Repentance now is never too late but late repentance is often too late.
“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:32-43
Neither had a name. Each had a story. They both had a title: Thief!
They died a few feet apart. They died an eternity apart. It was a heaven or hell moment.
Jesus words to one “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
No words to the other, but today he would be without Him.
One saw with earthly eyes. The other saw with heavenly eyes.
One met death. One met grace.
It was Jesus’ grace for this thief in his dying moment exclaiming to us in the whisper that will echo for all time. As long as you have breath, you can repent.
But we must remember that we cannot count on this kind of encounter in our last moments. There is no guarantee that any of us will have even seconds of conscious thought at our death. Too often death comes as a thief in the night who strikes and is gone.
But the thieves on the cross each had the moments.
One recognized who Jesus was.
He recognized his own guilt.
He admitted that he deserved to be punished.
He knew who Jesus was even without the proof of the resurrection.
He testified to the other thief. Yes, his sin was just as great, but he shared the truth of the power of redemption. We as sinners can testify to the Truth.
He prayed a very simple prayer.
He knew that Jesus could save him.
The other thief wanted to be saved from the cross.
This thief wanted to be saved at the cross.
Jesus was in the throes of death, suffering the greatest torture ever experienced on earth, but He brought salvation to a dying thief. He heard him. He hears us. Jesus died with us on His heart.
One captured by grace.
The other captured by sin.
Both thieves had the same opportunity. The one entered eternity with Christ. The other entered eternity without Him.
Death met them. Death kept them. Their choices were made…eternal decisions.
“Now” is never too late. “Wait” might well be too late.