One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43
On the cross, Jesus reveals a huge truth when he invites the criminal hanging next to him into Paradise.“And [the thief] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (v. 43). This man didn’t know religious jargon, but his confession is raw and authentic. He speaks in defense of Jesus, saying that he is innocent of the punishment he and the other criminal deserve. Yet, Jesus still hangs in the same place they do. This confession is a beautiful presentation of the gospel. Spoken by a man unworthy of the inheritance of Christ. His offense had to be among the worst if his punishment was death on a cross. The severe contrast of the two criminals is nothing but a posture of heart and the grace of God. Their reputation, infliction, and condemnation is the same, but Christ changed one man’s eternity.
Have you ever prayed for terrorists? Do you know drug addicts? Have you watched cyclic homelessness? What about pimps and prostitutes? A subtle lie has infected evangelicalism. It’s that someone can be too far gone to be saved.
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