Rich Paxson

Even as God’s love surrounds us, language limits us to temporal and spatial terms to describe heaven and hell. Jesus said to the criminal on the cross next to him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Just as we all today are criminals, sinners, we all are free to “be with [Jesus] in Paradise … today.”

Placing the comma in verse forty-three before ‘today’ takes the criminal to Paradise that very day. The original Greek did not use commas. Some authorities argue that the comma in verse forty-three belongs after “today,” not before. Placing a comma after ‘today’ in verse forty-three would shift the sentence’s focus to when Jesus is speaking – ‘today’ – leaving the criminal to join Jesus in Paradise but at some undetermined future time.

Placing the comma after ‘today’ limits God’s saving grace missing the point of the anthropological earthquake triggered by God’s full presence in Jesus. Awareness of the Kingdom of God became fully available to all in the person of Jesus. God’s project of unconditional salvation personified in Jesus frees each and every person to say “I am,” with God’s help.