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TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE! (Jesus’ Seven Sayings from the Cross 2)

 

The Penitent Thief

The Penitent Thief

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Even while he was dying, one of them – known as ‘the unrepentant thief’ – joined in with the crowd hurling insults at Jesus, scoffing and cursing him. But the other one – known as the penitent thief – was different. What did he see? What did he understand? He believed Jesus was a King – ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42). He accepted the justice he had received. He knew he deserved his punishment, just as much as he knew Jesus didn’t. And he feared God. As he was dying, he had a glimpse of eternity, of life beyond the grave. Jesus spoke words of comfort to him, words of assurance and hope – ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43)! No ‘sinners prayer’ uttered? No ‘rite of baptism’ demanded? No apparent ‘gift of the Holy Spirit’ given? Just the promise of Jesus that there was nothing to fear for this man because, beyond the moment of his death, he would be with Jesus for eternity … for as the Apostle Paul implies, ‘paradise’ is part of heaven itself (2 Corinthians12:4).

Some people ask, ‘How can it have been “today”?!’ For three days Jesus was in the grave and, after the resurrection, it was a while before his ascension into heaven. Where is ‘paradise’? Is it indeed heaven? What does happen when we die? Is ‘paradise’ a conscious intermediate state like a royal garden where a guest waits for the king? Or do we enter an unconscious state, like a dreamless sleep, to be woken at the coming of the Lord? Or is there no intermediate state at all – so as soon as we die and have stepped out of time, we are immediately resurrected into eternity with God? What is the correct answer? All of us, who like the penitent thief truly put their trust in Jesus as Saviour, will find out one day!

What we can say for sure, is that ‘time’ takes on a whole different dimension in eternity! What is ‘today’ in terms of eternity? Eternity is the everlasting ‘now’. What is important to Jesus – which is why Jesus said what he did, and why what he said is important for us – is that, like the penitent thief, we need not fear death but believe and trust in King Jesus and receive his promise that we will be with him forever! Paradise is wherever Jesus is!

Julia Binney

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3 comments on “TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE! (Jesus’ Seven Sayings from the Cross 2)

  1. Tom Wright’s book Surprised By Hope is interesting on life after death – or should that be life after life after death.

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  2. I can’t recall the reference but the verse says “Absent in the body is presence with the Lord”..so wouldn’t that mean you die and then you are with the Lord? That is a nother confusing thing for me. When I die do I go straight to heaven or am I buried and have to wait with all the others who are “sleeping”? I do not believe in purgatory so I know I am not left in limbo.Thanks for your blog.

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    • The scripture you are thinking of is 2 Corinthians 5:8 where Paul speaks of death as being ‘Absent from the body [but] present with the Lord’. Exactly what happens to the believer after death remains, in many ways, a mystery. The one thing we can be assured of, however, is that we will have nothing to be anxious about, and that it will be a more pleasant experience than we can possibly think possible right now, because we will be ‘with the Lord’. We can also be sure that everything that we don’t understand now will be fully resolved in Glory. Now we see through a dirty window, but then we will see clearly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

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