I am reminded of stories my mother use to tell me about my grandfather; a peaceable man who loved his family and opted for a quiet life. Though I never knew him, I was drawn to him by the affection in her voice. What I specially remember was the joy and relief she expressed whenever she shared about his conversion on his death bed.
I’m sure many have had or heard of similar experiences. This notion that the cessation of a heartbeat ends any possibility for the salvation of a soul is a widely accepted belief. And yet there is no scriptural basis for it.
Nowhere do we read that the mercy of God is limited to physical life or that physical death renders the grace of God void. The verse that could possibly be cited is Heb. 9:27, which only establishes the fact of God’s judgment and not what follows it.
To reject that the gospel can be preached to departed men and women is to also deny what Jesus Christ accomplished when He descended into the lower part of the earth (Eph. 4:9).
Jesus, after His death and resurrection, went down to Hades and “preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19). These were disembodied spirits – people no longer in the flesh who had died in Noah’s day. Jesus not only proclaimed to them the good news of His glorious salvation but He liberated them, for it is said that He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men (Eph. 4:8).
“For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6).
Now I can hear some compassionate saint contend that this was only for those of Noah’s day. But the scripture is clear that the gospel will be preached to EVERY nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people (Rev. 14:6), until that glad day when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11, Rom. 14:11, Isa. 45:23).