Luke 23:39-43 - Today.
The final promise Jesus made before dying is the most comforting of all.
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Read Luke 23:39-43
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 57
Q. How does “the resurrection of the body”
A. Not only my soul
will be taken immediately after this life
to Christ its head,
but even my very flesh,
raised by the power of Christ,
will be reunited with my soul
and made like Christ’s glorious body.
This is a story of two criminals, one hanging on either side of Jesus, but both looking at their present situation from vastly different perspectives.
To call them 'criminals,' or even 'thieves' as the older translations put it, is an understatement. In modern parlance, these guys would be classified as terrorists or insurrectionists guilty of murdering multiple people and fomenting violence wherever they went.
Regardless of how they're referred to, they represent two different types of people in this world. The one insults and belittles the Son of God hanging next to him, since God is not giving him exactly what he wants. The other better understands the reality of the situation: God is giving the both of them exactly what they deserve. It's this ability to look past the lies that come from within - an ability given by the Holy Spirit - that results in the proper attitude as he approaches his maker: This second, humbled criminal fears God.
But notice this properly grounded fear of God doesn't result in terror and dread, rather it brings about one simple request to the Savior innocently suffering the same punishment as him: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus' reply, likely coming between gasps for air as he hung, forms the foundation for one of the most comforting doctrines in the Bible. He says to this sinner turned saint, "Today you shall be with me in paradise."
Although this criminal's theology was spot on in his dying moments, it certainly wasn't well developed or comprehensively applied to life. He'd likely never read the Bible, and the only thing he knew about God's law was how to break it.
But he obviously wasn't saved because of his lifetime of faithful service or good deeds, nor because of what he knew about the man hanging in the middle. Rather, his salvation came because of what Christ remembered of him, that he was a child of the God he ultimately came to fear, chosen before the creation of the universe to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Today we're focusing on the immediacy of the criminal's salvation. Because of this short conversation between two dying men, you can have absolute certainty that those you've known who placed their faith in Jesus Christ instantly were welcomed into paradise upon drawing their final breath.
In addition, you can live the life of gratitude that this criminal would have most certainly lived had he been given the chance, knowing that you're last day in this life will instantly give way to your first day in eternity.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father God, who judges justly and calls all sinners to account.
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will live with the assurance of and gratitude for your sure salvation.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Romans 10