I've been thinking about death bed conversions, lately...probably because that's what I would love to see for my sister's fiance who has terminal brain cancer.
I've personally heard of two cases of death bed conversions. While that's not many, if it's your relative, that's the one that matters.
The only instance of a death bed conversion in Scripture is the thief on the cross. While not literally on a bed, it was still done a few hours before his death and with a knowledge that he'd soon be facing the Judge of the earth in his guilty state.
"One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, 'Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!'
But the other answered, and rebuking him said, 'Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.'
And he was saying, 'Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!'
And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'"
What does this teach us?
One: No one is beyond hope. Even a condemned criminal with no redeeming qualities inherits eternal life simply by believing in Christ.
Two: We are not saved by baptism or works. They follow salvation, but do not merit it. This man had no opportunity to get down from his cross and do good works or be baptized. Again, he was saved by faith in Christ.
Three: There is no such place as purgatory. If anyone would have needed to go there, it would have been he. Jesus didn't say, "After you've suffered and paid for your sins a while, you can join me in Heaven." He said, "Today, you'll be with me in Paradise." An immediate reward for his faith.
Four: There is no soul sleep until the resurrection, but we are "absent from the body, present with the Lord." It happens 'today', when we die.
Five: Heaven means to be in the presence of God. He would be with Jesus.
The overall lesson from this is that faith alone in Christ alone is the only means of securing a place in Heaven, safe with Jesus and protected from the wrath of God.
Why is there only one example of a death bed conversion in Scripture?
There is only one, so we do not presume to have time, and yet there is one, so that we do not despair.
While there is life, there is hope.
Oh Lord, do it again!