The Theology Of The Thief On The Cross

Posted on January 26, 2022 by Catey Stover in Freedom Fighters

“Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:42-43 (NKJV)


Sometimes you run into stuff that comes out on the social media pages that are just so far off base that it’s not worth the effort that it just took to read what you shoulda scrolled by. But there was this little diddy that caught my attention…

“How does the thief on the cross fit into your theology? No baptism, no communion, no confirmation, no speaking in tongues, no mission trip, no volunteerism, and no church clothes. He couldn’t even bend his knees to pray. He didn’t say the sinner’s prayer and among other things, he was a thief. Jesus didn’t take away his pain, heal his body, or smite the scoffers. Yet it was a thief who walked into heaven the same hour as Jesus simply by believing. He had nothing more to offer other than his belief that Jesus was who he said he was. No spin from brilliant theologians. No ego or arrogance. No shiny lights, skinny jeans, or crafty words. No haze machine, donuts, or coffee in the entrance. Just a naked dying man on a cross unable to even fold his hands to pray.”

…and everyone in the congregation just said, “OUCH!!” Or as John Calvin woulda put it, “Maudite soit nostre lacheté!” (Accursed be our sloth).

Maybe you’re of the position that says the thief, like many of us have done, just said his “foxhole prayer” and it’s the compassion of Christ that grants him entry into the Kingdom of God. Eh, that may not be too far base BUT it just might be a bit deeper than that, if I’m allowed to take that “brilliant theologian spin” for a moment.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” — 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NKJV)

In the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthains, Paul is telling it like it is so when we read the aforementioned passage it would seem that no one ever told Paul about the thief on the cross. The thief may also miss out on being a Kingdom member when we run him through another little ditty Paul wrote in Romans, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) My question here could very well be this, “Does the thief on the cross know that Jesus was raised from the dead?” I ask that because there’s a statement in this social media post that goes, “Yet it was a thief who walked into heaven the same hour as Jesus simply by believing”.

Who would agree with me when I say, boldly, that Scripture is infallible? Good, glad we’re on the same page here, because what Paul has written is absolutely correct. But does this apply to the thief on the cross? Not exactly, you see when the thief came to himself and realized that Jesus was who Jesus said He was he is quick to say, “Lord, remember me” to which Jesus answers, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” How is this possible, given all that Paul states? Glad you asked, here’s the answer, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). BTW, that’s the red letters there, just sayin’…

Now that’s all fine and well but how do I back that up? Glad you asked, let’s look at Jesus’ posturing with Peter somewhere around John 21:21-22. “Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” You see, it isn’t some deep theological conversation that Jesus is gonna have with Peter. It’s this simple, “I’m Jesus, you’re not. Don’t focus on how I chose to treat others, you simply follow Me.” The rest has never been any of our business.

I realize that some Christian stuff on social media isn’t always off-base but some things need to explored. The posting I saw ended with folks stating they were reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel, I just took the long way around to hopefully prove that it truly is. We need to remember that God is God and we ain’t, it’s His creation not ours, we’re just privileged to live in it. For all other inquiries into the mind of God please be referred to Deuteronomy 29:29. Amen?


Written by Chris Hughes: Chris is a husband, a father, has an education in Biblical doctrine and is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy. He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008. You can e-mail at

Think About This: “Christ to the thief: Come with me. We die together, a thief and the Maker of the world. Walk with the Infinite made flesh into the belly of the whale. Stand close while reality quakes. Watch while Death is taken by the throat. Today you will be with me in Paradise. Stories don’t end at death.” – N.D. Wilson

The Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 11-12; Matthew 18:21-35| You can download our 2022 Daily Bible Reading Plan by clicking here. 

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

Want to get away & have dedicated time to read & learn God’s Word?

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