How many days in the life of the saved thief were filled with material blessings? He did not possess the world’s good even for the briefest moment. You might be tempted to say to me that this is a rare example, an anomaly. Let’s look at the scriptures to see if this is indeed the case. The Corinthian church seemed to have quickly departed from Paul’s example: though Paul took no pay for his ministry, there arose men that demanded great sums from them for their services and commended themselves, making themselves out to be apostles though they were not. The church had become rich (1 Cor 4:8) and they had left off from disciplining their people (1 Cor 5:6). What was Paul’s example that he sought to bring the church at Corinth into conformity with? Paul was weak, despised, in hunGer, in thirst, naked, buffeted, homeless, laboring, reviled, persecuted, suffering, defamed, and made to be the “offscouring of all things” (1 Cor 4:9-13). Does Paul speak for himself alone? No! He speaks for all the apostles (1 Cor 4:9). Are then believers that are not apostles not subject to these things? Jesus taught that everyone that is fully trained will be like his master: Jesus had nowhere to lay his head, and we find that Paul and the apostles also often had no certain dwelling (Lk 9:58, 1 Cor 4:11). You see, insofar as we are not conformed to this example, we have not fully been trained up in Christ. If your church is rich and grown fat–indolent with that Christ intended for the poor–then they have not been fully trained as of yet. How do I know that the collection was intended for the poor? Christ must have given so often from what little the apostles had to the poor and needy that it was always assumed that if Jesus asked for the purse that it was for this purpose. When Judas leaves to betray Jesus, the assumption of all the other apostles is that he was sent by Jesus to give gifts to the poor (Jn 13:29). Those that gather a lot ought to have nothing left over if they seek to walk as Christ walked (2 Cor 8:15). Does Christ wish that you should suffer? No! He desired that you would ease the suffering of another (Ps 147:3). In fact, Christ would make you rich toward God by following His example (Lk 12:21). What’s more, He establishes empirically with the apostles that those who do the will of God will not lack what they need (Lk 22:35). The apostles went out to evangelize with nothing and they lacked nothing in confirmation of the oft quoted Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:33).
The doctrine of prosperity as it’s preached in the United States and all over the world is false doctrine. You can see that the thief does not possess it at any time from his conversion to his death; neither do the apostles possess material prosperity before they met with their appointed deaths. Why are theologians all over the world and throughout history continuing to make this doctrinal error? In a word, over-realized eschatology. Christ does promise prosperity to the believer in the time of His second coming and then for eternity in His presence. We will not hunger (Rev 7:16). We will not thirst. What more could we wish? Our dwelling place will be the dwelling place of God, and He prepared it ahead of time for us that He might receive us to Himself (Jn 14:3). Thus, there is a right foundation for the belief that Christians will experience prosperity, but this expectation is for the life to come–for the resurrection. Those who seek to paint a rosy picture of life for the Christian still living in his mortal flesh are making the mistake of seeing the Kingdom as being already established on the earth: in other words, all of these pastors and teachers have an over-realized eschatology. Their attempts to draw us into a prosperous life now rob us of our effective witness for Christ while we still have the light (Jn 9:4). We have not yet seen the Kingdom of God established upon the earth; Christ is coming again, not to bear our sins, but to bring His promise of salvation to those who wait for Him (Heb 9:28). The thief didn’t experience prosperity. Perhaps, you won’t either, but, in whatever way you are weak, Christ’s power rests upon you (2 Cor 12:9).