A friend once said to me: “I would really like to know where I am going to spend eternity! Unfortunately, at this moment, I can not say whether I am on my way to heaven or hell. In my opinion, I lead a decent, religious life, but I have to wait until the Day of Judgment to know what place God has in store for me … Meanwhile, I simply have to wait in suspense, not knowing. ”

“Would not it be marvellous,” I replied, “to be absolutely certain, right now, that it will be heaven and not hell after death”

“Impossible ! No one can be certain of going to paradise, “he said,” tell me, do you know anyone who is sure of going?”

“Yes ! I replied, “I am?”

“How dare you say that?” he shouted. This ended our conversation, and we parted.

You may think or say the same thing as this friend. Well, in answer to the question: “Can we be sure of going to heaven? I invite you to read carefully the story of the thief who went to heaven.

This is found in Luke 23:39-43.

1. An criminal went to heaven

It was 9 in the morning on that day when Jesus was crucified on the cross. With him, at the same moment, two robbers were also crucified, one on his right and the other on his left. These two lawbreakers were probably members of a group of highway villains whose gang leader was none other than the infamous Barrabas. A group of criminals, thieves, ruthless, insatiable, greedy, greedy, cruel, basically wicked rapists, and spreading terror everywhere on their path. Barabbas is specifically called a murderer.

From 9 am to noon that day, passersby cursed and mocked Jesus. The two criminals crucified with him insulted him in the same way. And at that very hour, in spite of all that was going on, Jesus promised that one of these malefactors would go to heaven. A promise which implies that something extraordinary happened in the life of this dying man in the interval of these three hours (from 9 am to noon).

What happened ? Suddenly, the thief realises the greatness and holiness of God. He understands that he is guilty and becomes aware of the horror of his sin. He realises that this Jesus whom he insults is none other than the pure, perfect and sinless King. Understanding this, he began for the first time in his life to pray to the one true God, saying to Jesus, “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” By these words the criminal exercised faith. Jesus answered him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (The Gospel according to Luke 23:43) In Greek the expression “I tell you the truth” and it means “You can be sure and certain”, or “It is incontestable, it is unchangably true.” You see, this man, a malefactor of his state, is told on this very day that he will go to heaven: not tomorrow or after death, or on the day of judgment, but today! That is all Jesus has had to say to him and that is enough.

Today: How fast!
With me: What a wonderful company!
In paradise: What joy and what immense happiness!

Just before his death, Jesus had said in one of his last words on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) What is accomplished? Jesus took in his flesh the punishment reserved for our sins. He suffered in his whole being (body and soul) in place of all those who put their trust in who He is and what He has done for them. Now on this cross, all that is needed to save us is accomplished. As soon as he put his spirit into the hands of his Father, Jesus went into His presence in paradise. And he went there just a short while before the thief. He was there waiting to welcome the dying thief as that man crossed the river of death into heaven.

What a wonderful news! This means that all your sins can be forgiven, that you too can be with Christ, even today in paradise.

2. But how to get there?

Jesus is the only way. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 6). Think for a moment about the criminal. Did Jesus promise him paradise because of his good works? Has he had time to put his past life in order or to make amends for anything he has done? No ! He would never have been able to do that even if the opportunity to come down from the cross had been given to him, for on that day, at 3 pm, he was dead. Did he give alms to the poor? Did he fast? No! And this should be a warning to anyone who thinks that they will get themselves to heaven by doing good deeds! All these things are noble and not bad in themselves, but they can not in any case open us the gateway to paradise. So…

Should we be someone special to go to paradise? No!
Must we be in a sacred place? No!
Should we pronounce consecrated words? No!
Should we do many good things to impress God? No!

Who can go to paradise?

As said, Christ is already there. He is there because it is his right. He is without sin. However, he also promised that all those who draw near to him, cling to him, who believe in what he has suffered on the cross, will be with him in heaven. Believing in him is the only condition.

3. From the moment I’m sure that I will go to paradise, why not live as I please?

Many people say, “As long as someone knows that he is going to paradise, he or she can live as they pleases, because whatever happens, they will go to heaven. The Bible answers this question by saying,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2

The death and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of God’s perfect plan in his desire to save sinners and to free them from the slavery of sin. The Bible teaches us that, as soon as a sinner places all his trust in Christ, receiving him both as Lord and Saviour, three important things take place in his life: He is saved from the punishment of sin:

God forgives all their sins.
Let us not forget that God is holy, upright and righteous. He can not overlook sin. He must punish our evil deeds. But Jesus took upon Himself the punishment we deserve. He paid the price. This is what makes “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:1).

They are delivered from the power (or reign) of sin.
God through his Holy Spirit comes to dwell in this person and gives him a new heart. So she poses a new and radical looks on life. This person begins to hate sin and from that moment on the desire to do what is good, true and just becomes the object of all his thoughts. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Bible also says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, fidelity, gentleness, temperance; The law is not against these things. (Galatians 5: 22-23). From now on, these virtues will characterise the life of the person who has been renewed from within.

He will be freed from the presence of sin.
One day, Jesus will return to judge the world. On that day he will punish all those who have rejected him, reward all who have obeyed his commandments and deliver them forever from the presence of sin.

Whoever therefore says, “I am forgiven of my sins, I’m going to heaven, so it doesn’t matter what I do.” proves by this that he is not a Christian. He is not showing any evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Sure of heaven!

Is it possible? Yes! You can be sure to go to heaven. Your eternal destination does not depend on your good or bad works. Going to heaven is a free gift of God. This gift is offered freely to all, but is received by faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says: “For by grace you are saved by faith. And this does not come from you, it is the gift of God. It is not by works, that no man may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Will you be in heaven?

God has given us a way to be freed from the dominion of sin and to escape his just judgment. The path of heaven is laid out before us. In paradise there is, no sin, no sickness and no sorrow.

This is what Jesus said to all who believe in him: “There are many mansions in my Father’s house. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And when I have gone, and have prepared a place for you, I will come again, and I will take you with me, that where I am you may be there also. (John 14: 2-3).

You can understand by this promise why the Christian is not afraid of the judgment of God. On the contrary, he looks to the return of Christ with great hope. Upon his return, Jesus will send all those who have refused his offer of free salvation to hell and take with him to Paradise all who belong to him. Jesus lived a blameless life that you and I should have lived and he defeated sin, death and hell where we have failed. They mocked Him, He was crucified, but all this only fulfilled the plan of salvation of God in order to save us from our sins.

Will you at this time confess before God that you are guilty and give your heart and your life to Jesus Christ to be cleansed of sin and to receive a new heart? Once you do this (like this malefactor),  you will begin to walk in newness of life. God will also reserve that place for you in Paradise.

What a wonderful Savior I possess!