And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee. To lay shalt thou be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43
Some have assumed from this verse that souls go to their reward immediately after death, quite contrary to scores of other Bible texts. But notice two things wrong with this assumption. First: Even though Jesus told the thief "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise," three days later He told Mary that He had not yet ascended to His Father. Here is the evidence that His Father was in Paradise, Revelation 2:7 says the tree of life "is in the midst of the paradise of God," and Revelation 22:1, 2 describes the tree of life by the side of the river of life which flows, in turn, from the throne of God. So there is no question about Paradise being where the Father's throne is located. The question is How could Jesus tell the thief that He would be with him in Paradise that day, when He did not go there until three days later?
In the second place, Jesus and the thief did not even die on the same day. When the soldiers came, just before sunset, to take the bodies off the cross, Jesus was already dead (John 19:32- 34). The thieves were very much alive, and their legs were broken to hasten death and to prevent them from escaping. They undoubtedly lived past sunset into the hours of the Sabbath and possibly longer. So how could Jesus assure the thief of being with Him in Paradise that day when they did not both die on "that day"?
The apparent contradictions clear up when we consider that the punctuation of Luke 23:43 was added by uninspired men when our English Bible was translated. They placed a comma before the word "today," when in reality, it should have been placed after "today." Then the verse would correctly read "Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.'Tn other words Jesus was saying "I give you the assurance today, when it seems I can save no man; today when my own disciples have forsaken me and I'm dying as a criminal dies yet I assure you of salvation right now."
Please notice that the thief did not ask to be taken to paradise then. He asked, "Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." That's exactly when he will be remembered and taken into that kingdom.
"And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go." Exodus 4:21
It is a fascinating fact that the Hebrew word chazag is translated as hardened in almost every account of God's dealing with Pharaoh. But when Pharaoh hardened his own heart, the Hebrew word kabed is used. Why this difference?
Actually the word chazag has a literal meaning strengthen, courage. For example, we read in I Samuel 30:6 that "David encouraged himself in the Lord," but the word translated encouraged is chazag—the same word which is translated as encouraged instead of hardened, I Samuel 30:6; Deuteronomy 1:38; II Samuel 11:25; II Chronicles 35:2; Psalm 64:5; Isaiah 41:7; Deuteronomy 3:28; Judges 20:22; II Chronicles 31:4.
When we take the true meaning of the word, we find that God actually encouraged Pharaoh's heart to let Israel go. But when Pharaoh hardened his own heart, the Bible uses a word which means "to make heavy, harden" (Exodus 8:15).
But why did the encouragement of the Lord have the effect of hardening Pharaoh's heart? We might just as well ask why the same encouraging, inspiring ministry of Jesus could produce a loving John and a traitorous Judas. One was softened; the other was hardened. The same sun can soften the wax and harden the clay. Every man is exposed in some degree to the grace of Christ (John 1:9). The Lord is spoken of as a sun (Psalm 84:11) who lightens every man. Some reject the light and grow hard (Zechariah 7:12). Some accept and are softened. It's all in the response of the material.
"And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat."—Acts 10: 37
This chapter gives the interesting account of the Gentile Cornelius who prayed for the truth. God appeared to him in verse 3 and told him to send men to Joppa and invite Peter to come and teach him.
As the servants of Cornelius approached Peter's house, he fell into a trance on the housetop, and saw a sheet let down from heaven. In the sheet were all manner of beasts and creeping things and fowls, moles, bats, buzzards, etc. A voice invited Peter to eat them, but he said "Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean' (verse 14).
Some people contend that Christ cleansed all food when He was here, but, if so, Peter knew nothing about it. He had spent three and one-half years with the Master and listened to his instructions. Yet Peter had gathered no intimation that those unclean animals could be eaten. Peter did not know what the vision meant. Verse 17 says, "Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men . . . stood before the gate." He was pondering it. Again in verse 19, "While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee."
Apparently, on the way back to Cornelius' house the Lord answered Peter's ponderings and showed him the meaning of his vision. When he entered the house full of Gentile friends, Peter said, "Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (verse 28).
The meaning was now clear. It had nothing to do with diet. The gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles from henceforth.