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As Jesus was dying upon the cross, the Spirit of His life was being poured out along with His blood.  Even then, before the day of Pentecost when it would come pouring out like rivers of water to write God’s law of love upon men’s hearts to wash away their sins, it was powerfully affecting those near to Him, some to eternal life who would receive it, but others to an even more hardened heart who would resist it.  Such were the two thieves crucified on either side of Him as a type of those who would be winnowed into, or out of, His kingdom by His Spirit of truth that was poured out with His blood for the salvation of all who would receive it.  For while the heart of the one, like chaff, was being consumed by a fire fanned by the wind of Christ’s Spirit, the heart of the other was being warmed from stone to flesh by that same breath.  And so it was that although both at first mocked Jesus, and one continued to hurl abuse at Him, the other came to rebuke the first with a fear of God that marked a sincere repentance by acknowledging his own guilt and just condemnation, but Jesus’ righteousness.  Then, as a beautiful example of the type of Spirit-led prayer for salvation offered in faith that God always hears, he asked Jesus to remember him when He came in His kingdom.  For although Jesus’ own disciples were slow to believe even after His resurrection, this man, from the influence of Christ’s Spirit of sacrifice that was ebbing from Him as He died, obtained faith to see through both of their impending deaths to a yet coming kingdom that even death could not prevent, indeed, that death would usher in!  O wonderful faith!  That Spirit also so touched the man as to remove all pride and selfish ambition, seeking no preference or position in Christ’s kingdom, but only that He would remember him, in complete and humble submission to occupy whatever place He might have for him.  Are we as humbly submissive to accept whatever place Christ might have for us in His kingdom, or does the pride of our hearts lead us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, and in envy to seek what we imagine to be a higher position, not realizing that the highest position in Christ’s kingdom is the lowest in the kingdoms of the world?  Cf. Mat 20:25-28, Luk 22:26-27, Joh 13:3-5,12-14, Rom 12:3, Phil 2:5-11.

What did Jesus answer the penitent man on the cross in response to his request to remember him when He came in His kingdom?  See Luk 23:43.  In light of the man’s request, what does Jesus’ answer indicate about the close association of Jesus’ kingdom and Paradise?  Considering the sort of kingdom that the people at the time, including Jesus’ own disciples, were seeking, and that both the man and Jesus were about to die so that he could not have imagined that its coming would happen immediately, what is so surprising about Jesus’ answer?  Shall we suppose, as those who believe in soul-sleep, that Jesus didn’t actually mean that the man would be with Him in Paradise on that very day, but that He was telling him on that day that he would be with Him in Paradise, eventually, but not necessarily on that day?  I.e., should our English comma, which is not found in the original Greek, come after today, and not before it?  Note that besides the word never being used this way, it is a specious argument to suppose it could be, since it is self-evident from the context that it wasn’t yesterday or tomorrow that Jesus was telling the man he would be with him in Paradise; of course it was today that he was speaking to him!

Whereas during His ministry Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God as being at hand or near (Mat 4:17, Luk 10:9,11), what does the man’s petition and Jesus’ answer teach us about a very real sense in which Jesus’ kingdom came in an even greater fulness at the death of His physical body, immediately after which His soul then went to a place called Paradise, so that the thief on the cross was able to enter into that kingdom with Him on that very day when he too died?  See Joh 19:30; cf. Mat 26:27,28,29.  Whereas the Today of Jesus’ death marked His victory over the world, the flesh and the devil in subjecting His own will to that of His Father that inaugurated the New Covenant in His blood, what is significant about the Today of His resurrection?  See Psa 2:6-8, Act 13:33, Rom 1:3-4, Heb 1:5, 5:5; cf. Col 1:18, Rev 1:5.  What other Today does Scripture note as particularly significant to those who would receive the salvation Jesus’ death imparts, and that is illustrated by the two criminals crucified with Him?  See Psa 95:7-8, 2Co 6:1-2, Heb 3:7-15, 4:6-7.  Considering that those who were crucified often suffered for days upon their cross before actually dying, what is the additional prophetic significance of Jesus’ words to the thief that on that day he would be with Him in Paradise?  See Joh 19:31-32.

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