Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Luke 23:32-33
We are told that one of the thieves on the cross said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (23:42). And Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (23:43).
This promise was given to the thief. But is it for us too? It is hard to imagine a more important question than this: “How can you be sure about heaven?”
The story of the thief on the cross gives us the clearest and simplest answer in the entire Bible to that question. It blows away the myth that people get into heaven by living a good enough life. Clearly, the thief had not done that. He was a criminal. He is described as a “robber” (Mark 15:27), and the scale of his crime was such that he was sentenced to capital punishment. It may be that his thievery involved violence or even murder. We do not know.
Whatever the circumstances, this man had not lived a good life. And clearly, he was not in a position to start living a good life either! His hands were nailed to a wooden beam; he could not use them to serve others. And his feet were fastened to a cross; he could not run out and do good works. It is too late for this man to turn over a new leaf. He is out of time! Yet Jesus says to this man: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Does the thief’s story confirm or challenge your view of who gets into heaven?