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BULLETIN SEVENTY FOUR
FROM ROBBER TO REDEEMED IN ONE DAY
NO TIME DELAY ON HEAVENíS TREASURES
In Luke 23:43, we find one of the most dramatic incidents in the long agonies and enlightenments of the crucifixion. Christ had to endure mocking, scourging on the way to His murder, derision, and then the callow folly of being asked to come down from the cross, that they might believe (Matthew 28:40). That would be like saying to one of the young fighter pilots in Britain, during the first of the few resistance to Hitler in the air, Come out of your fighter plane, and then we will believe you were in it! To do such a thing would, on the contrary, show He was not God, not the Saviour, not consistent in purpose, or not aware of the divine plan of salvation, and further, not only not gifted as Messiah with endurance, but also could not take it, was faking being the bearer of iniquity which did REQUIRE death in its saving satisfaction for sin, that it might be freely pardoned in sinners who, believing, received it.
Instead, Christ continued right on to the end, saving, with the cross the pulpit and place of propitiation.
Today we look at one instance. Both criminals on the adjoining crosses, had been speaking against Him (Mark 15:32), but as the matter was long, light moved onto THE heart and mind of one of them, who realised what was happening, and then saw the purity, the power, the presence and the purpose of the Son of God. To his opened eyes the truth came, just as the Roman soldier was later to exclaim, "Truly this was the Son of God," (Matthew 27:54). Lord, one of the two requested, while the other still spoke evil of the Lord, "Lord, when You come into Your kingdom, remember me!" Earlier, one had chided Him: "If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us." Their prospects and position were indeed desolate. The time was NOW, as death closed in and salvation was at that very time, being paid for (Hebrews 9:12).
So with the one who believed, as they hung dripping to death, crushed to end life, the question was when Christ's assured kingdom would come, though this one in faith was now ready to receive whatever seemed good to Him, in this case, from his Lord. The emphasis was time, which the believing criminal now scaled in his mind: the fact was now realised: it WOULD happen, Christ's kingdom would come, like the sun rising and more, in certainty. WHEN that happened, the request was that He who now had him as a disciple might remember this fact, his call on Christ, that He would in fact recall him, and honour this fact. When that time came, he appealed to the memory of Christ of his heartfelt cry and when he had made it.
THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST IN ANSWER
"TODAY," Christ declared, covering every aspect, "you will be with Me in paradise." There could be no question whatever about the thief's being remembered, since the time was THIS VERY DAY!
Christ removed with great brevity in His dying throes, the whole vital field of the unknown. He affirmed to the criminal, the certainty. That might seem too good to be true (He stated with 'Truly I tell you,')," but on and for that very day, He spoke it. Concerning His message, the first word, "Today" was the emphasis, dealing with the entire issue at once and fully. Remember! Why, what difficulty could there possibly be in that since it was on that very same day, that his request was not only be made, but would even be granted! His response was intimate, personal and immediate. Such is the inscription for the believer, here able to be fulfilled at once, like a cheque paid in full on presentation.
It made the possibility of aeons in waiting for the kingdom in gnawing horror, to be nothing. The Son of God, even in sacrificial dying, was at once sufficient, receiving any who came. If indeed He so saves the dying as HE Himself dies, how much more in His resurrected glory, is He swift to hear! Those eight words covered the case. No lack of power, no waiting time, no open questions were in it. It was triumphant and total. There was no prelude to being with Him in heaven. That very same day would provide this blessed entry into eternity in the very presence of the Lord. It had the personal touch, the sublime emphasis, the penetrating point. Not after interminable delays or gradual process, but immediately would the acceptance into heaven with Christ, personally, be accomplished. No memory was required! It was to happen by the power and grace of God.
He did NOT say, Some day, whenever it may come, it is hidden precisely, but in due time you and I will both be in paradise. Surely, whenever that happens, I will remember you. The points in view were entry into HIS KINGDOM and WHEN the believing applicant could enter. TODAY, was the answer, and no trouble with remembering the events of this day! Neither were the coming events unsure nor was the time uncertain. As the criminal was bold and clear in his request, so was the Saviour in His reply! You ask for My memory of you WHEN My kingdom comes. The all embracing answer is this: Memory is hardly applicable, for today is the time of the action. Uncertainty is out; you are in.
Had He not said to the disciples, " I go to prepare a place for you ... that where I am, there you may be, also" as duly recorded in John 14! He came again almost at once, with the precisely stipulated delay of three days for His resurrection! withholding the date of the resurrection, that finale to faith. Thus He NEVER leaves nor forsakes His own! as promised (Hebrews 13:5). Accordingly, amidst the agony, the urgency, He said "TODAY" in paradise with Me, you will be. As in John10:27-28, the sheep follow Him with eternal life. They are not cut off nor they be snatched from His Father's hand. Thus, for agony, peace and pardon was the exchange, effective now, honoured at return to God.
The meaning, then, was not that He would make some efforts to cater for their coming when the time of their death arrived, and had hopes (though it yet depended on many things) that He might manage in not too long a time. HE, God as man, was leaving to PREPARE A PLACE. Did He lack the power ? the purpose ? the means ? the heart ? Had He ever failed ? nor would He. After all, He did NOT come down from the cross, though He had raised Lazarus to show the same purpose . In this way He had already shown what He was about to show again: we are dealing here with God, who created life and the universe, and not just with man. We are finding the love of God, not the amours and drifts of man, his affections or hopes or sin-smitten weakness.
THE CONTINUAL TESTIMONY OF THE BIBLE
As with Moses and Elijah, heard talking during the transfiguration (Matthew 17), as with the saints heard talking in heaven, as in Revelation 6:9ff., asking how long it would be before the suffering finished on earth. For that there was time to pass, as many more had yet to be saved before history folded its sin drenched wings, before the number was complete, as the angel declared. So the children of God are revealed, aware and alert in heaven before the resurrection.
The 'sleep' as with Stephen when killed by stoning (Acts 7:60), was not of the soul but a way of describing his death, the end of his actions on this earth. As to the time when his spirit was passing on, Stephen exclaimed then what he saw, namely Christ at the right hand of God, in heaven. Crying out at the glory witnessed, he had his face shining though his body died, his life not only active but rapturous. Elijah of course in his day was taken direct to heaven (II Kings 2:5-11), as with Enoch (Genesis 5:24). The testimony is sure that on that day that one leaves this earth, as one of God's children, as a Christian, so one enters the precincts of heaven.
There is even more to come. In Romans 8, it is called "the redemption of the body." When as in I Corinthians 15, I Thessalonians 4, II Corinthians 5, the body after death on this earth is concerned, there are two phases to come in the place prepared. One is the collation with Christ in spirit, at once; the other is being resurrected in the body prepared. It is all prepared, just as the body was prepared for creation, the single cell of the simplest description filled with the mathematical, engineering, programmatic, information imparted, commanding codes and correlations as far back as life itself. God being at work. He commands life; redemption; coming for it; and in its time, resurrection in it. He works at that level in unique but irrefutable grandeur.
It is vain to try to make nothing an artist, a construction agency, a law manipulator, a thought inventor, a logician inventor. That is to talk entire rubbish as if on a large scale ANYTHING will do, so long as it is physically a flat contradiction, a form of spurred spiritual irrationality, verging on madness, as is often the case similarly in totalitarian political schemes, and world take-over type religions that have nothing but anti-reason to offer as their glistering grounds. Nor does He forgive for nothing, or do nothing to make free pardon justly available to faith in Him and His works (Luke 13:1-3, John 3:16,36). He does not even force pseudo-faith; for He IS the truth. Truth does not wander or waver.
When God acts (cf. Isaiah 65:4), the evidence accords with it, rationality being both in physical law and in our minds, and wedded to this in our directed bodies, while our minds learn to keep logic to match effective enquiry in this universe, and in the Bible our spirits are shown the way to understanding in the only testable, constantly verified, ultimate testimony in writing, on earth.
Not believing in the sent Saviour is an inconsistency and an irrationality that ultimately disrupts all of life, however well cushioned it may be, leaving it unattended in salvation by its Maker who calls (cf. John 11:28), and who has prepared the way through and in the consummation of this life.
CREATION, SALVATION, RESIDENCE, RESURRECTION: THESE ARE DIVINE MOVEMENTS, AND FOR THESE AND IN JESUS CHRIST THEREFORE, WE REJOICE.