THIS THING ABOUT DEATHBED CONFESSION; IT FRIGHTENS ME
by Dr. Henderson Ward 10/19/2012 / Salvation
There is scarcely a person on earth that is so free of the foibles of man that he can assert with biblical certainty that he has never been guilty of contradiction. Life itself, indeed God's own providence is full of contradiction; for the very rain that gives life also gives death and the very sunshine that warms and enervates also scorches and eviscerates. So who are we to point our finger at someone and heap opprobrium on his head when he spews forth a bundle of contradictions masquerading as impeccable logic and good sense?
Watchmen, that's who.
To be a watchman means to tell it as you see it, to sound a clear alarm so that people know what's happening and to put aside your own preferences where those preferences are not underpinned by discernible reality.
But a spiritual watchman goes further than that for he is in truth a representative of God and his observations are grounded on the Holy Scriptures and he knows that his failure, a failure of duty no less, has eternal consequences. Here is what the Bible says about a spiritual watchman:
"So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me." (Ezekiel 33:7) This was God's words to Ezekiel because God saw some troubling things and wanted to alert the nation. But what would happen if the watchman was negligent or casual. Here is how the Bible addressed this:
"But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand." (Ezekiel 33:6)
Being a watchman is a serious and stressful business and in most armies if the watchman (guard on duty) is caught sleeping he is in severe trouble, for his failure to be awake and alert puts the whole camp in peril.
In Christianity there are many watchmen; pastors, ministers of the Gospel, teachers, evangelists etc but I also include those who write and speak in informative and defining ways to and for believers for whether they are divinely called or not they are fulfilling the watchman's portfolio. With the proliferation of websites and bloggers on the internet it is a demanding task for any conscientious watchman to do his duty and tell it as it is.
It is truly sad that so many ill-informed and wrong-headed talking-heads all of a sudden become experts in a subject in which they have little learning and even less appreciation for the rich doctrines and hallowed traditions of the magnificent church of God. Too much useless chaff is out there masquerading as sound, nutritious wheat and people are being malnourished and misdirected as a consequence.
Spiritual watchmen need to sound the alarm.
The Bible gives many warnings about following wrong directions, and here are two:
" There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12) Just because someone tells you that he believes something most sincerely does not make it so. A child playing with a loaded gun with the safety catch off does not make the gun harmless because you sincerely believe the gun is empty.
" Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21) If this was not true then every demon would Lord, Lord his way into heaven.
All of this is said because the topic at hand is so very important and we need to be extra careful as we examine it in some detail. This is neither an exercise in shadow boxing nor a sterile debate in abstraction but a serious effort to give right directions because so many are being wrongly informed.
In all our dogmatic assertions we should remember this above all else that God can do whatever he likes and nobody can gainsay him, absolutely nobody.
If two centenarians are Christians and both die on his hundredth birthday, one was serving God faithfully for ninety years and the other became a Christian the day before he died, then be assured that God will welcome them both into heaven. There is absolutely nothing unfair or unjust about this.
The length of time you serve God has nothing to do with the gift of eternal life (same as going to heaven) for no one has ever earned or will ever merit eternal life which is based solely on the acceptance of Jesus Christ through faith in his redemptive work on the cross of Calvary. Because salvation is never by merit it therefore does not matter how long or short a time you have been serving the Lord. In all scripture there is one outstanding example of this principle and it is found in Matthew 20:1-16. In this scripture you can see that the workers who started to work at 5pm got the same wages as those who started at 6am bright and early. The powerful point to observe in all this is that each received what was promised and nobody was cheated. God has made this promise, "...that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) and he never fails to honour it. Never!
The question before us then is this. If I live my whole life without a thought for God or eternal life, and then make a deathbed confession, will I be saved and will I go to Heaven?
The answer can either be yes or no depending on many factors.
It is unlikely that someone who has heard the word of the Lord preached, been confronted with the decision to accept Christ and rejected him; adamantly decided that he does not want God or to be identified with Christians or be associated with spiritual matters can on his death bed have an epiphanic moment. It is possible but this is extremely rare.
Choosing God, living for Jesus and committing to a biblical way of life is what Christianity is all about and has little to do with avoidance of the consequences of hedonistic living. Many people think that they can enjoy the pleasures of sin for a lifetime and then when they are on their deathbed reach out and take hold of heaven, and all its pleasures just like that, but in this they are mistaken.
The deathbed confession is, in all but name, an attempt to short-cut one's way to heaven and avoid God's direction for the heavenly journey. The Bible tells us how we get on board the heavenly train:
" And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23) Note here the God-directed criteria for discipleship; self denial rather than wanton indulgence, cross-bearing as identification with Christ and taking all that comes with that and finally faithfully following Jesus, i.e. persistence in the faith. A deathbed confession makes all this redundant.
We should remember this influential quotation from Paul, " I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7) This is what God intends for all his children for we all have duties to perform and a deathbed confession makes all this superfluous.
Other important scriptures for getting on board the heavenly train:
" I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me." (Proverbs 8:17)
" Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
" But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18a)
All of these scriptures attest to God's requirements for our pathway to glory and any attempt to circumvent them is plainly foolish and most likely will be futile.
We should note that any and every confession for salvation is effective providing it is SINCERE. "He that cometh unto me I shall in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) We should rejoice and be extremely glad that the opinions of people do not matter with God for man sees the outward appearance but God sees the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) Whom you think will get to heaven may not make it and the person you deemed a lost soul may get there. The unwise virgins that did many things in God's name, according to Matthew 25:1-13, were left out of God's kingdom and the reprobate thief on the cross that did not serve God for a single day confessed and went to heaven, "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23: 42-43)
Does this mean that deathbed confessions are a waste of time?
No, it simply means that it is extremely risky and is not to be recommended as the chosen method for eternal life. Think about your salvation carefully and choose God now, and secure your place in heaven, and live a productive life for Jesus; and be in line for his rewards. Remember that eternal life is a gift but rewards will be given for effective service, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." (Revelation 22:12)
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013