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.”
The account of the thieves on the cross with Jesus is often over looked, often ignored, often not understood, often twisted, and often secretly disdained by those held captive in a world religion. The account is brief and to the point, but it sums up Jesus’ salvation in a simple manner.
Jesus saving just one thief, yes one thief, utterly dismantles and destroys many modern religions in one full swoop! This salvation account should put many false pastors on the unemployment line and close many church doors, but I suspect they’ll continue to either twist the account and/or ignore it.
If we read what happened carefully we can ask one central question which is how was this thief saved? We know he was a criminal, he was being put to death with Jesus. We see he realizes that he is under condemnation, and that he understood that the wages for his sins was death. He asked Jesus one thing, “remember me when You come into your Kingdom”. Now some would say he was asking to be saved here, but his question did not ask that. He was simply asking Jesus to remember him, so common sense and logic would say he expected to be going to a different place, called hell. Otherwise, he would not have needed to ask Jesus for this request of “remembering”, because he’d be WITH Jesus in His Kingdom.
The dismantling and destruction of world religions came in the response Jesus gave, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” He obviously saved the criminal because Paradise is indeed in Heaven.
So as I heard one pastor say in reference to this account, if one could interview this saved criminal in heaven and ask “How did you get here?”, his response would shut down every false gospel that preaches conditions to salvation out there!!
His reply would not and could NOT be ANY of the following conditions, “well, I went to church every Sunday”, “I prayed to Mary”, “I did all these good works”, “I desired to baptized”, “I was baptized”, “I was a good person”, “I did more good things than bad things”, “I cracked the Bible code”, “I understood the doctrine of justification”, “I participated in the Lord’s Supper”, “I did a penance”, “I appealed to my dead relatives in heaven and saints”, “I was highly religious and said many prayers”, “I chose to be saved by my free-will choice”, “You see, I was just a better sinner than that other heathen criminal on his cross”, “I volunteered many times for the church”, “I was a good father to my family and took care of my children”, “I helped the poor and needy”, “I helped the elderly”, “I posted verses on social media”, “I was doused with ‘holy water’ and given Last Rites” or “I spent time in purgatory and received punishment and was prayed out of that place by others on earth”.
Indeed, he could not and would not be able to claim “I did” or “I didn’t” in anything regarding his salvation! But the ONLY answer would be, “I am here in heaven because of Jesus alone!” You see, by this one account we can see how intimate salvation truly is. The criminal did nothing, Jesus saved him! YES, it was and is this simple!
So if one asked you, “how are you going to heaven”, and your response is anything OTHER than “because of what Jesus did on my behalf”, sorry but you are not on your way to heaven. If your immediate response is “I” instead of “He”, you are most likely trapped in a world religion and traditions leading you not out of the gates of hell, but to remain behind those gates where you will continue to say “Lord, I did it”, and believe that you are doing something save yourself instead of believing Jesus can save you.
Roman Catholics even try to give the criminal a name “Dismas”, when there was no name given. Because the utter destruction of what they had been taught, wives stories about him need to concocted. They claim he was saved by “a baptism of desire”, that he desired to be baptized. And from the account, we know this isn’t true whatsoever. He had no idea what baptism was for one thing, and the other thing is the only thing he asked was that Jesus remember him while he was in hell.
In fact MANY world religions devise silly stories about this thief in a form of what we hear today as “fake news” or “disinformation”. They know if the account is taught in its true form, it would cast questions and doubt on their world religion. If told the truth, the congregation would then be asking, “why are you telling me I have to do all these things for Jesus to save me and grant me eternal life, when Jesus DID IT ALL?”
Because the account is so profound, world religions scramble when challenged. Many will try to say he was “saved under to old covenant”, or another gospel. They do this because of the obvious contradictions on what they are teaching and believing and what actually happened with this criminal.
To sum this up, the criminal’s salvation account is evidence of the one true Gospel! God saves the ungodly sinner by absolutely nothing they did, against their fallen will. The sinner can do NOTHING, Jesus DID it all! By His death and resurrection the sinner is saved, nothing more, nothing less. Placing just ONE condition outside of this would mean you are not saved. You are also mocking and scoffing how Jesus saves if how He saved this criminal would be beneath the way He could save you! That somehow your works would amplify the reason why Jesus could save you when NO WORK other than His could!!
In many of the books I wrote, I speak about this account because of where I personally came from which was a world religion and how it impacted my own witness and testimony. And HOW I now share the Gospel to those in need of salvation. I see the account so utterly destroying all the false preconceived notions on the why, how, and when one can be saved.
Jesus says, “come as you are!” not “clean yourself up first, and then I’ll think about it”. I hope those reading this salvation account this Easter will really think about how Jesus saves which is by grace alone through granted faith alone in Him alone. And I pray that those turned off or confused by a world religion will come to know the real living Jesus, the real Savior, and leave those false gospels!