Lessons from a Dying Man
Updated: May 5
Week 18 in the Word – April 30, 2021
Luke’s account of the crucifixion includes a unique conversation between Jesus and one of the criminals who died with him. Matthew tells us that the two robbers who were crucified along with Jesus joined in with the passersby, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders who were hurling abuse and mocking Jesus as he hung dying (Matthew 27:39-44). But Luke adds that one of the criminals admitted that Jesus did not deserve to die as he and his companion did. He then called out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus assured him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
What can we learn from this incident?
1. It is never too late to call on the Lord. The robber appears to have had a change of heart even in his dying moments. A short while before, he had joined in the cries of mockery and demands for relief. Then, he comes to his senses and even rebukes his companion for his arrogance. A dying man was saved although he was being legally executed for his crimes. He would never have time to serve Christ or to relate the gospel to others. This illustrates the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9 “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
2. Jesus grants salvation to all who call upon him. Paul wrote to the Romans “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). That calling implies faith but does not require any works. Salvation is the gift of God-a gift that includes eternal life rather than death which is the payment we deserve for our sin (Romans 6:23).
3. For believers, the transition from death to Paradise is immediate. Jesus assured the dying robber “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” The process of dying may be brief or drawn out, but reality for the dead believer is that he has entered into Paradise with the Lord. No delay. Paul wrote “We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Imagine that: in Paradise and with the Lord.
So, we can rejoice even by the graveside of our believing loved ones. They are not merely in a “better place” they are in a perfect place with a perfect Savior, our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for us.
It would be foolish to postpone hearing and believing the gospel with the possibility that we can repent at death’s door, like the thief on the cross. We are not given any assurance that we will have that opportunity. If you have not trusted in Christ and called upon him for salvation, remember, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Call upon him today for his salvation and the gift of eternal life.
This past week we neared the end of II Samuel and the waning days of David’s reign. In Luke we saw the tender love of Jesus as expressed to a hated tax collector named Zacchaeus and to the whole city of Jerusalem. Jesus shared a final Passover meal with his disciples and made His new covenant with them through the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup of wine.
This week we will finish II Samuel and begin 1 Kings. We will see how problems and conflict plagued David to the end of his reign and even on his deathbed. But God sustained him, and Solomon would reign in his father’s place. We will see how success and wisdom would not keep Solomon from caving into his fleshly inclinations by marrying pagan women who influenced him to worship false gods. As a result, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam would lose all but one of the tribes and the nation would be split into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah.
In the New Testament, we complete our reading in the gospel of Luke with the incidents surrounding Jesus’ arrest, trial, sentencing, and crucifixion. Our mourning will turn quickly to joy with the news of the resurrection of the Lord and his appearances to the disciples. Luke closes with Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples to be witnesses to all the nations of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and the gospel message of repentance for forgiveness of sins.
Tip of the week
As you read the Scriptures, keep in mind the principle revived in the Protestant Reformation (sola Scripture) that the Bible alone is the Word of God and the only infallible rule for life and doctrine.
Neglect of the Word of God began in the garden when the serpent contradicted God’s word saying, “you will not surely die.” The woman used her own observations and reasoning to make the decision to eat. The man knew better but he followed along with the woman. But sola Scriptura does not mean we do not need help to understand the Bible. With humility, we should accept the assistance of godly, Bible-believing pastors, teachers, and authors to help us grow in the knowledge of the Word. [For more on this see “Where is the Word of God?” by Michael J. Kruger in TableTalk magazine issue November 2018 or click here.]
Week of April 30-May 6, 2021
April 30/Day 120 Rulers Remembered: The Just and the Unjust (II Samuel 23-24: Luke 22:31-53) Audio here. May 1/Day 121 God’s Wisdom and Sovereignty (I Kings 1-2; Luke 22:54-71) Audio here. May 2/Day 122 The Backdrop of God’s Glory (I Kings 3-5; Luke 23:1-25) Audio here. May 3/Day 123 Two Kings; Two Offerings (I Kings 6-7; Luke 23:26-38) Audio here. May 4/Day 124 Paradise: Who Gets In? (I Kings 8-9; Luke 23: 39-56) Audio here. May 5/Day 125 The Heart of the Problem (I Kings 10-11; Luke 24:1-35) Audio here. May 6/Day 126 Default Position Reset (I Kings 12-13; Luke 24:36-53) Audio here. If you do not have a copy of my book you may want to order one here. However, you may also access the daily audio recordings generously provided by my friend and pastor Charlie Evans.