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  • Writer's pictureAsk Pastor Adrienne

Deathbed Salvations

Photo by Vittore Buzzi on Unsplash


Dear Pastor,

It bothers me that people suddenly become Christians on their death-bed. Why do they get into heaven when they didn’t serve Christ at all?


You’re suffering from what is called “the older brother” syndrome.

In Luke chapter fifteen, Jesus tells a story about a wealthy man with two sons. A good son and a bad son: the younger being a rebellious partier who asks for his inheritance early then promptly runs off and squanders it. Meanwhile the good son stays home, helps the dad run the farm and remains hardworking, responsible and loyal to the family.

Finally the bad son comes to his senses in a pig sty; starving, penniless and ruined. He decides he’ll try to return home and maybe his dad will hire him as a servant. (He knows he’s already forfeited his right to be a son and heir.) But instead the dad welcomes him home with open arms, since he’s been hoping and waiting for his lost boy for a long time. The dad is so moved by the boy’s return that he throws a lavish party and blesses him as if nothing has ever occurred.

The older brother is peeved, to say the least. He corners the dad. “What am I...chopped liver? I did all the right things; stood by your side all this time...but you never threw me a party. It isn’t fair; after all he’s done to you and to this family! It’s not fair to me.” The dad responds by saying, “You’ve had my devotion, appreciation and access to our plentiful provisions all along. Why are you complaining?” (Luke 15:11-32)

We’ve all been there, at some point, despising the younger brother with our bottom lip stuck out and pouting about how life is not fair. Especially those of us who’ve had decades of faith-filled living, where we’ve worked to honor Christ, his Church and our responsibility to the cross, for a long time. Maybe we feel a little let down by it all? Perhaps we secretly think we’ve missed something of a happy life because we ceased our sinful hoopla and decided to walk the line instead? Maybe we think there should be segregation between the last-minute converts and folks who faithfully lived it all along? Perhaps heaven should have a selection of gilded, penthouse-suites and moldy, basement apartments—just to keep things fair. I confess that I’ve struggled with haughty pride exactly like that, in my life. Grace was something I certainly wanted big piles of for myself...but giving it out to others wasn’t my forte. God mercifully corrected my disgusting perspective through years of humbling experiences.

You see, we want God to think like we do, and we like to give ourselves high-fives for being dutiful, righteous Christians. We believe we deserve certain things, after all that output. Yet our wise Bible counselor, King Solomon, addresses the underlying issue; “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18, NASB.) A potent prophet also delivers God’s reassurance of our proper place: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9.) Who the heck are we to question how, when or why God does anything? Who are we to sit in his place of judgement and decide the destinies of anyone? “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)

Death-bed salvations are proof that God never, ever gives up us. He endures our lives of darkness patiently while he stands at the door and knocks...and knocks...and knocks. His joy is complete when that door finally opens and a person is redeemed, no matter what time it is.

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