It is clear from the example of the bandit on the cross that while his understanding was very limited, he understood enough to be saved – there was true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. If these are real then salvation is guaranteed by God himself, for ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’
In the last couple of weeks I have come across two men who professed faith just before their deaths, which has prompted me to think about the subject. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order.
- The great and gracious good news of the Christian message is that any true conversion, no matter how late it comes, leads to eternal salvation. In fact, few things illustrate more clearly the essence of the gospel of God’s free grace to sinners in Jesus Christ. We are saved not by anything we have ever done or could ever do, but only by what Jesus has done for us. Someone who is converted on their deathbed has no time or strength to do any good works. He will probably not have time to become a member of a church, be baptised, take the Lord’s supper, attend even a single worship service or prayer meeting. He may not give a single penny to the work of the church. He certainly won’t be going on any mission teams or helping at a soup kitchen. And yet the absence of all these things, and many other good works besides, will not jeopardise his salvation in any way. Why not?