Translated by David Kiger, Marquette University
«Πῶς ὁ λῃστὴς πρὸ τῆς ἀναστάσεως εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν παράδεισον» (CPG 4116). Ed. K.G. Phrantzoles, Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα 7 (Thessalonica: To Perivole tes Panagias, 1998). 83-85.
Those who deny the resurrection of the body denigrate the, Today you will be with me in paradise, saying that souls take up their reward apart from bodies. For it is said that the thief entered into paradise without a body, and it is clear that there is no resurrection of bodies. Then, when it was necessary to contend [physically], the body received the greater part of sweat, but when it is time for crowns, the soul alone will be crowned? Do you not hear Paul saying that, It is necessary for us to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, in order that each might receive the things [earned] through the body (2 Cor. 5:10), and it is necessary for what is mortal to put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54)?
Therefore, concerning what will undoubtedly happen the Lord said to the thief, Today you will be with me in paradise, just as even elsewhere it is said, The one not believing in the Son is judged already (John 3:18). And since there is not yet resurrection nor punishment, how then is he already judged? By sin, to be sure; and again, The one believing in the Son has passed through death into life (John 5:24); and it does not say “will pass,” but “has passed.” He speaks of the things that will undoubtedly occur as having happened. Thus he foretells to the thief what will surely be.
It is said that [someone] already died and ‘he is dead’ even when they see him [still] breathing. And just as that man has no hope of recovery and is dead to the physicians, neither does the thief [have hope of salvation]. Since he no longer had the desire to return toward perdition, he has entered into paradise in decree, though not in experience. In this way also Adam heard, but on whichever day you eat from the tree, you will die by death (Gen. 2:17). What then, did he die on that same day? Not at all; for yet he lived 900 years after that day. How then did God say, In that day you will die? In decree or in experience? It is the same in the case of the thief, since [it was] not yet the time for the reward of works. For the Apostle says concerning the righteous: All of these, confirmed through faith, did not receive the promise. God had foreseen something greater, that without us they might not be made perfect (Heb. 11:39–40).