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Salvation and Assurance
on the Death Bed
by Alfy Austin
The room was typical: two beds, some
chairs, a privacy curtain between the beds,
a TV, and some IV stands. The patient I
had come to visit had been a devout Roman
Catholic all of his seventy-seven years. He
was dying and he knew it. Death could
come at any moment. Fear and doubt led
him to do something he'd never done before: talk with a
When I saw him I doubted that he was
capable of conversing or even listening.
However, after some gentle prodding from
his son, a member of my church, the dying
man awoke and looked at me.
I spoke to him about God's grace and
Jesus' finished work on the cross. At first,
I could not tell if I was getting through to
him. Gradually, however, this man with so
little time left became more alert. I began
to ask him questions to be sure that he was
understanding. His answers indicated that
for the first time in his life he understood
that salvation is by faith in Christ alone
and is completely apart from any works
we might do. I probed further and discovered to the great joy of
his son and me
that he had come not only to understand,
but also to believe the gospel. He indicated
that he was now placing his trust solely in
Jesus Christ to save him and give him
We shared a prayer of thanks together,
thanking God for saving him. As I left he
shook my hand firmly and thanked me for
sharing the way to heaven with him.
His son told me later that after I left his
dad had said, "That was easy."
My friend's dad slipped into a coma a
few hours after he placed his faith in Christ
alone. Three days later, without ever regaining consciousness, he
Can salvation be received so easily? Can
a man with no opportunity to bear fruit,
persevere, or make a public confession of
his faith have eternal life and be sure of
it? Can his family take comfort in knowing
that he is in heaven now? To all of these
questions I would answer a confident yes.
The thief on the cross placed his faith
in Christ only hours before his death. Jesus
did not tell him that it was too late for him.
Jesus did not keep his eternal destiny in
doubt. He gave him immediate assurance
of salvation saying, "Today you will be
with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Jesus offered the woman at the well living water as a free
gift (John 4:10). He did
not demand proof of her faith or a promise
of moral purity in the future. While this
does not mean that Jesus was unconcerned
about faithfulness and purity, it does mean
that eternal salvation is free and is apart
from personal reformation, promises, or
works of any kind.
In Revelation 22:17 we read words very
reminiscent of Jesus' words to the woman
at the well: "Let the one who wishes take
of the water of life [which is] without cost."
If God offers eternal life as a gift, how
can we but do likewise? What a joy it is
to me to give away the greatest gifts there
are: salvation and assurance.
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