Today, Paradise!

Bible Book: Luke  23 : 29-43
Subject: Heaven; Paradise; Salvation; Cross
Series: At The Cross (Stone)

The universal symbol of the Christian faith is the cross. But the Bible says there were at least 3 crosses there that day. Three men died that day on Mount Calvary.

One died for sin…one died to sin…one died in sin.

One man died as a Sovereign…a saint…a sinner.

Isaiah 53:12 – “And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.”

Jesus death between these two criminals was no accident. It was an appointment. They had an appointment with the cross of Jesus Christ. And so do we today.

I. His Rebuke (39-40)

In order to know why one was saved we must first see why the other was lost.

One man wanted to save his soul, the other, his skin.

One wanted to go to heaven, the other, to go home.

One was concerned about the eternal, the other earthly.

A. No Acknowledgement Of The Power Of God

Matthew 10:28 – "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Romans 3:18 describes a faithless generation and says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Crime is abundant because fear of God is absent!

B. No Anticipation Of The Penalty Of God

I read a bumper sticker that said: “Hell was full so I came back.”

I have visited people who have a strange view of eternity, much like the thief on the left side of Jesus. On one visit a man said, “I am sure I will go to hell if I die tonight.” Another said, “If God sends me to hell just because I don’t get saved, then I’d rather go to hell!”

Psalm 10:13 – “Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, ‘God will not require an account.’”

An atheist web site claims it has proven that God does not exist. It encourages atheistic visitors to sign an online request asking God to destroy them if He exists. When God does not immediately destroy them they reason He is not real.

How ironic that God’s patience is used as a reason to deny His existence.

We read in 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness but He is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

II. His Recognition

A. The Sinfulness Of His Soul (41a)

He is not merely acknowledging error, but sin. He states that he does not deserve salvation but condemnation. That is what we all deserve!

B. The Sinlessness Of His Savior (41b)

Matthew 27:44 – This thief was criticizing Jesus

Mark 15:32 – “Those (plural) who were crucified with Him were also insulting Him.”

Jesus hung there for 6 hours (9am-3pm). We don’t know what brought the change - The Patience of Jesus? Like a lamb led to slaughter…no insult for insult.

1. The Prayer of Jesus

Was it the prayer of Jesus, “Father, forgive them,” that brought about the change.

2. The Passion of Jesus?

Was it the passion and concern Jesus had for His mother that brought about the change?

3. The Perfection of Jesus!

It was primarily His PERFECTION! We read in 1 Peter 22-23 – “He committed no sin neither was any deceit found in His mouth and while being reviled, He did not revile in return, while suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to Him who judges righteously.”

Everybody who looked saw His sinlessness…

Isaiah – “He was wounded for our transgressions”

Judas – "I have betrayed innocent blood."

Pilate – "I find no fault in Him."

Pilate’s wife - “Have nothing to do with this just man."

Paul – 2 Cor. 5:21

Peter – 1 Peter 3:18 (The just for the unjust)

Hebrews 4:15 – tempted…yet without sin

If you will look today, you will see it too!

Max Lucado in “Six Hours One Friday”

(The thief) realized we are guilty and He is innocent. We are filthy and He is pure. We are wrong and He is right. He is not on the cross for His sins. He is there for ours.

And once the crook understands this his request seems only natural. As he looks into the eyes of his last hope, he made the same request every Christian has made, “Remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”

At this point Jesus performs the greatest miracle of the cross. Greater than the earthquake, greater than the tearing of the temple curtain, greater than the darkness, greater than the resurrected saints appearing on the streets.

He performs the miracle of forgiveness as a sin-soaked criminal is received by a blood-stained Savior.

III. His Repentance

A. Jesus was his Savior (Remember me…)

He knows Jesus is his only hope.

Matthew 1 – Call Him “Jesus” for He will save…

Luke 19:10…Acts 4:12…1 Timothy 1:15

Jude 25 – The only wise God, our savior

B. Jesus was his Sovereign (You enter Your kingdom)

What faith! No king ever looked less like a king!

Many Americans believe in a “Sovereign-less salvation.”

Romans 10:9 and 10:13 refer to the “Lord”

Submitting to the Lordship of Christ does not only involve a declaration of the lip but a demonstration of the life.

Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name cast out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me you worker of iniquity.”

(Literally, you who live like there is no law.)

How do you claim to be saved but you live like there are no commandments?

IV. His Redemption

A. It Was A Gracious Redemption

No water…no works…no witnessing

No tithing…no teaching…no testifying

No singing…no studying…no serving

But He was saved just the same!

Ephesians 2:8-9

James Merritt - Salvation is not a reward for the righteous. It is a gift for the guilty!

There is a fountain filled with blood…

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain…

B. It Was A Guaranteed Redemption

The Greek word translated, “verily” or “truly” or “assuredly” is the word “AMEN!” His redemption was as secure as the Word of God!

Jesus said, “Today!”…This thief’s soul was in heaven before the undertaker heard he was dead! Note 2 Corinthians 5:8 – “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!”

C. It Was A Glorious Redemption

This vile, murderous, cut-throat thief was gloriously saved as an example that anybody can be saved!

We preach and teach a “whosoever” gospel. YOU CAN BE SAVED TODAY! These two thieves died on the 2 sides of the cross. One man went to heaven and the other to hell. The only difference between them was the cross of Jesus. The one who went to hell did not go to hell because he was a thief, but because he rejected Jesus Christ as the sinless, sacrificial, saving Son of God.

Closing Poem

Three crosses stood on Calvary's hill surrounded by a mob;

Two crosses bore two dying thieves and one the Lamb of God.

Two crosses bore two dying thieves who justly suffered shame;

But one cross bore God's sacrifice - The Lamb for sinners slain.

One thief received the dying Lamb, Repented of his sin;

The other thief refused to hear and did not enter in.

Like these 2 thieves, we will each die one day…on one side of the cross or the other. Which side of the cross will you be on?