crucified with Jesus (Luke 23.40-42). One was saved by the skin of his teeth as he was dying. As far as we know a criminal was the first to enter paradise after Christ's crucifixion. I find that heartening.
The Gospel of Matthew (27.44) and the Gospel of Mark (15.32) record that both criminals reviled Jesus. "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" Only the Book of Luke records that part way through the crucifixion process one of the criminals had a change of heart. We read:
In these words, we see a dying man's confession, repentance and conversion through faith in Jesus. I wonder why the change of heart in the second criminal? After all, he reviled Jesus earlier that day of their slow crucifixion process.
Was it the realization that THIS WAS IT and he was about to enter that great unknown of death? Was it the horrible, full weight of the gaping abyss of death about to swallow him forever?
Perhaps he caught a brief but penetrating glance
from Him who was, and is, the Truth behind all existence that broke the criminal's heart in the light of his fatal circumstances? We do not know. Whatever it was, the second malefactor had a dramatic change of heart as his life slowly drained from him! Two sinners on either side of Christ: One dies lost in his sins while the other repents and is saved.
Things haven't changed. Each of us must decide which side of the cross we will die.
During Christ's ministry, He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (John14.6) Christ's exclusive salvific claim is emphatic! There is only one way—not many ways—to God. Either Jesus was deluded and insane, a liar, or he was telling the truth and He really is the only way to the God of everything that is seen and unseen. I believe the last possibility. The only way to God and salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. Period. (Also see John 10.7-9, Matthew 7.13-14, Luke 13.24, Acts 4.12.)
You must understand something: If you choose to
believe in Christ, you will be reviled. I know, it has happened to me. Our supposed pluralistic society of tolerance is intolerant of the Christian message and the Bible. Proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and the ultimate source of Truth and you will be decried, hated and maligned. Expect it.
I can not think of a better reason to be hated and reviled! After all, Christ was hated and reviled for you and me. By your witness for salvation through Jesus Christ, perhaps an occasional reviler may have a change of heart. You never know, stranger things have happened.