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Query for the Month

of September 2000

 

Next up-date: October 1st (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

 

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

What does it mean to "be led by the Spirit"?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!

 


Query:

Luke 23:42-43

And he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Verily I say to you, Today shall you be with Me in paradise."

What do these words mean?

 

Response:

Those of you who know their Bibles will see that I have changed the position of the comma. And that changes the whole meaning of the verse!

Because ALL the punctuation in the Bible was added by others AFTER the original words were written, no one has any authority to deny me this choice.

But why have I done this, and by what power?

Let us consider the circumstances in which these words were spoken.

To Jesus in His agony on the cross there came one gleam of comfort. It was the prayer of the repentant thief.

Luke 23:39-45

And one of the malefactors [criminals] which were hanged railed [turned] on Him, saying, "If you be Christ, save Yourself and us."

But the other answering rebuked him, saying, "Do not you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man has done nothing amiss."

And he said to Jesus, "LORD, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Verily I say to you today, you shall be with Me in paradise."

And it was about the sixth hour [midday], and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour [3pm]. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent [torn] in the midst [from top to bottom].

Both the men who were crucified with Jesus had at first joined in the general treatment of Him; and one under his suffering only became more desperate and defiant.

Matthew 27:44

The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.

But not so with his companion. This man was not a hardened criminal. He had been led astray by evil associations, but he was less guilty than many of those who stood beside the cross reviling the Saviour. He had seen and heard Jesus before his imprsonment, and had been convicted by His teaching as is evident from his desperate plea to Him while on the cross. But he had been turned away from Him by church leaders. Seeking to stifle the convicting words of the Spirit, he had plunged deeper and deeper into sin, until he was arrested, tried as a criminal, and condemned to die on the cross.

But in the judgment hall and on the way to Calvary he had been in company with Jesus. He had heard Pilate declare, "I find no fault in Him." John 19:4.

He had looked on His godlike bearing, and heard His pitying forgiveness of His tormentors. Luke 23:34. On the cross he had seen the many great religionists shoot out their tongues with scorn, and ridicule the Lord Jesus. He had seen the wagging heads. He heard the reproachful speeches taken up by his companion in guilt: "If You be Christ, save Yourself and us." Matthew 27:42. Compare these words with those in the Psalms.

Psalm 22:1-11

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring [calling out]?

O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You hear not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, O You that inhabit the praises of Israel. Our fathers [old Testament believers] trusted in You: they trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered: they trusted in You, and were not confounded.

But I am a worm [in My own sight], and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, "He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him."

But You are He that took Me out of the womb: You made Me hope when I was upon My mother's breasts. I was cast upon You from the womb: You are My God [and Saviour] from My mother's belly. Be not far from Me [now]; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

Even among the passers-by the thief heard many defending Jesus. He heard them repeat His words, and tell of His works under the influence of the Spirit. The conviction came back to him that this is "the Christ", the "Sent" of God. Turning to his fellow criminal he said, "Do not you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation?" Luke 23:40.

The dying thieves have no longer anything to fear from man. But upon one of them presses the conviction that there is a God to fear, a future to cause him to tremble. And now, all sin-polluted as it is, his life history is about to close. "And we indeed justly," he moans; "for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man has done nothing amiss." Verse 41.

There is no question now. There are no doubts, no reproaches. When condemned for his crime, the thief had become hopeless and despairing; but strange, tender thoughts now spring up. He called to mind all he had heard of Jesus, how He had healed the sick and pardoned sin. He has heard the words of those who believed in Jesus and followed Him weeping. He has seen and read the title above the Saviour's head. He has heard the passers-by repeat it, some with grieved, quivering lips, others with jesting and mockery. The Holy Spirit illuminates his mind, and little by little the chain of evidence is joined together. See Isaiah 28:10.

In Jesus, bruised, mocked, and hanging upon the cross, he sees the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29. Hope is mingled with anguish in his voice as the helpless, dying soul casts himself upon a dying Saviour. "Lord, remember me," he cries, "when You come into Your kingdom."

Quickly the answer came. Soft and melodious the tone, full of love, compassion, and power the words: "Verily [truly] I say to you today, You shall be with Me in paradise."

During the long hours of agony, only reviling and mockery have fallen upon the ears of Jesus. As He hangs upon the cross, there floats up to Him still the sound of jeers and curses. With longing heart He has listened for some expression of faith from His disciples. He has heard only the mournful words, "We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel." See Luke 24:21. How grateful then to the Saviour was the utterance of faith and love from the dying thief!

While the leading churchmen deny Him, and even His followers doubt His divinity, the poor thief, upon the brink of eternity, calls Jesus "LORD". Many were ready to call Him "Lord" when He wrought miracles, and after He had risen from the grave; but none acknowledged Him as the Son of God as He hung dying upon the cross save the penitent thief who was saved at the eleventh hour.

Some of the bystanders caught the words as the thief called Jesus "LORD", for Luke recorded them for us. The tone of the repentant man caught their attention. Those who at the foot of the cross had been quarrelling over Christ's garments, and casting lots upon His robe, stopped to listen. Matthew 27:35-36. Their angry tones were hushed. With bated breath they looked upon Christ, and waited for the response from those dying lips.

"Verily I say to you, Today shall you be with Me in paradise."

To the penitent thief came the perfect peace of acceptance with God. Romans 5:1. He could join with David in his triumphant cry.

Psalm 51:7-12

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence; and take not Your holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation; and uphold me with Your free spirit.

Christ in His humiliation was glorified. He who in all other eyes appeared to be conquered was a Conqueror.

He was acknowledged as the Sin Bearer.

Men could exercise power over His human body. They could pierce His holy temple with the crown of thorns. They could strip from Him His raiment, and quarrel over its division. BUT THEY CANNOT ROB HIM OF HIS POWER TO FORGIVE SINS. In dying He bears testimony to His own divinity and to the glory of the Father. "His ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, neither His arm shortened that it cannot save." Isaiah 9:1-3. It is His royal right to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him and He exercises it. Hebrews 7:25.

"I say to you today, You shall be with Me in Paradise."

Christ did not promise that the thief should be with Him in Paradise that day for He Himself did not go that day to Paradise. He slept in the tomb, and on the morning of the resurrection He said, "I am not yet ascended to My Father." John 20:17.

But on the day of the crucifixion, the day of apparent defeat and darkness, the promise was given.

"Today", while dying upon the cross as a criminal, Christ assures the poor sinner, "You shall be with Me in Paradise."

That’s why I can change the position of the comma.

The thieves crucified with Jesus were placed "on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." John 19:18. This was done by the direction of the priests and rulers. Christ's position between the thieves was to indicate that He was the greatest criminal of the three. Thus was fulfilled the scripture, "He was numbered with the transgressors." Isaiah 53:12.

But the full meaning of their act the priests did not see. As Jesus, crucified with the thieves, was placed "in the midst," so His cross was placed in the midst of a world lying in sin. And the words of pardon spoken to the penitent thief kindled a light that still shines to the earth's remotest bounds. With amazement the angels beheld the infinite love of Jesus, who, suffering the most intense agony of mind and body, thought only of others, and encouraged the penitent soul to believe.

In His humiliation He as a prophet had addressed the daughters of Jerusalem;

as priest and advocate He had pleaded with the Father to forgive His murderers;

as a loving Saviour He had forgiven the sins of the penitent thief.

 

Conclusion:

"I say to you today, You shall be with Me in Paradise."

Christ did not promise that the thief should be with Him in Paradise that day for He Himself did not go that day to Paradise. He slept in the tomb, and on the morning of the resurrection He said, "I am not yet ascended to My Father." John 20:17.


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.

 

Spiritual Dictionary:

 

"I say to you today, You shall be with Me in Paradise."

Christ did not promise that the thief should be with Him in Paradise that day for He Himself did not go that day to Paradise. He slept in the tomb, and on the morning of the resurrection He said, "I am not yet ascended to My Father." John 20:17.


Next thought. To be discussed from October 1st 2000.
This is the only time these words occur together in the Bible.

1 Kings 13:6

And the king answered and said to the man of God, "Entreat now the face of the LORD your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again." And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.

What does it mean to pray for others and how do you do it?


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