#1 - the THIEFYou've heard the familiar saying that things sometimes come in "threes". You know, if someone dies, two more in that circle are supposed to. While I am not a gambling man, I know in horse racing there is a term called the Trifecta. This is a bet on which three horses would come in first, second or third. In soccer or Hockey, he who scores three goals has a hattrick. In baseball, the triple play is the highest hit outside of a home run.
Although the Bible never said there were three Wise Men who came to visit Christ, legend created it. There is however the Great Trinity of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are as real as the breath you take! Apart from the Trinity, three men's stories have had an amazing impact on how we look at what just happened last Sunday and how we are to move forward, through the rest of the year.
The three men, of whom I speak are: The Thief on the Cross; the Roman Centurion and Joseph of Arimethea (and to a lesser extent - Nicodemus).
Today, I don't wish to bore you with all the theological implications of what this thief did, but it would benefit us to use his completely incredible conversion, at the literal point of death, as witnessing tool of evangelism the rest of this year, and our lives.
Here is the account from the Holy Scriptures: "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 ESV)
This dude was not just dying physically, he was about to be thrust into the eternal hell waiting for all unbelievers from the beginning of Creation until the end of time. Like most of the dying world today, this thief blasphemes; curses and belittles the Holiness of God and all His Righteousness. This thief, at the beginning of our passage above, is reflective of those who will be alive during the 1000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem, which is coming closer each day.
After Armaggedon and the fact that Jesus has already returned to Earth to wipe out the nations and all the leaders you see today. There will still be mortal/physical people alive on the earth alongside those saints who return from heaven, i.e. - the Church, and they will produce literal physical children. Like us, they will not be born already saved. Some will see the light and some won't! One requirement from Jesus is EVERY nation is supposed to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the re-instituted Feast of the Tabernacles.
Still, many will refuse to obey Christ and will pay for it. Here is the proof " Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. (Zechariah 14:16-17 ESV)
This condemned thief on the Cross is in open rebellion against Messiah, just as those of whom it is prophesied here from Zechariah. This man, now almost 2000 years in hell, represents the majority of mankind of all nations alive today with their pagan cults, religions and false "christian" doctrine. There is NO hope for them, unless they become like the:
The other thief on the Cross was completely different! He obviously knew Who Jesus was, having seen and heard Him or about Him. Everyone there to be executed already knew just Who the famous One to be executed was! They had yelled Hosanna on Palm Sunday and Crucify Him five days later! But notice the process of Repentance, Seeking Forgiveness, Accepting Christ as Lord and Christ taking Him straight into the Garden of God with Him a few hours later!
"Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? - This repentant thief recognized he had violated God's Law and broken the First Commandment by not having the proper respect, reverence and literal fear of the Living God!
For we are receiving the due reward of our deeds - He knows the punishment of his many vile sins is death....and in his soul, he knows this includes eternal separation from God! This man is obviously well grounded in the Word of God, he had just chosen the alternate route - like most of us were, BEFORE Christ converted us from pagans to Christians!
This man has done nothing wrong - This thief KNOWS Jesus did not do what He was accused of and in fact, being that that area, he had known, seen and heard about the many miracles and deed of the Chosen One! The Spirit of God was already in the Process of Converting and preparing the heart of this convicted man, revealing to him that this Man in the Middle Cross was indeed the True Sinless Son of God! Jesus Himself said that no one will call Him Savior or the Son of God unless God Himself reveals Christ to that person! This condemns about 50% of Americans who call themselves "Christians" as if it were just a title like a "New Yorker" or a "Oregon Ducks" fan! This is serious stuff, because Eternity is in the balance. If someone you know, does not know that Jesus is the Sinless Son of God Who can, will and then DID take away their sins, they are as lost as the blaspheming thief above.
Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom - So this thief recognized his sins; confessed it by openly declaring it and now he is asking for Salvation!!!! THIS IS THE PROCESS OF REDEMPTION! HAVE YOU DONE THIS? IF YOU HAVE NOT, THERE IS NO PEACE WITH GOD and He will judge you into eternal separation from Him! This man was now just saved because only the Spirit of God would and could testify that Jesus was going back to the Father and the Kingdom of Heaven. This also confirms he had heard Jesus preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 6! The world has heard the Gospel preached over and over and about this same Kingdom, yet does not accept!
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." - This is Jesus' reply! Here is the King of Kings, the Creator of the World, the Lord God Himself, riding into Paradise at 3pm on Good Friday/Passover, with a common thief at His Side! WOW!!! WOW!!! First - the Thief...today - YOU AND I!
Have you done this? What did it cost the thief? NOTHING?!!!! NOTHING!!!!!
It will cost you nothing as well, if you are wish to head for Paradise with Jesus! But you do have to go through the same process. It is NOT your birthright! It is something you have to ask for! Ask and you shall receive! Seek and you shall find! Knock on the Doors of Heaven and cry out like this thief "LET ME IN, LET ME IN"!!! Then, if you are truly sorry for the way you live and then commit to living in the Will of God for your life, then you and I and everyone else, will one day be in Paradise, praising Him forever.
(image by google)