And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."Luke 23:43(NASB)
The one and only Saviour of the world hung on a cruel wooden cross, with His arms of forgiveness wide open to all who would trust His name. The armies of heaven were at His disposal, but He could never respond to the jeering crowd that taunted, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross and save Yourself," for to do so would have shut the door to paradise for everyone, and slammed closed the gates of heaven forever, with no hope for mankind in the world.
The mocking hatred of the crowds, the spurious lies of the leaders, the twisted testimony of the false witnesses, and the foul deeds of the Roman soldiers, were amplified with the reviling sneers of the two criminals who were crucified alongside Jesus, until one was deeply convicted and recognised the King that was staked at his side. I wonder whether it was Christ's gracious prayer of forgiveness that prompted his requests when, with a repentant heart he cried, "This man has done nothing wrong," and then turning towards the Lord and pleaded, "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom."
I doubt that the thieving criminal expected to hear Christ's merciful reply, "Today you will be with Me in paradise," nor would he have anticipated the wonderful joy into which he would shortly enter. But immediately, his simple faith was rewarded with a promise of paradise in the company of the Redeemer Himself.
Though salvation is conditional on the repentant sinner turning to Christ, this beautiful passage gives assurance that it is never too late to look to the Lord Jesus and live. It demonstrates that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, and is not dependent on any liturgical sacraments, baptismal rituals, good works, man-made doctrines, or legalistic requirements. It is faith in the Person, the Work, and the Word of the Saviour that secures for us the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
It was by the sin of the first Adam that paradise was lost, the way to the Tree of Life barred and guarded by mighty angels with flashing swords, and it was by the sacrifice of the second Adam that paradise was regained, and the way to the Tree of Life was once again flung wide open, to whosoever will believe.
The door to paradise was unbarred and the gates of heaven were thrown wide open to this repentant sinner who hung next to our Lord, for he gained the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God, simply because he trusted on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin. For as it is written: "All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved."
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes on HIM will not perish but have everlasting life."
Thank You, Father, for the inestimable gift of salvation that is given to all that trust in the name of the Lord. I thank You that the way into the paradise of God has been reopened through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and my sins, past, present, and future, have all been forgiven simply because I trusted on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name I pray, AMEN.
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