Tough Questions with RC Sproul


Tough Questions with RC Sproul

Can you repent at the moment of death and
still have the same salvation as
someone who’s been a Christian for many
years?
==========================================================================
That’s
a tricky question, but I think it’s a fascinating one and certainly one
that
many people are concerned about. We talk about foxhole faith, when people
cry
out in desperate moments of crisis or postpone to their deathbed the
moment
of committing their lives to Christ. Some people say that it doesn’t
make
sense for somebody who has been a Christian all their life to be in the
same
state as somebody who did as they pleased all their life and waited until
the
last second to get their accounts square with God.

There’s a parable in
the New Testament in which Jesus speaks about those who
agree to work for a
certain wage, and then at the last minute some other
people are hired and
only work for a few minutes but they get the same pay.
The first group is
really bent out of shape, and they say, “What’s going on
here? There’s no
justice in this!” Does the second group receive the same
salvation? Yes and
no. They are brought into a state of salvation; that is,
they escape the
punishment of hell and enter into the kingdom if indeed that
last-breath
repentance is genuine. The requirement for entrance into the
kingdom of God
is to repent and believe in Christ.

The thief on the cross did it in the
last minutes of his life, and Jesus
assured him that he would be with him in
paradise. There we have Exhibit A in
the New Testament of somebody who
actually did that and who was promised by
our Lord himself that he would
participate in Jesus’ kingdom. Certainly it’s
possible for a person at the
last moment of their life to repent sufficiently,
believe, and be justified
and enter into all of the benefits of membership of
the kingdom of
heaven.

However, Paul speaks of those who make it into the kingdom by the
skin of
their teeth. I think a “deathbed” believer would be in that category.
We tend
to think that all that matters is getting there because there is
an
unbridgeable chasm between getting into heaven or missing it altogether.
Yet
Jesus tells us to work and to store up treasures for ourselves in
heaven
because he promises emphatically that there will be rewards dispensed
to his
people according to their obedience and their works. You don’t get
into heaven
by your works, but your reward in heaven will be according to
those works,
according to the New Testament. What that says to me is that
although people
can make it by the skin of their teeth by repenting in their
last dying
breath, nevertheless, their degree of felicity will not be nearly
as great as
that of those who have been serving Christ faithfully for many,
many years.

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