Christian Doctrine And Issues

Can Deathbed Repentance Guarantee Salvation



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Christian theology is clear on the issues of repentance and forgiveness. To be saved from Hell or separation from God, Christians must accept that Jesus Christ paid the price for all sin when he was crucified on the cross. Accepting this fact and living as a Christian means turning away from sin and living a morally good life. However, there are those who believe that Christians are "once in grace, always in grace" and thus, always forgiven for whatever sin they commit. This causes some to believe they can live a life of sin, unethical behavior and even cruelty. Why not? They can escape punishment and Hell by recanting before death; thereby entering Heaven and everlasting union with God.

Is it really that simple? We know that God sent His Son to die for our sins, so we accept this offering of grace and try and live in the manner taught by Christ. But what if we don't? If we repent of our sins before death, don't we erase our damnation? This is problematic. There have been those who have led absolutely horrendously sinful lives. They have committed crimes, abused their family members, stolen from others and led lives devoid of morals or good values. These same people feel strongly that they have an opportunity before death to "make things right" with God by apologizing in prayer and rededicating themselves to Jesus Christ. This sounds offensive to those of us who live each day in a Christian manner as much as we can. How can others live a completely sinful life and simply ask for forgiveness at the end of life?

Let's look at another angle to this problem. Take a very good person who is staunchly Christian and dedicated to a good, sinless (as much as possible) life. This person brings many into the Christian fold and lives an exemplary life. However, on this person's death bed, he becomes feverish and curses God, rejecting (just in the moment) the reality of Christ. According to theology, this good Christian is damned to eternal fire while a lifelong evil person who utters an insincere repentance is welcomed into Heaven.

Obviously this conundrum isn't as simple as I've defined it here, but it does bear some examination. Can we live a sinful life and then suddenly repent at the last minute? Can we live a perfect life, but then slip up at the last minute? Christian theology is clear and unambiguous when it comes to repentance, yet the reality of how "grace" works is nothing short of confusing and offensive when we see the potential for problematic situations. Remember that the prodigal son was welcomed with open arms after a lifetime of disobedience and foolishness. The lifetime "good" son was chastised for illustrating unfairness.

It makes one wonder whether a life dedicated to a Christian walk is nothing short of foolish. When people who are absolute demons can escape judgment with a word before death, what kind of God are we facing? Is a lifetime of goodness and grace worthless next to the magical power of a deathbed repentance prayer?

More about this author: Ed Forester

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