The Choice is Yours
Luke 23: 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." 42 Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." 43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (NKJV)
On Good Friday, two criminals hung on crosses on either side of Jesus as he was being crucified. One hurled insults at Jesus (v. 39) while the other feared God and confessed his sin (vv. 40-41). He asked to be remembered “when You come into your kingdom” (v. 42). Jesus replied “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v. 43).
The word “paradise” used here is a Persian word meaning a park or an enclosed garden. It was a word used in Judaism at the time to denote where the redeemed abided between death and the resurrection. It is the place we call Heaven today.
Jesus told the repentant criminal that he would be with Him in Heaven “today”. The repentant criminal instantly went from a state of sin and shame to a state of blessedness.
This statement by Jesus tells us several things. It tells us that we go to Heaven immediately at death, that there is no intermediate state, no purgatory.
Also, the fact that the repentant criminal would know “today” that He was in paradise tells us that there is consciousness immediately after death, there is no soul sleep. Also, since the repentant criminal was not baptized, it tells us that salvation is independent of baptism or communion, that we are saved only by our faith.
Unfortunately, the unrepentant criminal did not “fear God”. Whether or not he was sure that Jesus was the Messiah was not important. What was important was that He did not choose to believe, as did the repentant criminal.
So, both criminals saw all the same signs that Jesus was the Messiah, but one believed and one did not. They both were running out of time and one chose eternal life while the other stubbornly refused and did not.
It was a choice, which everything in life is. From the day we are born, Jesus wants to know which side of the cross we are on. Are we on the right side of the cross, or the wrong side of the cross? Do we believe in Him, or not? The evidence is overwhelming today, much more so than when the repentant criminal believed.
But still many choose to be on the wrong side of the cross. They are unsure so they seek out other gods. Some choose to believe in another god and then some just go along unsure of who God is, and never choose at all. Then there are others who choose to believe that there is no God at all.
Just as it was for the criminals, our time is running very short. We are never promised tomorrow, or even another minute. Every breath we breathe could be our last.
As for me, I choose to be on the right side of the cross. How about you? You must choose. No choice means you have chosen the wrong side. If you have not chosen Him, please choose Jesus today, for the sake of your eternal existence. The choice is yours.
Online Bible Commentary