Last Minute Grace
Updated: Dec 28, 2018
Never, never, never give up on those who need to be saved. Until they take their final breath of life, redeeming grace is still available to them. Foolishly, some Christians have written off people who have rejected the Gospel for years, or, worse, pass sentence upon them: “They’ve turned over to a reprobate mind and cannot be saved.” Who are you to judge? God never overlooks a soul, and His grace has the power to save at any moment. I believe this unscriptural attitude has led to many missed opportunities to share the message of redemption, and God only knows how many souls have entered into Hell because of judgmental Christians. Grace is available to the last minute!
In the dialogue between a dying Saviour and a dying thief (Luke 23:42-43), we see a portrait of this “last minute grace.” Picture the scene: A beaten, bloodied criminal is nailed to a cross next to Jesus. This man has wasted his life to the extent that his crimes have resulted in a sentence of death. He will never leave the cross alive and, together with a partner in crime, his voice has joined those below in expressing malice towards the sinless Son of God. This wicked man has lived for himself; he has never done anything worthy of applause; he was a born taker and dismissed the concept of being a giver long ago. Everything about him declares that “he deserves to go to Hell” — yet in his final moments on earth, he receives the unmerited grace of God.
We are not given the specifics of what occurred within his heart in those final hours; all we know is that he changed his mind and behavior. Perhaps his rage fell silent long enough to observe the manner in which Christ endured His own suffering. Maybe the words of Christ convicted his soul. Remember, Jesus had requested forgiveness for those at Calvary that day. Or perhaps it was nothing external at all but simply the reality of his own demise. Death causes a troubled heart to ask questions. But one thing we know for sure: his whole understanding of life and eternity changed as he hung dying next to the One who had proclaimed Himself to be the Resurrection and the Life.
Moments before his death, this thief confessed that he was a sinner who was receiving what he deserved. There was no blaming Rome’s judicial system or his parents, or his underprivileged upbringing. In honest insight, he declares that he was receiving what he deserved through the timbers and the nails. To this confession of his crime — he added the wise observation that Jesus was wholly innocent and suffering unjustly for wrongs He had not committed. Then he released a trembling plea for mercy when he asked but one thing of Jesus: “Remember me.” To this pitiful plea, Jesus responded with one of Scripture’s greatest moments of relief: “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” He declared that this undeserving criminal will inhabit Paradise alongside the One from whom he has begged mercy.
We should rejoice in the salvation of this dying man, but not with the misconception that he is any different from us. “For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” This account reminds us that whether someone is saved early in life or in his or her final moments of life, God’s grace is not limited by the hour in which it is received.
Christian, follow the pattern of our Lord and Saviour. Portray and proclaim the grace of God to all. Who knows, maybe God will use you to reach someone with “last minute grace.”