According to many Theologians, Churches, and individual Christians, a person cannot be saved apart from Baptism, or membership in their particular church. The final authority on all matters of doctrine resides with the Bible, not what men say, nor the tradition of the church. According to Jesus, the requirements for salvation are extremely simple and even the worst sinner may find forgiveness and eternal life–even during the final moments of their life.
As a person goes through each one of the individual parts of the Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, we are struck with the details that are included in these many faceted predictions.
In the prophecies of Isaiah chapter 53, we see the specific detail that the Messiah will be condemned and put to death along with other criminals. Although this may be seen as a very common occurrence in the carrying out of a sentence for crimes committed, in the case of a prophecy written over 700 years in advance of its fulfillment, this detail is a stunning inclusion.
Isaiah 53:12c Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
Luke 23:32-33 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.
When we examine the New Testament, we discover that there were two thieves who were also condemned to die by crucifixion along with Jesus. They are placed on either side of the Lord. At first, it seems that both condemned men ridicule Jesus for also being crucified along with them. After one of these men witnesses the grace and the love with which Jesus endures His suffering, praying for those who placed Him on the Cross, this dying criminal has a change of heart. He cries out to Jesus: Lord, Remember me when you come into Your kingdom. A subtle statement of salvation from a man doomed to die, during the final moments of his life. Though his confession is short and simple, yet it is sufficient to move Jesus to pronounce him: forgiven and worthy of eternal life.
Luke 23:39-43 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.”
This encounter by a repentant and dying criminal is forever a testament to anyone who comes to the end of their life with the belief that it is “too late” to change their eternal destiny. Anyone can come to God at any time and find salvation, even at the end of their life. My own dear father waited until the last year of his life, before he felt a need to receive Jesus as his Savior. This thief had so thoroughly destroyed his life, that he was dying for his many sins. In a single declaration: Lord, remember me, Jesus assures him that on that day he will be with Him in paradise.
As Jesus will certainly die in just a short time, the prophecies state that He will descend into the lower parts of the earth, where Abraham’s Bosom, also called Paradise, is located. See Prophecy 91 and Prophecy 100 for details.
Noteworthy: This criminal is saved by Jesus with no altar call, no opportunity to be baptized in a particular style, no church membership, or speaking in tongues; only his sincere request of Jesus: remember me. Immediately, without hesitation, the Lord declared that today his sins are forgiven, and he is saved.
It is important to understand that prior to Jesus’ complete sacrifice on the cross, the salvation of all men was not a finality. Up to this point, it appears that all Old Testament believers who were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah were taken, upon their death, to the lower parts of the earth to a place of comfort.
The New Testament describes the fact that when Jesus was crucified and died, during the three days that His spirit and soul had departed His physical body, He descended into the lower parts of the earth to preach to the prisoners who had been held there prior to this sacrifice that Jesus was completing (Prophecy 91 and Prophecy 100).
Ephesians 4:9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?)
1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
The events that took place immediately after Jesus’ death are some of the most amazing and remarkable, that are recorded in the Bible.
1. The veil of the temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom.
The veil inside the temple was located between the inner court and the Holy of Holies (red line), where the presence of God was located. No man could enter the Holy place, except the High Priest, and then only once per year, on the day of atonement when he would bring blood from the sacrifice to place on the altar.
This veil was significant in that it defined how far a man could go into the presence of God. Before Jesus completed His sacrifice, no man could enter into God’s presence because of his sin. After Jesus died and the sacrifice had been completed, all sin was removed by the blood of Jesus Christ. The New Testament records that upon Jesus death on the cross, the veil in the Temple at Jerusalem, was torn supernaturally from top to bottom.
The veil in the temple was said to be the width of a man’s hand, across his palm, a distance of about 4 inches.
The supernatural tearing of this veil, from top to bottom, is significant in that this tearing could not have occurred by any action of men. The veil was so thick that it would be impossible for even several men to pull the veil in such away that it would be torn in two.
The tearing of the veil, which signified the separation between sinful men and God, was torn at the precise moment that Jesus finished paying for all of our sins. By God tearing the veil in two, He was signifying that because of Jesus perfect sacrifice, there was no longer a separation between God and those who would come to Him through Jesus sacrifice for their sins.
It is important to note once again that not only did the thickness of this veil preclude any man from tearing it, but the fact that it was torn from the top, a distance of some 45 feet, meant that it was a supernatural event orchestrated by God, not men.
Matthew 27:50-53 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
From the moment of Jesus’ death forward, anyone who received Him as their Savior believing that His sacrifice had paid for their sins—had the right to come boldly into the throne of grace, to find mercy and find grace to help (them) in (their) time of need. The veil of separation between God and man was removed and access to God was available to any person through Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
2. The earth quaked, rocks were split in two, and many graves were opened, with several Old Testament believers who had died awaiting the arrival of God’s Messiah, appeared in the streets of Jerusalem.
This is one of the most bizarre occurrences that is described in the narrative of the New Testament. The purpose of this event appears to be a statement by God; that upon the death of Jesus Christ, God was satisfied with His sacrifice for the sins of all men. As a display of the power in Jesus’ completed sacrifice, God resurrects some of those from the Old Testament period who had died, believing in and anticipating, the coming of the Messiah.
When Jesus ascended back to heaven many days after His resurrection, He emptied “Abraham’s Bosom” (Luke 16:23) and closed this temporary holding place for all departed believers, forever. Since the death of Jesus Christ and His subsequent resurrection, all those who die trusting in Him as their Savior are taken immediately to heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
To be absent from the body and present with the Lord, means that those who die in Jesus do not remain on the earth as spirits, or go to a holding place to await judgement; they depart their bodies immediately to be with the Lord in heaven.
Paul, in describing the event of his own death, said that when he was stoned to death by an angry mob, he was not certain whether he was still in his body, or that his spirit had departed his body. He testified that he was immediately taken to heaven where he saw things that are not lawful to utter.
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
When Jesus died, He took with him the criminal whom Isaiah 53:12 describes. They both descended into the chamber at the center of the earth called paradise, where all believers from the Old Testament period of history were kept in comfort, awaiting the completed sacrifice of the Messiah. Peter wrote that when Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth, he also preached the Gospel of the Messiah to those who died during the flood of Noah.
1 Peter 3:18-20 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.”
Those who did not believe God’s warning before the flood of Noah will remain in Hades, along with all those who have perished since that time. These unsaved will await their final judgement for their sins, until the end of the one thousand-year reign of Jesus as the Messiah. This judgment is for those who reject Jesus as their Savior, as described in the Book of Revelation, chapter 20, verses 11-15.
Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Upon His descent into the lower parts of the earth, Jesus released all those who died in faith, who were waiting in Abraham’s Bosom. They were allowed to ascend into heaven where they remain today, awaiting the Rapture. In this way, the transgressor (the thief), who is the subject of this 268th prophecy of Isaiah 53:12c, was the last person to die and go into Abraham’s Bosom.
When Jesus returns for His church at the Rapture, all those who Jesus took to heaven after His death and resurrection, will return with Him and receive their glorified bodies, along with all of us who wait for the return of the Lord today.
1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep (died) in Jesus.
This will include everyone who died before Jesus made His sacrifice at the cross, as well as all those who died since His sacrifice was completed. These dead in Christ will receive their glorified bodies just prior to those who are alive at the moment the Rapture occurs.
When the resurrection will happen: at the Rapture
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
How it will happen:
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (at the Rapture)—52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,… the dead will be raised incorruptible (receive their new bodies), and we (who are alive) shall be changed (receive our new bodies). 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
The description by Jesus in Luke Chapter 16, where an unsaved man is seen—across a great divide from a man who is saved, resting in Paradise, may be the source of the Catholic Church’s doctrine of “purgatory.” This theory states that those who are not fully ready for heaven are taken to this temporary holding place, until such time that they are considered worthy to ascend into heaven. The error of this doctrine is observed by the view that salvation is dependent on the works of those who want to be saved. The Bible is explicit in that salvation is dependent on the completed work of Jesus Christ, not on any merit that we might seek to gain by our own good works.
The New Testament is very clear that all salvation is by grace through faith, not of ourselves, through Jesus’ completed sacrifice.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
This temporary holding place, which is in the lower parts of the earth, is where the saved were taken before Jesus’ sacrifice was complete. Since Jesus has risen from the dead, this location is no longer necessary.
Jesus’ death and resurrection has fully vindicated all those who put their trust in Him. If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, at the moment of your death, you will immediately be taken to heaven, with no delay.
It is apparent now in looking back at the fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah 53:12, that it was the plan of God that this repentant criminal who was being crucified next to Jesus would find salvation in one of the first acts of the Messiah, as He “was numbered with the transgressors.” This example stands as a clear example for all those who have reached a place in their life where they feel that there is no possibility that God could forgive their sins—it is never too late to receive forgiveness as long as you are still alive and can call on the name of Jesus to save you. Jesus died for the worst of sinners, and He will forgive anyone who comes to Him in sincere sorrow and repentance for their sins.
 Graphic Illustration by Rob Robinson, 2013
 Graphic Illustration by Rob Robinson, 2013
 Graphic Illustration by Rob Robinson, 2013