There are some interesting principles that we can learn about “salvation” that come from the conversation between the two thieves on the crosses beside Jesus. One of them screams at Jesus to prove who he is by saving himself and them too. I sometimes think I do a similar thing. I insist on God doing something for me or proving himself to me by giving me something that I want in the here and now or showing me some kind of sign.. The other thief accepted his fate and expressed his faith in who Jesus was before dying. Before he died he said some things to the unbelieving thief. The first thing he said in the conversation recorded in Luke 40:43, is “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?”

I’m hard pressed to understand how a dying felon can still have no fear of God. Yet many, many, many people enter eternity without the fear of God. With this frame of mind, the last thought he had was of what he was leaving behind. His whole being, purpose, significance are in the here and now. He can’t think beyond his own wants and needs. Furthermore, he just doesn’t want to. Save me from this world’s troubles! Save me from this world’s pains! This life and this world are all I have and I can’t bear to let them go. He’s like the drunk being thrown out of the bar by the bouncer. He grabs ahold of everything on the way and begs to be allowed to stay and have another drink. Many people get drunk on the pleasures, possessions, and powers offered in this world and can focus only on those things. But the wise old owl faces the truth of his mortality, and realizes what the wisest old owl in the world once said. At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, who had experimented with absolutely everything this world had to offer, concluded, “when all has been heard, fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Yes, the fear of God, especially in view of our mortality and accountability, is an essential ingredient for salvation. Without it we’re left only with the present, disappointing, unsatisfying, callous world with all its devious pleasures and possessions. But with the fear of God in our hearts, we can come to grips with the reality of our mortality and face God with confidence, expecting not the fleeting joys of this life, but the everlasting pleasures in a place called “paradise” in the next life. I’m going with that!

“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27