Billy Graham Answers: Do Deathbed Conversions Work?

(Photo: Reuters/Keith Bedford)Evangelist Billy Graham speaks during the final day of his Crusade at Flushing Meadows Park in New York June 26, 2005. Graham, 86, has preached the Gospel to more people in a live audience format than anyone in history - over 210 million people in more than 185 countries. His followers believe that the New York Crusade which runs from June 24 to 26 will be his last live appearance.

The Rev. Billy Graham says it's "unwise" to assume that a person purposely led a bad life knowing that they can convert on their deathbed.

In a Q&A published on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website on Tuesday, Graham was asked about someone who planned to do just that.

"My cousin has always lived kind of a wild life, but he says he isn't worried because he plans to turn to God just before he dies, and he says God will forgive him and let him into Heaven. Is this right?" inquired the person.

The famed evangelical preacher responded that while God does forgive those who turn to Him at the last minute, it is spiritually dangerous to purposely wait to convert.

"Your cousin, however, is unwise in thinking he can turn to God at the last minute and be saved; in fact, he is in grave spiritual danger," wrote Graham.

"For one thing, we can't truly receive Christ without sincerely repenting of our sins. But if he's unwilling to do that now, what reason does he have for thinking he'll be willing to do it later?"

Graham then pointed to another problem with his cousin's reasoning, which is that "he has no way of knowing if he'll even have an opportunity to repent."

"A sudden heart attack or stroke ... a fatal car accident ... a natural disaster — every day people die with no warning. Pray for your cousin, that he will face the foolishness of his ways and give his life to Christ," said Graham.

This is not the first time that Graham has commented on the matter of last minute or death bed conversions. In 2015, a person wrote to Graham asking if there really is "such a thing as a death bed conversion?"

"My uncle was a very selfish person who had no use for God, but two days before he died, our pastor supposedly led him to Christ. Did God really forgive him?" asked the person.

In a column BGEA published in 2015, Graham replied to that query, saying that "God is willing to forgive us completely, even at the last minute."

"If your uncle truly committed his life to Christ and trusted Him for his salvation, you can be sure he is now safely with Jesus forever," wrote Graham in the 2015 column.

"Don't, however, draw the wrong conclusion from this. Yes, God can save us even at the last minute, but how do we know we'll even have a 'last minute'? A sudden accident ... an unexpected heart attack ... a slow dulling of our mental abilities — these and a hundred other things could keep us from turning to Christ."

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