"...if we be honest with ourselves,
we shall be honest with each other." ~ George MacDonald
"...if we be honest with ourselves,
we shall be honest with each other." ~ George MacDonald

Did the thief on the cross accept that Jesus was literally dying in his place? Did he accept penal substitutionary atonement?

Paul was saved without accepting penal substitutionary atonement.

What about James and John?

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared” (Mark 10:35-40).

Did James and John drink that cup of God's wrath? Where in the Bible does it specifically say that God's wrath was poured out on Jesus?

 

What's Wrong with the Innocent Dying for the Guilty?

Evaluating the Cross & 'Penal Substitution'

Three Questions about Atonement

Punishment, Forgiveness, and Wisdom

Justice