Different way to put it

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DAL | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Jul 31 2016 1:22 PM

Here's a different way to word the question on "Deathbed repentance/confession/conversion" I asked not too long ago:

Is there a way to know when the practice originated? I know it may be a spin off of the practice of delaying baptism 'til the last minute since some where taught by Montanus (AD 172) and Novatian (AD 200-258) that if you sinner after being baptized, then there was no repentance available anymore. So people chose to wait 'til they were very old or in their deathbed to be baptized (Constantine I, being an example of this). What do you think? could this be a starting point to figure out when the practice started?

Thanks in advance if you are able to help!


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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jul 31 2016 2:16 PM

I would think that Luke 23:41-42 would be a more likely starting point.

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Jan Krohn | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jul 31 2016 2:54 PM

I vaguely remember reading about that recently!

I'll bet you'd find something in one of the following three resources:




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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jul 31 2016 5:24 PM

Jack Caviness:

I would think that Luke 23:41-42 would be a more likely starting point.

Well, the only problem I see with this is, as William Guthrie observed (1620-1665): "The Bible, which ranges over a period of four thousand years, records but one instance of a 'deathbed conversion'―one that none may despair, and but one, that none may presume."

A.    Some points to consider:

1.      While on earth, Jesus had the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10-11).

2.      Jesus and the thief lived under the law of Moses (Gal. 4:4); i.e. Mosaic Dispensation.

3.      When Jesus died the New Testament became active, so that we are no longer under the law or Old Testament (Heb. 9:15-17; cf. Eph. 2:13-16; Col. 2:13-14; Rom. 7:6; 6:14-15; Gal. 3:13-14).

4.      Jesus gave the great commission after He resurrected (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-48; Acts 2:36-41, 47).  Hence, the steps to become a Christian under the New Covenant/Testament did not apply to the thief on the cross.

5.      Therefore, the thief on the cross is not an example that can be used to justify "deathbed repentance."

In fact, as I mentioned in the beginning, it must be a spin off of "deathbed baptism" and then, since some saw it very inconvenient, they opted for an easier way - mainly, that of repentance only or confession only since it involves not moving the person; especially when they are very sick.  

Clarification: I'm not debating, I'm just sharing, because as many others besides me believe, I don't agree with "last minute conversions" or the so called "11th hour conversions" since on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard the following observations can be made (again, I'm just sharing):

1.      This is not a parable to justify putting off becoming a Christian.

2.      Also, this is not a parable that talks about people in their deathbeds.

3.      All the workers in this parable immediately went to work when they were called (Matt. 20:1-4).  Even those who were called at the eleventh hour worked 1 hour! (Matt. 20:12). 

4.      None of the ones that were called early said, "I'll start later when it is not so hot."

5.      The ones that were called at the eleventh hour were asked why they were standing idle all day, and they said, "because no one has hired us." This means there are people in life who have not had the opportunity to receive the gospel call (cf. 2Thess. 2:14) earlier in life, but when they receive it late in life, they accept it and go to work for the Lord (Matt. 20:6-7, 11-12).

6.      Therefore, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard is not an example that can be used to justify "deathbed repentance."

Here are other quotes that I found helpful:

Murdoch Campbell (1901-1974): Someone asked [Margaret MacKenzie] to explain the request of the foolish virgins when they said to the wise―Give us of your oil. She replied, “Did you ever hear of godless persons on their death bed asking the Lord’s people to pray for them. Well, that is the meaning of their cry.”

William Guthrie (1620-1665): The Bible, which ranges over a period of four thousand years, records but one instance of a deathbed conversion―one that none may despair, and but one, that none may presume.

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900): It is mournful to hear what people sometimes say about what they call deathbed evidences. It is perfectly fearful to observe how little satisfies some persons, and how easily they can persuade themselves that their friends are gone to heaven. They will tell you when their relation is dead and gone, that “he made such a beautiful prayer one day—or that he talked so well—or that he was so sorry for his old ways, and intended to live so differently if he got better—or that he craved nothing in this world—or that he liked people to read to him, and pray with him.” And because they have this to go upon, they seem to have a comfortable hope that he is saved. Christ may never have been named—the way of salvation may never have been in the least mentioned. But it matters not; there was a little talk of religion, and so they are content.

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680): Though true repentance is never too late, yet late repentance is seldom true.

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892): Perhaps this sinner hopes that one day, when he cannot any longer enjoy his sin, he will meanly sneak out of it, and try to cheat the devil of his soul; but, meanwhile, he prefers the pleasures of sin to obedience to God, and unbelief to acceptance of his salvation.

F.Brownlow North (1810-1875): It will be hell to a man to have his own voluntary choice confirmed, and made unchangeable…He who never thirsts for God here will thirst for Him before he has been dead a minute.

It's been an interesting topic and I'm still working on it.  I have found some helpful information on the following resources: Calvin's Institute of Religion, Introduction to the History of Christianity recently on a Fortress Press sale for $9.99, also creeds of Christendom with a History and Critical Notes, Vol. II and Christian History Magazine - Issue 51: Heresy in the Early Church.  Some information also on wikipedia - just google "Deathbed conversions."

Anyway, I'm not debating, just sharing.  Who knows, maybe some of you might find this an interesting topic and might want to study it yourself.

Have a good night!


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Eduardo Espiritu | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jul 31 2016 9:15 PM

For what I say is this, that the repentance which, being shown us and commanded us through God’s grace, recalls us to grace with the Lord, when once learned and undertaken by us ought never afterward to be cancelled by repetition of sin. TERTULLIAN, “On Repentance”, Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (ed. A. ROBERTS – J. DONALDSON – A. C. COXE) (The Ante-Nicene Fathers; Buffalo, NY 1885) III.

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