Due Reward

8 months, 1 week ago

“39 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

Three men were crucified that day: Jesus in the middle. The other two were criminal men, malefactors, wicked workers of inequity. “Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.” – Matthew 27:38. These two are serious criminals. Crucifixion was not a sentence given for any light offense; they were thieves; these two men were sinners.

One of the men understood, professed, and spoke with the Lord Jesus Christ, the other did not. It’s a simple message with a simple choice every man must make. One man accepted Jesus, and the other rejected Christ’s power and authority, including God’s particular way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to come into His Kingdom.

Many denounce Jesus Christ, even cursing God with rantings and ravings, while others don’t think there is a God at all. Some make very astute-sounding objections to God and Christ while remaining illogical in their assumptions of the design and its Creator. God, to some men, is a myth or a religious crutch for the weak, they say. Even some believers treat God as a spare tire only to be used in an emergency but otherwise forgotten.

Though the historical events are accurate, the picture drawn by Scripture in the last hours of Christ upon the cross illustrates God’s great and final judgment of all men. As these men did, your eternity will be decided before that great day; you will either be on Christ’s left hand or His right. The rulers, priests, scribes, Pharisees, and many of the attending soldiers mocked Jesus Christ, even saying, “Save thyself, and come down from the cross.” – Mark 15:30

This first man told Jesus to save himself and the other:

“39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”

Yet Christ would die that day and commit His own spirit into the hands of Father God. A malefactor is a man who bestows evildoing on other men. In contrast, a benefactor profits a man, and in the case of Christ, benefits all mankind, even eternally, to those who believe. Notably, many would be saved, but not by God’s ordained means of salvation through Christ. If Christ climbs down from that cross, as the man asked, none are saved. God has made one way: faith in Jesus Christ as payment through giving himself as the final sin sacrifice for all men that believe by faith.

The books of the law and the prophets all point to this moment; this is the most pivotal juncture in all of Scripture: the Son of God, holding the future of mankind in His power, is hanging on a cross, being tortured to death, yet without sin, treated as a criminal. This is it! This is the way to holy God, the very day God offered eternal soul salvation to all men everywhere. Jesus loves us enough to stay on that cross for those who know deep in the corners of their heart that they can’t live unto God without Him, let alone see heaven’s glory.

Centuries beforehand, the profit tells of the coming Christ: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” – Isaiah 53:10

In offering His own soul for yours, accepting the condemnation for your sins, the sons of God, Christ’s seed by faith, could be birthed anew by the Spirit of God. Christ is the seed of the promise to Abram, and those that are Christ’s are the blessed of all nations according to the prophecy. Upon the cross, Jesus looked out through time and saw His seed, all those who would be His.

And God certainly did fulfill the prophecy and Jesus’ time of the resurrection three days later, for Christ is eternal: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1. All things were made by Him and for Him. Jesus rose from the grave three days later; death could have no hold on Him.

We never hear from the first man again, and Jesus did not reply. Gone from the pages of history, this first man died eternal death, receiving his due reward. The horror is incalculable, being right next to Jesus on the cross and assuming God should have made some other way to be saved: “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.” Imagine the pride. Imagine the arrogance of presuming how God should order His domain and make way for eternal life. The man practically says: No, I won’t be saved except God do things my way. How many millions have suffered this exact same end? And what of you, dear reader? If you claim any other way to Father God, you have called Christ a liar.

Now, we see the second man:

“40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?”

He is no less a criminal, lying and thieving. Only the Gospel according to Saint Luke, records this precious exchange, in verses forty through forty-three. It’s the moment of faith between a sinner and his Saviour.

This second man, on the other side of Jesus, professed at least cursory acceptance of the existence of God, for he rebuked the first man for his railings. Having believed and thought it wise to fear God, he departs from the evil of the first man, differentiating himself by accepting who Christ is.

This man had a reverence for God. “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” – Job 28:28. No man can depart from evil in this life or eternity, but through the clemency and power of God Almighty.

The second man believed in more than just the existence of God and a degree of respect for God. He had the mental wherewithal to realize he would die either way, regardless of God’s plan for salvation as written according to Scripture. His eternal soul was on the line; his life would soon end. It would seem that he realized even if Jesus had done some miracle by removing them all from the cross, he was a wanted man, being condemned already; he was nonetheless guilty of sin against God. And before God’s holy throne, all men stand guilty of sin; we’re all guilty under the law of God.

You may not be an evildoer, but all men everywhere are condemned already by their sin. Jesus suffered the cross because it was necessary payment for sin as God fulfills His promise to make a way of forgiveness from the curse of sin that all men carry. The curse of sin is in your being; a sinner is who and what you are. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:18. You’re going to die, condemned by God already for your crimes; God is holy, somebody has to pay.

The second man continues:

“41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”

The thief admitted not only his sin but that his due reward was wrath in the judgment of God. All men are under the verdict of God. All things are His, and every man is judged by His standard. He will heap appropriate consequences upon all men for their deeds. So few hear this profound truth; hell is what you’d undoubtedly get if justice is served. You don’t want justice from God; what you need is mercy. For a criminal, the second man on the cross was at least aware.

The due reward of Christ is His Church. Jesus never sinned. He is the perfect, holy sacrifice to God, once for all, paying for the sins of the world to save the body of Christ, who are His. Nobody has a right by their actions to claim Christ; the Church is His by faith. All those who believe in the hope of forgiveness of sin, seeking heaven instead, belong to Christ the King.

Speaking of Jesus Christ: “22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself  to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” – 1 Peter 2:22-24.

Jesus didn’t climb down off the cross, and though they reviled Him, didn’t argue with His accusers, even praying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He held His peace knowing the God who judgeth righteously. Jesus bore our sins, suffering the torment, scourged, beaten, and bloodied; by His stripes, can a man be healed anew.

The second man sought his only hope:

“42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

The man believed Jesus is Lord; He’s who and what He says is, the holy Christ, Redeemer of sinners, Sovereign over the Kingdom of God. He called Jesus Lord, admitting His power over him and authority over life and death itself; Christ alone determines the eternal state of a man’s soul. All men die, and all men are judged.

So the second thief called upon Jesus as Lord and Saviour, having surrendered to Jesus and to the will of God that in death he would be forgiven from hell so that he could be partaker of the everlasting Kingdom of God with Christ. What a simple and lovely prayer in faith; “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.”

God doesn’t owe us anything, yet proving His love, Christ took the vile evildoer to be His own by accepting that man’s simple faith. This man on the cross could perform no good deed of repentance toward God or make amends. He could perform no religious ceremony or rite, nailed there to a cross with the Son of God; all he could do was ask for mercy. The man could make no restitution, which is the law of God; remaining a criminal under the ordinance of God up to his last breath, by simple faith alone, Christ took the man into His everlasting. We don’t even know his name, but God loved him and saved him. “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

The first man who railed against Christ, as far as the Scripture record indicates, never had faith to be saved. The second man came to the realization of God at the very last moments of life. Had Christ’s crucifixion been any other day, would he have believed in time to be born again?

Appointed by God, no man knows the number of his days on earth or upon what date his body will expire. All men everywhere face the same choice those two sinners met that day: guilty of sin, impending death; one man to eternal damnation, the other by faith to life everlasting with Holy Father God. The difference between a repentant sinner and a man lost to hell is that the sinner admits what he’s done is wrong, and the due reward of punishment by God’s authority is fitting.

At Christ’s great judgment of all men, which side will you be on? Are you the man on Christ’s left hand rejecting God, cursed to hell for all eternity, refusing to admit your sin? “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” – Matthew 25:41

Or, are you the man on the right who believes Christ is Lord? “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” – Matthew 25:34

Dear Lord, have mercy on me a poor sinner.


  1. On September 16, 2023 at 8:15 am, Jeff Smith said:

    Thank you. You bring clarity to the scripture.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Religion and was published September 16th, 2023 by PGF.

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