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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, November 16, 2014

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The soldiers nailed Christ to the Cross. Two thieves were crucified with Him, one on His right hand and one of His left. Those two thieves represent the entire human race. During the first hours that Jesus was on the Cross, both of these men railed at Him,

“And they that were crucified with him reviled him [railed at him, Strong]” (Mark 15:32).

Both thieves repeated what the chief priests were yelling.

“He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him…The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth” (Matthew 27:42, 44).

But, as the day wore on, one of the thieves had a change of heart. He admitted that he was a sinner, worthy of crucifixion, but he said to the other thief,

“This man hath done nothing amiss” – nothing wrong (Luke 23:41).

Then the repentant thief said to Jesus,

“Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

It was a simple, artless prayer, but it reflected his conversion, his change of heart. In reply, Jesus gave the words found in our text,

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

We can learn several things from this text.

I. First, only one of the thieves was given this promise.

Jesus said,

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Christ only gave that promise to the man who experienced that change of heart which shows he was “converted.”

As I said, the two thieves represent the whole human race in several ways. Both of them had been reviling Christ, thus showing the enmity of all men toward God,

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7).

Their enmity and inner antagonism toward God was revealed by the fact that they both reviled God the Son.

Your own unconverted soul is enmity against God. There is a deep-seated antagonism toward God in your unconverted heart. That’s revealed in many ways, some openly, and some secretly. May I ask you, have you committed secret sins against God that no one knows about but Him? May I ask you, have you ever felt anger at God for not blessing you more? Have you ever felt that God is wrong to send people to Hell? Have you ever found that you have no enjoyment of God in prayer? And is it not true that the very fact that you do not like to pray is a proof that you don’t like being in the presence of God? We could ask you the same thing about the preaching of God’s Word. Do you enjoy the truth when it is preached to you from the Bible? Or do these sermons make you feel uneasy, and even angry at times? And if those things are true of you, does it not prove that you have the same antagonism and enmity in your heart that the thieves had before one of them was converted? And does not your inner antagonism against God show that you are in the same condition as these two thieves, before one experienced the great change of conversion?

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Also, since the promise of salvation was given only to one of the thieves, this shows that some will be saved and others will be lost. Isn’t that made clear in this passage of Scripture? Liberal preachers, who do not fully believe the Bible, often use our text in funerals. They say that a lost person is in paradise. But that is Scripture-twisting. The Apostle Peter said,

“They that are unlearned and unstable wrest [wrench, pervert, Strong, twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (II Peter 3:16).

It requires a “wrenching” or “twisting” of the Scriptures to make the promise of Christ in our text apply to an unconverted man at his funeral. Preachers do that to please the friends of an unsaved dead man. One day they will have to answer to God for this dishonesty. No, there is nothing in our text that gives any hope at all to a person who dies without having that change of heart in a real “conversion.” The promise was not made to the unconverted thief, or to any other unconverted man or woman. The promise was only given to the thief who experienced conversion. The promise is only given today to those who are converted before they die. Those who trust Christ are saved. Those who refuse to trust Christ are eternally lost. In these ways the two thieves represent all mankind. Only one of the thieves was saved. The other was lost. All mankind is either saved or lost. Jesus said,

“He that believeth…shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

One thief believed in Jesus and was saved. The other one refused to believe in Jesus and was damned to the eternal fire of Hell. The promise of the text was only given to the man who was saved when he trusted Jesus.

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

II. Second, the thief who was converted was promised immediate entrance with Jesus into paradise the moment he died.

To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

This shows us that Christ’s soul went immediately to paradise the moment He died on the Cross. Several “prosperity” preachers say that Jesus’ soul went to Hell after He died on the Cross. I personally heard a famous American “prosperity” preacher say that on television some time ago. I heard that preacher say, “Jesus burned in Hell to pay for our sins.” What blasphemy! What error! What heresy! There is not a verse of Scripture that says Jesus’ soul went to Hell after He died, and “burned in Hell to pay for our sins.” That is not in the Bible! The Bible teaches that He suffered and died to pay for our sins on the Cross – not in Hell!

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree [the cross]” (I Peter 2:24).

“Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself” (Colossians 1:20).

“That he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross” (Ephesians 2:16).

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18).

That’s why the Apostle Paul said,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

Christ made full sacrifice on the Cross for our sins, blotting out the ordinances of the Old Testament,

“that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14).

And, again the Apostle said that Christ sent him

“to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (I Corinthians 1:17).

And again, the Apostle said,

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).

The Cross is the symbol of Christianity, not the fire of Hell. If Christ atoned for our sin by burning in Hell, rather than by suffering on the Cross, then fire should be the symbol of Christianity, not the Cross on which Jesus died. But Jesus did pay for our sins on the Cross! His soul did not go to burn in Hell to pay for our sins. That teaching is ignorant at best, and rank heresy at worst! Our very text tells us Jesus’ soul did not go to Hell when He died on the Cross. If He was going to Hell when He died, He would have been lying to the converted thief when He said,

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

If those American “prosperity” preachers were right, Jesus would have had to say to the thief,

“To day shalt thou be with me in hell.”

What comfort would that have been to the converted thief? Away with such nonsense from the face of the earth! Never believe any preacher who says Jesus paid for your sins in Hell! And never believe anything else that preacher says, either. If he is so blind that he doesn’t understand the centrality of the Cross, you are very foolish to believe anything else he preaches!

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The souls of Jesus and the converted thief both went immediately to paradise that day!

III. Third, the thief escaped from Hell when he trusted Jesus and was converted.

When that thief trusted Christ, his sins were immediately cleansed by the Saviour’s Blood, and the sovereign power of Almighty God converted his lost soul, so Jesus could say to him,

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

However, we need to remember that when Christ gave the converted thief that promise, He was not denying the reality of Hell. No one ever preached on Hell more than Jesus. In His preaching, He warned people to

“flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7).

Jesus said that He would

“say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41).

Jesus spoke of Hell as the place

“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:46).

No one ever made Hell more clear than the Lord Jesus Christ!

I say to you, in the words of Jesus, “flee from the wrath to come.” Repent of your sins like the dying thief. You must have a change of mind regarding your sinful life. You must turn from your sins to Christ. Come to Jesus Christ by simple faith! Be washed clean by His holy Blood! Be converted by the grace of God, and never go back to your old sins again. Don’t come back again and again to be “converted.” “Conversion” of that kind is nothing but Roman Catholicism, where you have to come back to the priest for absolution every week! This is not our Baptist and Protestant faith! Come to Christ once and for all. Trust Him once and for all. Be washed in His Blood once and for all. Live the Christian life and never turn back! Then, when it comes time for you to die like the thief, Jesus will say,

“To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away.
   (“There Is a Fountain” by William Cowper, 1731-1800;
      To the tune of “Amazing Grace”).

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Luke 23:39-43.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“There Is a Fountain” (by William Cowper, 1731-1800;
to the tune of “Amazing Grace”).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

(Mark 15:32; Matthew 27:42, 44; Luke 23:41, 42)

I.   First, only one of the thieves was given this promise,
Romans 8:7; II Peter 3:16; Mark 16:16.

II.  Second, the thief who was converted was promised immediate
entrance with Jesus into paradise the moment he died,
I Peter 2:24; Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 2:16;
I Corinthians 1:18; 2:2; Colossians 2:14;
I Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 6:14.

III. Third, the thief escaped from Hell when he trusted Jesus and
was converted, Matthew 3:7; 25:41; Mark 9:46.