Many have considered the thief on the cross, and yet have many questions about entering the Eternal Kingdom. Perhaps we sense there is more to the Kingdom than merely entering.
If we look at what the Scriptures say about the thief on the cross, and about entering the Kingdom, we will have a better understanding of two things. We will understand who will enter in, and who will not. We will also begin to understand that there will be ranking in the Kingdom, to be determined now, before we enter.
We will look first at entering the Kingdom, pictured by the thief on the cross. The thief on the cross appears to be not only an example for us, but a demonstration for our example, of the prophetic brasen/bronze serpent in the wilderness seen in (Num 21:8-9).
Let’s look at the thief on the cross seen in (Lk 23:34, 39-43):
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34)
“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Let’s observe from the above passages what the thief on the cross actually did to ‘believe’ on Yahushua:
- He received for himself the forgiveness Yahushua spoke to those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34)
- He confessed his guilt of sin
- He Believed in the Blood of Yahushua — he saw it with his own eyes
- He acknowledged Yahushua as Lord, and as King of a Kingdom
- He expressed faith that Yahushua would be resurrected to become a King
- He expressed faith that he himself would be resurrected, and would enter Yahushua’s Kingdom
- He heard Yahushua tell him that he would be with Yahushua in paradise
When we see these actions by the thief, we understand that the thief would indeed enter into the Kingdom.
Rank in the Kingdom
Up to this point all we are able to say is that both we, and the thief, are saved by Grace through Faith. This faith, demonstrated by the thief’s words and actions, is an example for us. The thief on the cross reveals Yahuweh’s requirement for mankind to ‘enter in’ to the Kingdom. However, there appears to be more to consider than simply ‘entering in’ to the Kingdom. Let’s look at a few words of Yahushua:
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)
Here Yahushua tells us some that enter in to the kingdom will be ‘Least,’ and some in the kingdom will be ‘Great.’ Yahushua is revealing that there will be ‘ranking’ among those who enter the Kingdom.
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt 25:1-13) reveals a sort of ranking into two separate groups. This parable indicates that the timing of each group’s entry is affected by each group’s degree of preparation while here on earth in their mortal bodies.
Moreover, Yahushua tells us in the above Mat 5:19 passage exactly who will be in each of these groups, by showing us the requirements of each group. These words of Yahushua indicate that both groups – the Least and the Great – will indeed enter the Kingdom.
So we see that although both groups will enter in, each group will have a different timing for entering, and different standing and rank. All indications from Scripture are that this future rank in the Kingdom is dependent on our preparation on earth today.
Perhaps it may be good to consider which group we want to be in when we enter.
Some are content with being justified, and forgiven, with no thought of obedience to a new Master. It appears that these will make up one group.
Others however, want much more. The apostle Paul explains this further:
“Much more then, (being now justified by his blood), we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, (being reconciled), we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:9-10)
Here Paul is repeating himself, as he makes one single point of truth, worded in two different ways. Paul tells us twice that there is something “much more” than our being justified by Yahushua’s Blood, which reconciled us by His death. That ‘something’ is Yahushua’s resurrection Life, the resurrection life of Yahushua-in-you (See Gal 2:20). Paul later describes this Life, and what it leads to:
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:” (Colossians 1:27)
What does Paul mean by Messiah-in-you, the hope of Glory? Paul is telling us that our only hope of Glory (of reflecting Yahuweh’s Glory) is to allow ‘Messiah-in-you’ to accomplish, and to make it happen.
When we begin to allow Messiah-in-you to reveal Himself in us, we move into a new realm. We move from being justified, and forgiven, to a much greater glory beyond just His forgiveness. This is not to minimise in any way the great gift of forgiveness He has given us, but only to say there is a greater glory of Messiah that we may experience, as He begins to reveal Himself in us, in much greater fullness. This is His desire, and His purpose for His Bride!
Very briefly, here is what Scripture says about how this happens.
When we initially believe on Yahushua, we become justified by His Blood. We become Born-Again — Yahushua is planted within us as a ‘seed’ of Righteousness (Isa 45:8). He becomes our Righteousness.
If you have been Born-Again, you now have Yahushua Messiah living in you (Col 1:27).
Yahushua, as the ‘Seed’ of Righteousness within us, grows to become within us a ‘Tree’ of Righteousness. He-in-us then desires to produce within us the ‘Fruit’ of Righteousness (Php 1:11). It is then that He begins to live fully in us. When we allow Messiah-in-us to grow to maturity, and to walk in our body just as He did 2,000 years ago when He walked in His own body, we then begin to see His life manifest in us.
Paul had much to say on this subject, but we can not go into detail now. For those who desire to look further into Paul’s discussion, you may want to begin with (Rom 12:1-2; 2Cor 4:11; Gal 4:19; Rom 8:18).
When we begin to do the things Yahushua did, as seen in the Gospels – and cease from doing those things He did not do – that is when we allow Yahushua to live more fully in us. However, we are reminded that we require His Grace, from the beginning, and throughout our walk. Without Him, we can do nothing. I give this reminder because many of my fellow students of Grace are actually afraid of any works, even those done by Yahushua when He is residing-in-us!
For most of my life as a Believer, I actually prevented Messiah from fully manifesting Himself in me, because of some of the teaching I had received. I was being taught to ‘spiritualise’ the commandments, which destroys the practicality of simple obedience.
It was after I began to keep His Commandments in a very crude and simple way, that Yahushua opened my eyes, and began to reveal His Word to me in a vivid way.
Yahushua then began to show me that I had been preventing Him from living fully within me. I knew I had been Born-Again, and would ‘enter’ the Kingdom; but I did not realise I had been preparing myself to be ‘Least’ in the Kingdom, simply because I had been refusing to allow Yahushua-living-in-me to keep His true Sabbath Days, and some of His other Commandments:
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:19a)
I always thought these were “Jewish” commandments, but Yahushua showed me they are not “Jewish,” but “His” Commandments. Yahushua opened my eyes to the following verse:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Most of us are taught that ‘MY Commandments’ to which Yahushua referred are those found only between Matthew 1:1 through Rev 22:21.
Yahushua reminded me that He Himself wrote the Commandments, and gave the tablets to Moses; and that if I thought ‘MY Commandments’ were only those of the ‘New’ Testament, then I did not really know Him.
I thought I knew who Yahushua is, but He showed me that by my actions, I had demonstrated I did not believe who He is. I did not truly ‘know’ Him.
He showed me if I were to ‘choose to refuse’ to keep these Commandments of Moses (Yahushua’s Commandments), that is my choice. I would still enter His Kingdom, and I would indeed be a subject of the Kingdom. However, I would not be allowed to be close to Him, for I would be demonstrating that I refused to abide in His love (John 15:10,14), and that I refused to love Him (John 14:15).
Neither would I be among the Firstfruits – those of the first resurrection – who will reign with Him (Rev 14:4,12; Rev 20:6).
Entering In: Least or Great?
The result if I were to refuse: I would enter in, and would be among His many subjects, but would be among the many who are Least in the Kingdom. Is that what I wanted?
Many Believers today face the same question, and are not aware of the choices they have.
Many will enter in, because they are Born-Again. These may be likened to the Bridesmaids and guests at the Wedding.
Of the innumerable multitudes who enter in, only a remnant will be allowed to enter the Holy city, the City of the King, the New Jerusalem. These are likened to the Bride.
But to enter the New Jerusalem, there is much preparation required! (See Rev 19:7; Rev 21:2.) That preparation is death to self, to the ego, and to pride and selfishness, and then allowing the resurrection life of Yahushua-in-you (Gal 2:20).
The requirements for entering the Kingdom, and for determining who will be Least or Great in the Kingdom, do not change with time. It is the same with us today as it was with the thief on the cross. It is the same with us today as it was when Yahushua spoke the above words in Matt 5:19.
There is one thing however, that changes with time. As we draw closer to the harvest, the light becomes brighter. The light we receive increases. We are each held accountable for the Light we are given, and those in our generation are being given more light than the previous generation. For this we will be held accountable.
Are we walking in the light we are given?
The Way to the Holy City
Yahushua (living-in-us) is ‘The Way.’ For those who become Born-Again, Yahushua will bring them in to His Kingdom. But for those who fully allow Him to live within them, He will bring them not only in to the Kingdom, but into the City of the King, the close-in realm of the Kingdom (the New Jerusalem). The disobedient will not be allowed into this part of the Kingdom (Rev 22:15).
There is still much debris and many stumblingblocks preventing Yahushua’s people from walking fully in The Way (Messiah-living-in-us). Most of these hindrances are the various religious Traditions, and the Doctrines and Commandments of Men (man’s own explanation of what the Scriptures mean), which turn away people from becoming “DO-ers” of the Truth (Titus 1:14).
We all want the Bridegroom to return soon! But for the sake of our own preparation, we should all hope Yahushua delays a little, giving more Believers a chance to better prepare before they enter the Kingdom. Those who are serious about their rank in the Kingdom, and who want to prepare themselves in earnest, will be eternally grateful for a little extra time.
As Born-Again Believers, and as those desiring to be among the Bride-Company, our foremost focus should be on the Bridegroom. Our understanding of ‘Preparation and Rank in the Kingdom’ should help us to better prepare for His revealing in us, and for His return.