The Thief on the Cross
In his dying hours our Redeemer was associated with malefactors — “numbered with the transgressors.” (Isa. 53:12; Luke 23:39-43.) One of these “railed on Him, saying, If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.” The other was more kindly disposed. Instead of railing against Jesus, he rebuked the railer, confessing that they two were receiving the just punishment for their crimes, while Jesus had done nothing amiss. Then he said to Jesus,
“Lord, remember me when thou comest in [Revised Version and most ancient MSS.] Thy kingdom.”
What measure of understanding and faith the thief had respecting our Lord’s kingdom cannot be gathered from the few words of the narrative. In any case, he was a suppliant, not for a place in the throne, but for kindness to be shown him by the Saviour.
Joint heirship in the kingdom is prepared for those who take up their cross daily and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, learning obedience by the things which they suffer. (Heb. 5:8,9 ; 2 Tim. 2:12.)
“8 And though he were ye Son, yet learned he obedience, by the things which he suffered. 9 And being consecrate, was made the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him:” (Heb 5:8-9 GenevaBible)
“ If we suffer, we shall also reign together with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” (2Ti 2:12 GenevaBible)
Manifestly the thief on the cross, making his request only a few hours before decease, could not be reckoned in with the cross-bearing, footstep followers and overcomers. But he was among “all the families of the earth,” who shall be blessed by that kingdom, even as he prayed.
This is the purport of our Lord’s answer to him,
“Verily, I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.”
In order to show the harmony of our Lord’s words with the general teaching of the Scriptures on the state of the dead, the comma is placed after the word “today,” instead of before it, as in the Authorised Version; and lest it be thought that an unwarranted liberty has been taken in doing this, the student is asked to note* that there was no punctuation in the oldest manuscripts of the Bible — not even spaces to separate the words. The reader of the ancient Greek manuscripts, devoid of punctuation, would have other aids to the understanding. Such an aid is given in the case under discussion.
Dr. Bullinger, of London, explains —
“The verb ‘say,’ when used with ‘today,’ is sometimes’ separated from it by the word hoti (‘that’), and sometimes it is joined with it by the absence of hoti. The word hoti, put between ‘say’ and ‘today,’ throws ‘today’ into what is said, and cuts it off from the word ‘say/ e.g., Luke 19:9.
— ‘Jesus said . . . that (hoti) this day is salvation come to this house.’ Luke 4:21 — “He began to say unto them that (hoti) this day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.’
But this is not the case in Luke 23:13. Here the word hoti is absent, therefore the verse should read
— ‘Verily I say to thee this day, thou shalt be with me in paradise.’ “
The correctness of this reading is assured not only by the fact that our Lord’s words are thus shown to be in harmony with the Scriptures which teach that the dead are really dead, but also by the fact that he did not come in his kingdom on the day of his death.
The coming in his kingdom is at the second advent of the Redeemer, when the kingdom will come to cause God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, to cause the wilderness to blossom as the rose, and to establish in the whole earth the paradise which was once in miniature represented in Eden, but which was lost on account of sin.
Our blessed Saviour was not in his Kingdom on the day of his death, neither was he or the thief in paradise on that day. The earliest possible time that would be appropriate for us to speak of Jesus as King would be after his resurrection — perhaps not even until after his ascension, when he was glorified and the Spirit was given. (Rom. 14:9; Acts 5:31; 13:33-34; John 7: 39.) The thief will not be in paradise until the Saviour calls him out of the tomb.
The blessing he sought, no doubt with a measure of faith, on that day, when everything seemed against Jesus and the possibility of his coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords, will then be given him.
His “cup of cold water,” given to the Lord in the hour of trial, shall not go unrewarded., for
“Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”
* The reader will also note that the Revised Version punctuation is not always like that of the Authorised Version.
The New Covenant Advocate June 1909
The Dead — Where Are They? 13 The Souls Under the Altar
- Jesus, remember us
- Joseph asks: Remember Me
- The centurions gospel – Ch23 – part 4
- The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:32 – 44; Mark 15:21 – 32; Luke 23:26 – 43; John 19:17 – 27)
- Second Sunday in Lent: Grace
- His Voice from the Cross #2
- The Thief on the Cross
- To Paradise
- Crucifixion Miracle 1: Thief Saved
- The Power of God’s Word in Jesus Christ
- Reflection: Judgement
- ‘How Can You Suggest Your Brother Went to Heaven?’ He Asked