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9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit (9) Fruit of Gentleness
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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23 ...
       
 
  
 

The Message of the Cross (17) Jesus’ Last Seven Words on the Cross (1)

Manmin News   No. 675
1111
August 02, 2020


“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).


Jesus left behind a few words spoken shortly before He breathed His last on the cross, and they are known as “The Last Seven Words on the Cross.” In this edition, the first and second words will be explained.


The First Word, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus, the Son of God, was subjected to the brutal punishment of crucifixion because of our sins. On behalf of all mankind, who was to receive the penalty of death, Jesus was subjected to all sorts of suffering and affliction. That is why, without having this knowledge the Roman soldiers and the people of Israel did not hesitate to hold Jesus in contempt and scorn Him, treating Him as if He were an actual wrongdoer while He was hung on the cross.

Yet, Jesus not only suffered in silence but also prayed for God’s forgiveness of the very people who were insisting on having Him killed. This prayer, keep in mind, was not just for the crowd present at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion; it was also for all mankind dwelling in darkness. Jesus’ prayer of love is the very reason that countless people today are able to receive salvation.

The Blameless One who had prayed in love for the sinners in His final moments on the cross wants all children of God today to love and forgive all people. For the same reason, He has taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” in “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:12). Even at times when we are needlessly persecuted, Jesus does not want us to react in evil or harbor ill feelings but instead act only in goodness towards those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44-45).

Therefore, taking after Jesus who loved even the sinners who crucified and ridiculed Him, we must love our brothers and sisters and even forgive and love our enemies.


The Second Word, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

There were two criminals who were being crucified on either side of Jesus. One of them mocked Jesus, but the other criminal rebuked the first. Then he pleaded with Jesus. “Jesus,” said the criminal, “remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” To this, Jesus replied and promised the criminal, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

There is much spiritual significance embedded in the second words spoken, the first of which is “Paradise” of the heavenly kingdom. In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Apostle Paul wrote of having been “caught up to the third heaven…into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words.” In many other parts of the Bible?including Nehemiah 9:6 that tells us of “the heavens, the heaven of heavens”?there are mentions of “the highest heavens” and the like. In addition to the fleshly heaven (sky) that is visible to our naked eyes, there are heavens of the spiritual realm (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 68:33).

“The third heaven”?in which there is the heavenly kingdom?is divided among many heavenly dwelling places including Paradise into which Apostle Paul was caught up as well as the city of New Jerusalem as described in Revelation 21:10-11. New Jerusalem is at the highest level of the heavenly kingdom and will be inhabited by those who have taken after our Lord, have completely cast off all sin and evil, and have been faithful in all aspects.

The criminal who received salvation while being crucified next to Jesus received the Lord only shortly before his death. Therefore, he had no time to cast off the sin and evil of his heart and he had done nothing to show his faithfulness to the Lord; he had merely been permitted to receive salvation. Such individuals will enter Paradise, the lowliest of dwelling places in the heavenly kingdom. Between Paradise and New Jerusalem there are many different levels of dwelling places and the dwelling place of each individual will be determined according to the magnitude of his sanctification, faith, and faithfulness.

As per the righteousness of God who allows each person to reap whatever he sows in this world and render to every man according to what he has done, the heavenly kingdom is divided into many different levels of dwelling places. In other words, the heavenly dwelling place will differ from one person to the next depending on how much each individual has cast off sin and taken after our Lord. By the same token, the glory, rewards, joy, and authority of each heavenly dwelling place will differ from one resident to the next.

This is why 1 Corinthians 15:41 tells us, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” If one has true faith, he must earnestly desire to reach a better heavenly dwelling place. As Matthew 11:12 tells us, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force,” the more each of us defeat the enemy devil and sin and take after the Lord, the better heavenly dwelling place we can enter and reside in.

If we were allowed to enter Heaven with such sins as envy, jealousy, judging, condemning, hate, betrayal, deceit, greed, temper, adultery, and the like, Heaven could not be a holy and joyful dwelling place. Therefore, we cannot enter Heaven with sin and evil still left in our heart but only with what we have cultivated in our heart with goodness and spirit. Furthermore, those who have cultivated a similar amount with goodness and spirit will gather to live at the same dwelling places. Just as one would find it more enjoyable to work and live with people of similar age groups or personality in this world, the life in Heaven will be all the more comfortable and joyous when they live with people of similar measures of sanctification, faith, and the extent to which they will have taken after the Lord.

Jesus told a criminal crucified beside Him, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” This is not to say that Jesus would dwell in Paradise with the criminal. Jesus said this to the criminal because He is the Master of all the dwelling places of heaven and would rule over them after His resurrection and ascension.

Also, “today” does not mean Jesus went to Paradise the day He was crucified. As the criminal became a child of God after receiving salvation by faith, Jesus was telling him that He would be with him wherever he was from that moment onward. Likewise, when we accept the Lord and receive salvation, from that day on our Lord will remember us and be with us always.

Where, then, did Jesus go on that day, the Friday He died on the cross? Matthew 12:40 tells us, “…so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” and Ephesians 4:9 reminds us that Jesus “descended into the lower parts of the earth.” 1 Peter 3:19 also tells us, “He went and made proclamation to the spirits [now] in prison.” Keep in mind that after breathing His last on the cross, Jesus did not go to Paradise but “went and made proclamation to the spirits [now] in prison.” Here, “the spirits [now] in prison” refer to all those who are eligible for salvation but had died before Jesus bore the cross and became the Savior.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, until the very last moment of His life in this world, Jesus prayed in love for all mankind and planted the hope for Heaven in the heart of the criminal who accepted Him. I pray in the name of the Lord that each of you will take a better heavenly dwelling place by force by fathoming His love more clearly.


 

 

 
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