We do not know why this robber, who joined the other robber and with the same heart and same voice mocked the Lord Jesus in the beginning, suddenly changed and believed in Christ. I think it was mainly because the words of Christ’s prayer in Luke 23:34 touched his heart. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Such mercy, such lovingkindness, such tenderness, and such bountiful grace moved the heart of the robber. It took away his prejudice, melted his evil heart, and caused him to realize that the One nailed beside him was indeed Christ, the Son of God. The cross of the Romans had hardened his heart to mock Christ, but the cross of the Lord Jesus caused him to repent and believe in the Savior. The law and punishment cannot save man; only grace and love can bring a sinner to tears and weeping to come before God in self-condemnation, asking for His grace and mercy.
In any case it was a definite fact that this robber believed in the Lord Jesus on the cross. His faith was shown in his words, in his attitude, and in his prayer. First, he expressed his faith because he rebuked the other robber. When the other robber mocked Christ and attacked Him with his words once again, he might have thought that his companion, who joined his mocking with the same heart and same voice the last time, would join him again after he got started. Little did he expect that before he had finished his reviling, the other one would immediately rebuke him. The robber rebuked him saying, "Do you not even fear God, since you are in the same judgment?" (Luke 23:40). The punishment which they all suffered was the crucifixion of the cross. What this robber meant was, "Even though you and I are nailed on the cross, do you still not fear God? You are on the cross, and your life is almost over. Do you still not fear God? In a few hours you are going to die. Do you still not fear God? Eternity is already set before you. Hell and heaven are both eternal. Do you still not fear God? Eternal life or eternal death, salvation or perdition—within these few short hours they will be determined. Do you still not fear God? At this juncture of life and death, everything depends on how you use this fading time. Do you still not fear God? Once these few short moments are past, once your breath departs from your body, eternal life or eternal perdition will be forever sealed, and nothing will change. Do you still not fear God? Since you have received such punishment from men, are you not afraid of punishment from God? If man’s punishment is hard to bear, what about God’s punishment? Do you still not fear God? If today’s punishment is unbearable enough, what about eternity’s? Do you still not fear God? If man’s punishment and man’s law end our life, should we not be afraid of the eternal death in the future? You have suffered the world’s punishment. Do you still want to suffer God’s punishment? Does not such grave punishment, such painful and severe punishment, make your heart fear hell? Eternal life or eternal death will be determined within the shortest time. I think this is the hour for you to fear God and His punishment. You have never feared anything in your entire life. Should you not fear God now?"
Gentlemen, time is passing by minute after minute, hour after hour, and day after day; in a wink of the eye, a month and a year passes by us. Oh! How short is our lifetime! Age will not wait for us! In a short time eternity will be before our eyes! Who can know how long they will live? Are our lives not like a breath of air, which soon disappears? Are our lives not like the wild flowers, which blossom in the morning and wither at dusk? Oh! How uncertain is life! Why are we still so infatuated with the world, sin, and lust? Is not the future of your spirit very important? Therefore, how can you, for the sake of a temporary moment in time, despise the eternal future? Ah! Life is fleeting and uncertain. Life and death can change place in us at any time. At any time our spirit can depart from our body. If you have never thought about the question of eternity, and have never paid attention to the question of the future, is it not time to fear God? If we do not pay attention to the question of our spirit now, we will never have another chance in the future. If you do not have salvation now, you will never have it in eternity. You must believe in the Lord Jesus quickly and receive His salvation while you still have your life. Death is already operating in our body! Sickness, pain, troubles, weakness, and worry are all the forerunners of death! The seed of death is within our body! We do not know when it will grow and bear fruit. Young people, you cannot be forever young. Old people, your hour is almost here. If you do not accept the Lord now, how much longer will you wait? Your destination will soon be determined; are you not afraid of God?
Perhaps God’s punishing hand is upon you; you have suffered, lost your loved ones, or met with defeat, sickness, disability, or disasters. You are already suffering punishment. Will you not turn back? Will you still not fear God? All the sufferings that God has inflicted upon your flesh have come because of His love. You have gone too far away from Him! You do not believe in Him any longer! Aside from this material world and its lust and glory, you no longer realize that there is a God! You also do not want the Savior, the Lord Jesus, whom He has established! You have gone too far away from Him! He has no choice but to chastise you and to call you back. You have been punished. Do you still not fear God?
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 06: The Christian (4), Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)