Surely there was no more royal moment in all of Christ's life!
(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)
"Today you shall be with Me in paradise!" Luke 23:43
This was the second saying of the Savior on the cross. Something touched the heart of one of the robbers — may it not have been the Savior's prayer for His murderers? He became penitent in his dying hour, and cried to Jesus for mercy: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Quickly from the lips of the dying Redeemer, came the gracious response, "Today you shall be with Me in paradise!" The words are full of meaning, of which only broken hints can here be given.
Though in the agony of death Himself — Jesus could yet give life to a dead soul. Though draining the dregs of the cup of woe — He could give a cup of blessedness to a penitent sinner. Though His hand was nailed to the cross — it yet carried the key of paradise, and opened the gate to allow a repentant soul to enter. Surely there was no more royal moment in all of Christ's life, than this!
The promise itself, tells us what death is for the believer. "Today you shall be with Me!" There is no long, dark passage, therefore, through which the freed soul must go to reach blessedness. There is no "purgatory" in which it must punished for its sins for many years — before it can enter Heaven. At once, the redeemed spirit goes into the presence of Christ!
Paul teaches us the same truth when he describes death as departing to be with Christ; and says that to be absent from the body — is to be at home with the Lord. That same day, said Jesus — this penitent thief would be in paradise! We ought not then, to be afraid to die — if we are Christ's redeemed and holy ones.
The words tell us also, what Heaven's blessedness really consists of. "You shall be with Me." Being with Christ — is glory! No sweeter, more blessed Heaven can be conceived of!
We know but little about Heaven as a place — where it is, what it is like; but this much we know — that there, we shall be with Christ! Is not that enough to know?