Friday, October 12, 2012

Meet the man who avoided hell

Luke 23:33  When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.

The last guy you would expect to see going to Heaven
For the past two days we have looked closely at the doctrine of hell.  We have noted two men who went to hell and are still there: namely Korah from Numbers 16 and "The Rich Man" in Luke 16.  We noted that both of these men would had been regarded by many in their day as religious men or men of influence.  In both cases, they would had been the last guys you would expect to see in Hell. 

But now we are going to meet a third man, the thief on the cross.  Of all people, surely this guy is going to be in hell.  Indeed when we look at Matthew and Mark's account, no mention is made of this criminal talking to Jesus. However Luke gives us this touching portrait of God's grace working that day in the life of a man that would have no chance of ever giving back.  Crucifixion was reserved for the most vile offenders.  Yet the thief gives us a portrait of a man who avoided hell. 

How did the thief avoid hell?  Korah was a man of influence and religious position, yet by his rebellion and non-repentance he went to hell.  The rich man, also a man of influence, and perhaps considered by some to have had some measure of righteousness based upon his wealth, also died and went to hell.  Yet this thief, who had neither, was afforded access into Heaven.  How?  Consider the thoughts below:

1. The thief believed God's Word Luke 24:38-39
What had they written on the board above Jesus' head? "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS".  By fulfilling prophetic scripture, Jesus Christ indeed was the crucified King.  The soldiers mocking and the other thief's taunts were in response to the words written.  The Jews had begged Pilate earlier to take it down, but Pilate told them in John 19:22 "what I have written, I have written".  The repentant thief had a quite different response.  In seeing and hearing those words, which undoubtedly were part of sacred scripture, the thief's attitude was changed from one of ridicule to repentance. 

2. The thief was repentant  Luke 23:40-41
The thief states in Luke 23:41 "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."  Only God's Sovereign grace could show this thief the awfulness of his own sin and the awesomeness of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:25-26)  This thief repented, ignored the crowd and the other thief, and chose to look to Jesus.

3. The thief had faith in Jesus. Luke 23:41-42
What did the thief come to believe about Jesus?  That he was first of all without sin (verse 41). Second, that He was the King (verse 42)  Then thirdly, that He had the capacity to save Him, since He wanted to be remembered by Jesus (verse 42). 

4. He was justified by faith, thus gaining entry Luke 23:43
The declaration of Jesus: Today you will be with me in paradise" would not had been stated to a man who was still remaining guilty in the sight of God.  By grace through faith and repentance this man was declared fit to have entryway into heaven or paradise!  He avoided Hell by believing on Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins. 

Hell is avoidable through Jesus Christ
As we close out today's blog, I would urge my readers to consider all that we have covered these last couple of days.  In considering Korah, the rich man and the thief, my final challenge would be: Please don't go to hell.  Why?  Because scripture uses each of these men to demonstrate the following ideas:

1. Hell is the awful destination - compare Korah in Numbers 16
2. Hell is the awful place - compare the rich man in Luke 16
3. Hell is avoidable - compare the thief beside Jesus in Luke 23

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