Salvation in Your Final Hour

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Can you be saved from your sins and receive eternal life on your deathbed? Does it even count?

We sometimes hear about “deathbed conversions,” in which someone repents of sins and confesses faith in Christ in the final hours before their death. Some might question whether such a “last-minute” conversion is legitimate, since the person has supposedly lived a life of sin and is now asking for a “free pass” to heaven. Does such a deathbed conversion count?

What happens when someone repents of their sins on their deathbed, and they don’t get to live out a life of repentance, take communion, be baptized, or attempt to walk out their days in holiness? What happens to that person?

THE DYING THIEF

To find an answer to these questions, we can look at the example of “the guy on the cross.”

When Jesus was crucified, there were two other men crucified alongside of him (Matt. 27:28; Mark 15:27-28, 32; Luke 23:33;John 19:18). Luke’s Gospel is the only one that tells us about one criminal crying out for salvation:

“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43)

In his last dying moment, Jesus promised the one repentant thief that he would be with him that day in paradise.

How do we know this man underwent a real change, a real conversion, and was given a new heart there on his cross? All we can look at is what is recorded in Scripture, and there we see phenomenal evidence of the fact that something incredible happened to this man. Jesus gave him a new heart.

In his last dying moment, Jesus promised the one repentant thief that he would be with him that day in paradise.

Look at what the thief says in his rebuke of the other criminal scoffing at Jesus:

“BUT THE OTHER REBUKED HIM”

Though the soldiers and religious leaders were ridiculing Jesus and no one spoke up for him, this man didn't keep quiet, but opened his mouth and “rebuked” the other criminal.

“DO YOU NOT FEAR GOD?”

For many people in their dying moments, fear and God are on the forefront of their mind. This man did not fear what men would or could do to him. How could they do any worse? This man sensed that he was in the presence of God.

“WE ARE RECEIVING THE DUE REWARD OF OUR DEEDS”

This man acknowledged that he and the scoffer had broken the Law of God and the law of the land, and were facing the just punishment for their crimes. He owned his sin and did not make excuses.

“THIS MAN HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG”

This man testified from his cross that Jesus did not deserve a criminal’s death, for he had done nothing wrong! In making this statement, the criminal was acknowledging that Jesus was “without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

“JESUS, REMEMBER ME WHEN YOU COME INTO YOUR KINGDOM.”

He acknowledged that Jesus is King of God’s kingdom, but he took it a bit further and made a request of Jesus. He asked Jesus to “remember him.” The people of God often use the word “remember” throughout the Old Testament in prayer to God, and when it is used it is always in the context of petitioning the God who they know will act on their behalf! This man was asking Jesus for more than to think of him—he’s asking for salvation.

So, can someone be saved from their sin and be given eternal life on their deathbed? Yes!

The grace of God is so vast and amazing that if the thief on the cross and the Apostle Paul were to ever bump into each other in heaven, and the question were asked, “What did you do to get here?” both would reply, “Nothing.” That, my friends, is what we mean by grace alone.