Our heavenly Father loves to give His children gifts. Gifts are not something we earn or deserve but are given to us because God loves us so much. The Apostle Paul writes about the gift of faith. Ephesians 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. 
Faith is a Gift
The Apostle Paul clearly tells us that salvation is not a reward nor is it something we could earn. Faith is clearly a gift from God. It is the greatest gift we will ever receive and directly affects our present life and our eternal home.
In our story the criminal was hanging on the cross and hope for him was running out. There was no hope for heaven, which seemed far beyond his reach. If nothing changed, he would slip into eternity headed for hell itself. His situation was bleak at best, but something in his heart changed. He repented and turned away from his sin. He recognized that Jesus could save him. God had opened his eyes!
Luke 23:39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 
Paradise is a gift.
Paradise! Can you imagine hearing those words? Paradise wasn’t on his mind earlier, but now it was, and Jesus was going to be there when he arrived. Although still in great pain, the criminal had hope. What does the Scripture tell us about heaven? 1 Corinthians 2:9“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 
No matter how long you think or brainstorm you can’t imagine how wonderful heaven is. Wow! What an amazing gift, and it all begins with faith in Jesus as our Savior. How does knowing you have the hope of going to heaven as a believer in Jesus change how you live your life today?
To hear more about Hope in the Last Hour, listen here: https://podpoint.com/light-of-christ-church-podcast/hope-in-the-last-hour
[1-3] Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.