Deathbed Repentance

Question:

“My husband was baptized as a young man. But he fell in with a crowd at work that drank heavily and gambled. We spent years getting out of debt and during that time he kept drinking and had an affair. Then, he got liver cancer and on his deathbed asked God and the church to forgive him.

Can God really forgive him?”

Answer:

The simple answer to your question is “Yes. God can forgive him.”

The hard part of your question is whether his repentance was real or not. When a baptized believer (Simon, the sorcerer) sinned, Peter told him “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22, English Standard Version). The apostle tells those of us who are Christians that we are to turn in repentance and pray “if possible” that God may forgive. The “if possible” refers to the attitude of the sinner. A genuine repentance comes to God expecting no favors. It accepts its guilt and admits God does not have to forgive. It is that sort of brokenness Jesus commends in Luke 18:13, 14

Notice as well that Peter puts the problem in perspective. It is the heart of Simon that has to be cleansed. Since the cleansing takes place in the heart, only God and the heart of the sinner know the truth. Can God forgive your husband? Yes. Did God forgive your husband? Only God and your husband knows. That is where it was in life, and that is where it must be in death. In the meantime, trust God, and trust His great mercy that even the worst of sinners (like Paul, I Timothy 1:15) can be forgiven.

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