Tag Archives: Bible

Death bed conversions Q&A

question-mark.gifQ. Can someone convert to Christianity on their deathbed and still be forgiven and go to Heaven?
A. Yes. See the story of the criminal on the cross as well as many other stories of people who converted late in life or on their death bed, such as the father-in-law of Lee Strobel (author of The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith). Just before a life-ending stroke, he accepted Jesus as his Savior.

I heard a true story about an American Indian who converted 2 weeks before his death. The man was a life long bigot who hated African Americans. Yet an African American minister heard that this man was dying and went to visit him in the hospital, even though they didn’t know each other. When the man’s daughter went to visit him, she found the minister there with her father, who was on his knees praying to accept Jesus! Only an awesome God could wipe away a lifetime of sin and hatred by having the minister – who had presumably suffered from the prejudices of others – be the one to lead the man to Christ.

Q. Is the death bed conversion strategy a good idea?
A. No. That type of faith probably isn’t the true faith that will save you. And you might die suddenly. Consider Hebrews 3:15: As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . .” Eternity is a mighty long time, so you don’t want to take chances with your final destination.

Finally, by waiting you are missing out on the joy in life that starts now when you trust in Jesus. He can transform you starting today.

Q. Is it fair that someone can convert on their deathbed after leading a sinful life and still go to heaven?
A. No, it isn’t fair. But probably not for the reasons you are thinking. Grace is never fair. That is why it is called grace. It is a gift you don’t deserve. God can give the gift whenever and to whomever He wants to. None of us deserve Heaven.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When was the New Testament written?

bible.jpgThere are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about how and when the Bible was formed. Some liberal historians try to date the Gospels and other New Testament writings as far from the death of Jesus as possible because it supports their hypothesis that they were largely made up. Of course, if the Gospels really were dated 70 AD or after, there is no reason they couldn’t still be the inspired Word of God. Yet a late dating obviously plays into the hands of heretics who strive to discredit the authority of Scripture.

But the facts point to all or nearly all of the New Testament books being written within 40 years of Jesus’ resurrection. Consider the following:

  1. Jesus died and rose again around 33 A.D.
  2. The Apostle Paul was killed in 64 AD. This is a well attested historical fact. All his writings obviously occurred before then, and 1 Corinthians and Romans were written well before then. Paul testified that Jesus rose from the dead, among other things, and he did so within 20-30 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  3. The book of Acts, written by Luke, ends with Paul was in prison in 62 AD. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke before he wrote Acts, so it was presumably written in the late 50’s.
  4. Most scholars agree that Luke was not the first Gospel. Therefore, the earliest Gospel must have been written no later than the mid to late 50’s. If Matthew and Luke used the ‘Q’ document (a lost early church writing) as a source, then of course ‘Q’ would have been written even closer to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  5. If the Gospels were all written after 70 A.D., why wasn’t the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned anywhere (especially in Matthew)? This was one of the most dramatic events in history, and was predicted by Jesus.
  6. Since these accounts were written within 20-30 years of Jesus death and resurrection, it is highly unlikely that they would have been myths. There would have been too many people alive to dispute the findings. And keep in mind that many thousands of people died believing these words to be true. Martyrs will die for a lie if they think it is true, but I don’t know of anyone who knowingly dies for a lie. If Jesus didn’t really have a bodily resurrection, why would the disciples live unnecessarily hard lives and die horrible deaths for something they knew to be a lie?

Also see Debunking the DaVinci Code

Hat tip to Stand to Reason for much of the above. Click here to learn lots more about the origins of the Bible.

Ruth 1-2

This reading is Ruth 1-2.

There are many things at work in this seemingly simple story, so I’ll just pick out a few to comment on.

Naomi was obviously quite bitter about losing her husband and sons. In hindsight we can see how splendidly things worked out for her, but it is hard for us to understand the fear and pain she would have felt in that society. Widows often had no one to care for them.

Naomi had great relationships with her daughters-in-law, who had been married to her sons for over 10 years. Ruth had seen enough about the one true God that she had no desire to leave Naomi’s family.

The gleaning process was an Old Testament version of welfare, where landowners were instructed to leave some grain at the edges of the field so poor people could come pick it up. It was entirely legal to go on someone else’s property and do this.

I like how Boaz interacted with his employees. In our politically correct times, living out your faith at work is a constant challenge.

Ruth 2:4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they called back.

It isn’t like you can walk down the hall at work passing out Gospel tracts. That would be ineffective and would shorten your career dramatically. There are many ways to encourage other Christians at work and to see where you can get involved where God is working in people’s lives, but you have to be intentional about it. I’ll write more on that on the 4Simpsons blog some other day.

Note how God in his sovereign will takes the free will decisions of humans and works them together to accomplish his mighty plans!

Feel free to comment on what stood out to you about the story.

The next reading is Ruth 3-4.

Ruth overview

This reading is the book of Ruth. We’ll do an overview of the whole book today, then take a little closer look at it the rest of the week.

I heard a great sermon on Ruth when I was in Singapore a few years ago. It was humorous when the preacher kept saying, “Ruth 3,” only it sounded like, “root tree.” That was one of my all-time favorite worship experiences. The facilities would not have looked out of place in the U.S. It was a fairly large church. It was 95% Asian, of course, so it was nice to be the minority for once. There was an intensity about the worship that is hard to describe. Many people stayed afterwards praying in their pews. Singapore has religious freedom, but I imagine that many of those worshiping came from countries where they had been persecuted.

Synopsis: Ruth’s husband and father-in-law die, and she elects to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi. She eventually meets and marries Boaz, a distant relative. Boaz is attracted by Ruth’s purity and devotion. Ruth was very loyal to Naomi and sought after the one true God she saw in Naomi’s life. Throughout the book you’ll see how God does great things through the least likely people.

As you read it, try to think about which character(s) you are like. It may be a different character at different times.

Ruth trivia facts:

  • Along with Esther, one of the two books of the Bible named after a woman.
  • Ruth was from Moab, not Israel, yet God did amazing things in her life.
  • She was the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus.
  • Boaz was a descendant of Rahab, the former prostitute from Jericho.

Famous verse: Ruth 1:16 “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

The next reading is Ruth 1-2.

James 5

This reading is James 5.

The opening passage should challenge almost anyone living in the U.S. Even if you don’t consider yourself “rich,” you are probably in the top 1-2% of the wealthiest people on the planet, and certainly in the top 1-2% of people who ever lived. Just glance back out how touch life was 100 years ago for most Americans. This isn’t to say that money is all bad. The thrust of the passage is about justice and fairness. While saving for retirement, emergencies and such is prudent, have we hoarded wealth, or shared it?

As an aside, note how Job is referred to in verse 11. I find it interesting that many people assume that Adam & Eve, Noah, Job, Jonah and other Old Testament figures were fictional, but when they are referred to by Jesus, James and others it is always in the context of them being real people.

Verse 16 commands us to confess our sins to each other and to pray for each other. Note that we don’t necessarily have to confess to a priest, but we are to confess to others in addition to God. There is something spiritually healing about it.

I thought the closing of James was interesting. No long good-byes, just an encouragement to point people to the truth:

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Thanks for reading along with the study of James!

The next reading is the book of Ruth. It is a short book – only 4 chapters. I recommend reading the whole book in one sitting, then going back through in a little more detail. I think I’ll break this into three lessons – an overview, chapters 1-2 and chapters 3-4. Ruth is a great love story with a lot of lessons for us all.

I’m not sure where we’ll go after Ruth, but I’m open to suggestions. My family started doing a weekly study a couple months ago and I have been following what we’ve been reading together.

James 4

This reading is James 4.

This short chapter is chock-full of important teachings. Some of the verses are so short it is easy to gloss over them.

We fight and quarrel because of our wrong desires. Verse 3 helps explain why some prayers are not answered: We ask with the wrong motives.

“Friendship with the world is hatred towards God” speaks volumes. The Bible uses “world” in three senses – the planet, the people in the world (as in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world . . .”) and the system and practices of the world. This verse uses the last meaning. This is a strong call for us to be different from the world. How tragic that according to many surveys, the average “Christian” doesn’t give much more than non-Christians, the divorce rate isn’t much different, etc. We aren’t supposed to be “holier than thou” different, but authentically different.

“God oppose the proud but gives grace to the humble” (v. 6) is a quote from Proverbs 3:34 and is also quoted in 1 Peter 5:5. Every verse matters, of course, but if something is repeated three times perhaps we should heed it!

Verse 8 contains a great promise – “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” As Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Verse 10 promises that if we humble ourselves before the Lord, He will lift us up. Humility is often mentioned in the Bible, but it is nearly always in the context of humbling ourselves. It doesn’t say, “Be humble.” It is not our natural state, so it takes effort to be humble.

Verses 13-16 remind us that we should thank God for every day and every breath. We may live fifty more minutes or fifty more years – it is all up to Him.

We tend to think of sins as things we do that we shouldn’t have done (the sin of commission), but James closes this section by teaching that not doing the good we know we should do is also a sin (the sin of omission).

The next reading is James 5.

James 3

This reading is James 3.

I find it interesting that James warns people about teaching, because those who teach “will be judged more strictly.” Those of us who teach must choose our words very carefully so we don’t distort the Word of God.

James revisits his theme about the power of the tongue. He uses the strongest possible words to warn of the evil our words can contain and the damage they can cause.

James then shifts to wisdom, which always reminds me of Proverbs, which addresses at length the importance of wisdom. He connects wisdom with good deeds and humility. He emphasizes how envy and selfish ambition are of the devil and are associated with disorder and “every evil practice.” When you examine the evil in the world this correlation makes sense to me.

The next reading is James 4.