Did the thief who died on the cross next to Jesus, and who asked to be remembered by our Lord, receive the same eternal rewards as the Apostle Paul? If your answer is “maybe” or “I don’t know,” then let’s see what we can learn from the Bible.
But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 Amplified Bible)
Whether it was the thief on the cross or me on the bathroom floor or anyone else, salvation is a one-time act that secures our entrance into the Kingdom of God. But we are no more than little babies, standing at the starting line, when we are saved. None of us are born again in one moment and then walk straight into maturity the next. It’s a process —
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
Sanctification is the life-long process between salvation and our death (or glorification). It’s a day-by-day, step-by-step journey of consecrating ourselves to our Lord Jesus Christ and being purified by the Holy Spirit.
How are we sanctified?
By prayer. By studying His Word. By grace. By faith. By the Holy Spirit. By staying faithful in trials. And more. It basically comes down to following the Apostle Paul’s words —
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
If the Apostle Paul had to keep pressing forward in his quest of being all he could be in Christ, then shouldn’t we do the same?
I am not belittling last second or deathbed salvations because spending eternity in heaven is far, far, far better than being tormented forever in Hell. But those of us who can choose to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith all the way to our last breaths, I believe we should go for it! Why not, right?
Why is endurance so important?
(Continued in Part 5…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)