[Luke 23: 33- 34] [Luke 23: 42- 43]
[Luke 23: 33- 34]
“And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.”
[Luke 23: 42- 43]
“And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’ And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the 15th session of Message of Cross and I will talk to you about the ‘Last Seven Words on the Cross’.
The last seven words on the cross are the words of Jesus that He said on the cross until His death.
Getting close to one’s death, people look back on their lives and speak the will which is like the conclusion of their life. Jesus also left seven words at the point of fulfilling the providence of salvation as if he made a will.
Just as each of Jesus’ sufferings contained God’s providence in it, the last seven words on the cross also contains very important spiritual meanings.
I hope you will more deeply realize the love of the Father and the Lord who died for us. I pray in the name of the Lord that you will live in the truth according to the will of the Lord who bought us with His blood.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the first word of the seven last words is found in Luke 23:33-34. It says, “And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.”
Jesus suffered the great punishment of the cross because of our sins. On behalf of the mankind who are sinners, Jesus took all the sufferings. But those crowds who did not know this fact mocked and ridiculed Jesus, as if he were an atrocious criminal.
The Roman soldiers, too, took Jesus in a rough manner as if they were treating a criminal, and crucified Him cruelly. But Jesus never cursed them or had grudge against them. But rather, He prayed for them saying, “Father, please forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this prayer of Jesus was not only for those who were crucifying and mocking Him. It was a prayer for all mankind who are dwelling in darkness, and for those who despise and persecute the name of the Lord even today.
Because of this prayer of Jesus, you and I, who did not know the Lord, are forgiven. Jesus, who forgave you and me and prayed for us with love, wants us to forgive everybody.
Even if we are persecuted for no reason or face loss, He wants us not to react with evil or have ill-feelings but treat others with goodness. John 3:20 says, “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
As said, those who live in the darkness of this world dislike who are living in the light. They do not like it that their evil is exposed by the light, and that they have qualms because of that.
That is why, when you try to keep the whole Sabbath or not to compromise with unrighteousness, there are some people who persecute you. Matthew 10:22 also says, “And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”
The Lord was telling them that His disciples would be hated by the world due to the name of the Lord. Because the enemy devil and Satan hate the gospel being preached and people being saved, they instigate evil people to persecute the preachers. To make believers lose their faith and get discouraged, the devil gives hard time through the worldly people.
Do you have the same experience? Then, how did you treat those who persecuted you? The worldly people react with evil to those who act evil toward them. But God wants us to forgive and love everybody.
Jesus loved all the sinners, and loved even those who were crucifying Him, and gave His life for them.
Matthew 5:44-45 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on [the] righteous and [the] unrighteous.”
We will be recognized as God’s children when we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us just as Jesus, the Son of God, loved even the enemies and gave His life. We will be recognized not as a servant of the enemy devil and Satan who create hatred and quarrels, but as God’s children.
But haven’t you hated your neighbors or brothers although they are not even enemies? Haven’t you thought, “I don’t want to interact with him or her?”
Haven’t you ever had evil thoughts like, “I hope something bad happens to that person who is giving me a hard time”?
If you had a though of this kind, please repent of it right now and turn back.
The Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sinned against us.” How can we say, “Father, God, please forgive my sins and love me,” while we do not forgive our brothers or love them?
We should be able to love and forgive our brothers and even our enemies, taking after the example of Jesus who loved even the sinners who crucified Him and mocked Him.
We should pray that “Father, please forgive them. Let them also change by the love of the Lord, and receive blessings and salvation.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the second word of the last seven words is found in Luke 23:42-43, which says “And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’ And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
When Jesus was hung on the cross, there were two criminals being crucified on either side of Jesus. One of the criminals said, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”
He was mocking Jesus saying if He were the real Savior, He could save Himself and the criminals. Here, the other criminal rebuked this criminal. “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”
He confessed that they deserved the punishment they were receiving, but Jesus was sinless. Then, he asked Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
Jesus saw his faith and said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” This criminal received the promise of salvation since he accepted Jesus as his Savior, though it was just before his death.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in this word of Jesus, there are many spiritual meanings. First, He tells us about paradise. There are many records in the Bible about the kingdom of heaven.
In 2 Corinthians 12:2, the apostle Paul talks about the heaven he had seen. It says, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago– whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows– such a man was caught up to the third heaven.”
The following verse 4 says, “(He) was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” Also, including Nehemiah 9:6, there are many places in the Bible that say “the heaven of heavens” or “highest heavens”, and we can infer that there are many heavens.
There is not only the sky that is visible to our physical eyes, but there are heavens in the spiritual realm as well. The third heaven that the apostle Paul had seen is the space where there is the kingdom of heaven, and specifically, he mentioned the place called paradise.
Revelation 21:10-11 says, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.”
The Bible explains that New Jerusalem is especially holy and glorious city among different places in the kingdom of heaven. Looking at these things, we can see that the dwelling places are divided even in the kingdom of heaven.
Some say paradise and New Jerusalem all refer to the same kingdom of heaven, but it is not true. In the kingdom of heaven, there are different levels in dwelling places. Among them is paradise and also New Jerusalem.
For same Korean residents, there are some who live in Seoul where the president is, and some others who live in Kyunggi do, near Seoul, and still others who live in rural areas. Likewise, the dwelling places in the kingdom of heaven are also divided.
‘New Jerusalem’ described in the book of Revelation is a dwelling place of the highest level in the kingdom of heaven. Those who resemble the Lord by casting off all kinds of sin and evil and who are faithful in all God’s house can enter this place.
For example, people like Moses, Abraham, Elijah, the apostle Paul and Peter dwell in New Jerusalem.
In case of the criminal in today’s scripture, he accepted the Lord just before his death. So, he did not have time to cast off sins or work for the Lord. He barely received the qualification to be saved just like a newborn baby.
Since he did not either sow anything or act with faith, he had no reward to receive in heaven. This kind of people will enter paradise as Jesus said, and paradise is the lowest dwelling place in the kingdom of heaven.
There are many levels between paradise and New Jerusalem, and according to the extent to which one’s heart is sanctified and according to his faith and faithfulness, the dwelling place will be different.
Why, then, is the kingdom of heaven divided like this? It is because it is right according to the justice. It is the justice of God to let us reap what we sow and to pay back according to what we have done.
Also, the dwelling place in heaven will be decided according to what each one has done on this earth. According to how much we have cast off sins and resemble the image of the holy Lord, the heavenly dwelling place will be decided.
The glory of residents in each dwelling place is so different. The rewards, happiness, and authority will be different, too. 1 Corinthians 15:41-42 says, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable [body], it is raised an imperishable [body];”
It explains to us that, at the time of resurrection of the dead after the coming of our Lord, each one’s glory will all be different. God let me clearly know about various dwelling places in heavenly kingdom and its life.
Those contents are written in the books ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ in detail, and these books have been translated and published in many languages. Those who would like to know more about the life in the kingdom of heaven can refer to these books.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if you truly have faith, you should not think, “I can just be saved with an ordinary life,” but you should long to enter into better heavenly dwelling place. Matthew 11:12 says, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”
Here, ‘to take it by force’ means we will gain the qualification to enter into better heavenly dwelling place to the extent that we struggle against sins and resemble the Lord. If you enter the heavenly kingdom with sins such as envy, jealousy, judging and condemning, hatred, betrayal, craftiness, greed, anger, and adulterous mind, what will heavenly kingdom be like?
The heavenly kingdom will be contaminated, and we will not be able to call it a holy and happy place. Just like this earth, people will hate one another, give hard time to one another, and live in sins.
We cannot go into heavenly kingdom with sins. We can take only what we have cultivated with goodness and spirit. So, those whose spiritual levels are similar will gather and live together.
Even on this earth, it is happier for children to stay with children, young adults with young adults. It is happier to stay with friends of the same level. The adults would feel it is more joyful to talk with adults rather than talking to children.
Likewise, even in heaven, people live together with those who are at the similar level of faith according to how much they resemble the Lord, so that they can be happier and more comfortable.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus told the criminal, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
This does not mean that Jesus will go to paradise. The dwelling place of the Lord in heaven is not paradise but New Jerusalem, the most beautiful place. But the Lord is the master of the entire heavenly kingdom, and He dwells in the entire heaven.
He dwells in every place including paradise and New Jerusalem, and knows and rules everything about the kingdom of heaven.
Also, ‘today’ here does not mean that Jesus would go to paradise on the day of crucifixion itself. It means, from that time on, the Lord would be with the criminal since the criminal was saved and became God’s child by faith.
The Lord always remembers us since the day we accept Him and are saved. He knows where we go, what we see, and what we do, and He prays for us. Also, He sends His angels to guard us and has them walk with us.
Then, on the day of Jesus’ death on the cross, on Friday, where did Jesus go? Matthew 12:40 says, “so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
And Ephesians 4:9 says, “He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth.”
Also, 1 Peter 3:19 says, “in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits [now] in prison,”
After He died on the cross, Jesus went to not paradise but the prison to preach to them. Here, ‘the spirits in prison’ refers to those souls who are eligible to be saved among those who died before Jesus took the cross and became the Savior.
Please understand this part correctly.
For us to be saved, we have to be forgiven of our sins by believing in Jesus Christ. Even though one may live in goodness in his sight, everybody is a sinner who is born with the original sin and commits sins, violating the law.
Only the precious blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from all sins and open the way of salvation. Then, does this mean that everyone who died before Jesus came to this earth was not saved and went to hell?
Also, does it mean that everybody who has never heard the gospel even after Jesus came has to go to hell? Of course not!
God is the God of love and justice, and He wants everybody to reach salvation. Therefore, God prepared the way of salvation through Jesus Christ, for those who lived before Jesus came to this earth or those who have never heard the gospel.
Among those who have never heard the gospel, there are some people who acknowledge the existence of God with their good heart and live in goodness. With their good conscience, they acknowledge the existence of heaven and hell, and although they did not hear the law of God, they live in goodness according to their conscience.
Romans 2:14-15 says, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,”
Everybody has conscience, and those who are good follow the voice of their conscience even though they do not know God. They try not to be stained with sins, and try to live in goodness.
People with good conscience like this do not worship meaningless idols or demons following their greed. Though vague, they acknowledge one Creator God and follow the duty of men.
If this kind of people heard the gospel they would definitely accept Jesus Christ. On the contrary, even though one may look very good on the outside, if they do not believe even after hearing the gospel, it means their conscience is evil and will not be saved.
Men do not know the conscience of other people, but the almighty God knows all the mind and deeds of men.
Therefore, God can distinguish those who would have believed if they heard the gospel, among those who lived before Jesus came.
This is the judgment of conscience. God made the souls who can be saved by the judgment of conscience rest in the upper grave until Jesus became the Savior.
Those souls of the Old Testament days who were saved by living by the word were staying in the upper grave.
In Luke chapter 16, there is a parable of the rich man and beggar Lazarus. The rich man who did not live by the word of God came to suffer from the fire of hell, but Lazarus, who feared God, could rest at the bosom of Abraham.
Since it was before Jesus became the Savior, people were not at the bosom of the Lord before they entered the kingdom of heaven, but at the bosom of Abraham, the forefather of faith.
The place where the rich man was suffering was the Hades, and the place where Lazarus was resting was the upper grave. The Hades is a part of hell that belongs to darkness. On the contrary, the upper grave belongs to light like the kingdom of heaven.
After Jesus died on the cross, He went to the spirits in prison, namely those who were in the upper grave.
Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” As said, He had to preach Jesus Christ, the way of salvation for them.
At this time, the spirits who were in the upper grave accepted Jesus as the Savior, were forgiven of all their sins, and were saved.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, I talked about the first and second word among the last seven words on the cross. First, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” In this prayer is contained not only Jesus’ forgiveness and love for those who were crucifying Him but also His love for all mankind who do not believe in Him.
Secondly, Jesus said, “Today, you shall be with Me in paradise.” This is the promise of salvation to the criminal who repented and accepted the Lord, and a promise of hope about his dwelling place in heavenly kingdom.
Even at the moment of His death on the cross, Jesus wanted to save us and lead us to the heavenly kingdom. Even now, the Lord is preparing our dwelling places, and the angels, under the instruction of the Lord, are building our houses in heaven in which we will dwell.
I hope you will more deeply realize the love of the Lord who gave even His life for us and always wants to give us good things.
I pray in the name of the Lord that you will take hold of better dwelling place of heavenly kingdom everyday.