There Will Be Murderers in Heaven

Posted on: September 28th, 2012 by Laurie Coombs 17 Comments

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And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Jesus speaking to the criminal being crucified with Him.) – Luke 23:42-43

“In this life we will never be perfect,” wrote Anthony, the man who murdered my dad, “but in the one to come, you and I will be brother and sister, as much as you may hate that now.”

It was a difficult truth to swallow. But I knew Anthony was right.

In God’s economy, murderers and rapists will stand worshipping before the throne of Jesus alongside every other Christ follower. Indeed, God’s ways are not our own.

Christ died for all who place their faith in Him––murderers and homeschooling moms alike. This is why the doctrine of grace offends many. In church a couple weeks ago, my pastor said something like this. “The reason you’re having a difficult time with this concept is because you are still struggling with works righteousness. You still believe we earn our way to heaven.” He may have said it a bit more eloquently than I just did, but the fact remains. Our salvation is not based upon our successes or our failures in this life, but upon the grace of God.

So what is grace?

Grace, in short, is “unmerited or undeserved favor.” By definition, it is favor we cannot earn. From a young age, almost everything we’re taught (from a worldly perspective) tells us we must perform. We must be good. If we are good, we will be rewarded. If we are bad, we will be punished. This is how the economy of the world is structured, yet this doesn’t translate to the realm of God.

No, in God’s economy, we can never earn our way. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Our debt against God (when considering all the sins we’ve stacked up against ourselves) can never be reconciled by us. God doesn’t see “big” sins or “little” sins. Sin is sin, and the penalty of sin is death––or eternal separation from God after death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Contrary to popular cultural opinion, your good will NEVER outweigh your bad. 

This is why Jesus had to come. Why He had to live a perfect life. And why He had to die the death we deserved––in our place, for our sins––so that we don’t have to. He paid the penalty for our sin.

What’s more, Jesus came to bring us life, and life to the full (John 10:10). To set us free from sin, and its hold on us. And to impart the Holy Spirit to us that we may live life victoriously (though not perfectly). Jesus’ death brings life to those who believe and secures our position as sons and daughters of the Father.

This is grace. Undeserved favor. Oh how grateful I am for the grace that has been poured out over my life!

Still, some might ask, Why would God extend grace?

Romans 5:6-8  says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (emphasis mine). God shows us grace because He loves us––each one of us––with an unfathomable love.

And He didn’t die only for those considered “good” by worldly standards, but instead, He died for all who would place their faith in Him, including those who have committed the most heinous crimes.

I think we must all wrestle with this doctrine and take an honest moment to ask ourselves whether or not we understand this truth and whether or not we’re truly living in light of grace.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. – Romans 12:3

{Salvation is for ALL who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior, by the grace of God.}

Do you struggle with the doctrine of grace? Share in the comments

To read more on this topic, check out this amazing post I read recently at RedLikeBlood.com!

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  • Christians4DAT

    Stumbled upon your blog when I Googled the quote “There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford,” which came to mind as I was thinking about the inmates I’m praying for and/or writing to. I must say I love your heart for the Lord, and I am thankful for what He has done in your life and in Anthony’s life.

    For the past 13 months, I’ve been praying daily for Jahar Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect, and I can’t even begin to describe what God has taught me about His grace through it. His grace is truly scandalous, and it’s something the world doesn’t understand. How can people like Jahar who have done so much evil and caused so much pain and death possibly be forgiven and get to spend eternity in the beauty and joy of God’s presence? The same way any of us can.
    I listened to a sermon soon after the Boston Marathon Bombings about loving and praying for Jahar, and I have not been able to get this part out of my head:

    “At root, Jahar and you stand before God in exactly the same way:Apart from the blood of Christ: Without hopeCovered with the blood of Christ: Completely forgiven”
    That’s the essence of the gospel.

    God bless you sister,
    Bri from Christians United for Jahar

  • Pingback: All Sin is Forgivable (Except Blasphemy Against the Spirit) | Laurie Coombs()

  • Angel Kennedy

    I read this one and immediately thought to myself(as this is part of my current struggles) When u ask God for help, be prepared, he does everything in due time, u may be waiting or it could slap u in the face immediately….”ur salvation isnt based on ur success or failure but upon Gods grace” that was my SLAP!!!!

    • God’s grace is such an amazing truth!!! I pray daily that I continue to live in light of His grace. Thank you for sharing, Angel!

  • Oh my goodness I LOVE your blog! I just stumbled on it and I’m so glad I did! I used to struggle with grace and every once in awhile I do too, but my college minister did a really good job hammering it into our heads that “all we have to do is believe…we can do nothing more to earn His grace.” We studied the book “Confident in Christ” by Robert Wilkin and it really brought up some great points. Thank you so much for sharing! Be blessed 🙂

    • Oh, I’m so happy you came upon my blog! I hope with all sincerity that you’ll be blessed here! Thanks for the note of encouragement! Blessings…

  • This is a beautiful – and yet incredibly uncomfortable – truth. Even though my heart wants to believe sins like Anthony’s are much “bigger” than my own sins, I know they are not. If I accept God’s grace for myself, I have to accept that His grace extends to everyone. Your story continues to inspire me, Laurie. 🙂

    • I agree, Rachel! If I’m completely honest with myself, I, too, would like to think that I am “better,” if you will, than Anthony or any other murderer, rapist, etc., but that’s simply not the case. In the eyes of God, sin is sin… Thank you for your continued words of encouragement!! Blessings to you, and I’m praying for you!

  • Jennifer Owen

    I thank God for His grace, though sometimes I still wrestle with works righteousness. It is so ingrained in us that if we DO good, then we ARE good (and vice versa) and grace flies in the face of that. I continually pray the God will allow this truth (that His gift of unmerited favor has absolutely nothing to do with me) to seep into my heart. Great post, Laurie!

    • I still wrestle with works righteousness too, Jenn, but you know that ;)! Praying alongside you that we both allow this truth to continually rest in our hearts and that we live life through grace! Love you my friend!

      • This is such a fascinating post. Something we all should think about. It such a difficult concept to receive grace without earning it. We are such an earnings-based society. Awesome post!

        • Thanks for the encouraging words, Kim! Love you!!!