack at the Baptist church and falsely believing it to be the actual Body and Blood of Christ.

  3. Purgatory. Nothing unclean may enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Everyone dies with some level of persona sin. How is this cleansed? Purgatory. The thief was not even water Baptized. However, he was baptized in his own blood - one of three methods recognized by the church. Water is the normal route, with desire and blood being the unusual forms. The thief died during his baptism, and so had no personal sin. His soul was cleaner than the day he was born.

You need to bone up fast! Go to and get some of John Martignoni’s apologetic CDs. He’s right down the road in Pleasant Grove! Your Catholic practices look silly if you cannot explain why you do them. The CDs are free, or you can send any amount to cover their cost. He uses scripture to explain everything, which will appeal to your bible only spouse. Hurry!

Christ’s peace.


Jesus did not ascend to heaven right away, so he could have meant that the thief would go to paradise or “Abraham’s Bosom”. In the Apostles Creed, it says he died, was buried, and descended into hell. He went their to bring the souls that were worthy of heaven with him. So Jesus could have very well meant that the thief would be going to Abraham’s Bosom.


What good would it have been for Jesus to have given his apostles the power to forgive sin if He didn’t expect them to use it?

The English word communion is derived from the Latin communis “in common, public, general, shared by all.” Does she (as a Baptist) share a common belief with you (as a Catholic) about
*]the source of authority (Scripture alone vs. Scripture+Tradition+Magisterium)
*]how many books there are in the Bible, anyway (66 vs. 73)
*]the authority of the pope (none vs. successor of Peter the Rock)
*]sacraments (7)
*]etc.[/LIST]If she does not share these beliefs, then she should also not share in communion at Mass. Ditto Catholics participating in the Lord’s Supper at a Baptist church.

Someone already mentioned “Nothing unclean may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” There are plenty of other scriptural references at For example:

Christ refers to the sinner who “will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32), suggesting that one can be freed after death of the consequences of one’s sins. Similarly, Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). Now this loss, this penalty, can’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there; and heaven can’t be meant, since there is no suffering (“fire”) there. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory alone explains this passage.


Not only while on the cross but a significant amount of time while he was still free from the cross. If we will analyze the words and gesture of the thief, we will realize that he knows (aware of who Jesus really is) and believes Jesus, maybe more than some of his disciples do. He suffered just enough and believed enough to be with Jesus in Paradise “today”.

I have an article about that but sadly it is not in English:


Somebody on another thread made asked interesting question about the thief on the cross.

How do we know he was not baptized?

He could have received baptism from John or one of Jesus’ disciples.

We just assume that he was not baptized because he is being crucified as a criminal.

This rather novel and interesting observation sparked a related question in my mind:

When did the disciples begin to baptize in the Trinitarian formula?

Was there Trinitarian water baptism before the resurrection?

If there were, would it be efficacious?

I think that an official command to do so comes immediately before the ascension. (Matthew Chapter 28) but were the disciples already doing so before Jesus died?

We have John Chapter 4:1-3: “Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again to Galilee.”

Was the Baptism of Christ’s Disciples different from that of John’s (prior to the resurrection)?

Luke 3:16 “John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.”

Theologically I do not know that it matters if the thief was or was not baptized with water using the Trinitarian formula. But I think it is an accurate observation that we are assuming that he was not. Though I think this is a reasonable assumption, it is still an assumption and we do not really “know” for sure.



Think of it this way.

The Churches are not IN COMMUNION, are they? She knows this.

So why would they receieve COMMUNION? It doesn’t make sense, even from a literal, dictionary standpoint


The verse in question does use the word “Paradise” rather than “Heaven” (at least in the RSV and NAB translations).

The word “Heaven” is used plenty of other places in scripture.

Is a different word used here in the underlying Greek?

“kai eipen autw, amhn soi legw, shmeron met emou esh en tw paradeis“

I’ve got no idea what that says. (Help! What’s a good website to use for looking at the translation from Greek to English. I’m sure I saw one where you could look at each word etc. But I can’t recall it’s location.)



You know, I’d be interested in the Biblical support for this. Where does the Bible say we will feel in our hearts that God has personally absolved us of our sins?

In the gospels, when Jesus forgave sins, did he ever ask, “Do you feel in your heart that God has personally absolved you?”

I’m constantly amazed that “Bible only” Christians believe so much that is nowhere to be found in the Bible.


Ok slowly but surely answering my own question.

The greek word is: παραδείσῳ (paradeisō) which apparently is used only twice in scripture and rendered as “paradise” both times and is related to the Hebrew word used for the “paradise” of the garden of eden.

As opposed to the word “Heaven” we find in Luke 15:7 that is clearly the heaven where God and the angles reside. The word used here is: οὐρανῷ (ouranō) its root is a word which stands for “air, heaven, sky”. Various derivatives seem to show up in scripture some 273 times. (This particular flavor 35, times.) and is sometimes translated usually as “Heaven” but sometimes as “sky”.

So it would seem that Luke chose a little used word that was intended to denote some place other than the Heaven where God and the Angels reside when he wrote verse 23:43.



Your wife has a fundamentalist mindset and only sees things in terms of literal black and white. You have only 2 options: 1) Make an appeal to reason by forcing her to see the blatant error of a fundamentalist mindset by giving her a vivid example of how she is living in direct contradiction to a fundamentalist perspective or 2) Learn to live with the fact that some people simply can not be reached by reason and only the Holy Spirit can heal them and touch them.

For option 1 you might want to sit down with her and read her Ephesians 5:22-24.

"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
24But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. "

Explain to her that in a literal sense she must listen to what you say and accept it as truth. Tell her to simply convert to Catholicism and be obedient. :smiley: Of course she will balk and say ‘that is not what the words mean’ or ‘that this is a teaching that has been deprecated and replaced by our new modern traditions and culture and is no longer applicable’. But it’s a good springboard to get her thinking how she can pick and choose when to be a fundamentalist and a pragmatist.

If she can admit that she sometimes accepts literal and sometimes accepts a specific interpretation then ask her why she chose the Baptist interpretation that has only been around at most 400 years over the Catholic Church interpretation that has been around 2,000 years. Ask her what minister in the lineage of Baptist church ever personally knew Jesus or the disciples? Explain to her that the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church were taught directly from a chain of predecessors who all extend from apostles who personally knew Jesus and how we are part of the same lineage and family.

Then just point her to one of the many good Catholic answers websites that some here already have given to read for herself the correct teaching in these areas.

Pray a lot.



Hey, Chuck! As to the trinitarian formula, Christ instructed the Apostles to do so just before He ascended as recorded in Matthew 28, but it is highly likely that this was the formula consistently used, especially since He accompanied the Apostles on baptisms.

As to the thief, I think his example was given to show God’s mercy toward those who repent even at the last minute, a parallel to the vineyard workers in Matthew 20. He was likely a career criminal, since he was being executed for his crimes. If that were the case, his example stands as an even brighter case of the Lord’s mercy.

Christ’s peace.


It’s good that you’re discussing these matters. :thumbsup:

  1. There’s a longer answer, but confession to a priest IS confessing to God. How easy is it to ask God for forgiveness (when he’s not visibly there, and doesn’t carry on an audible conversation) vs. through the person of a priest? Very easy. It’s a lot more difficult to “confess (our) sins to one another”, but also more cleansing when we’ve got it out.

  2. Real presence; Catholics taking “Baptist communion” are merely getting a wafer or piece of bread; it’s symbolic. Baptists who take “Catholic communion” don’t appreciate the true presence i.e. it’s sorta like apples and oranges.

  3. Purgatory; I like the previous answer that said the thief suffered plenty before entering paradise. In fact, that’s a pretty good representation of Purgatory may be like. It may be an instant, it may be a millenium, it may be painful, it may not be, but anyone who is not 100% clean cannot enter heaven, and when we die none of us is 100% clean.

Personally, I never had a problem with Purgatory when I converted, as it was explained to me as more of a ***process ***than a specific place.


That hardly passes for an intelligent argument against Purgatory. The basic assertion is that because one person didn’t experience something then that something doesn’t exist at all. How silly. That’s akin to me saying that I’ve never given birth to a child; therefore, no one else has suffered the pain of child birth.

– Mark L. Chance.


Catholic Confession

"I Find No Sacraments In the Bible" he said.

2.Why should a Baptist not take communion at Mass vs. why should a Catholic refuse to participate in the Lord’s Supper at a Baptist church, etc.

[/FONT]he Eucharist IS Scriptural

and Ecclesia de Eucharistia explains as follows.

  1. Precisely because the Church’s unity, which the Eucharist brings about through the Lord’s sacrifice and by communion in his body and blood, absolutely requires full communion in the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments and ecclesiastical governance, it is not possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic liturgy until those bonds are fully re-established. Any such concelebration would not be a valid means, and might well prove instead to be an obstacle, to the attainment of full communion, by weakening the sense of how far we remain from this goal and by introducing or exacerbating ambiguities with regard to one or another truth of the faith. The path towards full unity can only be undertaken in truth. In this area, the prohibitions of Church law leave no room for uncertainty,92 in fidelity to the moral norm laid down by the Second Vatican Council.93

I would like nonetheless to reaffirm what I said in my Encyclical Letter *Ut Unum Sint *after having acknowledged the impossibility of Eucharistic sharing: “And yet we do have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one Eucharist of the Lord, and this desire itself is already a common prayer of praise, a single supplication. Together we speak to the Father and increasingly we do so ‘with one heart’”.94

  1. While it is never legitimate to concelebrate in the absence of full communion, the same is not true with respect to the administration of the Eucharist* under special circumstances, to individual persons *belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this case, in fact, the intention is to meet a grave spiritual need for the eternal salvation of an individual believer, not to bring about an *intercommunion *which remains impossible until the visible bonds of ecclesial communion are fully re-established.

This was the approach taken by the Second Vatican Council when it gave guidelines for responding to Eastern Christians separated in good faith from the Catholic Church, who spontaneously ask to receive the Eucharist from a Catholic minister and are properly disposed.95 This approach was then ratified by both Codes, which also consider – with necessary modifications – the case of other non-Eastern Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.96

  1. In my Encyclical* Ut Unum Sint* I expressed my own appreciation of these norms, which make it possible to provide for the salvation of souls with proper discernment: “It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid”.97

These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders.98

The faithful observance of the body of norms established in this area 99 is a manifestation and, at the same time, a guarantee of our love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, for our brothers and sisters of different Christian confessions – who have a right to our witness to the truth – and for the cause itself of the promotion of unity.[/LEFT]


The one good point she did make was about purgatory. Her point was the Jesus told the thief as bad and sinful as he had been that “today you will be with me in paradise” meaning that the theif did not have to suffer the pain of purgatory so therefore there was no such thing as purgatory. I did not really know how to answer that??

I was just wondering how would purgatory be explained to someone who throws that back at you. I was able to explain the other aspect of our beliefs to her but not that one. Please help.

Biblical and Jewish Traditional Beliefs About Purgatory


Purgatory is paradise - at least in the sense of perceiving purgatory as a dimension of heaven. I hate poor and simplistic analogies but maybe purgatory is simply heaven’s mud room.

We have a somewhat static view of heaven; that it is simply a place to get into and then just stand around doing God knows what. I have to believe that a vital component of what we perceive heaven to be is understanding and realization. Or, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. The great joy of heaven may well be not only union with God, but a realization of how our lives on earth served, pleased, and glorified our God. The more we are faithful to His call here on earth, the more we will realize and understand how our lives were a expression of our love for our Creator.

Purgatory may well be that antechamber where we realize how the sinfulness of our lives, and the vestiges of sin that remain with us as we prepare to enter the fullness of the perfection of God, caused a rift in a relationship that was and is painful for both sides. Purgatory may well be that dimension where, when that realization comes to us, we leave it behind and enter into God’s presence, unsullied and worthy of His presence. And it will be Jesus Christ who takes us through that process. A process that will entail some suffering. After all, when you truly love someone and hurt that person, don’t you suffer within? Realization and understanding often causes joy, but it also can cause pain.


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