A neighbor lady who had become a rather close friend to
my wife, came into our home and said, "Do you believe in death bed
repentance?" This was not the first time I had been required to give an
answer on this topic.
My answer is, "I believe in one kind of death bed
repentance, but not the denominational kind." Any sincere Christian who
repents, whether at death or before, God forgives, but He will not forgive the
one who has never become a Christian. "Now we know that God does not hear
sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears
him." (John 9:31). "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination." (Prov. 28:9).
The issue, therefore, with our denominational friends and
neighbors hinges on just how one becomes a Christian. This must be determined
by the written Word of Christ. His Word is the only means by which we can have
certainty concerning eternal life. John said, "These things I have written
to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you
have eternal life..." (1 John 5:13). We should not let the "death
bed" thought add emotionalism and detour us from the issue.
Repentance alone is not what makes one a
Christian. Acts 2:38 teaches that repentance and baptism are necessary for
remission of sins. Mark 16:16 makes faith and baptism necessary. In Rom. 10:9 a
verbal confession is essential. Thus, all of these things are required and
since baptism is the last act of obedience for conversion, one is saved at its
point, not before. This is all I have the right to say about one's condition
whether healthy, sick, or dying.
I know of a evangelist who while doing some preaching in
the mountains of Virginia ran into several families who supposedly had been
baptized into Christ, but were completely unfaithful. He found that their
problem was faith in death bed repentance. They thought there was no need to
serve God a whole lifetime, just wait until the end, repent and be saved. One
would be surprised at the immense number today who have likewise put their
trust in this idea.
There is no passage anywhere that would uphold the faith
and hope of such people. What makes one think he can be stubborn and rebellious
to God's laws all his life and at the last minute repent and God will accept
him? What makes him think God will give him opportunity to repent? On several
occasions in the Old Testament, God's people were rebellious and would not
listen to God's reproof. When calamity came upon them, and they finally decided
to call upon God, He said he would not hear them (Prov. 1:24-28; Ezek.
8:17-18). Death bed repentance is not taught in the Bible, but rather,
"Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth..." (Eccl.
Someone will say, "What about those who were called at the eleventh hour in the parable of Jesus in Matt. 20, weren't they rewarded the same as the others?" There is no comfort in this for those who trust in death bed repentance. All those in the parable obeyed and went to work when called. Death bed repentance is equivalent to the first hour man saying, "It's to early; I'll wait to the eleventh hour." Would he have been accepted?
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