Q. Jesus was hanging on the cross between two thieves and he told one of them that this day he would be in paradise with Him. But at the tomb on the third day Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to touch him because he had not yet ascended to his father. So how were they in (Jesus and the thief) in paradise if he had not yet ascended until the third day. Aren’t paradise and heaven the same?
A. Paradise and Heaven are not the same. Before the cross no one could enter Heaven because the Lord’s death had not settled the sin problem yet. The spirits of dead believers went to a place called paradise which was part of Hades, the abode of the dead. The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) explains this. After Jesus carried His blood to heaven to sprinkle it on the altar there, the gates of Heaven were opened to believers of all ages, and they no longer had to wait in paradise but could go directly to be with the Lord.