Scriptures

Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise

Introduction

‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’. Luke 23:43

Just outside the city of Jerusalem there was a hill known as ‘Calvary’ or ‘Golgotha.’ It was also called, ‘the place of the skull.’ Luke tells us,

‘And when they had come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and other on the left’ Luke 23:33

There were three crosses in a row. Naturally we are usually concerned only with the one in the middle. In this lesson we want to take a look at all three.

THE ONE ON THE RIGHT

Here we see the figure of a dying thief. Yet, more significant than his physical anguish is his scorn and hatred of Jesus who is also suffering agony. What had Jesus done to so arouse him? This thief’s cross was a cross of rebellion. This cross depicts the enmity of many toward Jesus. It clearly typifies the unbelief of the world at large toward Jesus.

His statement points out several things

1. He was in pain and agony, within the shadow of death, yet, this did not humble him.

His sin did not even bother him in death. I have seen people like this.

2. He said, ‘If you are the Christ.’

Has there ever been any ‘if’ about it? That little ‘if’ is a powerful word and has enough venom in it to destroy a soul.

Since the late eighteenth century certain Bible scholars have been denied the authenticity of the Bible. Modern liberal theology denies that Jesus is the Son of God. They look upon the Bible as mostly myth.

On the whole it usually takes many years for myths to develop because at the time a myth would not be recognised as truth. Yet we learn from Acts 2 that within 50 days after the death of Jesus we have Peter affirming that Jesus arose from the grave. All his enemies had to do was to produce a dead body to prove Peter was lying.

Just 27 years after Jesus’ resurrection Paul devotes an entire chapter to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This doctrine was already formulated and widely believed in the Roman world. This stands in contrast to the hundreds of years it usually takes for a myth to be accepted.

A modern-day group of Bible scholars known as the ‘Jesus Seminar’ say that Jesus did not say 82% of what is attributed to Him in the New Testament. Most of the remaining 18% is considered somewhat doubtful, and only 2% of Jesus’ sayings are considered to be authentic. This reminds us of Paul statement in 1 Timothy 3:7,

‘Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.’

For them it remains as Paul says,

‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ 1 Corinthians 1:18

3. He challenged Jesus to save both ‘yourself and us.’ What impudence!

What had he ever done that he could demand salvation. How much this reminds us of those today who live in sin all their lives then when faced with death they rail at God, accusing him of dealing harshly with them, demanding that He do something for them.

THEN THERE IS THE THIEF ON THE LEFT SIDE

Again, we have the figure of a dying thief. Yet, instead of one dying in his sin he was dying to sin, his was a cross of repentance. This victim also twists himself upon the nails to look at the centre cross, but not in scoff and unbelief, but in recognition of Him. He like the other thief would like to get his hands free, but not to smite but to deliver the sufferer from the middle cross.

From his statements we see unfailing evidence of genuine belief and repentance

1. His reverence in the presence of Deity.

‘Do you not fear God?’

2. His ready admission of his own guilt.

‘For we receive the due reward of our deeds.’

3. His belief that Jesus was suffering wrongfully.

‘But this man has done nothing wrong.’

4. His open confession of the Deity of Jesus.

He calls him ‘Lord.’

5. His humility.

‘Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’

What a difference between these two thieves. The first saw Jesus as only a man, but the second saw him as Lord. The first saw Jesus as a mock king, but the second saw Him as the ‘King of kings.’ The first saw Jesus as a sinner, but the second saw Him as a Saviour. There were no ‘ifs’ in his words.

The result was that Jesus answered him,

‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’

PARADISE

Paradise is a Persian word for ‘an area enclosed by a wall’ or ‘garden.’

‘And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?’ And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.’ Nehemiah 2:8

‘I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.’ Ecclesiastes 2:5

‘Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard’. Song of Solomon l4:13

The Greek word, ‘paradeisos’ is used for the garden in Eden in Genesis.

‘Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden’. Genesis 2:8-16

‘The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.’ Isaiah 51:3

‘You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysotile and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.’ Ezekiel 28:13

The New Testament understands paradise in terms of its Jewish heritage. In Luke 23:43 Jesus promises the penitent thief,

‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’

The intermediate state was transformed by Jesus’ emphasis on being with him ‘today.’ There’s no denying where Jesus was going, He was going to ‘paradise’. No longer is paradise just an anticipatory condition awaiting the messianic presence at the end of the age.

Those who die in faith will

‘be with Christ’, Philippians 1:23

And Jesus promised the thief that he would be with Him in paradise that day, not weeks, months or years from now but that day,

‘today, you will be with me’.

Now, we must be careful that we don’t make the same mistake that many have made about this thief, that his example means that today one can be saved without baptism. We must remember that even as Jesus was dying on the cross this event transpired during the period of the Mosaical dispensation. The Christian age wouldn’t come into effect until 50 days later on the day of Pentecost.

But there may be more here than meets the eye. We’re somewhat amazed about his knowledge and faith. Could he have heard him preach on different occasions? According to Matthew 3:5-6, as a result of John’s preaching,

‘Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.’ Could it be the thief was one of these?

John 3:26 says

‘all were coming to Jesus to be baptized’

There were several occasions during his ministry where Jesus forgave sins. He had the authority to do this. While we admire the thief, we mustn’t use him as our example of what to do to be saved.

In Matthew 3:13-17 we have the example of the Saviour of mankind coming from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized. If Christ had to be baptized in order to remain in favour with His Father, can we remain in His favour and refuse to obey? Obviously, baptism is important. At first John refused but Jesus said,

‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness’. Matthew 3:15

The Book of Acts gives us eight specific examples of conversions. In every example the person or persons were baptised. There are no exceptions. It still amazes me the animosity that many in the religious world have against baptism.

At the very suggestion that baptism is for the remission of sins as stated in Acts 2:38 one will most often encounter hostility toward this simple command that is so important to our salvation.

This is sad yet probably sadder is the fact that out of the six billion people on this earth today probably nearly one half or more have never heard the name of Jesus. We have failed greatly in the great commission that was given to us by Jesus. His final words before ascending to heaven were,

‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Matthew 28:19

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God."

Acts 18:11

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