Paradise: Who Gets In?
The way to paradise is not through our own good works. Rather, it comes by grace through faith to the repentant sinner even one dying naked on a cross.
And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, “Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?” Then they will say, “Because they abandoned the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore the Lord has brought all this disaster on them.” 1 Kings 9:8-9
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42
Above the euphoria of celebrating the completion of the Temple and the installation of the Ark of the Covenant, there was a certain ominous cloud, the possibility that the people of Israel might not be faithful to their God. There still existed the allurement of other gods. There was no guarantee that the nation would not abandon the God who had delivered their fathers from the land of Egypt and thus incur judgment. That beautiful temple could end up a heap of ruins.
In fact, it did.
The kingdom would be divided; the kings and the people would incorporate pagan worship either in place of or alongside their worship of the Lord. God would turn them over to foreign powers. We will come to that later in our reading. You see where this story is going. We may as well rain on the parade.
Then we turn to Luke. Jesus the Messiah has been officially rejected by the rulers, tried before them and the Roman governor, and crucified beside two criminals. One of them calls out for mercy. Jesus assures him, in those famous words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Indeed, the initial excitement of the temple dedication would not last. Israel made a mess of their worship and executed their Savior. But God is able to do far above what we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21) and He made their greatest evil the ground for their salvation beginning with the repentant criminal.
Think about it
Who gets into paradise? Not one who puts hope and confidence in his own ability to be perfectly faithful to God. The one who will enter paradise trusts in the only One who was perfectly faithful, the Lord Jesus Christ. He ushered a guilty criminal into Paradise, and He can usher you in, too, by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8,9).