The Holy Bible declares that ALL have sinned and come short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). That no one does good or is seeking God (Psalms 14:2-4), that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), and that the soul that sins will surely die (Ezekiel 18:20). This means that the fate of mankind is sealed unless that punishment and penalty is justly applied on someone else. Of course that someone cannot be another sinful man who is also guilty of sin-even if that someone were without sin, no creature or angel could bear the weight of God’s anger on sin.
This is the reason God sent His guiltless Son who took on human flesh; in order to suffer God’s just wrath for sinful man. All men have been stung by death (1 Cor. 15:56) – the wages/consequence of sin is death! Burdened by the weight and consequence of sin, the sinner seeks relief. He must look to the One who is able to take this sting away – Christ hanging on the cross bearing the sins of the world – He, who is innocent but taking the place of sinners in suffering for their sins as pictured in Isaiah 53:4-6 (this is the substitutionary nature of His sacrifice). This seems to be the representation we have with the story in Numbers 21 when God released fiery serpents into the midst of the Israelites. Only those who looked at the brazen serpent after being bitten were saved. John 3:14 tells us Christ is the One lifted up in the wilderness.
Two sinful criminals hung by His side. Both start off by mocking and jesting at the very sacrifice for their sins (Matthew 27:44). They exhibit the seed of rebellion in every man – rebellion against God and His Anointed King! Rebellion displayed by everyone who refuses to yield and submit to the Exalted One who has been given a Name Higher than any other, at the mention of which every knee bows whether in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confesses as Lord.
But wait; one of them suddenly remembered this was the Lord, the King. Jesus had taught about the Kingdom of God-His Kingdom. He is the Way to the Kingdom, no one can enter the Kingdom except by Him. Immediately he is cut to the heart. Full of repentance, he rebuked the other criminal by reminding him that they were suffering justly, but Jesus was not suffering because of anything He did wrong. This acknowledgment of sin is key in repentance and the thief exhibited this.
NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION. There is no salvation in the grave – don’t tarry. Still hanging on that tree but barely hanging on to his breath, the thief’s next statement is profoundly filled with faith: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Those faith-filled words were all he needed to say – LORD, Your Kingdom! From the lips of a condemned sinner, those words could not be ignored by Christ. He did not listen to their taunts as he submitted himself to death on the cross, but a cry for salvation he immediately heeded. Anywhere He sensed faith, he duly responded. He did not deny the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:43-48; “…your faith has made you well” He told her. How about the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28; “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” she was told. And on many other occasions when Faith in Him was exercised, He duly obliged.
This thief on the cross was not going to be different. Not when he understood that the consequence of his sin was much more than the physical pain and punishment he was now going through. Eternity stared at him on the other side – would it be death or life? The King of Life was right there by his side. The One who held the keys of death and hades and the Kingdom hung by his side. O how he cried like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 longing to hear the same words: “Your faith has made you well”, this time for admittance into the Kingdom.
Reader, consider this man’s faith deeply, does such faith reside in you? With the words “Lord” and “Your Kingdom”, he acknowledged that Christ is the One sent by God as King, Priest, and Prophet to bring the message of the Kingdom. The ONLY one who could show and bring anyone into the Kingdom – He came from there! He alone knows the Way there – in fact, HE IS THE WAY! The thief hung on those words to reach out to the Saviour; his last few breaths filled with faith. Had Christ not said in John 6:37-40 that He would in no wise cast out any that comes to Him?
He received the comfort promised by the savior to all who need it ( Matthew 11:28) when Christ turned toward him. His eyes must have lit up for the last time when he heard the King’s voice, this time directed toward him: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
He could take his last breath resting assured that he would wake up walking hand in hand with the King Himself into the Kingdom. Who could turn him back?
Dear Reader, do you have the assurance of eternal life? God does not desire that any should perish in their sins but that all should repent (2 Peter 3:9) while they still can. Enough of the futile rebellion and rejection of the Son of God, the King of the Kingdom. His death on the cross has paid the debt of sin for the redemption of all who come to him. Look to Him for salvation!
NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION (2 Corinthians 6:2). Call to him while you have breath, acknowledge and confess that you are a sinner worthy of damnation, and ask that Christ brings you into His Kingdom where all are counted righteous and worthy of eternal life. If that thief found salvation on the Cross, so can you! Christ’s atonement is sufficient to save you as well.
There is none other by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12, Isaiah 45:22). Hear the words of this famous hymn and ponder deeply:
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff’ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best For a world of lost sinners was slain. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it someday for a crown. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above To bear it to dark Calvary. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true; Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.