The Two Thieves: One Expelled From Eden, the Other Received Into Paradise

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 6
There were two thieves. One was driven out of the earthly paradise for stealing—the other was received into the heavenly paradise in spite of his stealing.
In the expulsion of the one we have the display of the government of God, and His judgment, so far, of sin. In the reception of the other we see the grace of God toward the sinner.
I need not say that Adam was the former, nor that he who is known to us as the "dying thief" is the latter.
I do not pronounce on Adam's eternal state. There are grounds of hope that even he, albeit his transgression was so gross, was clad in a covering more significant than was the fig leaf apron wherewith he sought to hide himself. Be that as it may, I am looking at the ejection of Adam from Eden, or the evidence of the temporal judgment of a holy God against sin—the plain declaration of God that sin cannot be tolerated in His presence; nay, more, that the sinner himself must be made conscious of this moral government of God.
That Adam was a thief is only too plain. God had reserved to Himself one tree in the garden,
and had distinctly forbidden Adam to eat of it. The command was most intelligible, unmistakable; "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," said the Lord God, "thou shalt not eat."
Could words have been plainer? Was there the least possibility of misapprehension on Adam's part? Impossible! And yet, alas, in the face of such a command he took of the fruit and did eat. He stole what God had reserved, and became a thief and a malefactor. But this was known to God. Nothing can escape His eye. "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." It is impossible to touch what belongs to God without His knowledge, or to break His commandments with impunity.
God therefore interferes—sifts the matter to the very bottom, shows to Adam his moral sin, and at length drives him, a wanderer, from the garden.
Well might he cry, as the brand of thief is stamped upon him, and as his soul is deeply conscious of his shame, Unclean, unclean, banished from the presence of God!
Deeply would he learn the lesson of the shamefulness of sin.
And there, too, at the entrance
of the garden, but closing it against his approach, stood the angel with the gleaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life, so that but one word would sound in Adam's ear—death, death, death!
Such was the government of God against the former thief.
But now for the story of the second. He went to the cross, a malefactor, and one who was justly condemned, and who suffered the due reward of his deeds of wickedness. He was, moreover, a blasphemer and reviler of the blessed One who was suffering by his side. His guilt was evident. Guilty of crimes against the law of the land, and of hatred against the Son of God, he there hung over the brink of hell. No law could extricate him from his doom. He deserved it fully. It was but proper that he should be banished from the presence of God, as his predecessors of old. Both were guilty of the same sins. Yet this thief went to paradise! And on what grounds? Not that of law! but of grace—rich, abundant, triumphant grace! But how? Ah! dear reader, He who occupied the central cross was there, forsaken of God, but not for any sin He had committed. He was ever holy and precious to God, but for our sakes
He suffered thus.
"He took the guilty culprit's place,
And suffered in his stead,
For man, Oh, miracle of grace!
For man, the Savior bled."
Wondrous, precious truth! Jesus bore the penalty at the hand of God that was due to the "dying thief"; yea, bore it all, exhausted all the judgment due to him from God because of sin, so that the demands of divine justice were fully met, and the chains of Satan completely broken, and the poor, penitent "dying thief" could listen to the amazing tidings of grace, "Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise."
Accordingly, on that day, a thief was welcomed into paradise; and the blood of the Lord Jesus was the perfect ground of his reception there.
Judgment had fallen on the guiltless that mercy might rescue the guilty. Mercy and truth had thus met together; sin was punished, and the sinner saved.