Editor’s note: Jesus was crucified with two thieves, one on either side of Him. One thief mocked Jesus. The other confessed his sin, and Jesus told him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, NIV). In this classic message, BGEA Associate Evangelist T.W. Wilson points to these two thieves to illustrate the difference between heaven and hell.
I wish I could help you to see with your own eyes what the Bible describes about heaven and hell.
Let’s suppose it were possible for us to get on an elevator and press the button, and we’d go down and down and down and down–to the very depths of hell.
The elevator door opens. I hear the shrieks, the cries, the wailing of the damned. I thought I wanted to see it, but now I don’t. My constitution demands that I get out of here. I never heard such pitiful wailing.
And look at this writhing, wretched, twisted, suffering individual.
“You must have been the meanest sinner that ever lived,” I say. “Maybe you’re Pilate, the one who sent Jesus away to be crucified.”
“No, not Pilate.”
“Well, maybe you’re Judas Iscariot, the one who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver–betrayed Him with a kiss.”
“No, not Judas.”
So I say, “No preacher ever described hell like this to me; I’ve got to get out of here. But before we go, what is your name?”
The answer comes back, “A thief on the cross. Almost saved … but lost.”
Lost. Let’s get out of here! We get back on the elevator, and we go up and up and up–and still farther up.
The door opens, and I know this must be heaven. But no preacher ever described heaven like this to me. Oh, they told me the walls are jasper, they told me about the streets of gold. They told me all that, but I also remember they said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, KJV).
“Look!” I say. “I can’t believe it. Why didn’t some preacher tell us that heaven was this wonderful? All the glory of God, all over the place. And look at this angel … oh, you’re not an angel? Then you must be the greatest saint who ever lived. Maybe Abraham. Or David, the man after God’s own heart. No? Maybe one of the great prophets, or one of Jesus’ disciples. No?”
And finally I say, “But when I look at you and see the glory of God around you, I can’t imagine that even an angel could look so beautiful and sweet. Tell, me, who are you?”
And the answer comes back, “Just a thief on the cross. Almost lost–but saved by the grace of God.”
I tell you, folks, the difference between heaven and hell is what you and I do with Jesus Christ. I beg you to receive Christ today.