All you have to do is ask
One particular incident brought eye-popping clarity to what Jesus believed about good people and hell. Following His arrest and trial, Jesus was beaten and forced to drag his cross toward the place of execution.
Once Jesus was nailed to the cross, Luke also records an exchange that took place between Jesus and the thieves being crucified on either side of Him.
This is what Luke records: “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and save us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing.” (Luke 23:39-41)
Notice anything about what the second criminal said that is relevant to our topic of discussion? As horrible a death as crucifixion was, the second criminal readily admitted that his life was so horrible that he was actually getting what he deserved. Then…he did the unthinkable: he asked Jesus for a favor. He asked Jesus to have mercy on him in spite of his worthless life. He said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
This was a “dead man talking.” He had no opportunity to do good. He had come to the end of his miserable life, and hours away from death, he asks for mercy. Now…if Jesus had believed that good people go to heaven and bad people don’t, what would you expect Jesus to have said to this man? “Sorry, Charlie. You are a bad man and you will spend your eternity in hell.” What would you have told him?
What if he had murdered your wife, or sister, or you had been maimed because of this man’s reckless behavior? None of that mattered to Jesus. Pushing up on that nail that pierced his feet for leverage, he uttered these words: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Do you realize what that means? It means that Jesus not only didn’t believe that good people went to heaven, he believed that bad people do. One of his last acts before dying was to promise this criminal a spot in paradise.
Because this criminal asked for forgiveness, Jesus forgave him. He will be in heaven for all eternity. The other criminal? Hell will be his eternal abode. Why? Because, even though Jesus died for the sins of all mankind, the Bible clearly teaches that eternal life must be received and one must ask for and receive the free gift of eternal life. (Romans 10:9-10:13) Believe what you will, reject it if you must, but one day you will understand that God’s Word is indeed His Word and God means what He says.”
Remember, God loves you just like you are, but He loves you too much to leave you like that.”
Pastor Thad Gifford is lead pastor of the Crossroads Community Church of Madison County, 62 E. Second St., London. He can be reached at (740) 852-7800, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at their website www.3c-church.org.