And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise. Luke 23:43 (NASB)
Will God redeem a person on their deathbed or will He reject their plea for salvation in the last hour or minute of their lives because all their life they pushed Him away? Surprisingly I’ve spoken to several Christians in my life who said they believed that any deathbed confession is rejected by God. If the person rejected Christ all their life then Christ certainly doesn’t want them at the end. In the cases where I’ve talked with Christians who hold this view I point them to the cross and the dying confession of faith in Christ one of the thieves crucified with Jesus is recorded as making. The thief had to do nothing but ask Jesus to remember him when He came into his kingdom. Jesus’ reply was “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
There is another story I like to share at times like this and allow the hearer to decide. It is about my uncle, Elmer Carson, who in 1975 was placed in the hospital dying of emphysema. All His family was believers yet all his life Uncle Elmer had rebuffed any call to salvation. As he lay dying in the hospital his daughter, Lynda, talked with him concerning his soul. Elmer’s response to her was, “I haven’t followed Jesus during my life and doing it now would make me a hypocrite. I can’t accept him.” Lynda had her pastor come talk to Uncle Elmer and got the same response. My cousin called my dad who was a believer and shared her fear her dad would go into eternity separated from God. Dad’s response was, “Elmer is dying. Get your pastor to go see him again and lay it all out for him and tell him he needs to get his soul right with the Lord.” The pastor returned and said to Elmer, “Mr. Carson, let me be honest here for the hour is late, you’re dying and you need to accept Christ. You will not be a hypocrite for God’s love and grace for you is there until you take your last breath.” As they talked Uncle Elmer came to a point of belief on Christ asking Him to forgive his sins. After he did his first statement to the pastor was, “I feel like a million pounds have been lifted off my shoulders!” Uncle Elmer passed away a few hours later in perfect peace and I believe immediately went into the presence of His Christ who became his Lord in the last hours of his earthly life. Truly I believe one of the first people I’ll see on the other side is my smiling uncle robust and healed completely in body, mind and soul.
I’m glad that at that moment on the cross Jesus in all his pain and suffering on that cross didn’t hesitate but in this man’s belief on Him immediately forgave him and accepted him into fellowship with Him. My dear uncle was like the thief on that cross and his witness that a “million pounds” had been lifted from his life is a testimony that the weight that had been lifted was a lifetime of sin. This is what Christ came to do: to reconcile the human race back into fellowship with His Heavenly Father. I would recommend doing it sooner than later for we never know when we may draw our last breath. It’s difficult to speak of these things but our soul’s destiny is deadly serious. One second after we die it’s too late to repent. We’re all born out of fellowship with God and if we do not address the problem with the Lord then that burden begins to grow and can ultimately feel like a million pounds. Will Jesus Christ accept any man or woman into fellowship with Him at any time and under any condition? He can lift a little child’s light burden as they confess that Jesus is Lord of their life but He’s still strong enough to lift a million pounds too.