If I were to ask you this most solemn question: “If you were to die tonight, are you sure that you’d go to heaven,” what would your response be? To be perfectly frank, what I thought of your answer doesn’t really matter. What does matter, though, is what GOD thinks of your answer. After all, it is His heaven and it seems more than reasonable that He should decide who gets in and who doesn’t. The sad reality is that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13).
Theology of a Thief
Many are familiar with the fact that when Jesus was crucified on the cross, two other men were crucified with Him. What many don’t realize, however, is that one of those men was promised by Jesus Himself that he would go to heaven. Fewer still are those who understand why Jesus made him such a promise. God’s Word tells us why, however, and this historical account is recorded for us in Luke 23. I would encourage you to read Luke 23:39-43 for yourself, but have provided excerpts here for your convenience. Here is what we can learn from the thief:
1. He knew he was a sinner and deserved the punishment he was getting: “And we [are condemned] justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds” (Lk 23:41a). The Bible says the same of us: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 and “For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23. Death is not just a cessation of life—it is eternal separation from God in a place called Hell (Mt 26:46; Rev 20:14-15).
2. He knew Jesus was perfect and did not deserve to die: “but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Lk 23:41b). The Bible confirms that fact in several places. “For He [God] hath made Him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (II Cor 5:21). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (I Pet 3:18).
3. He knew Jesus was a King going to His Kingdom: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Lk 23:42). If the thief did not believe Jesus was going to His kingdom, why would he have asked to be remembered?
4. He believed he could not get to heaven on his own. The thief would not have asked Jesus to remember him if he could get to heaven on his own or if everyone automatically gets there.
5. He believed forgiveness of sins and salvation was a free gift that cannot be earned. Why/how do we know that? The thief was within hours—if not minutes—of dying. He could not get off the cross, he could not do good works, he could not be baptized, he could not join a church or promise to be good. He knew his only hope of getting to heaven was for Jesus to be merciful to him. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
What should you do? You should do what the thief did:
Admit you’re a sinner and can’t save yourself; believe that Jesus’ death was satisfactory payment for your sins; and call on the name of the Lord. A gift does not become your gift until you receive it for yourself: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).
How do you receive this gift?
In simple faith ask Jesus to save you. Remember, it is not the prayer that saves you—it is Jesus!
“Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and deserve to be punished in hell for my sin. I know that I cannot save myself from my sins, but I believe that you died on the cross to pay for my sins so I wouldn’t have to. Right now, as best as I know how, I am asking you to forgive me of my sins. By faith I accept your gift of eternal life and thank you for dying for me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
If you have made the decision to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior or have any further questions, please contact us. We would be glad to help you in any way that we can.