Skip to comments.Thief on the Cross
Posted on 07/24/2022 8:21:02 AM PDT by Roman_War_Criminal
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42, 43).
As Jesus hung on the cross, dying for the sin of the world, two criminals hung on either side of Him. Condemned for their crimes, they too would die that day. But one of them ultimately recognized who Jesus was. It was that criminal who called Him “Lord”. The Greek word for Lord Is “Kyrios” which is a title given to God, the Messiah. And with his own mouth, one of these thieves professed that Jesus is God.
In the above verse the word for kingdom comes from the Greek word “basileia” It is primarily an abstract noun, denoting sovereignty, royal power, dominion, and it is used especially of the Kingdom of God and of Christ. The thief addressed Jesus by using the word “basileia” which pointed to Jesus’ right or authority to rule over a kingdom. It refers to the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah.
So this thief through one little statement spoken from the most terrible place possible hanging on his cross—was given permission by God Himself to enter paradise that very day with the King of Kings. Most Bible scholars agree that, for the most part, criminals who earned the “privilege” of dying that horrible death, by crucifixion, were suspended there for days before finally dying.
Jesus told the believing thief that that very day that he would be with the Lord in paradise. How could Jesus have known that He and this thief would die that very day? Jesus is fully God, and as such He knows all things.
He knew He would die that very day because He arranged all the events associated with His crucifixion. He also knew that one of the men hanging next to Him would believe and be saved that day, and that this man would also die in a matter of hours.
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Some believe that Jesus was speaking figuratively; not actually meaning the thief would be with Him that very day but that he would be joining Jesus in Heaven at some point in time. Those who believe in soul sleep interpret the “to day” that Jesus spoke of as being in this period of time, the Christian era.
The Greek rendering of the phrase “to day” means just that. The Greek word is “sēmeron”, and it means this very day, or what has happened today. The Greek word for “I say” is legō, which in this instance is rendered as a command. Clearly Jesus pronounced a command that the thief would be with Him that very day in Paradise.
We know from the Scriptures that Jesus, before His resurrection, went to where the believers of the past were waiting and “… led captivity captive…” Ephesians 4:8. He removed everyone who was in Paradise, and took them to heaven. This puts the kibosh on soul sleep; there are other verses that also point to the whole idea of soul sleep as being unbiblical. Such as, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23, but I digress.
As Jesus hung on that cross He was mocked and reviled by the crowd gathered at the cross, as well as the two criminals who were being crucified with Him.
“The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” (Matthew 27:44)
But something changed the mind of one of those thieves, and in his heart he became a believer. It’s amazing just how quickly that change took place.
“But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” Luke 23:40-41.
That thief knew he and his companion deserved the punishment they were receiving.
Interestingly, one criminal confessed with his mouth and believed in his heart that Jesus was Lord, which is exactly what Paul tells us in the book of Romans how one is saved.
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:10)
The man’s partial statement “Lord, remember me” was a profession of faith and it was the catalyst that moved him from being condemned to being saved. Yet it still remains that this saved sinner was being punished for the crime he committed against society.
Two men, found equally guilty by the ruler in that land, were separated that day by the cross of Christ, separated by the One who was found guiltless yet condemned by that very same Roman ruler. Today they remain eternally separated by a simple faith which leads to the cross and a lack of faith that moves people to reject their Messiah.
Clearly we can see this once lost and condemned man becoming transformed before our very eyes by going through a change of heart and a transformation of his mind right there on that cross. This same change can happen to anyone today. We see many who have hardened their hearts against God and His Christ these days and we think to ourselves:
How can these lost people who seem to be so far removed from God ever come to an understanding of who God is? How can they ever come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t we be wasting our time trying to confront them with the truth of the gospel?
Have you ever heard that old adage, “There but for the grace of God go I?” It’s only hopeless when that lost person dies in unbelief.
Two men, nailed to their own personal cross both suffering in pain and agony right along with Jesus. In this moment in time their eternity was in the balance since both would soon expire and be transported to the destination of their choice. There they were hanging and dying right next to the very Creator of the universe.
Yet only one would recognize Jesus and confess before the world just who Jesus is. If these two criminals were Jews then they had just been put to death without being able to atone for their sin against God through the usual means, the Jewish Law of sacrifice. That opportunity was lost forever. One saw the hope we all have in Christ and the other remained in his blindness.
Two very similar criminals made completely opposite choices, those two men had completely different mind sets. Both men had the same opportunity to avoid hell that day. One ultimately made the correct choice. That’s a fact that should provide ample reason for believers today to pause and reconsider their drive to spread the gospel.
Those two men were hanging awaiting deaths door to slam shut, one became a believer before it was too late. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, need to spread the Gospel message to the lost as much as possible before it’s too late.
Everyone alive today is sitting at death’s door. Our lives could be snuffed out in a simple heart beat. Since a man can’t see the future he can’t see his last moment on earth before it appears. There comes a point in time when all the good intentions for spreading the Gospel fall short if the believer lacks commitment.
Most people today believe they have plenty of time to make a decision for Christ, never really coming to the understanding that delaying that decision for Christ automatically condemns them to Hell. If they die in that lost state of mind they are condemned for eternity. The message of the cross is powerful and can and will bear much fruit if it is spread by Jesus’ followers as He commanded.
Remember Jesus’ words in the parable of the sower? The last ground mentioned by Jesus was good ground.
“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” (Matthew 13:8)
We all like to think that we are the good ground spoken of by Jesus in this parable, but are we living up to what Jesus meant by bearing much fruit even thirtyfold?
I know, by some of the emails I’ve received in the past that there are believers out there who refuse to witness to the lost, erroneously assuming there’s nothing further to be accomplished.
Their attitude in many cases is that the hearts of the rest of humanity are left hard and cold, and are completely unreachable for Christ. Obviously there are some who wrongly believe the Holy Spirit has been removed from planet earth. After all it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts a person and leads them to Jesus. If God’s Holy Spirit is not here to do His job what can believers expect to accomplish?
In the beginning of this amazing, wonderful movement called Christianity, God placed on mankind an awesome responsibility, and that was to spread the gospel to all creatures.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)
That responsibility hasn’t changed in the last two thousand years. We must continue to, as Paul says, fight the good fight; we must remain active in our Father’s business, and be fully aware that the forces of evil will continue to buffet us at every turn.
Preaching the gospel of Christ may seem difficult at times, even useless. The message of the cross, in many cases seems to be falling on deaf ears. Remember my brethren we are only seed planters and after planting we move on. We aren’t told in the scriptures to hang around watching that seed grow. We may not witness the fruit produced by that seed. But God promises it will produce fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
My brethren, another of Satan’s deceptions is to convince the Church to become complacent even apathetic. Along with all the other lies and deceptions infiltrating our churches today, one of the most far reaching is that the Holy Spirit has been removed. The Bible, the inerrant Word of God, contains the very scriptures that Jesus quoted while here on earth, and they are non-negotiable.
Nothing changes in God’s word. People change, yes, and become more “enlightened” in areas of worldly knowledge and through this kind of knowledge they are inclined to move away from any belief in God and His word. We don’t need to re-create or re-design the gospel of Christ. It’s worked for almost two thousand years now and it will continue to be a beacon of light until Jesus returns. Nowhere in the scriptures are we told to avoid the lost and discontinue witnessing.
Jesus, being fully God, died on that cross, a most excruciating form of torture, and He did so to take away the sin of the entire world. He followed His Father’s instructions to the letter. Shouldn’t we, who are called by His name, continue following His commandments to the letter?
At any rate it’s a command from God, not, as many would like to believe, a request.
God bless you all,
I’m a sinner and I pray that I will be in paradise with my Lord.
Amen, and thanks for sharing.
“I’m a sinner and I pray that I will be in paradise with my Lord.”
I believe you will be.
Ron Grahams study is quite good and helpful. However, I have a question by which there is some potential disagreement. Years ago I wrote a 9-act play in which part of one of the acts addressed punctuation. Just something to think about.
SCENE 2. 16th Century – King James Court
Jester: “A comma, a comma, my kingdom for a comma! Today, the comma’s the thing.”
Scripture Reader: “KJV Luke 23:42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
King James Translator #1: “Remember that in the original manuscripts there were no punctuation marks of any kind. So, where does the comma in this verse go? Is it:
1.) “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Or is it:
2.) “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee Today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
King James Translator #2: “You get to decide where the comma goes. It’s a matter of interpretation, isn’t it?”
King James Translator #3: “Not really. It is quite possible that the early church fathers interpreted this for us. Have you looked to see? Also, we have the rest of the Bible as a commentary to help us determine where the punctuation goes. In my opinion Jesus says it the first way, ‘I say unto thee, Today, etc.’ It just sounds odd for Him to say, ‘I say unto thee today...’ The malefactor knows what day he is hearing this.”
Enter E. W. BULLINGER.
E. W. Bullinger: “Pardon me for interrupting, but in the 20th Century I deal with this issue at length. See what I stated in Appendix 173 of my Companion Bible. The interpretation of this verse depends entirely on punctuation, which rests wholly on human authority, the Greek manuscripts having no punctuation of any kind till the ninth century, and then it is only a dot (in the middle of the line) separating each word.
More importantly, what would a Hebrew of that time period think about where the comma should go? The verb ‘to say,’ when followed by hoti, introduces the ipsissima verba of what is said; and answers to our quotation marks. So here (in Luke 23:43), in the absence of hoti = ‘that,’ there may be a doubt as to the actual words included in the dependent clause. But the doubt is resolved (1) by the common Hebrew idiom, ‘I say unto thee this day,’ which is constantly used for very solemn emphasis; as well as (2) by the usage observable in other passages where the verb is connected with the Greek semeron = today.”
The statement King James Translator #3 made regarding our having the rest of the Bible as a commentary to help us determine where the punctuation goes is correct; but, he is totally wrong in his opinion about it being odd to add ‘today’ to his statement, ‘I say unto you.’ My friend, Otis Q. Sellers, points out a number of Hebraisms that indicate the Lord could and would have spoken that way.”
Scripture Reader: “KJV Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. 40 Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.
KJV Deuteronomy 7:11 Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.
KJV Deuteronomy 8:1 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
KJV Deuteronomy 8:19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
KJV Deuteronomy 10:13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
KJV Deuteronomy 11:26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
KJV Deuteronomy 15:15 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
KJV Acts 20:26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
KJV Acts 26:2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
A Hebrew speaking something very important, especially to another Hebrew would use this idiom to emphasize the solemnity of his words. So, the Lord Jesus, a Hebrew, speaking to another Hebrew, as they both were about to die, used this idiom to emphasize the impact of His words.
You know, You can know. Then use your prayer to praise God for His mercy and grace.
While on earth, and before dying, being resurrected, and ascending to heaven, the Son of man had power while on earth to forgive sins, as shown with the man with the palsy (Luke 5:24), as with the sinner woman (Luke 7:48), as with the adulterous woman (John 8:11), and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43).
Before ascending, the Son of God commanded his disciples “..that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47)
Also, before ascending, Jesus commanded them: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (John 20:23)
When did the disciples begin to remit sins? Acts 2:38-41
See you there!
We’ve been down this old, tired, beaten down road before...
What is the correct interpretation of John 20:23?
Romans 10:9-13 lays out the blueprint for Salvation. Anything more like “baptism” is a work. Good Day!
Repentance is required for salvation (I’m sure you agree). Yet it is not specifically mentioned in Romans 10. Doesn’t have to be, for the saints at Rome had already been born again (Rom. 1:7,8; 6:3,4,17; 16:17-20), and knew the details.
Repentance is a work:
Matt. 11:21; 12:41; 1 Cor. 7:10; Acts 26:20 (to name a few).
The Lord told the adultress to “go and sin no more”, which would be repentance in action. The sinner woman, that anointed the Lord’s feet, was a display of repentance. The thief, whose time was running out, displayed his repentance in rebuking the unbelieving thief and asking mercy of the Lord.
GotQuestions opinion of John 20:23 is the same “old, tired, beaten down road” of ‘dodge city’ (truth mixed with private interpretations). I haven’t looked up GotQuestions interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:2, but I suspect their opinion, of being “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea”, isn’t exactly a type and shadow of the rebirth commanded by Jesus Christ. Yet, Moses was a type and shadow of Christ. And the Red Sea was not in the Israelites plan for going to the promised land.
Exodus 14 shows how God turned them from the well traveled land route, that would have had them fleeing the Philistines and returning to Egypt. (Obviously, God could have utterly destroyed the Philistines, but chose not to.) Therefore, to save the Israelites, God made it clear that crossing the Red Sea was not an option: it was made mandatory, for Pharaoh and his partially depleted army were not completely destroyed at the angel’s passover; just the firstborn. And the Israelites obedience to the passover instructions was a form of repentance, for they had not offered any sacrifices to God for many years. It is no coincidence that ‘salvation’ is mentioned in verse 13, and ‘saved’ is mentioned in verse 30.
Did Jesus not command baptism? Paul wasn’t a flip flopper on water baptism, for he even baptized a few in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:14,16). But most likely his assistants performed many more than him (where strong muscles are an good asset). His foremost God-given skill was preaching, and he knew he was ordained to do it.
Does dealing with the old, tired, beaten down road of folks dodging inconvenient scriptures weary me? Not much. I’ve written a 270 page bible study and commentary that deals with conversion views; of which almost 200 pages examines Godhead views from trinitarians and modalists who have the same dodgy habit.
And a good day to you!
Amen. Hugs and prayers up.
We all are sinners. Daily prayers and keeping heart on Heavenly Father God helps strengthen our spirit.
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