[quote=Rand Al’Thor]I have a protestant who has brought up the good thief to try to disprove Purgatory and Salvation. Obviously, Jesus told the good thief that “This day you will be in Paradise with me.” What would be the best answer to this?
I would ask him to re-read the passage. Notice that Jesus does NOT say “this day you will be in heaven with me.” He says, “paradise.”
These are NOT the same words, either in English or in Greek, and they do NOT mean the same thing.
The Greek word that is translated as “paradise” is paradeisos, which means a garden, like Eden. This word is Biblically unusual - it is used only three times in the New Testament. In addition to Luke 23:43 (the verse in question here), the word is used in:
*]2Cor 11:4 - “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven… and I know that this man was caught up into Paradise.”
*]Rev 2:7 - “To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God.”
[/list]In the first verse, it is not clear whether Paul is describing one vision or two. If he is describing one event, then he is saying that Paradise = Third Heaven. We don’t know exactly what “third heaven” means, but I imagine the Saints are in First or Second Heaven, for what that’s worth. It is certainly describing some order of hierarchy in the afterlife (and, therefore, this verse is often used in support of the doctrine of Purgatory). If these are two different visions then we can’t equate “paradise” with any degree of “heaven.”
The second passage from Rev further reinforces the notion that Paradise is not Heaven. The Tree of Life was in the Garden of Eden, not Heaven (and “paradeisos” means “garden”).
The word for “heaven” is “ouranos,” which is FAR more common (occurring 276 times). If Jesus had wanted to imply the man would be in heaven, He would have said so! Why did Our Lord say “paradise” instead of “heaven?”
What is this Paradise? It could be Purgatory. Some non-RCC denominations which have not rejected the notion of Purgatory actually call this place “Paradise.” For example, traditional Anglicans believe in Purgatory, but they call it Paradise.
Some contend that the “happiness” aspect of “Paradise” is not consistent with the penitintial notion of “Purgatory.” But many Catholic theologians echo the sentiments of (I think) St. Catherine of Siena, who said, “The most miserable soul in Purgatory is happier than the happiest person on earth.” (I know some Saint said that - I believe it was CoS). The souls in Purgatory suffer from the full realization of their sin, yet they know their salvation is assured.
Others think that Jesus might have been referring to the “Bosom of Abraham.” In some theological thinking, pious Jews who died before Christ went to this place to await the Savior (and Jesus built a parable around this concept). Maybe the good thief went to the Bosom of Abraham to await the Lord’s coming with the other pious Jews (he would not have had to wait long).
Our Lord did NOT say “heaven.” He said “paradise.” We can debate about whether Paradise means Purgatory or the Bosom of Abraham, but one thing is clear - it does NOT mean Heaven where the angels and Saints are gathered around the Throne of God.
The passage your friend cites actually supports the idea of Purgatory. And very strongly supports it, I might add.