It is a beautiful thing to find comfort in the hour of one’s death. But for many there is an end of life inner conflict some have, according to Erikson’s theory, of integrity versus despair. Integrity is being on your death bed and feeling satisfied of being true to core values and potential more than not. Despair is dying in a black hole of meaninglessness, seeing ones betrayal of core values in the hour of one’s death.
Despair was knocking on the door of a rabble-rouser in 1st Century Palestine. He was hanging on a cross with a comrade and some rabbi with a sign saying, “King of the Jews”. Bitterness wells up in him and he joins his comrade in throwing verbal jabs. He wants his despair to be contagious.
But then the unthinkable happens. This fellow Jew hanging on a cross with a crown of thorns on his head in mockery and whipped by metal and bone calls for the forgiveness of all those who hate him including the thief next to him.
And so, this rabble rouse rebukes the other condemned man who keeps mocking Jesus, He then expresses a rationale worthy of a saint who knows they are a sinner. He states how they as rebels are getting what they deserve, urges respect for what is holy above the grime of bleeding on the cross and receives the forgiveness of this Jesus in the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.
In that grace, he had a moment of clarity and asked for Jesus to bless him. He asks to be in his kingdom looking at Jesus on the cross but by faith way beyond it. He asked Jesus to remember him on the other side of their joint, hideous death. With nails in his hands Jesus pulls himself up and fought suffocation again for a precious breath to give him the answer.
Here we will see a fruit of the cross is how Christ is the door to enter to this mysterious kingdom in heaven.
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Paradeisosis a lone word from Persian that is used in Greek and is where the text gets Paradise. It denotes a tranquil garden that functions as an uncorrupted ecosystem. Christ sees repentance in that man and knows he is ready for heaven. He sees this man not for his faults but his intrinsic self -worth as someone made in the image of God and responding to the call of holiness with faith. Jesus affirms his dignity and an “integrity” beyond whatever truths we find in psychological theories. The tender mercies of God in Christ here is not an otherwise mean God having a nice moment. This is the gospel in action. Again we see it is the gospel ofthe cross onthe cross.
Since a Christian is part of the priesthood of all believers, we are called to not only forgive and point to God’s forgiveness for those who receive the gospel but to point to the ultimate end atones personal end. In articulating this part of the gospel of holistic salvation we point to the eskaton. This is the end where all is reconciled to God the Father in Christ at the end of the age of all humanity as we know it.
To emphasize the meaning of the ultimate ends of time is vital in building the construct for the forgiveness of sins. Keeping the afterlife fresh as the prize makes the difference between a surviving vision and a thriving by grace spiritually. How is one to have a full spiritual walk in Christ if we are not mindful of the destination to walk toward? Jesus promises for those who die in his grace Paradise. We can declare the gospel holistically as the complete union with Christ in this hope.
In the meantime, on earth, the body of Christ is to rightly discern the Lord’s body and proclaim his death until he comes again. To walk in such grace in that ongoing integrity is to be full of grace, living it daily and together in conversion. This blessing extends from Christ together in fellowship in his Church born on the cross. To walk in love that blesses with entrance to his kingdom is by being fused to that hope for an eternal reward. That paradise is contexualized with familial language which we will see illustrated next beautifully when Christ introduces his mother to her new son and the son to his new mother.