You Will be With Me in Paradise

We are continuing our meditation on the seven last sayings of Jesus while He was on the cross. Today we look at the second saying that was toward one of those who was being crucified with Him, “I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Mark’s Gospel tells us that, “Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him” (Mark 15:32). At the beginning, both of the men crucified with Christ insulted Him in the hope that, if He were the Son of God, they could goad Him into coming down from the cross and help them, too. Later, Luke tells us that one was silent while the other continued in hurling insults:

39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

Jesus told the criminal that he would be with Him that day in paradise. On what basis would this man go to paradise, do you think? What do you think this criminal saw in Jesus that convinced him that He was, indeed, the Christ? This common criminal had seen Jesus being badly treated by all who were witnessing the crucifixion, viz. the high priest, the elders, and the common people. The criminal had also witnessed His forgiveness to the soldiers who had driven spikes into His wrists and feet. The pain the criminal was experiencing was nothing to what he knew Christ was enduring because of the scourging and the crown of thorns on His head.

He must have heard at some time about the promise of the Messiah, one who would usher in the Kingdom of God. He realized that there was something genuine about the claims of Jesus and that He was “the One” who was promised. Even though his understanding may have been very basic, he spoke the words, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

Repentance and faith are expressed in those words. There was no time to do good works. There was not a creed spoken. No priest had told him of certain things that he must say or do to enter the kingdom. He wasn’t even baptized before he passed from this life, but he was told that he would be with Christ in paradise that very day. There is no such thing as purgatory. It is by God’s grace alone that we are accepted into God’s family. “The cross is the resting place for sin, the tomb for self and the throne for our fears” (Harold St John).

God is not willing that any should perish but that all may come to repentance and faith in Christ. The words that we say are not as important as what is within our hearts. He sees our heart, everything that is expressed, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. Is there sorrow for our sin? Do we see our need of a Savior? By God’s grace alone, this man, was brought to humility of heart and repentance, and, if you are willing, God will do the same for you. Call upon the Lord while He is near!

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 63 at this link, The Crucifixion of Christ (Luke 23:26-49). Keith Thomas

When the Resurrection Takes Place, We Shall be Like Christ

We are continuing our meditation from yesterday on the attack on Jesus by the Sadducees (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). The fourth thing Jesus said to the Sadducees is that those who are worthy will be called children of the resurrection (Luke 20:36). Because those who belong to Christ are God’s children, we will look like Him. We will carry His nature, power, and authority. We will be children of the resurrection. Scripture has a lot to say about the resurrection body:

42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

A few hours before evangelist Dwight L. Moody died, he caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him. Awakening from a sleep, he said, “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go!” His son who was standing by his bedside said, “No, no father, you are dreaming.” “No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming; I have been within the gates; I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle, he spoke again: “This is my triumph; this my coronation day! It is glorious!”

Jesus had gone straight to the heart of the matter when He challenged the Sadducees on their beliefs about the afterlife and eternity as well as eternal reward. He challenged them on the very point that they hoped to use to trick Him, but now, their own beliefs were exposed as being contrary to the very Scriptures they accepted as truth.

His arguments were causing the religious leaders to question their own beliefs, and they were not successful in swaying the crowd away from Jesus. In fact, within a short period of time, after the Temple curtain was torn in two at the death of Jesus, Luke records in the Book of Acts, that “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). What caused many priests to become obedient disciples? Was it witnessing the temple curtain torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38), or was it Jesus’ answer to the Sadducee questions? Even the teachers of the law said, “Well said, teacher!” (v. 39).

What about you, dear reader, are you convinced yet that this life is not all there is. That beyond this life, if you have received the free gift of salvation, and turned your life over to Christ, and had your sin forgiven, you too will bear the likeness of the Man from Heaven mentioned in verse 49 above. I hope to see you there.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 54. Luke 20:20-47. Questions About Eternity. Keith Thomas

“I Go to Prepare a Place for You”

We are continuing to meditate on the thought that God has called out of the world a people from all nations to be in a marriage relationship to Himself. This relationship is one that is brought about by the greatest of loves, that of agape love, self-sacrificial love. Jesus came to express His love by dying in place of guilty man. The judgment of sin was, “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). God has made a way of escape and sent His Son to take man’s punishment upon Himself—self-sacrificial love. God raised Him from the dead, and now He waits for man to respond to His act of love. In this act of love, He has betrothed those who accepts His death as theirs, into a marriage relationship. When Christ comes, then will begin the festivities. Until then, we are in an engagement or betrothal relationship. We are to live in purity for Him and Him alone. Christians are those who have entered into a covenant of marriage.

I borrow from the words of C.H. Spurgeon here:

“The marriage of the Lamb is the result of the eternal gift of the Father. Our Lord says, “Yours they were and you gave them to Me.” His prayer was, “Father, I will that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am. That they may behold My glory, which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” The Father made a choice, and the chosen He gave to His Son to be His portion. For them, He entered into a Covenant of Redemption, whereby He was pledged in due time to take upon Himself their nature, pay the penalty of their offenses, and set them free to be His own.

Beloved, that which was arranged in the councils of eternity and settled there between the high contracting Parties is brought to its ultimate end in that day when the Lamb takes unto Himself in everlasting union the whole of those whom His Father gave Him from of old.

Next—this is the completion of the betrothal, which took place with each of them in time. I shall not attempt elaborate distinctions. However, as far as you and I were concerned, the Lord Jesus betrothed each one of us unto Himself in righteousness when first we believed on Him. Then He took us to be His and gave Himself to be ours so that we could sing— “My beloved is mine and I am His.” This was the essence of the marriage. Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, represents our Lord as already married to the Church. This may be illustrated by the oriental custom by which, when the bride is betrothed, all the sanctities of marriage are involved in those espousals. Yet, there may be a considerable interval before the bride is taken to her husband’s house. She dwells with her former household and has not yet forgotten her kindred and her father’s house, though still she is espoused in truth and righteousness. Afterwards, she is brought home on an appointed day, the day which we should call the actual marriage. Yet, the betrothal is, to Orientals, of the very essence of the marriage.”[1]

That is what we will talk about next, the home that the Lord has been preparing for us. He said, 1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3). I’m looking forward to being with Him in that place, I hope you are too.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas

[1] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons35.xxxv.html

There is a Place for You

2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.”  5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:2-6).

He said He would come back and take believers to be with Him. Do you believe Him? Have you found the way to His house? The way is not a direction; it is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He has paid the penalty for your sin and invites you to receive Him into your life and to receive the free gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9). You can have the inner confidence that you are home only when you come to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you remember the one commandment of Mary, the mother of Jesus? Yes, Mary gave the world one commandment that is written in the Bible. Speaking to the servants at the wedding in Cana in Galilee, she said, “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5). There is great wisdom in these words, and we do well to heed them, and make His house our direction.

Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21). We show Christ how much we love Him by obeying His commands. This is the main thing—to fall in love with the God of the Universe. When you really understand all that Christ has done for you, you cannot but help falling in love with Him. Sometimes, we don’t see the obvious that is written in the Bible, i.e. that of a God of love seeking to reconcile fallen humanity to Himself. From beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation, we see God calling a people for Himself from all the nations—a people who come to know God – not just know about Him, but to know Him intimately. No matter in what nation you live or no matter what you have done, Christ has made a way for you to know God in a close, intimate, love relationship.

The God of the Universe has been separated from His people by their sin (Isaiah 59:2). He calls across the time span of many thousands of years longing to be united with His people and to bring them home to the New Jerusalem where He may dwell with them. What’s His call? “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Adam and Eve, as a result of listening to the enemy, were hiding from the Lord God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). So many people today are still hiding from God, but He calls to them, longing that they will respond and abandon their own self-righteousness, which is as filthy rags, and come to receive His provision for sin, i.e. the gift of the robe of righteousness in Christ. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far you are apart from Him, He wants to draw you to Himself if you will open your heart to Him. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44. Emphasis mine). Just the fact that you are reading these words is evidence that the Father is drawing you.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas

An Appointment with Death

We have been meditating on the subject of eternity over the last few weeks (scroll down for other meditations). Erwin Lutzer tells the fable about a Baghdad merchant who sent his servant to the marketplace to run an errand. When the servant had completed his assignment and was about to leave the marketplace, he turned a corner and unexpectedly met Lady Death. The look on her face so frightened him that he left the marketplace and hurried home. He told his master what had happened and requested his fastest horse so that he could get as far from Lady Death as possible—a horse that would get him to Sumera before nightfall. Later that same afternoon, the merchant also went to the marketplace and also met Lady Death. “Why did you startle my servant this morning?” he asked. “I didn’t intend to startle your servant—it was I who was startled,” replied Lady Death. “I was surprised to see your servant in Baghdad this morning, because I have an appointment with him in Sumera tonight.”[1]

You and I have an appointment with death. We cannot run from it, and we cannot hide from it. We can only face it. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Thankfully, there is a God in heaven who has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We needn’t face death alone. Christ has told us that He will be with us until the end of the age.

When George Bush Senior was Vice President, he represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Communist Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, that this life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that this same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.[2] There was the leader of a Communist country trying to stamp out all knowledge of Christ and His Word, yet even his wife was a secret believer with the thoughts of eternity in her heart.

We have come a long way over the last few weeks as we have explored what God says about our destiny and where we will spend eternity. We are made for more than the way this world is set up! We have an enemy that seeks to keep our minds occupied with things of this world alone. That enemy, Satan, desires to stamp out all thoughts of another life in Christ, a life that is better by far. He does not want us to focus on the eternal, but he wants us to be mesmerized only by the physical, material world in which we are in to keep us “duped” and ineffective. The enemy does not want us to consider that we are only passing through this present life and being prepared for another. Jesus said that, even though a man dies, yet shall he live (John 11:25). You can deny the thoughts about eternity, and you can tell them to shut up, but that inner knowledge that death is not the end cannot be extinguished. There is a God in heaven Who has not given up on you; He calls to you that you may find your way to His home. You shall seek me and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Over the next few days we will take a look at who we are and where we are going. Who are we? Jesus calls us His Bride, and He is preparing us for eternity with Him.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Wedding of the Lamb. Keith Thomas

[1] One Minute After You Die, Erwin W. Lutzer, Moody Publishers, Page 119.

[2] Gary Thomas, in Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p. 26