Many are real.
This question came from one of our faithful internet listeners. He had a relative who supposedly had gotten saved right before she died. However, because we have taught against leading people to the Lord too quickly, he was concerned whether she had really gotten saved. The truth is that people do get saved after a quick and less than thorough presentation of the gospel. But not all people who “pray the prayer” get saved. See the broadcast The Sinner’s Prayer and Salvation, Lk 18:13. So, that is why we suggest that you take it slow with most people to whom you witness.
Now, concerning death bed conversions, the prime example in the Bible is the thief on the cross [Lk 23:40-43]. He had one verse of scripture to read, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” And yet from that one verse [Rom 10:17], he had enough faith to recognize that the man [1 Tim 2:5] dying next to him was going to rise from the dead and rule as a king. And he wanted in that kingdom [Lk 1:31-33]. So, the Lord let him in, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
We have seen a number of instances where people who were dying or facing death were very receptive to the gospel and prayed readily to receive the Lord as their Savior. And they got saved. Out door knocking one evening, we came across a fellow who served in the navy during World War II. His destroyer was sunk by a torpedo from a submarine. While he was treading water, praying to be rescued, he realized that he was not prepared for eternity. Fearing that he might die that night, he received Jesus Christ. When we met him decades later, he had a good testimony of true salvation.
We witnessed to a neighbor for years. He thought he was saved so he didn’t see the need to receive Jesus. When we learned that he was in the hospital dying with cancer, I went to see him. I asked this simple question, “How is it between you and God?” His reply was honest and succinct. He replied, “Not good. There is a hill between me and God and I can’t seem to get to the other side.” That was an easy lead. I said, “The hill is Calvary and Jesus died on that hill to get you to the other side. Would you like Jesus to take you to the other side?” He didn’t hesitate. He said, “Let’s go.” So, he took my hand and prayed with me to receive Jesus Christ right there on the spot. After we prayed, he just lay there silently. Then I asked him, “Is it going to be all right? Are you going to make it to the other side?” A tear coursed his cheek and a smile graced his face. He opened his eyes and proclaimed, “I’m already on the other side!”
We have scores of testimonies like that. There are many saints in heaven today because they trusted Jesus Christ before departing this life. You might ask, “Do they all get saved?” The answer is sad but true, “Of course not.” And the truth of the matter is that those who wait till they are nearly gone have one huge disappointment. They will look back from eternity, thankful to be saved, but sorrowful that they spent the entirety of their lives living for themselves instead of for the Lord.
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder