Does The Fact That The Thief Died After Jesus Died Support The “Faith Alone” Doctrine?
For more concerning the thief on the cross, see our question: “Is The Thief On The Cross The Example We Ought To Follow In Regards To How One Should Be Saved From Sin?”
Some believe the thief died under the new covenant and not the old covenant because the thief died after Jesus died (John 19:30-33; Hebrews 9:15-17). While it is true that the thief died after Jesus died, the terms of the new covenant were not issued until Jesus taught the commission to the apostles after His resurrection (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:1-8). Part of obeying the gospel under the new covenant is not only water baptism for the remission of sins but also believing/confessing that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised Jesus from the dead (not that God “would” raise Jesus from the dead, but that He already raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9-10). The thief died while the old covenant was still in effect.
Also, while Jesus was on earth He had the power to verbally forgive man's sins “on the spot” (Mark 2:10; Luke 23:40-43) before He gave the Great Commission of the new covenant (which includes the plan of salvation, mentioned in Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:1-8). Jesus could see into the heart of the thief (John 2:25) and forgive him “on the spot”. The thief on the cross had a unique pardon that was the exception rather than the rule under the old covenant. Under the new covenant, Jesus makes it very clear that no one is justified/saved by faith alone (James 2:19, 24).
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