Luke 23:43 records what must be amongst the most gracious words ever spoken by Jesus. To the dying criminal on the cross beside Him who reaches out to Him in his dire need, He says, ‘Verily I say unto you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’.
The word Paradise, of ancient Persian origin, means a garden, or more particularly a garden of pleasure such as those it is said which were attached to mansions of the rich and palaces of Princes. The meaning here then is literally the garden of the King.
To those living today, who have similarly reached out to the Lord and freely received His forgiveness and salvation, this for them is also the certain prospect when they pass from this present life.
Followers of the Watchtower however will not find this great truth from Luke in their own Bible version. The compilers of the ‘New World translation’ have changed the meaning of the verse by moving the comma from after ‘you’ to after ‘today’. This effectively takes away the Lord’s promise to the dying man that he would be with Him that same day, and also brings the reading out of conflict with their teaching that when a person dies he ceases to exist.
How does the Watchtower attempt to justify this?
Firstly reference is made to Ecclesiastes 9:5, which says that the living know that they will die, but that the dead know nothing. This is taken from the context of the passage, which deals with life upon earth, and the inability of the dead to take any further part in its activities.
A further reference is made to John 11:11 where Jesus refers to Lazarus as being asleep when he had died and similar references in Acts 7:60 and 1Corinthians 15:6. The references here refer to physical death of the body, however to teach that the word ‘asleep’ also involves the elimination of the soul and spirit has to be presumptuous. The error of this assumption clearly proved by Luke 23:43 is further confirmed by the Apostle Paul’s words in Phil. 1:23 and 2 Cor: 5:6-8 where he makes it clear that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord for those who are in Christ.
Artist’s impressions of paradise appear to be prominent in Watchtower literature, however the ironic and sad fact is that those who continue locked into the Watchtower’s teaching and practices can have no place in it, and will leave this life unforgiven, to face the judgment of God.