And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
At their own execution, these two thieves are forced to think about eternity. They are facing very soon what comes after this life. Their blood was draining out upon those crosses. Their breath was getting more shallow. Their wounds were throbbing as they hung next to Jesus. And in the midst of all that, one of these men gets to thinking about some very profound things. What about God? If everything about Him was true, then He hates sin and there is judgment for it. If the law was to be kept, then they were guilty and would be condemned. If that was the case, this agonizing death wouldn’t be their only punishment.
Facing our own mortality often has a way of bringing different things into focus. Many people can go their whole lives without ever considering God. A lot of people live in their pride or their ignorance, for themselves and in the moment without thinking too much about what comes next. But these two men represent the only two paths that there are—for Christ or against Him. We either choose Him or reject Him, and that very important choice determines what awaits us when we draw our last breath.
Let’s not make God an afterthought in our lives. Let’s not leave that choice until we reach our deathbed, because unlike a criminal sentenced to death, most of us don’t know the moment when it will be too late. We all have to answer that thief’s question for ourselves. Do we fear God? Do we understand that our lives and our fates are in His hands? That He is in control? That we have to choose Him or else be eternally separated from Him? Do we realize that, as the sovereign God of all that is, He has the right to sentence sinners to hell and accept His redeemed into heaven to be with Him forever?
These men had taken God lightly their entire lives. They lived lives of sin, sentenced to death for a crime they willingly committed. And now they had to face death and eternity. What is our attitude toward God? Are we paying attention to Him? Are we acknowledging Him and seeking to live for Him? Or have we continuously rejected Him during the course of our lives? Are we ready for our own entrance into eternity, assured that we will be with Jesus and not cast away from Him forever?