Listen:  91 Question 3

Some teach that the Old Testament saints were not allowed into Heaven before Christ died.  The thought is that after Christ died and rose again, they were then allowed into the presence of God in Heaven.  Some refer to the holding place of the Old Testament saints as Paradise, as the Lord told the repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “…Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  I just don’t believe there is enough scriptural evidence to support this teaching.

The Greek word for Paradise is used only three times in the Bible.  In Luke 23:43, we see the Lord promising this repentant thief that they would both be in Paradise that day.  We know they both died that day, and so, they both went to Paradise.  What else can we learn about this place?  Let’s read 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”  Here, Paul recalls his own experience of being caught up into the third heaven.  He interchanges the ‘third heaven’ with ‘paradise’ in verse 4, showing these two places are the same.  Paradise is the third heaven.  We realize from the Word of God, that there is no such thing as a ‘seventh heaven.’  The Bible speaks of three heavens, which refer to our atmosphere, outer space, and to the dwelling place of God, which many times is simply referred to as Heaven.

Now let’s read Revelation 2:7, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”  The use of the word ‘paradise’ here distinctly shows that paradise is Heaven.  The repentant thief on the cross went to Paradise that day.  He went to Heaven, even as the Lord Jesus went to Heaven.  We read the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 23:46, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”  The Lord went to be with His Father, He went to Paradise, the third heaven, and He took the repentant thief with him.

Some have thought that no one could enter Heaven before the Lord Jesus died and rose again, because their sins had not been truly paid for until Christ was crucified.  There is some truth to this thought.  Without the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, there would be no salvation.  Romans 5:8-9 tells us, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”  However, we know that in the eternal council and purpose of God, the Lord Jesus had been crucified before man ever existed.  In Revelation 13:8 Christ is spoken of as, “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  This goes along perfectly with what we read in 1 Peter 1:18-20, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”  We are told in Romans 4:17 that God, “…calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

Another good example would be the incident of the Lord’s transfiguration.  Let’s read Luke 9:29-31, “And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”  These two Old Testament saints, Elijah and Moses, were granted access into the very presence of Christ.  Along with Christ, they appeared in a glorified state.  Surely, here they typify all those who lived in the dispensation of the law and the prophets.  Realizing these things, we can assert that all believers in the Old Testament went to be with the Lord when they died.  (91.3)