The thief who was crucified next to Jesus tells us his story:
I was crucified with Jesus on that Friday afternoon. Who would have thought I would be here in heaven? How I got here still amazes me, I’m telling my true story so you can share in the joys I’ve found.
I awoke that morning knowing this is the day I die. A heartless guard stopped by my cell with a cup and plateful of food and yelled, “breakfast enjoy your last meal” as he spat in my food! Little did I know then, that I would have breakfast with the devil, but dinner with a Savior!
The Romans are doing this and I hated them, I also hated their temple and their God. I knew about God, my mother taught me well but over time I got arrogant, lazy and hateful. They brought me to this God forsaken place. Two others shared the same fate as me that day. As I waited I saw a large beam of wood placed on the ground, a moment later a bloodied man with thorns was thrown on it. A soldier stepped on his right hand pinning him to the beam, an agonizing scream cut through the air as his wrist was pierced by a blunt rusty spike then another scream as they nailed his other wrist, and still louder as they nailed his legs together. The screams and cries were deafening!!! Then it happened to me! There are no words to describe the pain of a crucifixion. I was hanging there when He yelled “Father forgive them!!” Forgive them???? I hated every last one of them!
As I turned toward him I saw the sign, king of the Jews. I heard about this man Jesus. People yelled, if you’re the son of God, get yourself down!! Looking at him I saw all the open lacerations over His entire body, his skin was raw, it looked like pieces of meat hanging from Him where the whippings tore the flesh from His body, blood was dripping everywhere, long thorns made into a crown sticking into his scalp, which was also bleeding badly. If God had a son, it was hard to imagine this is what he would look like. I started screaming, I poured out the foulest stream of hatred and abuse toward this man Jesus! The pain fueled my anger! I was on the brink of hell, I could taste it. I now realized my greatest theft was in robbing God, I wasted the life God gave me on myself, I never really had any fear of God and I didn’t really care. Until now!
I saw Jesus look at a woman kneeling below Him. He raised Himself up and drew the breadth He needed to speak. Woman, behold your son. I now know it was John His disciple then to John, behold, your mother! This expression of love had a deep impression on me! The other thief next to Jesus was laughing at Him. Just then someone yelled, “He saved others, he can’t save himself.” I thought about that, I saw the love He had for others, if he really had saved others, could he save me? My growing fear of God kept driving my thoughts. If he was the son of God he would be in the business of saving others. Maybe He could do something to help me!
A few minutes before I was cursing him, now I need to ask him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom?” Truthfully I pretty much knew I was done for and going to hell.
But Jesus looked into my eyes and said “I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise!” I was shocked by his promise that I would be with him! Hanging on that cross I could taste hell already. His words were the greatest words anyone had ever spoken to me in my life! And so it was, I was Jesus’ last companion on earth and His first companion here in heaven!
It’s no accident that I was the first one He brought to heaven. I’m an example of what He’s able to do with anybody. And believe me, if I’m here, anyone who believes and trusts in Him can get here also!
Think about this, I trusted Jesus and came to heaven. I never had the opportunity to be baptized, to receive communion, to join a church, to make a donation or to join a ministry. I went to heaven without ever living a Christian life! Nobody can live a Christian life good enough to deserve heaven. Heaven doesn’t depend on what you do for Jesus, but for what He did for you. Salvation is by Grace alone, through faith and belief in Jesus Christ!
I figured if He’s willing to forgive the man who drove the spikes into Him, maybe He’d forgive me. I swallowed my pride and asked Him. You can do the same, and if you do, He’ll forgive you also! Faith begins by admitting you need Him, that isn’t easy, but it’s a step you have to take if you want to join me in heaven. I will tell you this, whatever your experience of love or lack of love in your life, there is love for you in the heart of Jesus Christ. I saw this as He prayed for His enemies and He promised me Paradise. Here’s the amazing thing that I still can’t get over: I lived a life that was as bad as it gets, I had hate in my heart, I swore at Jesus to His face and committed crimes against everyone I knew, I was the bottom of the pile the worst of sinners. Jesus’ mother Mary lived a life that was as good as it gets. Mary was chosen to be the Mother of Jesus. Mary was pure, and she was special. Yet both of us entered heaven precisely the same way, through faith and belief in Jesus!
The religion that I was brought up on attempted to change me from the outside in: do these things and you will be a good person. It never worked! All I can say is that when Christ’s words entered my heart I was changed and I believed. I now understand why Jesus spoke of this inner change as being born again. I was changed from the inside out!
The sun was now high in the sky the soldiers would break my legs soon so we could no longer push ourselves up for a breadth. Many thoughts now went through my mind I remembered the story when the judgement of God would fall on every first born male. Now the judgement of God was falling on Jesus, His own Son, the firstborn male was about to die. I knew I’d be saved. Just then Jesus yelled an agonizing cry, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Had God abandoned Jesus? This terrified me! I put my trust in Jesus but if God had forsaken Him what chance did I have? The other thief was still yelling at Jesus, I yelled over “this man has done nothing wrong.”
My sins of theft, blasphemy and my godless selfish life were lifted from my shoulders and transferred onto His. He bore my sins! More than that He took all the sins of every person who trusts and believes in Him! He carried their guilt and judgement in full. This is the reason why He was pierced and tortured and never said a word! It was for sinners like me! How could He do it??
My body was burning up, I needed a drink. Even Jesus yelled, “I thirst!” But when they offered Him something like vinegar, He wouldn’t drink it. I realized then His pain went far beyond His physical pain.
I thought about the relationship He had with His Father. Before the world began God the Father shared a loving relationship with His Son. But at His hour of greatest need Jesus was alone. From the deepest darkness Jesus cried out, “MY God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” It was clear to me Jesus had experienced hell on that cross!
At some point in your life you’ll experience things that will push you to the outer edge of your endurance. When that happens, you need to know it happened to Jesus as well. Are you wrecked with pain? Jesus has been there. Are you suffering an injustice? His injustice was He did nothing wrong. You been abused? He was stripped, beaten and spit upon. You been abandoned? He was abandoned by his twelve closest friends. Don’t measure God’s love by what’s happening to you! Measure it by what happened to Jesus! Even in Jesus’ darkest hour when He cried “why have you forsaken me,” God was still His God. Faith does not rest on your ability to feel God’s love!! Faith rests on God’s ability to keep His promise! When you face the unanswerable “WHY”? Jesus can say to you, “I’ve been there too, and even in the darkness, God is still your God!”
Just then I saw the soldiers walk toward me with their clubs. My legs were the target. I screamed out as the first blow slammed into my knees, then a second then a third and final blow. Unbearable pain seared through my knees and my aching hands pulling away from the spikes. I was having incredible difficulty trying to force air into my lungs. My body sagged, suspended but no longer supported.
I looked at Jesus, His cry of anguish tore me apart inside as I started to cry uncontrollably. His voice pierced the silence like a blast from a trumpet. “IT IS FINISHED!” Have you ever heard a man shout His last words? Most people whimper or whisper their last words. I realized Jesus entered into death not in defeat but in triumph. He was in complete control!! The dead lifeless body of Jesus hung in silence a few feet away from me. Having staked everything on Him, I now felt completely alone.
I thought I would be the first to die, it never occurred to me that He would die first. But here’s what I’ve discovered, to my great joy: Jesus was and is everything God had called me to be! Your life began when God joined your body and soul together and it will end when He pulls them apart. Without your soul, your body will become a corpse, but your soul will go on. You will go on. Your soul lives forever.
Someone yelled He’s already dead. To make sure the soldier pulled back his spear and with full force, rammed it into the side of Jesus’ body, ripping it open with a huge gash from which His blood and water spilled out onto the ground. That was the last thing I saw on earth!
After hours of pain, I closed my eyes and was set free. I knew I wasn’t alone, I was carried and welcomed by Jesus Himself. Death is a dark place, but Jesus had already been through it, and He made it a safe place for me. And watching now from the other side, I’ve seen millions come through safely because of Him. If you want to know more about heaven you’ll have to wait till you get here yourself. All I can say is this is a place of greater joy than you have ever tasted.
I’m telling you this true story so you will get here also. It’s Jesus who gets you here. He holds the key but you need to turn that key on earth. You might say, I’m not as bad as that thief, and that may be true, but your need is as great as mine. Ask Jesus to save you. Please don’t wait to ask Him, you may never get that chance. Your asking will be a new adventure in trusting Jesus. Your faith will be tested, as mine was. He had given me His word! He gives “you” His word. Trusting Jesus is a way of life. He gives all of us who trust Him a whole new purpose and desire. Please believe me, this place is real! Until we meet!! A thief in Heaven!
God bless, Charlie