The thief on the cross was a scummy guy. Luke calls him a “malefactor” which is the KJV word for “criminal.” Matthew calls him a thief. He must have been a notorious thief to get crucifixion.
We don’t know much about him. Luke is the Gospel that gives us the most information and the only Gospel that records his conversion or repentance or whatever word people use to describe his about-face.
The Thief on the Cross comes up in three main ways, two of which are horrible and probably cause the Thief on the Cross to roll over in his grave:
1) It’s never too late to come to Christ for salvation. There is always time, even if you are scum of the earth, forgiveness is near.
2) Hey, the Thief on the Cross waited until just before death to get saved, that’s my plan too! I’ll live it up in sin and then right before death I’ll come to Jesus and I’ll be good to go.
3) Good works are not necessary fruits of salvation, that’s legalism and works-righteousness! Look at the thief on the cross!
Number One is the only legitimate usage of the Thief on the Cross.
Number Two just shows hard-hearted rebellion that is trying to game the system. If you know that much about Scripture and willfully decide to play this game, I don’t think it will go well for you. Also, not everyone has hours to die to make this plan work anyway.
Number Three is probably the most common usage out of the Thief on the Cross. I’ve heard it many times and it gets me riled each time. I’ll explain more tomorrow.