“The righteous shall flourish…
like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)


The righteous shall flourish…

like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)

With Me in Paradise

Jesus died with thieves, two men who were condemned and crucified with Him, on either side.  Pictured in those two criminals dying with Jesus is the way of all mankind.  For as the Bible affirms, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  Every one of us is a guilty sinner before God, as they were.  We too are already caught and condemned and will answer to God for our sin.  All of us are dying as were they, suspended between heaven and earth, unwanted by earth below and unworthy of heaven above.

In those two dying beside Jesus we see as well the differing effects of the gospel upon men.  Both of them were equally near to Jesus as they died.  Just as all people are near to God’s answer in the good news of Jesus known among men.  And as we see in these two, some turn to Jesus, believing His gospel message, while others reject and even mock, dying without God’s pardon.  Both were in the very same circumstance, seeing, hearing, and feeling the same.  And yet one believed for salvation and the other rejected to his eternal condemnation.  To the one, the gospel of Jesus was “the savour of life unto life”, to the other “the savour of death unto death” (II Cor. 2:16).  Please consider with me the account of these two who died with Jesus in the Bible book of Luke.

Luke 23:39 – “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”

“Malefactor” means evil-worker.  These two were convicted criminals.  “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us”, the one demanded.  “If you really are the promised Messiah then prove your power by delivering yourself from death.  This was spoken in scorn, for this man was hardened to the last.  If thou be Christ”, he said.  “If” was the mocking word on nearly every tongue there that day.  Jesus was confronted with doubt on every side, His apparent weakness the common point of concern.  All presumed that if He did not save Himself then He could not.  And if He could not deliver Himself then He could not save others either.  It never occurred to those looking on that Jesus chose to die in order to make the way of salvation open to others through His death in man’s place, and through His resurrection.  This word of doubt on the tongues of all there that day was a case of men following the lead of men, picking up on the popular attitude as men are so given to do.  But if a man would have God’s blessing he must be willing to hear God’s words over the hubbub of human hearsay.  Oh there was one such listener there that day.

Luke 23:40 – “But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?”

Here now is the other thief, a man ready at the last to believe on Jesus.  Did you notice that his name was not even given?  This Mr. No Name could not have been more of a nobody, for he was a criminal, caught, and condemned.  Yet see here how this unknown man won eternal blessing from God through a few simple things;

  • A simple awareness of his own evil and the willingness to admit it.
  • A simple awareness of who Jesus is.
  • A simple confidence that Jesus could help him.

Yet, as we soon discover, for such simple things this man would be “with” Jesus in paradise!

Luke 23:41 – “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”

Here is a brutally honest confession.  What’s the use of subtlety and hiding anyway when it comes to this point in a man’s life?  Look well at what this man knew about himself;

  • He knew he had lived in evil and fully acknowledged his sin, pointing no fingers at others.
  • He knew he was receiving justice in his death, exactly what he deserved.
  • He knew he had good cause to fear God. He would soon die and meet his Maker and he was honestly afraid of that confrontation.
  • He knew he was not worthy of God’s presence and needed God’s mercy.
  • He knew his soul would continue to exist after his death.
  • He knew his complete inability in himself to know or be with God.

This man was exactly the kind Jesus came to seek and to save, “for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”, Jesus said (Matt. 9:13).

Luke 23:42 – “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

“Remember me” whenever You come in Your kingdomDo you hear the remarkable difference?  No if from this one, only when”.  While doubt was expressed all around him, this man followed God’s lead rather than man’sWhile all were speaking their abuse against Jesus of Nazareth, this man alone spoke in His defenceAnd he was right to do it!  There’s a crucial lesson hereSee how the popular attitude of the surrounding crowd concerning Jesus was wrong!  In fact when it comes to God’s things the majority is almost always wrong!  You cannot follow along with the opinion of your society and expect to find God’s truth or pleasureThis man had to run against the whole crowd in the way he viewed Jesus.  But he was the only man there that day who was right in his views.  And he was the only one there who received paradise with Jesus!  This man personally turned to Jesus, not with words of doubt on his tongue, but only with confession of his own sins.  And it was the secret!  It is the way to victory!  It is the answer!  The key!  It’s the same way and answer that still lies open before all men today.

What did this man know about Jesus?

  • He knew Jesus had done “nothing amiss” or out of place, though He appeared to be as guilty as they.
  • He knew Jesus would live on or live again, though at that time His death was certain.
  • He knew Jesus would come in His kingdom, though at the time He appeared a complete failure.
  • He understood that it would be Christ’s own (“Your”) kingdom, that He as Messiah owned the right to that coming kingdom.
  • He therefore recognized that Jesus was actually a truly worthy Person rather than the criminal He appeared to be.
  • He knew that entrance into Christ’s kingdom was available to men, that Jesus might share His kingdom.
  • He knew that he could not enter Christ’s kingdom on his own, but needed Christ’s consent, as his Advocate. Thus he recognized that some would be allowed in, and some would not.
  • He knew that Jesus might accept even one such as he! So he understood, or at least hoped, that Jesus is approachable and of a forgiving nature.
  • He knew that in receiving acceptance from Jesus he would find God’s acceptance. He had not sinned against Jesus personally in his wayward life, yet he sought entrance through Jesus as if he was asking the God he had

How much this man understood!

What we have in this man’s request is a simple prayer.  He doesn’t ask for rescue from his cross, from the fair punishment of his sins.  He doesn’t ask for any easing of his present sufferings.  His aim is much higher than earthly things.  He asked only for the hope of God’s acceptance after his death.  By simple faith in God’s assurances of things future he clutched at those blessings to come.  And he received!

Luke 23:43 – “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

Just like that!  Christ’s reply was immediate, indicating the greatest willingness in Him to give eternal life to this man, one with absolutely nothing in his life to commend him to God.  Yet the man had only to ask!

Can you see perhaps the most wonderful feature of all here?  Jesus gave to this man far beyond what he asked or even hope for?  Jesus said;

  • “Verily” or truly – No doubts! There were no uncertainties about what this man would have from Jesus.
  • “Today”No delays! Not a distant, vague someday, when Jesus at last comes in His kingdom.  It would be “today”, before tomorrow, even before tonight.  Look well at the way of Jesus with a seeking soul.  When one comes to Him in simple faith it’s “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”!  This man didn’t just get his request, he got far more than his request.



On the Side

Notice what else the Lord’s words here imply.  Immediately upon death the saved soul is “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).  In the same way at the end of Luke 16 we see the soul of Lazarus carried directly after death to Abraham’s bosom.  Thus the souls of those who have believed on Jesus have existence after their death.  They are not annihilated.  And they have conscious awareness after death.  There is no soul-sleep as some insist.  Those who die in Jesus are blessed with comfort in the Lord’s presence, and immediately so.

Now some Catholic commentators go a bit wobbly here.  Obviously for Jesus to speak of paradise “today” is a floating fly in their purgatory punch.  No transition period, but “today”!  No purifying phase before paradise.  Today!  The very moment this man breathed his last he was with Jesus in paradise.  In attempting to deal with Christ’s words here some Catholic scholars tend to twist the punctuation around, making it, “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise”.  Attempting by this ploy to remove assurance of the when of it.  Of course this crafty little corruption suits Jehovah’s Witness teaching as well.  The same twist has been written into their New World Translation of the Bible, which reads here, “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”  Otherwise their notion of soul-sleep after death would suffer even heavier stress.  But why would Jesus need to tell the man today?  Today as opposed to what?  Obviously the man would know that Jesus was speaking to him today.  You don’t have to look far to see the stress marks in such a strained and desperate translation.  Nobody would even think to read these words in such a forced manner if there was not the need to prop up a false belief contradicted by these words.



Jesus also assured this man of being;

  • “With Me”Shear delight! Only for the saved soul is this a happy prospect.  For we who know and love Jesus it’s everything!
  • “In Paradise”No dream or delusion. The word or concept of paradise comes of the idea of a park or garden or pleasure-ground, with an obvious suggestion of Eden.  The term came to refer to that place where the souls of the righteous dead dwell after death.  Jesus used this word in Rev. 2:7 to refer to heaven.  So with the expression of his faith Jesus gave this thief entrance into that place where the righteous dead dwell, where Jesus would be with him.

Now let’s look a little more closely at the amazing response of this man.  Consider some things that might have stood in the way of his believing on Jesus as he did;

  • Again, his environment or the surrounding crowd sentiment opposed his faith. All who were there were expressing doubt about Jesus.  Within that whole context hate and disapproval and mockery were running thick and deep.  The rejection of Jesus was quite obvious as well in His hanging on a cross there beside them.  It’s what the Jew and Muslim still point to.  Jesus showed Himself weak they insist (meek, but not weak).  If this really were the Son of God this could not have happened, or at least could not result in His death they would tell us.  It’s a natural human response to follow the views of our environment or society.  But this is only able to corrupt our thinking when we’re willing to be corrupted.  This man was listening to God’s voice!
  • He might have turned to bitterness against God for allowing this to happen to him. But instead he was humbled.  It’s the difference!  And would this man have ever come to this moment of faith and the eternal blessing of salvation had he never come to this personal tragedy?  Not likely.  Not in the kind of life he was living.  Then praise God for the tragedy, for it saved this one from a tormented eternity, had he never met Jesus on that cross and found Him quite willing to receive.
  • He might have thought himself too evil, too unworthy to dare even ask such a favour of Jesus. But instead he came, just as Jesus has invited all to do.
  • He might have been too utterly distracted by his own distress.
  • He might have run himself down the well-worn blame-shift track, pointing to somebody else or some situation as reason for his failure.

But he just turned to Jesus in simple faith.  And he found!

So much spiritual truth is taught in this transaction between this malefactor and Jesus.  Consider that;

  • This man had no opportunity to prove he had believed on Jesus for salvation. Thus it is not necessary to in any way prove our faith in order for that faith to be real.
  • This man had no chance to practice any good works. He was nailed to immobility hand and foot!  Therefore good works are not necessary to receive salvation and eternal life from God’s hand.
  • This man had no time to be Therefore baptism is not necessary in order to believe on Jesus for salvation.
  • This man was utterly unable to observe any sacrament or Therefore no sacrament or ordinance or ritual of any kind is needed to find paradise with Jesus.
  • This man had no ability to join a church. Therefore our name on a church membership roll has nothing to do with our being there with Him “when the roll is called up yonder”.

This happy man simply acknowledged his own evil and believed on Jesus as the only One who could give him eternal life.  Therefore he was saved and assured of paradise with Jesus.  And if this be true of such a convicted and condemned Mr. No Name, then oh there is hope for Mr. & Mrs. Anyman!

Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” and “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (Matt. 11:28; Jn. 6:37).



Who is good?

“There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10)


Who has sinned?

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)


What is the cost of sin?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23)


Who paid the price for our sin?

“But God commendeth (shows, displays) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)


How can I be saved from the guilt and penalty for my sin?

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13)