… if anything is praiseworthy—think about such things.
It’s a wonderful life!
For most of us, this time of year brings with it fond memories of childhood experiences and family. Our hearts our warmed with the sound of children’s laughter, echoes of our family gatherings and the unparalleled recollection of a deceased loved one’s embrace. Amid all the joys of Christmas, of these heartwarming thoughts, it is the latter that sometimes overpowers the former.
For believing families, losing a loved one, regardless their spiritual disposition, is difficult and painful. Yet, of those we know to be in Heaven, the pain and despair of their loss is rather comforted in the knowledge that they are in a better place. Resting on the promises of Love, our hearts take refuge in His Word. Others, those who have lost loved one’s that refused Christ, ignored the Gospel, and lived their lives apart from holiness; the pain can be excruciating. Hell is real and His judgments are real. As we know there is a narrow window in which we must be saved, the time of this present life, and after this there is only judgment (2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Hebrews 9:27).
To you, the son or daughter, father or mother, sibling or spouse of a late loved one, I ask you to recall the persistence of the Gospel!
Pause for a moment and speculate about whether the penitent thief (to the right of the crucified Christ) might have had any God-fearing friends or family members. If so, they probably would never have known about the thief’s final act, his appeal to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). They never would have heard Jesus pronounce, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). These believing family members and friends would have assumed, all their lives, that this robber was in Hell. They would have been shocked to meet this man in the kingdom of God. “We thought you were in Hell,” they might have said, as they danced around him in the heavenly places.
For the record, I do not believe you get a “second chance” for salvation after death. I do believe in hell and in God’s holy judgments. Still, from Calvary I am reminded of the surprising persistence of the gospel. The gospel offers forgiveness and mercy right to the threshold of death’s door, and gratefully, I know that the kingdom of God is made up of ex-thieves, and ex-murderers, ex-adulterers, and ex-atheists like us.
The gospel comes with numerous warnings that it will one day be too late (case in point, the unpardonable sin). Nonetheless, as long as there is breath, it is not yet too late! Death bed conversions are rare, but they do happen. But, I would caution anyone that wagering their eternal soul to chance is foolish.
Perhaps your loved one, persisted in their rebellion to the bitter end. Then, maybe not. Maybe they reflected upon the gospel they saw in your life, maybe it was your testimony that pierced their heart and led them to embrace His love. Maybe, when death was imminent, their last breathes were spent crying out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”