“Today You Will be with Me in Paradise”
by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
One of the most outspoken critics of the Bible’s inspiration over the past two decades has been author Dennis McKinsey. Over a sixteen-year period in the 1980s and 1990s, he edited a journal called Biblical Errancy, which was touted as “[t]he only national periodical focusing on Biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists” (McKinsey, 1983, 1:1). He also published two books on the subject of Bible “errors”: The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (1995) and Biblical Errancy (2000). One of his writings that seems to have spread more widely than others is a pamphlet he authored on why Jesus should be rejected as man’s God and Savior. Allegedly, man should reject Jesus as Lord for many reasons, including why He lied about His whereabouts to the thief on the cross. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “[T]oday you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). But McKinsey asks: “How could they have been together in paradise that day if Jesus lay in the tomb for three days?” (McKinsey, n.d.).
Although McKinsey has asked what he feels is a rhetorical question (that begs the negative answer, “He could not have seen the thief on the cross during this time”), those who are even remotely familiar with Scripture surely recognize how weak and uninformed this allegation truly is. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament reveal that man is composed of both soul/spirit and body (Zechariah 12:1; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 5:5). At death, the spirit separates from the body. When Rachel died, Genesis 35:18 says, “her soul was departing;” it separated from her body. After the death of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus commanded her to “arise,” after which “her spirit returned, and she arose immediately” (Luke 8:54,55, emp. added). Implied in this statement is the fact that her spirit had departed from her body at death. Where did the spirits of Rachel and Jairus’ daughter go? To the realm of departed spirits, known as sheol in the Old Testament and hades in the New Testament (cf. Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27; Luke 16:23).
The reason Jesus could truthfully say that He would meet the thief on the cross that very day in paradise is because, while Christ’s body was placed in a tomb for three days, His spirit went to the part of the hadean realm known as paradise (Acts 2:27; Luke 23:43), along with the spirit of the thief on the cross. Unlike the spirits of the wicked and unforgiven that await Judgment Day in the part of the hadean realm known as “torments” (Luke 16:23), Jesus and the thief on the cross dwelt together in paradise (or “Abraham’s bosom”—Luke 16:22).
The fact that Dennis McKinsey would introduce Jesus’ statement to the thief on the cross as a reason why Christ should not be accepted as man’s Savior, surely testifies to the weakness of his case. “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20).
McKinsey, Dennis (no date), “Jesus Christ is the Answer?,” [On-line], URL: http://members.aol.com/ckbloomfld/pamphlets.html.
McKinsey, Dennis (1983), Biblical Errancy, 1:1, January.
McKinsey, Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
McKinsey, Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).