Many people experience what are called “deathbed conversions.” That is, after a lifetime of not being a believer in God, they sincerely turn to the Lord in faith right at the end of their earthly life.
Some people might say these deathbed conversions don’t really count. After all, if a person lives the vast majority of his life as a sinful, unrepentant pagan, can a brief change of heart just before death wipe out all that bad stuff? It would be like a baseball player going the whole season hitting .150, and then during the last game of the year he finally hits a home run. OK, that one homer was nice, but overall, the season was a disaster.
Jesus really hammered this point home with the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20). Jesus set the stage by explaining, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.”
Jesus then describes how some workers were hired first thing in the morning with the promise of being paid the standard daily wage. Throughout the day the owner continued to hire people and put them to work, including some guys who were hired at 5 p.m. and worked only one hour.
When the workday was over, the landowner started paying the laborers, beginning with the men who were hired last. Surprisingly, they were paid a full day’s wages. This caused the men who were hired in the morning to assume they would be paid more, since they toiled in the vineyard all day long. However, the landowner also gave them the standard daily wage.
The landowner replied, “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?”
Then Jesus summarized this parable by saying, “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The message of this parable is clear: those who sincerely seek to enter the kingdom of heaven, even when time is about to run out, will be welcomed with open arms. It doesn’t matter if a person lived his entire life as a sinful, unrepentant pagan, if he turns to God on his deathbed and sincerely repents and asks for mercy, God will grant it because He is indeed generous with the gift of salvation.
By the way, this does not mean it’s perfectly OK to live sinful lives and plan to turn to God on our deathbeds. Sometimes there is no deathbed. A sudden car crash, heart attack, stroke, or stray bullet can prevent us from having the opportunity to repent at the last minute. So, please don’t take that chance!
The other important point is this: despite the fact that last minute conversions are wonderful, don’t plan to conclude your earthly life that way. It’s too risky. Turn to the Lord now, even if it means you’ll have to make some major changes in your life. You’ll never regret it!