What can we learn from the story of the thief about how a person gets to heaven?
The book is called Heaven, How I Got Here, so what does it tell us about how a person get to heaven?
Well I think that the story of the thief on the cross is the clearest story in all of the Bible for answering that question. I mean, here’s this guy and his situation is absolutely hopeless. He’s right at the end of his life. He’s within hours of death. He’s not lived a good life. So his prospects are completely hopeless, it appears, except that he’s next to Jesus.
And the first thing that he does is he becomes aware that he is a sinner. He says about Jesus, “This person has done nothing wrong,” but he says to the other thief, “We are getting what our deeds deserve.” So he knows that he’s not on the right side of God. He’s not pretending. He knows that he’s in a hopeless situation, that he’s a sinner. And that’s the first thing: I’ve got to recognize my need. I’ve got to recognize that I’m a sinner.
Then he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. He says, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” So he’s got some trust that Jesus is a king. There was a sign above him: “This is the king of the Jews” and there seemed to be some sense that the thief had that Jesus was able to help him. So he puts his trust in Jesus.
Because of that, he asks Jesus, “Remember me. Will you do this for me?” These are very, very simple steps. Any person can do this. To recognize that you’re a sinner. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. To ask him to save you. The marvelous thing is, without hesitation, Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Anyone who recognizes, “I’m a sinner,” and believes in Jesus, and asks him to save them, the answer’s going to be yes! Yes from Jesus. That’s why he died on the cross, so that he could say “Yes” to us when we ask him.