"This day you shall be with me in Paradise"?

Yet Christ spent 3 days in hell and when He met Magdalene He said “do not hold on to me for i have not yet ascended to the Father”.
Any thoughts on how this contradiction can be reconciled?


“Paradise” is not heaven. Can’t be as Jesus had not yet ascended. Remember the parable of Lazarus and the rich man? That was a place of comfort, but not heaven, as the gates were still closed. Saint Peter wrote that our Lord descended to the dead to preach the Gospel to them. So it follows…

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Here are a few possibilities:

1: It’s simply a reassuring figure of speech, to let the thief know he had been saved by his honoring of Christ and show of humility.

2: Paradise in this case refers to Abraham’s Bosom, which is where the souls of the righteous dead went before the gate of Heaven were reopened to them. The thief went there with Jesus, and then went to Heaven with all the other righteous dead. He probably need a topping of in Purgatory, though it is entirely within God’s power to make that cleansing instantaneous.

3: The Time of Heaven is not the same as the Time of our physical existence. We know that we will have same concept of “time” in the afterlife, but we do not know how that time relates to the time we know now. It may be that Jesus did not intend a 24-hour block of time when He said “day”.

Personally, I lean towards options 1 and 2. A lot of people take every word Jesus said as being 100% literal, and that just doesn’t make sense. He uses parables and idioms throughout His ministry, and I’ve always just assumed this is another such instance. The point is that Jesus wanted the thief to know that he was saved for his show of faith and humility.

Honestly, I kinda think it was much more for our benefit than for the thief’s. I don’t believe that man was there on accident. God wanted to show us that it doesn’t matter how late you find your faith, you can always be saved if you turn to God with a repentant heart.


I agree with you on the second point. When Jesus says paradise, he is meaning the paradise of Abrahams Bosom. And the harrowing of Hell is better translated the harrowing of Hades, which in early church thought was two separate areas, paradise/Abrahams Bosom, and torment. So the thief went to Abrahams Bosom with when Jesus went to hades commonly translated unfortunately as hell. Here, Jesus harrowed hades which was full of the Old Testament saints in paradise and as well contained all the damned that were in torment such as the rich man, which agrees with St. Peter’s writings about Jesus preaching to the spirits in the their prison which would be the damned in torment.

Furthermore, punctuation was added centuries after the Bible was written. Just because the English-speaking world’s current Bibles read, "I tell you, this day you shall be in paradise’ doesn’t mean that was what Jesus actually said.

A simple move of the comma gives you a completely different reading, "I tell you this day, you shall be in paradise’. . .instead of the emphasis on "this day you shall be in paradise’ it becomes, “I tell you THIS DAY” with the emphasis being on telling ‘here and now’. I’m not saying this is the absolute and only way to read the text, but I am saying that holding to a reading with the punctuation of "I tell you, this day you shall be with Me in Paradise’ is not the only possible punctuation/interpretation.


The days are long in God’s time.

I recall someone on a board advancing a similar proposition - - it is meant to be “this day I say to you” and that that phrase was an idiom for “I am telling the truth” or similar meaning. Emphasis on the destination, not the time associated with it.

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not so much, in that Baptism opens the gates of heaven, (see St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea, where the Patristic Fathers said it not only applied to the Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16), but of all who are baptized) and many had been baptized by the Apostles prior to the passion…and while there is no scriptural indication that St. Dismas (the penitent thief) was baptized, neither is there indication he was not.



Personally I view the criminal on the cross being the first baptism of desire.


Which is kinda a silly thing to say, no? I mean, if I say “this day I say to you”, how would that make sense? I mean, “I say to you” might mean “I am telling you the truth”, but “this day”? How would that differ from “yesterday I am telling you” or “tomorrow I am telling you”? No… trying to make that case seems to lead to erroneous interpretations.

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This question is a repeat.

Anyway, what contradiction? Paradise isn’t heaven. It’s the limbo of the fathers.


I have always heard that Jesus opened the gates at His ascension. Guess I’m gonna have to die in a state of grace and ask.


Even if paradise meant heaven, wouldn’t the thief be meeting God there? Who else was he speaking to?

That’s what the SDAs say, to bring Jesus’ words into conformity with their doctrine of “soul sleep.”

In the Hebrew translation of the NT, “Paradise” in this saying is Gan-Eden, the Garden of Eden.

When you’re God “today” can be anytime He wants it to be, as He is not bound in any way by time. We see today as right here right now, however God can see “today” as a time in the past, present, or future. It about like saying “My hour has come.” It’s not like Jesus would be looking at a watch and trying to pinpoint that exact time. There is no contradiction at all, it is God speaking.

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Who said he spent 3 days in Hell? He went to Sheol to open the gates for the righteous to go up to Heaven. I doubt that took 3 full days, and he presumably didn’t hang around Sheol after accomplishing this, but instead led the righteous into glory.

Also, God’s time isn’t like our time. A “day” in the afterlife does not equate to our earthly day. On “this day” (meaning earthly day) St. Dismas no doubt died after having his legs broken by the soldiers. Since Jesus was already dead before St. Dismas died, it’s highly likely Jesus had already gone to Sheol, opened the gates, and St. Dismas therefore did not even need to pass through Sheol upon death but instead went straight to Jesus in Heaven.

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Modern Catholic Dictionary:

PARADISE. A synonym for heaven. Jesus spoke of it in his promise to the good thief on the Cross (Luke 23:43). In only two other places in Scripture is it used in place of heaven. There is a reference to “the tree of life set in God’s paradise” (Revelation 2:7). Paul wrote about a man in Christ “caught up into paradise” (II Corinthians 12:4). (Etym. Greek paradeisos , park, the Garden of Eden, paradise; from Persian pairidaēza , an enclosure.)


The Creed clearly indicates Jesus opened the gates between his death and the resurrection (as there was no other reason for Jesus to “descend into Hell” at that point). The Catechism, in explaining the Creed, also indicates this, saying that Jesus went into hell (Sheol) to free the souls of the righteous who were there. (CCC 633)


You likely got your idea that this freeing of souls happened after the Ascension from the old Baltimore Catechism, which as I always say, was not an official catechism of the Church.

Q. 416. Who were present at the ascension and who ascended with Christ?

A. From various parts of Scripture we may conclude there were about 125 persons – though traditions tell us there was a greater number – present at the Ascension. They were the Apostles, the Disciples, the pious women and others who had followed Our Blessed Lord. The souls of the just who were waiting in Limbo for the redemption ascended with Christ.

This seems to be at odds with our current Catechism. The current official Catechism section on the Ascension contains no such discussion.


From what I have read about the Harrowing of Hell, there has been theological debate on this point of exactly when the souls of the righteous in Sheol went to Heaven. For me the debate is resolved by (a) the current official catechism taking the position that Jesus freed the righteous dead between the Crucifixion and Resurrection, and (b) Jesus’ words on the cross to St. Dismas, “this day” - not later on.

I don’t think Jesus’ use of the word Paradise is a significant difference from Heaven, since St. Dismas was clearly going to enjoy the Beatific Vision if he was going to be “with Jesus” wherever he was.


I think this is the generally accepted interpretation of how St. Dismas got to Heaven without baptism on earth.

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