Posts in this series
Concerning the supposed “last minute salvation” of the thief on the cross, some might point out that he had not done any of the things one is commanded to do in order to qualify for salvation, none, that is, that has been recorded. But let us recall the man who arrived at the vineyard an hour before quitting time, was hired and worked that final hour of the day (Mat. 20:1-16). Recall that he was paid the same as those who had worked the entire day. Jesus emphasized that the man HAD WORKED, though not as long as the others. Question: Would the vineyard owner have hired the man if he had seen him waiting around until late in the day to ask for work? He would not. And Jesus would not have accepted the thief knowing that he had deliberately waited until his final hours of life to “get saved.” As was pointed out in the previous posting, the thief had to have known, believed and obeyed God for some time prior to his crucifixion in order to qualify for eternal life. God is no respecter of persons. The thief was no exception to that rule.
Contrary to popular opinion, the famous “final hour salvation” of the thief on the cross did not happen. The Book of Revelation reveals that there will be many true conversions during the “Great Tribulation” that will take place just before Jesus returns to earth to set up His Father’s kingdom. Though these conversions will take place during the “last minute” of this age, these people will have been subjected to at least 2 1/2 years of terror prior to their conversions and will have come to their senses long before making the decision that will literally cost them their heads. Recall that God’s hand-picked apostles were with Jesus night and day for 3 1/2 years before they were converted. One of them failed to do so.
Many have seized upon the Words Jesus spoke to the thief as “proof” of the legitimacy of “final hour” conversions. Again, one must study God’s Word diligently to glean the true meanings of His Scriptures. As stated previously, following His study rules provided in Isaiah 28:9,10,13 is what separates sheep from goats, wheat from chaff, Truth from wishful thinking, etc. Concerning the thief on the cross episode we must understand that neither the Hebrew nor the Greek language uses punctuation such as periods, commas, apostrophies, etc. The reader must add them according to the context of the writing. The King James translators, who at times became interpreters, placed a comma in the wrong place, and in so doing, changed the meaning of what Jesus said. These men placed the comma between “thee” and “today.” It should have been placed between “today” and “shall.” The quote in the KJV is thus: “Verily I say unto you today, shall you be with Me in paradise.” In Western English we would say “you will,” instead of “shall you.”
Christ’s three days and three nights in the tomb before returning to the Father bear out the fact that neither He nor the thief would be in paradise that day, nor the three days to follow. Westerners are prone to saying things like, “I’m telling you RIGHT NOW, I am going to cut down that tree.” We all understand that the tree might not fall for hours, days, weeks or even months. This is the context in which Jesus spoke His famous Words. The way the King James translators quoted Him, both men would enter paradise that day. This would have been impossible due to the fact that Jesus would spend the next three days and nights in the tomb, after which He would come to life and ascend to the Father’s side in the northern heavens. See Christ’s Resurrection. As my series titled Life After Death proves, neither the thief, nor any other human being has ever, or will ever, enter heaven. The thief, as are all who have ever lived and died, is still in the earth. Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of the Father where He will remain until His Second Advent. Only then will the dead in Christ rise to meet Him in the air. From there they will return to earth to establish God’s kingdom. See The Kingdom of God and The Rapture.
The primary teaching of this series is that deathbed conversions are a figment of liberal, Bible-rejecting religionists’ wishful thinking. The secondary moral of the study is that what “everyone knows” is God’s Truth rarely is. L.J.