The following question and answer was published in Edificação magazine and translated for our editorial today. The questioner wrote that he was satisfied with the answer: “I never received an explanation as good as this.” Pray that he may soon be immersed into Christ.
Q: What is your opinion, based on the Bible, of people who accept Christ as they are dying? Is baptism a condition for the Christian to go to heaven? -S.P.
A: Questions about baptism are always welcome, since the subject is of great importance in the New Testament. It is also important to rely on the Bible as the word of God and its unique authority on any spiritual matter. Thus, the truths proclaimed by it do not constitute opinion, but rather revelation from God.
Let us remember that any human opinion on biblical matters has no authority. Let us answer the last question first, only by inserting biblical texts for our consideration:
Matthew 28.18-20: Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Mark 16.15-16: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.
John 3.3, 5: Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Acts 2.38: Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 22.16: And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’
Romans 6.4: Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.
Ephesians 5.25b-27: … Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.
Colossians 2.12: Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.
Titus 3.4-5: But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, …
1 Peter 3.21: And this [the water of the flood] prefigured baptism, which now saves you — not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, …
What is the conclusion to be drawn from these texts? That baptism is part of that obedience essential to receive “eternal salvation” Hebrews 5:9.
Now, if we are going to talk about a person on the verge of death without having received baptism, what conclusion can we draw? Let’s go with what we know.
First, God is a righteous judge. He will always do what is just. Our opinion about justice and mercy will always err. Let us trust him to do what is right.
Second, if God wants to save a person from eternal punishment, he will give that person ample opportunity to do so while still physically able.
Third, the supposed difficulties of hypothetical situations should not undermine the clear teaching of the Bible. This deathbed argument is made in an attempt to counteract the need for baptism for salvation. However, a fallacy is committed, in such an attempt to show the absurdity, as the Sadducees tried to prove there was no resurrection with their ridiculous story about the woman with a series of seven husbands, Matthew 22.23-33; Mark 12.18-27; Luke 20.27-40. They know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
Fourth, are you on your deathbed? Why then should this situation prevent you from obeying a clear command of Christ?
Fifth, one may have the opportunity in life to obey the gospel but decide to reject it, in order to live according to his pleasures and passions. But if in the last hours or minutes of one’s life one desires salvation, how does one stand? It is a Bible truth that there is a time to be saved. If someone lets the opportunity pass, it does not mean that God is being unfair in not keeping the window of opportunity open. “Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation!” 2 Corinthians 6:2b. God is patient, but he may lose patience with those who refuse to obey: “I ran out of patience with them” Zechariah 11:8. We must also remember that ignorance never justifies anyone — it is not a reason for acquittal, but for guilt, because each one has the responsibility to seek God’s knowledge.
Baptism is necessary for eternal salvation. The New Testament knows no exceptions. That is enough for us.
The editor wrote this answer to help a person make the most important decision of all. That’s also why he wrote the book, Choose!