Beware of the Angel of Light and His Messengers
In many of the deathbed conversions we hear of, the dying person says, “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do anything for you!” or the person “accepts Christ” because he is afraid that otherwise he’ll fry in the “eternal hell” taught by men. Those are, by no means, trustworthy conversions.
But what of the following account, which is used by many to justify deathbed conversions?
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.
We were once approached with this very Scripture and argument for deathbed conversions as experienced in nominal Christendom. At the time, I answered by differentiating the conversions born of fear and desperation from what I perceived was described in Luke’s account. My reply:
“That was not at all the case with the believing thief, who had genuine faith granted him, which was very different from a person motivated by fear and ignorance. We see that the issue, therefore, is not imminent death, but attitude and reaction. By the grace of God, we would not stand against legitimate conversions of faith no matter where, when, and to whom they happen even if at the last minute.
And who said anything about works to earn salvation or need of opportunity to demonstrate real faith? The thief showed fruits…he displayed knowledge and conviction of his wrongdoing and acceptance of his punishment; he also rebuked the railer…those are fruits of salvation. The saved thief on the cross, contrary to your claim, had plenty of time (not quantitatively, but qualitatively) to display works and manifest fruits, and he did so, wonderfully!
You are not recognizing the fruits that demonstrate the thief’s salvation, which came before the humble request, ‘Lord, remember me when….’ As the Lord says – ‘it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer.’
Seeing how no man seeks after God (Romans 3:11), the fact that the thief was asking showed God had already done a work of grace in his heart; it was a done deal! In contrast, look at how the other thief conducted himself. One was taken, the other left.
What we speak against is the following scenario: The thief, condemned, says, ‘Jesus, I’m dying! I don’t want to die! I’m afraid of Hell! I confess You! I accept You as my Savior! Please forgive me! Save me!’ – This kind of deathbed conversion is spurious. The difference is in the spirit and motivation, rather than the words.
The illustration of the two criminals is a wonderful one – displaying how pigs and lambs die. On the one hand, we have the pig that squeals, ‘Help! Save Yourself and us if You’re the Son of God! Screech! Screeeeech!’ Though calling on Jesus Christ, those are the vain words of false conversions, not accompanied by any promise of change of nature.
On the other hand, we have the lamb, humbly submitting: ‘I deserve this. We have it coming; He doesn’t. Have respect for Him.’ The latter addresses Jesus as Lord, not making a presumptuous request, but a humble one. These are the displayed fruits of a true conversion and new nature. Blessed soul!
Nominal evangelical Christendom’s deathbed conversion gospel of ‘accepting Christ’ counts the pig as the saved one, in spite of the dramatic, instructional display in the Gospels, the value and truth of which are hidden to the carnal man.”
Notwithstanding the truth in these arguments, here is what we consider to be the STRANGE and SAD news, yet its coming forth must be met with thankfulness and joy:
THE STORY OF THE PENITENT MALEFACTOR IS NOT ONE THAT LUKE ORIGINALLY TOLD. WE BELIEVE IT IS AN INSERT BY THOSE WHO WOULD PROMOTE THE DOCTRINE OF DEATHBED CONVERSION.
Surprised? So were we. A fellow wrote us in his simplicity of faith and pointed us to the fact that while Luke’s Gospel speaks of a penitent thief, Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels speak of both thieves railing on Jesus – two witnesses to one. And we have not been able to find any other story or even a hint of the validity of deathbed conversions to agree with Luke.
According to the Scriptures, we must accept the testimony of two or three witnesses, no matter how good, truthful, or Scriptural something may sound. In this case, Luke’s testimony is refuted by the Word of God in two other places and therefore cannot be accepted. It is spurious.
So let us learn the lesson that while a story can appear to have the hallmarks of truth and righteousness, Satan comes as an angel of light, and when an angel from Heaven preaches another gospel, let it be known that it is not of God.
“But even if we or an angel from Heaven preach a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8 MKJV).
For more on the phony conversion story, read Diabolical Doctrine: Deathbed Conversions to Christ and The Book of Luke Corrupted.