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THE TRINITY IN ITS LIGHT AND PERFECTION
The sixth light and perfection
to which we look in this volume is this: the Trinity.
SHARPLY IRONIC, GLORIOUSLY LOVING, MARVELLOUSLY EFFECTIVE -
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
Focus on Luke 23:39-43
Once again, we are thrust with worship in our eyes and hearts, who have come to know Jesus Christ, to the Trinity.
In the massive counterpart and surpassing splendour of the Cross is to be found, the centre of the entire plan of salvation of the living God (Galatians 6:14). It is not composed of fascinatingly brilliant and intriguingly complex correlates of engineering and logical, mathematical and astronomical skill, as is the universe in its non-spiritual constructions. The creation is a veritable prodigy of intellectual, engineering, mathematical, fertilely imaginative and staggeringly diversified forms, fashionings and contrivances, with elegant unitary meanings sprinkled like so many books of some prolific author.
It is however not of books in this case, but perhaps more aptly, of bookings for things material and for life, that they might be, and become so that they now are, though in much they run down, being cursed amidst the wonder. These kinds, these unitary meanings, these elegantly sophisticated constructions which have a name, a being, a mode, are a model, these spread the earth almost as do the waters the sea! This however is merely a beginning.
The best thing in the composite realm of mind, matter and spirit, that is visible on this earth, as one materially involved piece, is mankind. It has three remarkably rugged dimensions, each of its own kind, and these are integrated into one personality, one person, with some parts automated, programmed, some adjustable by the mind and spirit of man, and some more freely available, like thoughts. This prodigy of creation can soar and fly like a crow in search of carrion, it can move like an angel, act like a devil, know what it is doing and be as oblivious of what it is about as a comic's pet nong, though intelligence may not be lacking in such cases, which abound. These are in that category which the Bible designates as "the fool", a type of entity much paraded in the Book of Proverbs, and found in the Psalms in particular (cf. Psalm 53:1, Proverbs Proverbs 8:1ff., 12:1,15-16). This is heavily and expressly, repeatedly and sharply contrasted with the way of wisdom (Proverbs 12:15-16, 14:9,16).
The biblical 'fool' breeds folly, like an atomic reactor its products, and these blight both himself or herself, and tend to bring woe to associates, if for a season the rollick, the tramp, the butterfly life brings a specious satisfaction. It is rather like living where rain falls, and having an empty well, to which one constantly repairs; but when the rain stops, it is empty, and so is the heart.
Because of foolish miscreancy with God and what belongs to Him (such as the creation), man has inherited rebuke (as in Romans 5) and has been blessed with the spiritual solution, as the same Chapter shows, with Romans 7-8 in particular. This has spread into pockets, academically (cf. SMR Ch. 3), militarily, socially, psychologically and the battering thus received by the image of God in man has been catastropic, leading to various plaintive nostrums from misled governments who, as in the day of Jesus Christ Himself, become virtually Latter Day Non-Saints, deviously dealing in what is neither understood nor treated, often even excluding the Gospel as part of the philosophic background.
The USSR was merely one of such bodies, addicted with passion to the hatred of God, but many others have littered the freeway available to man, on which so many nations and peoples for so long have churned their dynamics, bound by the drugs of disability, received from their youth up, at schools which cast out truth, in favour of ideas which neither work nor could work, and DO NOT work. Hence the world is rapidly reaching the prescribed impasse (Matthew 24:21-22).
The world does not like it, but as predicted, still won't listen! (cf. Revelation 13, 17-19).
It is increasingly growing, despite having as foretold, more knowledge (Daniel 12), nearly as bad as it could well be, because the greater your liberties and facilities, obviously the greater your powers of corruption, both of yourself, of attendant systems, divinely created and humanly blighted, and of the universe. Man in this respect has indeed been a prodigy, if an outcast from malignant wilfulness, impenetrable impenitence and prized misconceptions, clung to like mussels on the rock; and he has ruined himself, his society and his spirit to the point that he becomes abhorrent, hateful and hating, in increasing 'cultural' cliques of philosophical folly, murderous intent, oppressed and oppressive, killing as if by machinery for an art form, leaving others destitute, while brazenly congratulating himself on the knowledge of the laws, principles, potencies and properties which he did not and could not make, but can only assimilate and try to use.
This he does increasingly, indeed in vast increments, leaping from religious folly to irreligious folly, spiritual highs to sacrilegious lows, in a see-sawing, like children at play, never able to resolve it, for false philosophy and false religion have nothing between them, and are in much the same condition before the God who is not about to change, for the sake of indulging folly by man or anyone else.
The return to the God of creation, who is also the God of salvation, redemption and restoration, indeed of regeneration and remedy, realisation and summit deliverance, this is as so often before, variously deferred, denied, decried, given lip service, but in this as in material science, lip service is irrelevant. For results, it must be done!
Now with increasingly systematic political, cultural, social, psychological and military means (the last courtesy of the milling millions of Muslim militants, returning to their invasive propensities as factually and awfully seen in the 7th and 8th century, losing impetus only after the Battle of Tours of 732A.D., but continuing to the end of World War II, with its abasement and humiliation for their imperial way), man is parading with a mixture of pomp and hope, despair and longing, in his own May Day celebrations. He celebrates power, attests mere meretricious glory, and will not give glory to God.
One acute irony in all of this is that the more he parades his pomp, the less he obtains it, and the more he savours his own wisdom, the more it does not work. One other of great eminence, it is this: that the simplest procedure, profound in concept, infinite in love, straightforward in wisdom, is not hard to understand. It is the cost which is hard; and God paid it, and it works because He worked for it, works with it and His labours as in creation, get what they point to: it is in both cases, done. Man is made. Redemption is paid for; but man in his broadway conduct, he desires another way (Matthew 7:15ff.). Few there are who follow what God has provided.
Instead, man seeks dominion, not only in paranoid teachers, politicians, criminals of intent, and it is not his. This dominion desire, a parody of the divine sovereignty, has now returned in various forms and groups, who seek to dominate the earth once more. In this, they add themselves to Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini. Tojo (though the aim there was more to the Pacific arena), Stalin, the papacy especially in the 11th century to the decline of its military power, and to many such at more minor levels. All however contribute to the calamitous clashing and inhumane items in the itinerary of man. There are signs that we may be facing a Pacific power-facade on the part of the Chinese, with their vastly increasing nuclear submarine depot areas and items, and Russia with its snarling reference to the resumption of the Cold War.
If our history at these levels were an airplane flight, then we would be having CAT, Clear Air Turbulence, and there would be sudden drops of altitude (to lower morals yet, lower deeds), the plane bouncing down with vast bumps which shatter every now and again as the flight of man's arrogance and pride, hatred and odium, glassy-eyed intentions for power and glory, and deadly means of fulfilling the same continue, on till it comes to their crash point. Long foretold, as have been the preliminaries to it by a tender-hearted Captain, Jesus Christ, the scenario is now near the crash-landing site (cf. SMR Chs. 8-9, Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
There was another deliberate crash. This was not from wilfulness, but to pick up the bits from the blast of its ruin, as in man; and it was wrought by God, the Creator, showing Himself as the Redeemer.
It was of God as man, Jesus Christ, whose intentions for man had been foretold for over a millenium (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25), as in Psalm 2, 16, 22, 40, Isaiah 2, 7, 9, 11, 22, 29-32, 40-42, 49-55, 60-61, 65-66, Micah 5-7, Jeremiah 16, 23, 30-33, Zechariah 3-4, 11-14 (q.v. scriptural indexes), and whose final intentions have been extant not only in germ (the protoevangelion of Genesis 3:15), from the first, but in some detail for perhaps 3500 years, with vast and precise components coming in sequence from the millenium mark before Christ to His own fulfilment of the necessities for salvation, on His visit to this earth.
The pregnant air of prophecy has continued to throb according to the impulses of biblical prophecy since, till now it is all but complete before the second major phase of the plan of salvation, namely the return of Jesus Christ, first to collect His people, and leave for a little moment the residue to slug it out and prepare for His coming (as in Revelation 19), before judgment and its various phases, both educational and retributive, enters in. Of the former, the millenium is part.
Retribution sounds a terrible word, but to none more than to those who ask for it, and do NOT ask for MERCY, being constitutionally averse, as they may deem it! The result is the same. Old fashioned characters, as in Dickens, might say of something - "It is not, sir, in my character to do this," meaning that they are above it. Some however have it so because they are below it, in this, that it never rises in their minds above the hidden horizons of the deep (if you consider a vertical horizon situation!) in which they immerse themselves (cf. Jeremiah 17:9ff., Isaiah 29:13-14 with I Corinthians 1).
Micah 7 like Isaiah 2, 24, 65, these speak of such a time, as does II Thessalonians 1, Matthew 24, Daniel 12, and of course Luke 18 and 21, and Mark 13-14. Sometimes we find God dealing with the assassins of Israel, of Jewry, as in Isaiah 51, Micah 7, sometimes with those of the broader borders of this world, as in Isaiah 2, 24, Revelation 19; but it is there. Wait for it, it will surely come (cf. Habakkuk 2:2-4).
Nuremburg came from an innate sense of justice and judgment in man, and it is not there for no reason. Mankind is made on a mould which indexes truth, mercy, justice and love, and permits hatred, detestation and inhumanity such as warped items, religious, national, international, have frequently illustrated, but has prepared the way for things as incandescent in light as those in darkness (cf. Isaiah 8-9). These, now, are available only from the mercy of God which is available only where His cost has paid and paved the way, in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, only Saviour for man (Acts 4:11-12).
Our topic today, however, is not the backdrop, at which we have been looking, but at the performance, what GOD DID, as distinct from what man did. For this, the above is orientative prelude.
Let it not be assumed or imagined that because one has thus far dwelt on the negative, the warped, the odious, the evilly blasphemous, the belligerently devastating aspects of the history of our race in ways relevant to our present purpose, that the other side is either ignored or forgotten: the mercies innumerable, the kindness of heart, the discipline of self, the sacrifice for those whom one loves, pardon for those filled with odium, the tenacity and courage of many in defending their countries, the tender love of some for others as they seek to succour them in loss, the beauty of holy friendship and godly living.
Not at all. It is rather this, that when your car has a steering fault, which tends continually to set you into the ditch, then, when addressing the needs of the vehicle, that it might run well, one naturally looks to the weakness, since it hypothetically COULD DESTROY ALL. It is where attention is needed! Steering is not everything, but it IS important ... It MUST be dealt with; and ignoring it is not a wise option, but a binding to blinding.
Let us then now turn to this magnificent plan of salvation from the Trinity, the God of all Christians, the only God for all men (cf. SMR, Isaiah 44-46, Ephesians 4:4), and consider its wonder as from this very Being, in His triune beauty and His glory.
It is seen briefly in Isaiah 48:15ff., more pervasively in Isaiah 40, 41-42, 59-55, and in the Psalms above noted, incursively in Galatians 1, 3, 5, discursively in Romans, in pith in Matthew 28:20, in promulgation in Matthew 28:19-20, in its retention necessities in Galatians 1, Matthew 5:17-20, Revelation 22:18-20, in its utter centrality in Galatians 6:14, in the results of its application in John 14,16-17, Revelation 7,20-22, in the consequences of its being ignored in John 3:19, 36 and in the beauty of its holiness in such sites as these: Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 33, Isaiah 48-53, Philippians 1-2.
In its varied applications on one theme, with diverse items, it is to be viewed in Romans 11, in its eternity in Romans 8:29ff., and 9, Ephesians 1:4, Revelation 14. Indeed, it permeates the entire Bible.
The Trinity makes man in His divine image. Man uses the liberty fascinatingly thus provided, to implode, fall, dissociate from the God of his creation. God acts to put man in a test situation where his presumption and impiety can be shown for what they are, and the way back can be shown for what it is. He shows what is to be, so that when it comes, it may be recognised as from Him alone (Isaiah 45:18-19), thus setting up an objective distinctive, exhorting man to check it out and see for himself.
He derides spiritually drunken efforts to fuzz the issue (Isaiah 41, 43, 48, Jeremiah 23), and indicates that the worst that man can do will not alter one of His designations, prescriptions and intentions; but it DOES make a difference in ONE WAY.
This is the divinely construed need for the Gospel, for the visit to earth of the Second Person of the Trinity, from the heaven of His eternity, sent from the First Person, to die for man, as many as receive Him, to cover their losses, supplant their false bosses (Isaiah 26:12-14), and having died to forgive those who avail themselves of the total reconstitution, regeneration that is involved (Titus 2-3), with a pardon free and pure, and wrought out of love (Isaiah 1, 9, 55, John 3, 17. Ezekiel 33:11, Jeremiah 31, I Timothy 2, Colossians 1:19ff.).
When the Gospel thus enshrining these things has spread (Isaiah 66, Matthew 24, 28), this work of reclamation fulfilled and application extended, it is time to have the end come (Matthew 24:14), with its various symptoms, just as in the prognosis of a disease, except in this. Which ?
It is, this difference, to be found not least in the profundity of the beautiful side, where the chaff being indeed burnt (Matthew 13), yet the grain is kept, and what makes the grain good is the gift of God (cf. II Corinthians 9:15), which is free (Romans 3:23ff.), and even the MODE of its giving (postage if you will) is covered, for it is as in Romans 5:15, not only a GIFT by nature, but its IMPARTATION is by grace as well, as in Ephesians 2)!
The Trinity having sent from the First Person, the Second to be the Saviour who pays the price of liberty by bearing the guilt which separates, and conquering the death which is the price of its misuse (Galatians 3), then erupted from the earth.
This He did in the Second Person, having meekly borne all if by any means to save some (though these were known as to identity before the creation - Ephesians 1:4, GOD IS GOD! not man as such). You see this following Isaiah 26:13 and its lament for sin and false government in the very heart of man, in Isaiah 26:19 following. It reads, from the Hebrew, quite simply:
"Your dead shall live; My dead body they shall arise.
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust;
for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead."
This, His body is the saved souls, referred to in Paul as the body of Christ, for example, when he says, You are the body of Christ and members in particular (I Corinthians 12:27, cf. Romans 12, Ephesians 4:1-16). THIS is to be raised up (as in I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24:23-31) in His name, on the basis of His righteousness which He has, being gloriously gratuitous in such action. By this, He has transferred mercy (Ephesians 2:5-8), to each member of His body, so that just as the sin potion being made His at the Cross, for all who took His gift of eternal life, and were by faith beforehand or after it, to receive it, so the righteousness which is His replaces it. "He made Him, who knew no sin," Paul declares, "to be sin for us that we might be become the righteousness of God in Him," (II Corinthians 5:21).
This blessed transfer of guilt to God the Redeemer who paid, and of pardon and even the status from HIS OWN righteousness who died that we might live, it is a gift, an attribution, a tendering from a tender heart, and a grace from this same Saviour, the Second Person of the Trinity, who came to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 26:28), and to offer it to all (I John 2:1-2).
The Gospel preached till the nations know it, then the end comes, and in this resurrection concludes the major thrust from the saving actions of the Gospel of grace, the plan of salvation. Now the status, the membership of His kingdom, free and fervent in gift, becomes visible to sight, just as His people walked as seeing Him who is invisible, before this terminative action to the Gospel era.
It is the end of that; but it is the beginning of the residual results of redemption, now moving to the "redemption of the body" (Romans 8:23). These included sanctification on earth, a citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, the knowledge of God, becoming one of His children at reception of the Redeemer by faith, in all His power and biblical glory, and escape from judgment in terms of the gift of righteousness and the absorption of the sin spectrum and sovereignty, which like a cancer, would otherwise in quality and capacity, blight all fellowship with God (II Corinthians 5:17-21). Now tests of this kind concluded, the awakening to life past test commences in the holy deliverance of this bodily resurrection, on the plan of His own (I John 3:1ff.), a fitting action of momentous dynamic on the part of Him whose initial dynamic in our case, was the creation. It is indeed a suitable parallel, a symmetrical spiritual action as it were, and an outpouring of creative glory to surpass the first, since its cost was greater and its results are for ever.
Today we examine, awesomely regard, as given in the Bible, the Redeemer on the cross, and the way cross purposes are avoided, in fundamental, saving dealings with Christ. It is visible here, even as He is d yhing, as He stretches out in Spirit, though with bound, indeed pierced hands, to reach one more. This He does as He moves to the death for sin, the exquisite joy even then His own, to save one more sinner in His very parting parade, lifted high on His cross, from an unwelcoming earth (cf. Isaiah 49:7, John 1). In this is a type, and from this is seen one of the many lights and perfections of the living Trinity, the God of all grace and comfort, we find instruction that is necessary.
Thus, we have heard of those who despitefully use us, the persecutors of Christians; but here, here is an account, in one of two, of despitefully using ONESELF. In another, it is the story of one who was delivered from devastation by the One who Himself was despitefully used, the Saviour. In this, not in a nutshell, but in the small compass of ground occupied by three crosses, we can see a brilliant light and a drawing perfection, that moves the heart. It is the gift of the Trinity, to send, to go and to suffer; to rise and to present and to offer.
We turn then to Luke 23, and to the cross of Christ, and in this we shall find more marvels in the PLAN of the Cross of Christ, operated from the Trinity, careering into the habitat of man.
I THE DEADLY PLEA
AND THE LIFE-GIVING METHOD
Picture it now, there at the Cross of Christ. It is singular for its sovereign Lord, gracious Saviour and the One with power to make peace with, and give to man the peace of none other than God.
Yet with Him are others. He is the representative on behalf all who have loved, do love and will love Him. For them (Romans 8:32), He is being delivered up for their defilements, and His body is defiled with their sin, as recipient, like a huge maw, the one that swallowed Jonah an illustration. As the traffic of evil pours in, that He might bear it (I Peter 1:23ff.), so the power of purity shreds it in His righteousness, which being endless is never used up. Soon its awesome task would be finished (John 19:30, Hebrews 9:12, 10:10-14).
The other two cross-torn men, evil doers, are in torment of mind, body and soul. Yet despite the curses levelled at Christ, one of them realises that here is another world, domain, dominion, here is deity, the mystery of love, the wonder of salvation. Perhaps the tales of His works had now convinced him at last. To this evil doer, Christ is no more, if ever, a mere worker of marvels, a man of fame amongst the mighty, a centre of attention, able to move in all circles, achieving praise like the great, with perhaps his own special reasons. No! Now on the Cross he sees that here is no wonder-worker for the pay, adulation and fame of men, but a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, calling for His tormentors: "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!" (Luke 23:34).
As His cries for good even for the evil murderers, who are slaying Him, sound out above the hubbub of the multitude, so the cry of the heart of one of the criminals began to form, formulate and to find the key. Surely THIS is the Messiah, the one to come whose call is to salvation, the crucified King (Psalm 22, 2), against whom they would all gather to abhor Him (Isaiah 49:7). He had heard something of these things, perhaps when young, and we must remember Simeon who had waited patiently for this salvation, this Saviour whose light would go even to the Gentiles, and took Him as a child, with adoration in his arms (Luke 2:25ff.). How changed are the lives of many who start well, and finish in the spiritual slums.
Civic slums reached out for him, but this criminal reached out in heart, and was suddenly convinced. He had only some 6 hours to reach this point. It was like the landing of an aircraft in the midst of tornado scenes, miraculously provided by a pilot who knew what He was doing, and so conducted him. Given to him from the Father (John 6:65), this man suddenly saw that here was GOD, not some wonder-worker merely, saw that this was the key to man, the end for sin, the entry to the kingdom, the answer to his longings which, diverted, had led to evil dynamic. "Lord," he cries, "remember me when You come into Your kingdom!"
Others were different. Come down from the Cross, they taunted, and then we will believe you!
"If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!" clamoured one of the criminals. From Mark 15:31-32, it would not seem that this expressed that longing which would cease to languish and find in peace, Christ as Lord. For one, however, a change would occur as the long hours slowly terminated the physical life on this earth, for a few days, of Jesus Christ.
II THE FEAR OF GOD
For this one, the fear of God began to enter his polluted personality. The shrouds of many, deaths of soldiers, broken marriages, kids mauled by divorce, follies of theft and manipulation of man by man began, perhaps, to crowd into his mind and the purity of God seen, sensed and then realised in this Christ beside Him, with His love and forgiving passion and compassion, contrasted magnificently with the scenarios of sin. We indeed justly suffer, he declared, rebuking his fellow criminal, but this man has done nothing wrong (Luke 23:41). The sure serenity of holiness and salvation shone out from Christ like a light piercing the gloom. The sin-bearer loomed into the very smouldering ruins of his consciousness. Here was the Lord. His sin now began its final movement to the Saviour, shredder.
The fear of God seized the criminal's consciousness, paraded in his conscience, with his recognition of His purity and love. "Do you not even fear God," he remonstrated with the abusive criminal, "since we are under the same condemnation!"
Is it not enough to sin, that one must sin against the very Saviour who came to bear, break and overcome it! Is the fear of God to be swallowed up in the sops of self-awards, self-centredness, and the hope for humanity, the only hope, to be dashed on a cross, without even recognition of His righteousness, whose saving mission had for so long and in so much to so many, been told over the millenia!
This same fear of God, now so abhorred by the flaccid nations in their securities and insecurities, their man worship and their self-importance, is yet CLEAN (Psalm 19), and cleansing like the sea. It washes as with brine, and is never befouled. It brings consciousness of sin as pain brings awareness of a wound in the body. It is well to heed it and act.
Deep in his heart, an animated thrust of conviction pierced him, his evils came like hordes of stinging bees, ready to kill, but yet he was moved, with his eye beginning to look with faith, leading to an ineffable sweetness, where salvation itself displaced all things.
III THE IMMEDIACY OF HEAVEN
"Lord," he cries, "remember me when You come into Your kingdom!"
He does not cry, "When You come into Your kingdom, remember me!" He wants his memory to be locked in Christ and opened at that time, not to arise from the vague beyond. The point is not so much what he is told today, as the remembering him when that would be of any use to him!
The remembering is the deliverance, the TIME is the question. DO this remembering which I crave, which is all my salvation, not now, when You are dying for sin and are without any visible power, clamped between the jaws of death, humbled, crushed by the load of sin vicariously. Do it not now, but WHEN you come into Your kingdom. Here is faith that He will come into it, but also realisation that this faith can only be rewarded WHEN this kingdom is His. It is as if a servant, says to a young charge, Bruce, remember me won't you! when you inherit, for I have need of superannuation.
The reply - Today will be with Me in paradise - I'm telling you! Today! he hears, as he bleeds and suffocates to death. All sorts of things might be said today; but the question is this - WHEN will the memory operate, the relief occur, and when the glory follow!
WHEN is the operative word, the stress, the word of urgency to the point. THAT it is to happen, is understood; it is WHEN it happens that is the question, this the topic, this the need which hangs on the torrid air, by the cross of Christ. WHEN will it be ? It WILL surely be, since faith has just realised the imperative of action, the imperial beauty of the Lord, the humility past all thought, spiritual in sublimity, that THIS PRINCE had shed blood as a sacrifice! Remember me WHEN it DOES happen! is the force of his cry.
That He is Lord is not a question. It is an answer. When this blessed time is, when utter transformation both for Jesus and for the thief comes into view, this is the cry of the heart, the thrust of the thought, the need of the hour.
Christ replies, "Surely I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise!"
The point is not when He tells the criminal, that is understood. They are already talking and the point is not whether He wants to say it now or later. It is the question that is answered, the thing unsure, WHEN He comes, when this horrible situation is to be healed, holiness is to replace wanton evil and the clamours of the crowd are to be stilled! WHEN is that ? It will be but WHEN ? It throbs on the air like the churning thrust of mighty engines in the night, on board some ocean liner. WHEN will we dock, that is the question. It throbs now. When will it throb no more ?
Into My kingdom ? Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me ... (Hebrews 13:5, 12:28).
Already he was with Christ, but by no means in paradise! The scene to the mind changes: movement from now to then, that blessed time comes into view. Is His inheritance to be soon, or far away ? What information is to be given to the point at issue, His ascension into power and glory, where He may control the destinies of mankind by His say so. in plain sight, as now on the Cross, He suffers gladly such shameful humiliation from the shameless ?
SURELY, it is certain. I tell you - it is not diffused gobbledegook, but straight and direct, personal talk. It is not diffused on the air; it is not a talk feist, for the issue is power, and not words. If the word is of power, as always, then it is fact, as here.
TODAY - it is the obvious, oblivious of need that He tells, but the necessary, meeting need. TODAY you will be with Me in paradise! He is not telling him that he is telling him today, but when what is mentioned today will come out of the fray, be done, in contrast to the horror of the moment, in the attestation of the ultimate.
It is not far off - should not Christ suffer and enter into His glory (as in Luke 24 from His own lips)! Of course. Then as to that latter, it is for TODAY. Not only so, but you, the criminal, will be WITH ME. The thing is shortly to happen, it does not hang in the air, disport itself in lofty conundrums. WE will once again be together, not this time in bodily space, but in heavenly harmony. Here is consolation, agreeable and even delightful, a light penetrating the mortal gloom as death awaits its prey, and the criminal becomes ready for worse than human punishment, as hell seeks to enclose him.
Now comes the piercing of the gloom with a vast light: Today you will be with me ... Yes, but where ? in what condition ? under what auspices ? HOW is it arranged and what is the thing coming, tell me, tell me ?
Christ does just this. Today you will be with Me in paradise. Thus through the Cross did the Highest meet the lowliest, immediately face to face, God as man looking at man, by Him, the ultimate made intimate, the profound seen as a Person, the Word who made man, beholding man, while bearing his agony for him, and assuring him that no more is there delay, that just as He had come to be on earth, so He was leaving to take with Him, those for whom He had the place prepared, and in particular, this criminal who in his own spectrum of sin, saw the bright, effectual light of Christ come like a star that entered into his very soul.
The statement has all the normal certainty and glory of Jesus Christ.
The relevant time, implies the criminal, is WHEN you come into Your kingdom. The relevant time, replies Christ, is TODAY.
Once the transaction of the cross is over, the first culmination of a ministry of mighty healings of thousands, some like Lazarus even raised from the dead, all is certain, assured, and salvation waits for none.
The substance follows, not the introduction! It is as so often, 'this day' is the trumpet call for what matters; and what could conceivably matter more to the criminal than this, that no nugatory something may occur in some unknown future, about which he gets some intimation now, but that THIS DAY YOU WILL BE in paradise with Me, whom you so attest.
"And Jesus said to him, Verily tell you, That
day, even in this
night, before the cock crow twice,
you will deny me thrice,"
"For to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, "
"And he was saying to them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears,"
"And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom
Satan has bound, lo,
these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?"
"And Jesus said to him,
day is salvation come to
since he also is a son of Abraham,"
"Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hidden from your eyes,"
Whether it is denial or birth, or healing, or salvation, or demonstration of folly: the pith figures, not the periphery. It is the answer which comes from the Truth, not some stage props, pompous portent, vague contrivance. THREE days interred is the body of Christ, but AT ONCE He is granted His restoration to paradise, whatever visits He may make. It is then as PRINCE OF PEACE glorified that He acts, and with Him is the beauty of excellent enterprise, price paid, purity resumed past all that can touch or harm or pollute. It is as if to say: IN PARADISE with Me, THIS DAY you will be. You speak in the teeth of death, but this same day you will be glorying in the rest not of wormy soil, but lively reality, with Me in My home where I have prepared a place for you.
Thus did Stephen even before he died, see Christ at the right hand of glory, even as the last stones were falling; thus did Christ THEN commit His Spirit into the Lord's hands, thus did Elijah have rapid transport to heaven in a chariot, nothing delaying, thus did Christ prepare for His servants that where He is, there they may be also, and thus did Paul want to depart and BE WITH CHRIST, which is FAR BETTER, not as a waiting room, but as a glory beyond the glorious presence he knew even when on earth! (Philippians 3:20-23). To be sure resurrection comes at length, but paradise does not wait as in Revelation 7:14ff.. Long before the resurrection, in Revelation 7, you see the balm of His shepherding presence with His saints, at rest in the wonder of His company, while in Revelation 6:9ff., you see the enquiries of the saints in glory, as to how long it would be before the horrors on this earth would be finished, and judgment supervene!.
Is this company, in spirit, yours now ? THIS DAY it can and should be, for Christ in you, the hope of glory is for now (Colossians 1:27), and to delay and dally with this NOW, this day, in store, is as woeful as it was for the other criminal, who did not secure ON THAT VERY DAY the path of advent to glory that is richer yet, but has here its prelude and its preliminary.
But are you a Christian now ? is this blessing now yours already ? Then have no fear of death, for on that day when He calls you, that day you will with the Shepherd with His sheep, and even the resurrection, it is now drawing very near. Praise God for His wonderful kindness to the children of man, and live it, rejoice in Him, and be imbued with His Spirit.