It would seem unfair if Hitler prayed to God for forgiveness right before he died and is now in Heaven. Like, who the hell gets to ruthlessly murder millions of people and repent at the last minute and share the same Heaven as people who worshipped God at least for most of their lives.
But what got me thinking about this is Luke 23: 42-43. The thief hanged on Skull Hill alongside Jesus asked Him to remember him when Jesus enters His Kingdom. Jesus replied, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
The Bible doesn’t tell us the names of the criminals, or what their lives were like before their execution. We do know that both criminals lived a life that deserved crucifixion. Luke 23:40-41 says “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him–he did nothing to deserve this.”
These two thieves knew that they were criminals and deserved their punishment. Sometimes when you watch trials on TV you see the accused person looking at the judge as if they don’t know what they did to deserve their punishment. These criminals knew they deserved the punishment on Skull Hill, so they had to live a pretty bad lifestyle.
The Bible supports that it is never too late to ask God for forgiveness. But that’s not encouragement to live a senseless life and think that you can pray to God right before you die. I’ll break down the reasons why believing you can wait until your deathbed is a foolish idea.
- Most people don’t when they’re about to die. Everyone doesn’t get a warning that death is upon them. Even if you have an illness and the doctor says you have a certain amount of time left to live. God still has the last say so. The doctor doesn’t know exactly when you’re going to die, they just give an estimate. The thief didn’t know when exactly his life was going to give out. Jesus is the only one who ever died when his mouth said he would. And if it had not been for the criminal to be right there with Jesus in the flesh, he probably wouldn’t have thought about him.No one ever again will have the luxury of being next to Jesus in the flesh on their deathbed, so I imagine that the majority of people who weren’t thinking about Jesus their whole life most likely didn’t think about Jesus on their deathbed.
- A sinful life is not our purpose. Even though one of the criminals went to Heaven with Jesus, he still lived a meaningless life because he didn’t know Jesus until his very last moments. Now, it’s easy to argue that it doesn’t matter what kind of life you live as long you get to Heaven like the criminal. But don’t follow the criminal’s path. People on death row have years, months, and days to ask God for forgiveness before they die, but I’m sure they wish they could take back the life they lived that led them to death row. To have the chance to accept God on your death bed or on death row is better than nothing, but it has to be painful to realize that God is real right before you die and you have to think about how you lived your whole life without God and did everything according to your own understanding.
It wasn’t God’s purpose for those criminals to be there. If it was God’s plan for those men to live a criminal lifestyle and die next to Jesus, then Jesus would have spoken to those men. Jesus called out every one of his disciples. Not one came to Jesus and asked “Hey, Jesus, can I follow you?” Most of the people who had close encounters with Jesus had names and background descriptions. The criminals on Skull Hill didn’t even have a name in the scripture. How is it that the people who witnessed Jesus’ death were named, but the men who died next to him have no name? Jesus didn’t even speak to them because he didn’t know them. When one of the criminals challenged Jesus to save himself, Jesus didn’t respond. They were nobodies to Jesus. Jesus only spoke to one of the criminals after the criminal spoke to Jesus first. The criminal recognized Jesus as the Son of God and Jesus recognized the criminal by speaking to him.
So, what we learned is that yes, you can accept Jesus Christ as your Lord right before you die. But everyone don’t know when they’re about to die. The devil will use his power to distract you from thinking about God on your deathbed. The devil already succeeded in distracting you from God your whole life, you think he gone let up right when your soul is within his grasp? Hell naw. Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord now, so death doesn’t even have to be an issue because you already know where your soul is going.
All scripture was taken from The Message Bible.