Condemned With Criminals

The purpose of this site is to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, by the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. A part of this proof is to demonstrate that the men who wrote the Bible have told us the truth. When we examine the subject of this chapter; a prophecy by Isaiah, that is confirmed by the historical record; written 700 years before its fulfillment, our task becomes much easier.

When Alexander the Great was conquering the world, he wanted his citizens to be united under one language. As the Greeks were the world power at that time, it was the Greek language that was spoken by a majority of people. The Hebrew language was forgotten and fell into disuse. The Jews who were living in a provence of Alexander’s kingdom, who wanted to read their Hebrew scriptures in Greek; requested that their ancient Hebrew scriptures would be translated into the Greek language. Between 285 and 246 B.C., Ptolemy II Philadelphus commissioned seventy Hebrew scholars to translate the Five Books of Moses, into Koine Greek. This translation became known as the “Septuagint Version,” (from the Latin septuaginta, “seventy”).

This completed translation of the entire Hebrew Bible, known today as “LXX,” contained the entire text of Isaiah and Daniel, as well as all the prophets who are the subject of this book. For this reason, we know that the prophecies of Isaiah; some 131 in-total, were in existence, at least 300 years before Jesus fulfilled each one. In reality, Daniel wrote his prophecies during the period of 605-536 B.C, Isaiah; 740-680 B.C.

Critics have claimed that the reason that Isaiah, Daniel, and the other prophets of the Old Testament, were able to write such stunningly detailed predictions, is because they penned these prophecies after the events took place. This assertion is impeached by the presence of the Greek version of all these prophets—hundreds of years before the events transpired. In 1947, a young Bedouin shepherd discovered a cave at Qumran, just south of Jericho, that contained several leather scrolls, including one complete scroll of Isaiah. Scientific confirmation, by radio carbon dating and Paleographic comparison, confirmed that this scroll of Isaiah is dated at least 150 years before Jesus came to Jerusalem.[1]

The dates of these prophecies being confirmed, we now seek to understand how 40 different authors; who lived over a period of 1,500 years; were able to write a single; integrated, narrative of precise prophecies—with accurate perfection.

This prophecy from Isaiah 53:12c, is one of these extraordinary predictions that defies logic as to how Isaiah could have known these specific details so far in advance of the time when they took place.

The Messiah will be numbered with others also called “criminals,” at His death.

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.

New Testament Fulfillment:

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.

Improbable Details:

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.

Here, we see the specific feature 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 remarkable inclusion. Crucifixion did not exist at the time that Isaiah wrote this prophecy.[2] How could the prophet know that the Messiah, who should have been widely received by everyone in Israel, would, in-fact, be scandalously condemned to die on a Roman cross, between two other criminals? What if: on the day that Jesus was crucified, He was the only one to died on a cross? What if there was only one other criminal to die, Isaiah said “transgressors.” This would have disqualified Isaiah’s prophecy, and more yet: it would have disqualified all of Isaiah’s prophecies. In order to be defined by God as a true prophet, all of the words of every prophecy that is spoken, must come to pass—precisely as they were predicted.[3] If this one prophecy had not been fulfilled by Isaiah, because Jesus was the only man to die on that day, then all 131 of Isaiah’ s prophecies would have been disqualified. This gives us an idea how impossible it was for these men to write such perfect descriptions and have them fulfilled to the very letter.

The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is confirmed by Luke 23:32-33

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 the chapter: Releasing Prisoners, for details.

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, and 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 a place of comfort, the lower parts of the earth.

The New Testament reveals 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.

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 facts, that are recorded in the Bible.

1. The veil of the temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom.

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.

The veil inside the temple was situated 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.

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This veil was significant in that it defined how far a man could go into the inner court. 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, was torn from top to bottom. This event took place, supernaturally, without the assistance of any man.

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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.

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It is important to understand that because of the thickness of this veil, some four inches in width; it would be impossible for even several men to pull the veil in such away that it would be torn in two. We also note that the veil was torn from the top, a height of 45 feet, down to the bottom of the veil.

The tearing of the veil, signified that the separation between man and God, was at an end. At the moment that Jesus died for the sins of the world, any person could have access to God, if they would to come through the sacrifice that Jesus has completed. By God tearing the veil, He was signifying that there was no longer a separation between God and those who would come to Him through Jesus sacrifice for their sins.

From the moment of Jesus’ death, 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.

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.

Matthew 27:50-53 …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.

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. See the chapter: Releasing Prisoners, for details.

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 people 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 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, every person 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.

Purgatory?

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, 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 as one of the first acts of the Messiah, as He “was numbered with the transgressors.” This example stands as a clear model 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.


[1] Source: “The Greatest Archeological Discoveries and their Effects on the Bible,” Thomas Nelson, 1996, Open Bible Notes and Commentary. William White, Ph.D, Consulting Editor, Warrington, Pennsylvania.
[2] The first Crucifixion recorded in the Bible is described by King Darius about 520 B.C., as noted in the Book of Ezra Chapter 6:1-11. Ezra 6:11 (King Darius) Also I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this
[3] 1. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?”—22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
2. Romans 4:17 God, who… calls those things which do not exist as though they did…
3. The test for whether a word spoken by someone who claims to be a prophet of God—is valid—is determined by their fulfillment. If any word or part of the prophecy fails, the person who spoke the prediction is called a false prophet; and no one should listen to that person.⁠1 If, however, the words that are spoken in each of these prophecies come to pass exactly as they were written, then we can have confidence that God is the original source of these predictions.
[4] Graphic Illustration by Rob Robinson, 2013
[5] Graphic Illustration by Rob Robinson, 2013
[6] Graphic Illustration by Rob Robinson, 2013