In Luke 23:39-43, one of the thieves on the cross joins the soldiers and rulers in mocking Jesus. But the other thief rebukes him. He acknowledges his sin, and expresses faith in Jesus. And Jesus makes him an incredible compassionate promise: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Truly. No doubts, no questions – it is certain. And today. The moment the thief dies, he will be in Paradise with Jesus.
And when we acknowledge our sin and believe in Jesus, he makes that compassionate promise to us. We need not fear death. Yes, death is horrible – just ask Jesus. Yes, death is a result of the Fall. But on the other side of death is Paradise. That word has the idea of a garden, which brings our minds back to Eden, and forward to the new earth which is a new Eden. It speaks of a perfect place of peace and harmony and love. It speaks of a place with no more pain or sickness or death or sin. And we will one day be there with Jesus forever.
And he calls us to share this compassionate promise with others. Others need to hear it. They need to know that judgment is coming for their sins. They need to know that Jesus died to pay for their sins and take them to paradise if they will simply trust in him. How can we keep this to ourselves?