“Today, you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:43 – The joy in death.

When you think of dying, what comes to your mind? What do you feel? Is there any form of fear or doubt? Or do you feel joy?

As Paul talked about death, he said, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). He welcomed death as the ultimate victory in His Christian life.

But to most of us, death is the ultimate defeat. We cry when someone dies and most of us feel scared or sad when we think of dying. But in the second of the last 7 words of Jesus Christ, He addressed this.

The criminal who believed

man kneeling

Many called this “the good thief and the bad thief”. However, I would want to call them “the thief who believed and the thief who doubted”. This is mainly because we cannot judge how people lived if they’re “good” or “bad”. We see through our naked eyes but God sees the heart of men.

Now, in Luke, they were referred to as criminals, so I’m going to address them as such. But what really happened here?

So, while Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, there were two criminals who were hanging with Him. The soldiers who were on the ground were mocking Him saying, “You’ve saved others, why can’t you save yourself? If you are the King of Jews, save yourself!”

And to this, one of the criminals blasphemed Jesus saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.

But the criminal on the other side rebuked the other saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And to this Jesus replied, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

What happened here? Why did Jesus say that? What does it mean for us?

To Him Who Believed

What did the criminal do to merit him Christ’s promise of resurrection and eternal life? Was it because he showed good deeds toward Jesus Christ? Were his years of being a criminal redeemed by that one “good deed”?

This may come as a shock to you but if you look closely, it’s not because he defended Jesus Christ. It’s not because of his “good deed”. It was because HE BELIEVED and REPENTED.

These are the only requirements to gain Heaven. We don’t dismiss good deeds, because as Christians, we should do good to others. But we do good not to be saved but because we are saved. It is not our good deeds that can save us.

The criminal REPENTED (And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds) and BELIEVED (this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said [k]to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”)

In the same manner, this is all we have to do, to BELIEVE and REPENT.

The Promise of Eternal Life

woman on sea in front of sun

We don’t have to be afraid of death. As Jesus said these words, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise”, how did you feel? Do you feel the joy and assurance of an eternal life with Jesus Christ in Heaven?

You should. That is God’s promise for us! In the death of Jesus Christ is an eternal life for us who BELIEVE and REPENT. All we need to do is to accept the salvation that Jesus Christ has given us through the cross.

And as we receive this assurance, our perspective of death will be different. We will see death as a blessing out of this world of pain and suffering. And as Paul said, we too can say, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Have you accepted this assurance yet? How do you see death now? What do you believe?

We’d want to pray for you. If you have something you want to pray for, talk to us.

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