Where Jesus Christ Went after the Crucifixion

Jesus said to repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 24:43 NIV); however, three days later, the Lord said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father” (John 20:17). How do we resolve this apparent contradiction?

There are two entirely different scenarios going on here. You have the thief on the cross, on the one hand, who is going to die, and you have Jesus Christ, who also is going to die. When we talk about dying, we are not taking about ceasing to exist. (They were both dying.) Jesus is then saying to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Remember also Jesus saying to the Father, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46 NIV). The thief on the cross and Jesus Christ were absent bodily but they were present with the Lord, as the Scripture communicates. They were in the presence of God.

Now, Jesus resurrected from the dead. The Lord Jesus Christ, who was Theanthropos (the God-man in the flesh), became Theanthropos, the God-man, once again, and He is forever that.

Mary Magdalene, remember, was communicating with Jesus during the time between His resurrection and His ascension. (The risen Lord had not yet ascended.) Jesus subsequently ascends to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9–11; 2:32–36; Rom. 8:33–34; Eph. 1:18–21; Col. 3:1; Heb. 12:1–2; 1 Pet. 3:22). All of these are anthropomorphisms, but it is a way of saying that Christ transcends time and space. Certainly, it is not a way of saying Jesus Christ was “ascending” in the sense of going up like a rocket ship. If that were the case, even traveling at the speed of light, He would not even be out of this universe yet! But the ascension is a transcending of time and space.

The thing all of us look forward to with great anticipation is the time when Jesus appears a second time to judge the living and the dead (John 5:28–29; 1 Cor. 15:1–58; 2 Cor. 5:9–10; Heb. 9:27–28; Rev. 20:11–12; cf. Dan. 12:2).

There is a different scenario with the thief on the cross because that is prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and with Mary, which is between the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Learn more this subject in Hank Hanegraaff’s book AfterLife: What You Really Want to Know about Heaven, the Hereafter, & Near-Death Experiences.

This blog adapted from the May 23, 2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

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