During a bible study there was some confusion on Paradise and heaven. I have compiled the following from different commentaries to throw light on this.
Luk 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise
Following is taken from Barnes, Commentary
Today ... - It is not probable that the dying thief expected that his prayer would be so soon answered. It is rather to be supposed that he looked to some “future” period when the Messiah would rise or would return; but Jesus told him that his prayer would be answered that very day, implying, evidently, that it would be “immediately” at death. This is the more remarkable, as those who were crucified commonly lingered for several days on the cross before they died; but Jesus foresaw that measures would be taken to “hasten” their death, and assured him that “that” day he should receive an answer to his prayer and be with him in his kingdom.
Paradise - This is a word of “Persian” origin, and means “a garden,” particularly a garden of pleasure, filled with trees, and shrubs, and fountains, and flowers. In hot climates such gardens were especially pleasant, and hence, they were attached to the mansions of the rich and to the palaces of princes. The word came thus to denote any place of happiness, and was used particularly to denote the abodes of the blessed in another world. The Romans spoke of their Elysium, and the Greeks of the gardens of Hesperides, where the trees bore golden fruit. The garden of Eden means, also, the garden of “pleasure,” and in Gen_2:8 the Septuagint renders the word “Eden by Paradise.” Hence, this name in the Scriptures comes to denote the abodes of the blessed in the other world. See the notes at 2Co_12:4. The Jews supposed that the souls of the righteous would be received into such a place, and those of the wicked cast down to Gehenna until the time of the judgment. They had many fables about this state which it is unnecessary to repeat. The plain meaning of the passage is, “Today thou shalt be made happy, or be received to a state of blessedness with me after death.” It is to be remarked that Christ says nothing about the “place where” it should be, nor of the condition of those there, excepting that it is a place of blessedness, and that its happiness is to commence immediately after death (see also Phi_1:23); but from the narrative we may learn:
1. That the soul will exist separately from the body; for, while the thief and the Saviour would be in Paradise, their “bodies” would be on the cross or in the grave.
2. That immediately after death - the same day - the souls of the righteous will be made happy. They will feel that they are secure; they will be received among the just; and they will have the assurance of a glorious immortality.
3. That state will differ from the condition of the wicked. The promise was made to but one on the cross, and there is no evidence whatever that the other entered there. See also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luk_16:19-31.
4. It is the chief glory of this state and of heaven to be permitted to see Jesus Christ and to be with him: “Thou shalt be with me.” “I desire to depart and to be with Christ,” Phi_1:23. See also Rev_21:23; Rev_5:9-14.
Following is taken from Clarke's Commentary
To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise - Marcion and the Manichees are reported to have left this verse out of their copies of this evangelist. This saying of our Lord is justly considered as a strong proof of the immateriality of the soul; and it is no wonder that those who have embraced the contrary opinion should endeavor to explain away this meaning. In order to do this, a comma is placed after σημερον, to-day, and then our Lord is supposed to have meant, “Thou shalt be with me after the resurrection I tell thee this, To-Day.” I am sorry to find men of great learning and abilities attempting to support this most feeble and worthless criticism. Such support a good cause cannot need; and, in my opinion, even a bad cause must be discredited by it.
In paradise. The garden of Eden, mentioned Gen_2:8, is also called, from the Septuagint, the garden of Paradise. The word עדן Eden, signifies pleasure and delight. Several places were thus called; see Gen_4:16; 2Ki_19:12; Isa_37:12; Eze_27:23; and Amo_1:5; and such places probably had this name from their fertility, pleasant situation, etc., etc. In this light the Septuagint have viewed Gen_2:8. as they render the passage thus: εφυτευσεν ὁ Θεος παραδεισον εν Εδεμ, God planted a paradise in Eden. Hence the word has been transplanted into the New Testament; and is used to signify a place of exquisite pleasure and delight. From this the ancient heathens borrowed their ideas of the gardens of the Hesperides, where the trees bore golden fruit; and the gardens of Adonis, a word which is evidently derived from the Hebrew עדן Eden: and hence the origin of sacred groves, gardens, and other enclosures dedicated to purposes of devotion, some comparatively innocent, others impure. The word paradise is not Greek, but is of Asiatic origin. In Arabic and Persian it signifies a garden, a vineyard, and also the place of the blessed. In the Kushuf ul Loghat, a very celebrated Persian dictionary, the Jenet al Ferdoos, Garden of Paradise, is said to have been “created by God out of light, and that the prophets and wise men ascend thither.”
Paradise was, in the beginning, the habitation of man in his state of innocence, in which he enjoyed that presence of his Maker which constituted his supreme happiness. Our Lord’s words intimate that this penitent should be immediately taken to the abode of the spirits of the just, where he should enjoy the presence and approbation of the Most High. In the Institutes of Menu, chap. Oeconomics, Inst. 243, are the following words: “A man habitually pious, whose offenses have been expiated, is instantly conveyed, after death, to the higher world, with a radiant form, and a body of ethereal substance.” The state of the blessed is certainly what our Lord here means: in what the locality of that state consists we know not. The Jews share a multitude of fables on the subject.
Following is taken from Gill's Commentary
And Jesus said unto him,.... Jesus immediately answered him, though he said not one word to the other that railed at him, or to the multitude that abused him; and promised him more than he asked for, and sooner than he expected.
Verily I say unto thee, today thou shall be with me in paradise; בגן עדן, "in the garden of Eden"; not the earthly paradise, nor the church militant, but the future place, and state of the happiness of the saints, even heaven, and eternal glory, which the Jews frequently call by this name; See Gill on 2Co_12:4 and is so called, because, as the earthly paradise, or Eden's garden, was of God's planting, so is the heavenly glory of his providing and preparing: as that was a place of delight and pleasure, so here are pleasures for evermore; as there was a river in it, which added to the delightfulness and advantage of it, so here runs the river of God's love, the streams whereof make glad the saints now, and will be a broad river to swim in to all eternity: as there were the tree of life, with a variety of other trees, both for delight and profit, so here, besides Christ, the tree of life, which stands in the midst of it, are an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect: and as the inhabitants of that garden were pure and innocent creatures, so into this paradise shall nothing enter but what is righteous, pure, and holy: and whereas the principal enjoyment of man in Eden was conversation with God, and communion with him, the glory of the heavenly paradise will lie in fellowship with God, Father, Son, and Spirit, in beholding the face of God, and seeing him as he is: and this is the happiness promised by Christ to the penitent and believing thief, that he should be here; and not only so, but with him here, which is far better than being in this world, and than which nothing can be more desirable: and which, when enjoyed, will be for ever: and this he was to enter upon that very day; which shows, that Christ's soul did not descend into hell, locally and literally considered, or into the "Limbus Patrum", the Papists talk of, to fetch the souls of the patriarchs thence, but as soon as it was separated from the body was taken up into heaven; and also, that the souls of departed saints are immediately, upon their separation from the body, there; which was the case of this wonderful instance of the grace of God; and shows the swiftness of the soul, or the velocity of angels in conveying it thither immediately: and this agrees with the sense of the Jews, who say (b), that
"the souls of the fathers, or patriarchs have rest, and in a moment, immediately enter into their separate places, or apartments, and not as the rest of the souls; of whom it is said, all the twelve months the soul ascends and descends, (goes to and fro,) but the souls of the fathers, מיד בהפרדן, "immediately, upon their separation", return to God that gave them.''
Some would remove the stop, and place it after "today", and read the words thus, "I say unto thee today"; as if Christ only signified the time when he said this, and not when the thief should be with him in paradise; which, besides it being senseless, and impertinent, and only contrived to serve an hypothesis, is not agreeably to Christ's usual way of speaking, and contrary to all copies and versions. Moreover, in one of Beza's exemplars it is read, "I say unto thee, οτι σημερον that today thou shalt be with me", &c. and so the Persic and Ethiopic versions seem to read, which destroys this silly criticism. And because this was a matter of great importance, and an instance of amazing grace, that so vile a sinner, one of the chief of sinners, should immediately enter into the kingdom of God, and enjoy uninterrupted, and everlasting communion with him and that it might not be a matter of doubt with him, or others, Christ, who is the "Amen", the faithful witness, and truth itself, prefaces it after this manner: "verily I say unto thee"; it is truth, it may be depended on. This instance of grace stands on record, not to cherish sloth, indolence, security and presumption, but to encourage faith and hope in sensible sinners, in their last moments, and prevent despair. The Papists pretend to know this man's name; they say his name was Disma; and reckon him as a martyr, and have put him in the catalogue of saints, and fixed him on the "twenty fifth" of March.
(The story of the penitent thief has sometimes been considered the most surprising, the most suggestive, the most instructive incident in all the Gospel narrative. ... In the salvation of one of the thieves \@vital\@ \@theology finds one of its finest demonstrations.\@
\@Sacrementalism was refuted,\@ for the thief was saved without recourse to baptism, the Lord's Supper, church, ceremony, or good works.
\@The dogma of purgatory was refuted,\@ for this vile sinner was instantly transformed into a saint and made fit for paradise apart from his personal expiation of a single sin.
\@The teaching of universalism was refuted,\@ for only one was saved of all who might have been saved. Jesus did not say, "Today shall ye be with me in paradise", but "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."
\@The notion of soul-sleep was refuted,\@ for the clear implication of the entire incident is that the redeemed thief would be in conscious fellowship with his Saviour in paradise even while his body disintegrated in some grave.
Too, it is doubtful whether any other gospel incident presents the plan of salvation more clearly or simply.--Dr. Charles R. Erdman)
(b) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 58. 4.
Following is taken from JFB's Commentary
Jesus said, etc. — The dying Redeemer speaks as if He Himself viewed it in this light. It was a “song in the night.” It ministered cheer to His spirit in the midnight gloom that now enwrapt it.
Verily I say unto thee — “Since thou speakest as to the king, with kingly authority speak I to thee.”
To-day — “Thou art prepared for a long delay before I come into My kingdom, but not a day’s delay shall there be for thee; thou shalt not be parted from Me even for a moment, but together we shall go, and with Me, ere this day expire, shalt thou be in Paradise” (future bliss, 2Co_12:4; Rev_2:7). Learn (1) How “One is taken and another left”; (2) How easily divine teaching can raise the rudest and worst above the best instructed and most devoted servants of Christ; (3) How presumption and despair on a death hour are equally discountenanced here, the one in the impenitent thief, the other in his penitent fellow.
Luk 23:43 - In paradise - The place where the souls of the righteous remain from death till the resurrection. As if he had said, I will not only remember thee then, but this very day.
In Paradise (παραδείσῳ)
Originally an enclosed park, or pleasure-ground. Xenophon uses it of the parks of the Persian kings and nobles. “There (at Celaenae) Cyrus had a palace and a great park (παράδεισος), full of wild animals, which he hunted on horseback....Through the midst of the park flows the river Maeander (“Anabasis,” i., 2, 7). And again' “The Greeks encamped near a great and beautiful park, thickly grown with all kinds of trees” (ii., 4, 14.) In the Septuagint, Genesis 2:8, of the garden of Eden. In the Jewish theology, the department of Hades where the blessed souls await the resurrection; and therefore equivalent to Abraham's bosom (Luk_16:22, Luk_16:23). It occurs three times in the New Testament: here; 2Co_12:4; Rev_2:7; and always of the abode of the blessed.
“Where'er thou roam'st, one happy soul, we know,
Seen at thy side in woe,
Waits on thy triumph - even as all the blest
With him and Thee shall rest.
Each on his cross, by Thee we hang awhile,
Watching thy patient smile,
Till we have learn'd to say, ' 'Tis justly done,
Only in glory, Lord, thy sinful servant own.'”
Keble, Christian Year.
Luk 16:23 And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
(Greek, "hadēs", "the unseen world," is revealed as the place of departed human spirits between death and resurrection). The word occurs, (Mat_11:23); (Mat_16:18); (Luk_10:15); (Act_2:27); (Act_2:31); (Rev_1:18); (Rev_6:8); (Rev_20:13); (Rev_20:14) and is the equivalent of the Old Testament "sheol."
(See Scofield) - (Hab_2:5).
The Septuagint invariably renders "sheol" by "hades".
(1) Hades before the ascension of Christ. The passages in which the word occurs make it clear that hades was formerly in two divisions, the abodes respectively of the saved and of the lost. The former was called "paradise" and "Abraham's bosom." Both designations were Talmudic, but adopted by Christ in (Luk_16:22); (Luk_23:43). The blessed dead were with Abraham, they were conscious and were "comforted" (Luk_16:25). The believing malefactor was to be, that day, with Christ in "paradise." The lost were separated from the saved by a "great gulf fixed" (Luk_16:26). The representative man of the lost who are now in hades is the rich man of (Luk_16:19-31). He was alive, conscious, in the full exercise of his faculties, memory, etc, and in torment.
(2) Hades since the ascension of Christ. So far as the unsaved dead are concerned, no change of their place or condition is revealed in Scripture. At the judgment of the great white throne, hades will give them up, they will be judged, and will pass into the lake of fire (Rev_20:13); (Rev_20:14). But a change has taken place which affects paradise. Paul was "caught up to the third heaven. . .into paradise" (2Co_12:1-4). Paradise, therefore, is now in the immediate presence of God. It is believed that (Eph_4:8-10) indicates the time of the change. "When he ascended up on high he led a multitude of captives." It is immediately added that He had previously "descended first into the lower parts of the earth," that is, the paradise division of Hades. During the present church-age the saved who died are "absent from the body, at home with the Lord." The wicked dead in hades, and the righteous dead "at home with the Lord," alike await the resurrection; (Job_19:25); (1Co_15:52).
2Co 12:2 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 a one caught up to the third heaven.
To the third heaven - The Jews sometimes speak of seven heavens, and Muhammed has borrowed this idea from the Jews. But the Bible speaks of but three heavens, and among the Jews in the apostolic ages also the heavens were divided into three:
(1) The aerial, including the clouds and the atmosphere, the heavens above us, until we come to the stars.
(2) the starry heavens, the heavens in which the sun, moon, and stars appear to be situated.
(3) the heavens beyond the stars. That heaven was supposed to be the residence of God, of angels, and of holy spirits. It was this upper heaven, the dwelling-place of God, to which Paul was taken, and whose wonders he was permitted to behold - this region where God dwelt; where Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, and where the spirits of the just were assembled. The fanciful opinions of the Jews about seven heavens may be seen detailed in Schoettgen or in Wetstein, by whom the principal passages from the Jewish writings relating to the subject have been collected. As their opinions throw no light on this passage, it is unnecessary to detail them here.
In the sacred writings three heavens only are mentioned. The first is the atmosphere, what appears to be intended by רקיע rekia, the firmament or expansion, Gen_1:6. The second, the starry heaven; where are the sun, moon, planets, and stars; but these two are often expressed under the one term שמים shamayim, the two heavens, or expansions, and in Gen_1:17, they appear to be both expressed by רקיע השמים rekia hashshamayim, the firmament of heaven. And, thirdly, the place of the blessed, or the throne of the Divine glory, probably expressed by the words שמי השמים shemei hashshamayim, the heavens of heavens. But on these subjects the Scripture affords us but little light; and on this distinction the reader is not desired to rely.
Much more may be seen in Schoettgen, who has exhausted the subject; and who has shown that ascending to heaven, or being caught up to heaven, is a form of speech among the Jewish writers to express the highest degrees of inspiration. They often say of Moses that he ascended on high, ascended on the firmament, ascended to heaven; where it is evident they mean only by it that he was favored with the nearest intimacy with God, and the highest revelations relative to his will, etc. If we may understand St. Paul thus, it will remove much of the difficulty from this place; and perhaps the unspeakable words, 2Co_12:4, are thus to be understood. He had the most sublime communications from God, such as would be improper to mention, though it is very likely that we have the substance of these in his epistles. Indeed, the two epistles before us seem, in many places, to be the effect of most extraordinary revelations.
First heaven, of clouds;
second heaven, of stars;
third heaven, God's abode.
2Co 12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Into paradise - The word “paradise” (παράδεισος paradeisos) occurs but three times in the New Testament; Luk_23:43; 2Co_12:4; Rev_2:7. It occurs often in the Septuagint, as the translation of the word garden; Gen_2:8-10, Gen_2:15-16; Gen_3:1-3, Gen_3:8,Gen_3:16, Gen_3:23-24; Gen_13:10; Num_24:6; Isa_51:3; Eze_28:13; Eze_31:8-9; Joe_2:3. And also Isa_1:30; Jer_29:5; and of the word פּרדס pardēc in Neh_2:8; Ecc_2:5; Son_2:13. It is a word which had its origin in the language of eastern Asia, and which has been adopted in the Greek, the Roman, and other western languages. In Sanskrit the word “paradesha” means a land elevated and cultivated; in Armenian, “pardes” denotes a garden around the house planted with trees, shrubs, grass for use and ornament. In Persia, the word denotes the pleasure gardens and parks with wild animals around the country residences of the monarchs and princes. Hence, it denotes in general a garden of pleasure; and in the New Testament is applied to the abodes of the blessed after death, the dwelling-place of God and of happy spirits; or to heaven as a place of blessedness. Some have supposed that Paul here by the word “paradise” means to describe a different place from that denoted by the phrase “the third heaven;” but there is no good reason for this supposition. The only difference is that this word implies the idea of a place of blessedness; but the same place is undoubtedly referred to.
He was caught up into paradise - The seat of happy spirits in their separate state, between death and the resurrection. Things which it is not possible for man to utter - Human language being incapable of expressing them. Here he anticipated the joyous rest of the righteous that die in the Lord. But this rapture did not precede, but follow after, his being caught up to the third heaven: a strong intimation that he must first discharge his mission, and then enter into glory. And beyond all doubt, such a foretaste of it served to strengthen him in all his after trials, when he could call to mind the very joy that was prepared for him.
He was caught up into Paradise. Paradise and "the third heaven" evidently mean the same. The term applied to a blessed abode beyond the life in Luk_23:43 and Rev_2:7.