Q. My daughter and I were discussing salvation and I told her that I always worry about all those who have never accepted Christ prior to dying suddenly in a horrible event. My daughter then came back with–well you never know in those last few seconds maybe they did. My question is, can a person actually be saved if their “come to Jesus” meeting comes only seconds or minutes before they die?
A. Hebrews 9:27 tells us man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment. Normally this verse is interpreted to mean that once we die our opportunity to accept the Lord’s pardon for our sins has ended. But the reverse is also true. Up until that point the Lord’s offer of pardon is open.
I believe the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) conveys this idea. The owner hired men throughout the day to work in his vineyard. The first ones he hired worked 12 hours. Others he hired later worked 9, 6, or 3 hours, and the last ones he hired worked only one hour. But at the end of the day he paid them all the same amount.
It’s the same with our salvation. No matter when we come to the Lord, we all receive the same promise of eternal life with Him.
While I wouldn’t recommend this as a strategy, I believe if a person’s last conscious thoughts are a confession of faith and a plea for salvation, it will be granted. In my opinion, the thief being crucified next to Jesus served as our best model for this. With no chance to do anything to prove his worthiness, and being at death’s door, he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).