How many thieves went to heaven?

Not … two!

These men had lived a life of violent crime and terror. They had made the lives of others miserable, and now the Roman justice system had caught up with them – they were being crucified.

Nor could they slip through God’s system of justice. God knew their lives. He knew each action, each word, each thought, and each motive. How could people who lived such awful lives deserve to go to heaven?

We may not have ended up behind bars or had court convictions, but the Bible makes clear we do not deserve heaven either. Our actions, words, thoughts and motives are too imperfect. However hard we may have tried, we have all missed the mark.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We need to be clear. The Bible is plain. Not everyone goes to heaven.

Not … none!

They were bad. They deserved to pay for their crimes. So, it is surprising to find that they did not both go to the place of punishment the Bible calls hell.

This is great news for criminals. It is possible for them to go to heaven. A chequered history does not prohibit a person from eternal paradise.

This is great news for everyone. In spite of our imperfections, selfishness, and neglect of God, it is possible to be forgiven by God and go to heaven. There is hope. God so loved the world that He sent His own Son, Jesus. There Jesus was, between these two thieves, being punished so that others could be forgiven.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) We need to be clear. The Bible is plain. Bad people may go to heaven.

But … one!

One of these thieves became a changed man. In his last few hours his attitude to his life and to Jesus Christ was changed. This man went to heaven. He realised he had done wrong, and deserved punishment. He was sorry for the life he had lived. He truly repented. He realised that Jesus was perfect, a King, heading for heaven, who could take others there despite the wrong things they had done. He genuinely put his trust in Jesus. He became a believer. To be forgiven and go to heaven, we too must be truly sorry for the wrong in our lives and ask Jesus to forgive us. Our trust must be in Him.

“The time is fulfilled…Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15) We need to be clear. The Bible is plain. We need to repent and trust in Jesus.

And so … where do you stand?

Which man are you like?

  • Are you heading for heaven … or not?
  • Have you come to trust in Jesus … or not?
  • Have you repented … or not yet?
  • Knowing you are right with God gives peace and hope.

The forgiven thief only enjoyed it so near to the end.

Don’t leave it so late.

  • Take steps to find out.
  • About Jesus Christ today.
  • How to find Jesus!

You can start finding out about Jesus in the Bible – The book of ‘Luke’s Gospel’ is a good place to begin … Click here.

Or try our Exploring Christianity Course:–

  • 6 week course.
  • Christian response to life’s big questions.
  • Appreciated by people of different ages and backgrounds.
  • Each evening has a presentation and an opportunity for discussion.
  • Contact us for more information.


Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 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 23:39-43

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