Let's think about the next of Jesus' last words from the cross. It is the word of Salvation and is found in Luke 23:39-43.
Jesus' first word was for His enemies, the people mocking Him, those putting Him on the cross. His second word is for a common criminal dying on the cross next to Him.
Jesus knew His time of crucifixion was not the end. He knew Where He was going and When. He declared, "Today, you will be with Me in paradise." We may not know When we are going to die but we can know Where we are going!
Do you know where you are going? You can!
From this passage we learn three truths about death and redemption.
1. Death is not Final; It is the Door to Eternity.
Jesus said, "Today, you will be with Me in paradise."
You and I have a hard time imagining Life after Death, don’t we? But Life after death is real, even if we can’t imagine it.
Imagine you and I are talking face to face and, when we finish, I walk away through a door and you are no longer able to see me.
Would you conclude I no longer existed? Of course not! I simply moved out of your sight. And when we die, we will move out of the sight of those who are living. That’s all.
Life after death is real, even if we can’t see it. We simply pass from this life through the door of eternity.
In his book "Mere Christianity", the great C. S. Lewis wrote: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." How true!
2. Salvation is Immediate and Complete.
It is Immediate in the fact that Jesus said, "Today".
Contrary to what some have been taught, there is No Stopover on the way to heaven. There is No Second Chance to prove you are good enough to enter God's presence. There is no basis for such teaching found anywhere in the Bible. On the contrary, Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
It is also Complete since we don’t need to Add anything to salvation because there is Nothing to add! Water baptism, church attendance, giving our tithe, living a good and moral life are all important and I highly recommend them, but the thief on the cross could do None of them!
The thief dying on the cross could do absolutely Nothing yet Jesus promised him, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."
By the way, if we say that people need to add Anything to salvation, we are saying Christ’s work on the cross was insufficient. His blood is inadequate to cleanse sinners.
But the Bible is emphatic: Christ's blood can wash away every stain!
3. Now here's the really Great News: Salvation is available to Anyone and Everyone!
The thief had no credentials and no qualifications to make him eligible to meet the criteria for heaven. He was not a good man, a moral and upstanding citizen. He was certainly not a credit to his community.
On the contrary, he was a condemned criminal paying the price for his crimes and his wasted life.
Rome had judged him and condemned him. They had declared he was not worthy to live. Rather, he was worthy of death and suffering, agony and humiliation.
But Jesus said, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."
How could this happen?
Because of Faith! This condemned thief dying on a cross looked to the next condemned man dying on a cross and pleaded, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Wow! What faith!
We know from the Bible that Jesus died as our Substitute, the Passover Lamb slain for the sin of the world.
But this man did not know that. Instead, he saw a man that had been so brutalized he hardly looked like a human being. (Did you see the film, "The Passion of the Christ"?)
On the cross Jesus looked like a failure. But the thief put his faith and trust in Jesus and was rewarded with eternal life.
Amazing! If Jesus would offer salvation to a dying thief hanging on a cross next to Him - a man who society had condemned to die - will He not also offer salvation to you?
No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, Jesus has the same stunning, life-transforming offer for you: "Today, you (can) be with me in paradise."
Will you accept this wonderful offer of salvation and life?
If you have already accepted it, will you pass this glorious news on to those who desperately need it. There are people you know who are broken by sin and desperate for hope. Will you tell them the Good News that Jesus offers them Life - abundant and eternal - that can begin Today!
Will you give Jesus praise for this glorious, life-changing salvation? Let's give Him all the glory!