The Apostle Paul says these words in II Corinthians 5:8:" . . . absent from the body . . . present with the Lord."
As we grow older, most people throughout the world begin to seriously reflect on what they have or haven't done with their lives. They think of many things, but one thought everyone has in common in this: "What is going to happen to me when I die?" Physicists have demonstrated that when a human being dies, an energy force leaves the body. That energy force can be measured but scientists do not know where it goes. Energy cannot be destroyed so it remains a mystery in the scientific world. As Christians, we believe that energy force that leaves the body is our soul or spirit.
As Christians, we are responsible for what we know, and the Lord tells us that we are to be obedient to His Word; however, we are not to judge others, as seen in Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that you be not judged." We do not know what is in another person's heart. Consider the following question:
Who was the first person to go to heaven according to the New Testament?
The thief on the cross is the answer. It was a criminal. Heaven is not for everyone, and this criminal suddenly discovered the truth about why Christ died on the cross. He saw the reality of what was unfolding before his eyes, being in the very presence of the One who held the keys to life ever lasting. At that moment, the criminal made a confession of faith. There were two criminals being crucified with Christ. One on His left and one on his right. One criminal shouted, "If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us." The "thief" rebuked him and said, "Do you not even fear God . . . we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." The he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."
The thief on the cross made a confession of faith. He called Jesus Lord, repented of his sins, and asked to follow Him. Jesus saw the man's heart and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."
There is only one message about this story. God loves you and Christ died to forgive you of your sins and provide a place in heaven if you will accept it as a free gift. That is the only message there is. We will spend eternity in heaven with God for one reason and one reason only. It will not be because we were good, bad or indifferent. It will happen because we put our trust in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, for our salvation.