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It is true that people professing faith in Christ will be most zealous to persuade someone, particularly a loved one during a time of impending death, to “get right with God” before they pass on. But is this inclination the leading of the Spirit of God? Where in the Bible does one see a deathbed conversion? Besides the one example of the thief on the cross, there is no second witness. And without the two or three witnesses required, it is not established truth before God.
Considering the manner of life of the saints in the Scriptures, you’ll not find one instance where they sought to convert a person to faith at time of death. That’s because nothing whatsoever is commanded or taught by God that would induce one to coerce or cajole last-minute professions of faith from anybody. Such wouldn’t be true faith. Men of faith die as men of faith and the wicked die in their sins.
There isn’t a hint in the Scriptures of the kind of thinking that is prevalent today, which compels men to be converted “before it’s too late.” One of the reasons there is no such notion found in the Scriptures is because there is no such thing as eternal torment, as men have conceived it. Never did such a thought or expression come from God. (Read our section The Restitution of All Things, particularly The True, Scriptural Meanings of “Forever,” “Everlasting,” and “Hell.”)
Instead, we find this counsel from God and attitude among His saints:
“He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11 KJV).
Men have come up with the nasty notion of eternal torment as a way to frighten and control others for their own gain. They have created religious organizations that outlive individual members and remain to collect more souls and inheritances. These deluded, power-hungry souls are the beneficiaries of a carrot-and-stick program. The carrot is being on the right side, destined for eternal bliss in Heaven; the stick is being on the wrong side, destined for the never-ending flames of Hell.
Motivated by the prospect of great gain and the avoidance of unthinkable loss and pain, people are converted to a carnal faith, which has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, the Truth, and His faith. The motivation is selfish and evil.
So where in the Scriptures does anyone find the idea that one can be converted on his deathbed, thereby gaining access to Paradise? The following is the one and only incidence:
Luke 23:39-43 MKJV
(39) And one of the hanged criminals blasphemed Him, saying, “If you are Christ, save Yourself and us.”
(40) But answering, the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are in the same condemnation?
(41) And we indeed justly so, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing amiss.”
(42) And he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”
(43) And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
This report in Luke says that one of the thieves crucified with the Lord believed on Him and was saved. However, the story of the repentant thief crucified with Jesus isn’t true. Read The Book of Luke Corrupted – A Deathbed Conversion Tale.
This story exists because the devisers of it want to rule over men, instead of having God ruling in men. By the use of treacherous doctrine, they have somewhat to gain of this world’s goods.
The Catholic Church and other denominations and individuals have been guilty of extorting possessions or fortunes from people on their deathbeds, leading these vulnerables to believe they could buy their way out of Hell and Purgatory, allowing for entry into Heaven, by willing their estates to such as the Roman Catholic Church. This is the final insult in a grievous usurpation of men’s souls.
Think about it: Many are encouraged by this doctrine to believe they can live their lives as they please and repent at the last minute, enjoying the best of both worlds. Of course, they could consider that they may die without warning and a supposed opportunity to repent, but the love of mammon clouds reasoning.
Charlatans of the cloth may permit men to think such presumptuous thoughts because if they do, and consequently find themselves in a vulnerable state at death, they are liable to sign away anything to save their souls from eternal torment.
What about that Bible account? Can the Bible really contain error? Yes, the doctrine of deathbed conversion is false and the story of the repentant thief is only a pretext. The story is the one and only witness to that doctrine in all of Scripture, because the story is spurious.
So what of all the deathbed conversions people hear about?
“I pleaded with Dad to receive Christ before he died, and he finally did.”
“Yes, just before he went to the electric chair, he made his peace with God.”
In the alleged event with the thieves in Luke, there was no pleading or inducement coming from the Lord to confess faith. However, most deathbed conversions are forced.
Even without the coercion element, the story doesn’t hold up in light of general Scriptural testimony. The last-minute change of heart of the one thief effectively delivers the message: “Be inspired to confess Christ with your lips. You needn’t ever be concerned about a repentant life. See how the Lord welcomed the confessing thief into Paradise without question or hesitation.”
While the Lord doesn’t cast off any who come to Him, this account doesn’t match how things work. Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven, is within and comes by an inner change that takes place over time. “He that endures to the end shall be saved,” the Lord said (Matthew 10:22). The apostle Peter describes the process:
2 Peter 1:1-11 MKJV
(1) Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of our God and our Savior Jesus Christ,
(2) Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
(3) according as His Divine Power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who has called us to glory and virtue,
(4) through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
(5) But also in this very thing, bringing in all diligence, filling out your faith with virtue, and with virtue, knowledge;
(6) and with knowledge, self-control, and with self-control, patience, and with patience, godliness,
(7) and with godliness, brotherly kindness, and with brotherly kindness, love.
(8) For if these things are in you and abound, they make you to be neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(9) For he in whom these things are not present is blind and cannot see afar off and has forgotten that he was purged from his sins in the past.
(10) Therefore, brothers, rather be diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, you shall never fall.
(11) For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
With the spurious Scripture in Luke and the diabolical teaching of deathbed conversion, people are presented with a false gospel of “accepting Christ” in their moment of ultimate weakness and vulnerability, as if they will then be ushered into the Kingdom with complete salvation. Nowhere is repentance or the necessity of exercising newfound faith for spiritual growth mentioned. It’s all about, “Remember me, Lord,” and finding oneself transported into Paradise as if by magic.
But we know that one enters the Kingdom through much tribulation:
“And one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these who are arrayed in white robes, and from where do they come?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes, and have whitened them in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple. And He sitting on the throne will dwell among them’” (Revelation 7:13-15 MKJV).
“And preaching the Gospel to that city, and having made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, calling on them to continue in the faith and that through much tribulation we must enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22 MKJV).
One may argue that the thief suffered great tribulation on the cross. However, he suffered for his sins, not as a saint for confessing Jesus Christ before men.
“For what glory is it if you patiently endure while sinning and being buffeted? But if you suffer while doing good, and patiently endure, this is a grace from God” (1 Peter 2:20 MKJV).
You may ask, “Don’t people forever lose the opportunity for salvation once leaving this world if they aren’t first saved?” That is the second reason for panicking one into salvation before death, but contrary to common belief, God doesn’t appoint all to be saved in this life. (Read Diabolical Doctrine: Salvation is possible in this life only.)
No, we can’t believe what men say, especially when they are coerced or emotionally finagled, but we can believe what God says.
Is it possible for a conversion at death? Yes, all things are possible to God; but we need to learn His ways, so that we might have fellowship with Him, guide men aright, and not be deceived or fill ourselves and others with false hopes and notions.
Consider the alternative to this misleading doctrine of false promise: If you trust Christ, you’ll no longer fear death as the decider of your fate. You will worship Him, and you’ll be depending not on men to decide their fate or yours, but on Him to save one’s soul at the appointed time, whether in this world or the next.