Can a person live their whole lives as one who is rebellious against God, full of evil, and still go to heaven if they repent and give their lives to Christ on their death bed?
- [While Jesus was hanging on the cross: “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43
Here were two criminals hanging justly for the crimes they had committed while on this earth. Their crimes deserved the death penalty. We don’t know what they did, but whatever they did, one of the criminals expressed the guilt that they had for these crimes. They obviously had not been followers of Jesus prior to this interaction in their last hours before death. At some point though, one of the criminal’s eyes were opened to who Jesus really was as he knew that Jesus was going home to his heavenly kingdom. How would he know that? It wasn’t from prior knowledge. It wasn’t from doing good in his life. He came to understand Jesus because of God’s mercy on him. His eyes were opened to the truth.
- “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4
This man was truly saved by Jesus on his death bed. He knew his wrong and knew he had no way to heaven, but only felt worthy to ask Jesus if he would but remember him in his thoughts. Jesus knew his humble, repentant heart and saw his desperation to cry out to Him at this last minute.
Do you cry out in desperation to Jesus as the only way for you to go to heaven or are you depending on your good works?
Jesus then, proves that death bed repentance can be real; however, rare. As we study cases of those who are about to die and who “give their lives to Christ” at the last moment, we realize that most of those who “gave their lives,” who miraculously recovered and did not die, go back to living their previous life, not changed, no different, and not living their lives in humble obedience to Christ. It is sad to know that most don’t really mean it. They are only trying one last ditch effort to help ease their selfish desires to save themselves from anticipated pain.
I knew a man with a death bed repentance. I worked with him 20 years ago. This was an evil man, controlled by alcohol and very angry. His very life reflected the path that he had chosen for all the years of his life. 20 years later, his body was failing him and he knew he was going to die. As he laid in the hospital someone told him of Jesus. He believed and gave his life to Him. He spent the next two weeks in the hospital, completely forgiven and free, telling everyone who crossed in his path about this wonderful Jesus. I have no doubt in my mind that Ron is in heaven today basking in the glory of the Lord. His Christian life, though only two weeks long, reflected a transformed life. His death bed repentance was real.
- “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2