There are Bible students who continue to use the Thief on the Cross as the measure of what man should do to be saved by grace and mercy. Yes, we are saved by grace and mercy if we properly define what grace and mercy are. We are saved by grace and mercy if we consider what conditions are laid down by our Gracious and Merciful Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

I think we need to show our Bible reading friends in minute details the approximate dates of the following:

  • The start and termination of the Mosaical Law;
  • Transitional period of John the Baptist’s ministry/baptism;
  • Possibility that the thief on the cross was baptized by John the Baptist’s or Jesus’ disciples;
  • The crucifixion of Christ;
  • The giving of the Great Commission baptism in Galilee which was after resurrection day;
  • The formal inauguration of Christ’s spiritual kingdom and formal effectivity of the New Covenant.

We put here the approximate dates:

1. Law at Sinai given approximately 1500 B.C. through the intermediary of Moses.

2. John the Baptist’s ministry started at about A.D. 29 primarily to identify the presence of the Messiah and to prepare the hearts of the Israelites according to Malachi 4; Matt. 3; Mk 1; Luke 3; Jn 1:19-34. John’s baptism was for the remission of sin says Mark 1:4 but he pointed to the coming of Christ so when Christ’s Great Commission baptism became effective in Acts 2 (A.D. 33), John’s baptism stopped being operative according to Acts 19:1-7 (about A.D. 49).

3. Matthew 3:5-6, “Then ALL Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” Luke 3: 21 says, “Now when ALL THE PEOPLE WERE BAPTIZED, IT CAME TO PASS THAT Jesus also was baptized…” See also Mk 1:4-5. Note also the declaration of Matthew 4:25, “And great multitudes followed Him- from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. The year is about A.D. 30. Aside from the preaching of John the Baptist and Christ, the 12 apostles were sent out to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 10:6). With this Israel-wide preaching in a span of three years, the wayward thief could have been baptized earlier which explains his soft heart and repenting and believing while hanging at the cross.

4. The crucifixion of Christ was A.D. 33, Nisan 14th.

5. Resurrection Sunday was A.D. 33, Nisan 16th when Christ told Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee according to Matthew 28:7; Christ met the 10 disciples in the same evening of the resurrection day says John 20:19 but Thomas was absent (20:24-25). Eight days later (Nisan 23rd), Jesus met again the 11, this time Thomas was present says John 20:26-29.

(Note: There were many more appearances recorded mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:5-9 and Acts 1:3 but we could not put dates for all of them. It would appear that Christ and the Apostles stayed at least EIGHT days in Jerusalem after resurrection and then they met in Galilee as per Matt. 28:16. Forty days after the resurrection, Christ ascended according to Acts 1 and this is the month of Iyar on the 26th day.)

6. Then the disciples went back to Jerusalem from Galilee and were told to stay in Jerusalem until they be endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit says Acts 1:1-8. Date is not clear. According to Hebrews 9:15-18, a Will/Covenant becomes effective or probative at the death of the Testator. That means that the New Testament of Christ was technically effective on Nisan 14th and the Old Law was abrogated according to Colossians 2:14 and superseded by the New Covenant says Hebrews 8:7-13. The 11 disciples went to Galilee after eight days stay in Jerusalem after resurrection Sunday. It is in Galilee that Christ gives the Great Commission. Which means that the Great Commission baptism was not yet given when Christ had that conversation with the Thief at the Cross. To say that Christ had already given the Great Commission baptism before the cross and that the thief was exempted from obeying it is gross ignorance of the Bible. It’s like a Court of Law judge who would apply the 1987 Constitution provision to a 1985 case.

7. In the sermon of Simon Peter in Acts 2, he declares that Jesus has been enthroned (v. 22-35), and this appears to be the formal inauguration of the spiritual kingdom of Israel; the keys of the kingdom which is gospel preaching are now employed by the preaching apostles resulting to the conversion of 3,000 souls who now become the first citizens of the new kingdom of heaven – Acts 2:36-38; Colossians 1:13; Philippians 3:17-20. Date is the Day of Pentecost which is now about themonth of Sivan on the 8th day. This days, 50 days after the crucifixion day was the formal and first day application of the Great Commission baptism commanded by Christ. This shows that this Great Commission baptism of Christ was not operative 50 days earlier on the day of crucifixion. Therefore, it is wrong to argue that the Great Commission baptism should be applicable to the thief on the cross. By analogy, it’s like arguing that the Cory Constitution of the year 1987 should be applicable in the year 1985. Any student of the Constitution of the Philippines knows that this kind of argument is wrong.

Now it is clear that the Great Commission baptism was not yet operative when Christ was hanging at the cross because it was not yet given. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16 was not yet uttered. Any careful Bible student should know this.

I hope that the time-line would be helpful in determining what God wants us to do and teach to the lost. We who are expected to know more will be judged more severely says James 3:1. We should be very careful in our knowledge of the Bible lest we become modern Pharisees who substitute Christ’s command with our ignorant ideas. #

-Eusebio Tanicala