Hallelujah Bread #11
The dying thief rejoiced to see, That
fountain in his day;
We can not talk of
the Gospel of Salvation without talking about “the
I was reading through a hymn collection last week and was moved by
the second verse of the hymn above, “There
is a fountain filled with blood.”
There are some wonderful truths revealed in Luke's account of the crucifixion. There are keys here to understand the nature of salvation and the promise of redemption revealed in the account of the dying thief and his last words with the Messiah, Jesus.
The unnamed thief
speaks of the “fear of G-d” (Luke 23:40)
Solomon called the fear of the Lord the
beginning of wisdom. It is an essential acknowledgment of God's
glory and authority over human life and all of creation.
The dying thief recognized
that Jesus was about to enter into his kingdom. This kingdom is one in
which one's life continues in an eternal blessed state. He recognized
that Jesus was proceeding to this destination. (Luke
The dying thief had absolutely nothing to commend himself as being worthy of any sort of blessing. He knew his life was without any goodness or merit. His request was based only on the merit and mercy of the Lord Jesus. The thief implores Jesus for mercy upon his miserable life. “Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come.” (Charlotte Elliott in 1835)
Religious ordinances are the norm in many religious systems. These activities that are called “sacraments” tend to ignore the lessons the dying thief teach us about salvation. We can not earn our salvation nor can we measure our progress toward it by a check list of obligations that we have fulfilled.
And so it is
written “we must die in order to live.”
For whoever wants
to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and
for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)
In these closing hours of the church age it is more important than ever to understand the mystery of salvation. The formalistic doctrines of many churches have done much to confuse the matter, substituting dogma and duty in order to become a redeemed “child of God.” It is, dependabley, the Holy Bible which reveals the truth about this mystery of the ages. The wise and learned are among those who are and have been, deceived by the teachings of human authorities and theologians. The first century original apostles understood that there would be false teachers and false prophets in the latter days and that they would reject the “way of truth.”
The account of the dying thief crucified with Jesus, reveals essential insights into the way of salvation and entering into eternal life.
There are millions who encounter death every day, great numbers have not experienced the miracle of salvation. (link) The consequences of our choices in regard to “eternity” are no different than that facing the two malefactors who died at Jesus’ side two thousand years ago.
“Malefactors” is a generic term meaning that the two beside Jesus had done bad things in their lives. Although not described in detail, they both deserved death and damnation. Though our sins may not be as notable, there is no difference between us and them, it is only a matter of degree. (All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d. - Romans 3:23)
These two men exemplify everyone alive today. We are not all thieves or murderers but we all have come short of living a perfect sinless life. Therefore, without our sins being forgiven and the price for our disobedience dealt with, we remain subject to judgment and damnation.
I know this sounds unfair or unreasonable to the modern secular or religious mind. A priest can not intervene with a last rite ordained by religious authority. Emergent Christianity has entered the religious arena in the past 20 or 30 years. These teachers have adopted a theology that departs from the biblical doctrine of "Judgment" toward the pleasant view of a god within and a heaven for all. A holy God demands a penalty of judgment for any and all transgressions. Only the sinless Son of God could pay the penalty for us. This is a fact revealed in the Bible.
This takes us back to the cross upon which Jesus died. Jesus died for the ungodly. It was for this purpose he was born! He was crucified on a cross meant for another man, Barabas, a notable sinner and lawbreaker accused of murder and insurrection. I believe that Barabas exemplifies each of us, human souls in a fallen state unable to determine the way of Truth and living only to gratify one’s selfish desires.
Summarizing: What the Dying Thief Knew
1. That he
was a man who had done evil things and feared facing God.