Deathbed Repentance?

1 Kings 2:28
"Joab fled unto the tabernacle of the Lord, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.”

Oh, how our focus can change when death is rearing its head. Just like the old military saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes”, we tend to miraculously find our faith when imminent peril comes upon us.

In this verse, Joab, the great warrior and commander of David’s army, attempts to flee from certain death towards a religion he barely knew anything about, hoping somehow he will be saved from Solomon’s wrath. Joab had made a calculated mistake in backing David’s other son, Adonijah, as heir apparent and unfortunately for Joab, David chose Solomon as the next king.

Joab thought he could receive sanctuary at the altar, but the external rite of grabbing ahold of the horns did little to secure his salvation.

And in this, is the lesson from this verse of Scripture. If a man will rest in external rites he will die there. Whatever sacraments a man performs will not avail his salvation, but are intended for those who have already accepted God’s free gift, else they bring judgment upon him (1 Corinthians 11:29). Thus, no external work of man will earn him a heavenly reward (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Neither will attending church faithfully, attending Sunday school, and praying over meals. Those who rely on church orthodoxy as a means to salvation will find themselves falling short, if their faith in Christ is uncertain. We must possess a heart that truly loves God and a belief that is unwavering on the fact that our salvation is due solely through the death, burial, and resurrection of the only Son of God, Jesus Christ.

In Exodus 21:14, we read, “But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.” The guilty—the one who sins without confession and repentance—faces such a fate, unless a true turnaround is observed by God. But the turnaround must be sincere, not based simply on recognizing the reality of the situation.

The Lord knows our hearts, our thoughts, and our desires (Jeremiah 20:12) and therefore can discern quite easily an individual who truly desires to change versus someone who is merely trying to escape their fate, as was Joab. We cannot live a life in complete rebellion only hoping at our last draw of breath, to find a way to seek forgiveness.

No matter how good a person you are, no matter how nice others believe you to be, if you are living a life that is in direct contradiction to Scripture, you will perish (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Yes, God will look at the heart. Do you love Him enough to let go of the desires of the flesh that are ruling you now and creating separation from Him?

The solution to this is quite simple: put your trust in Christ TODAY. Invite Him to be the Lord of your life and turn from your evil now while you still can. Let the Holy Spirit perform a work in you that shows a heart truly changed; a heart that longs to serve the Lord. In this, you will find a peace that you have never known (Philippians 4:7).

Do not let Joab be your story.