That some persons have been wholly sanctified on their death-bed we doubt not in the least. But that God intends that a person should defer the matter of being made holy; or that a person could not be sanctified until on a death-bed, we would most emphatically deny.
While they admit that heaven is absolutely holy, and that none but the holy can enter there, the vast majority of people — both in the church and out of it — utterly deny the possibility of being made holy while in life. There are even ministers who openly antagonize and ridicule any who might lay claim to such an experience: and in not a few instances have driven and expelled from the church such members as have dared to confess that they have sought and obtained a holy heart through the all-cleansing blood of Jesus. Multitudes seem to regard the advocacy and profession of heart holiness while in life as the rankest fanaticism or most dangerous heresy that could possibly overtake them.
There can be no doubt that the majority of church people expect to be sanctified and made holy at death: thus they attribute more saving power to death than they do to the blood of Jesus Christ. Of such we would ask for just one single passage of Scripture — one promise in all the Bible — that declares we may be made holy at death, in death, or after death. If death would make a Christian free from sin, and make him holy, why might not the same be true of a sinner? If this were true, there would be no need of an atonement, and no need of a Savior, as death would thus become our Savior.
But the Bible teaches that death is an enemy, saying, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I. Cor. 15:26.) Death is the result and penalty of sin, and, therefore, can have no power to save us, or make us free from sin. Hence it must be clear to all, that if a person were sanctified and made holy at death it must be by the blood of Jesus. We know of nothing in this world, or any other world, that can cleanse the heart from sin aside from the precious blood of Jesus. If the blood of Jesus can cleanse the heart from all sin and make us holy in the hour of death, why may it not thus cleanse us prior to death? Does the blood of Jesus have more power, and become more efficacious when a man is dying than while in life?
Some professed Christians have declared to the writer that no one could become sanctified and holy in this world; that not until we die can we thus be made free from sin. To such we answer, in what world do you expect to die? Surely not in the next world! So that even if it occurred at death, it must be in this world. And in like manner some object to what we term “a second work of grace,” saying that this work of perfecting us in holiness would take place in death. To such we reply, even though it took place in death it would be a second work of grace,” seeing they bad been converted many years before.
Doubtless the deathbed theory of sanctification is largely due to the fact that men in their thinking have located sin in the body; hence they speak of “this sinful body,” and have concluded that they could not be made free from sin until they put off the body in death. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of a “sinful body;” the Apostle Paul does, on one occasion speak of “the body of sin” which is to be destroyed in connection with the crucifixion of “our old man” (Rom. 6:6), but has no reference whatever to the physical body. The body is spoken of as a “corruptible body,” and as “our vile body” because it is corruptible, but never as a sinful body. Sin is not in matter. If we could locate sin in some part of the body it might be removed by a surgical operation; and if it were said to be in all parts of the body, then in the loss of an arm, or a limb, or any other member of the body, a person would be delivered from just so much sin as might have existed in that part of the body.
Paul tells us that “every sin that a man doeth is without the body.” (I. Cor. 6:18.) While the body may become the instrument of sin; and a man may sin “against his own body,” the sin committed was not located merely in the member that became the instrument of sin. While the hand may have been the instrument in stealing, the sin was not in the hand, but in the heart.
The body is spoken of as “the temple of the holy Ghost,” which temple is holy. (I. Cor. 6:19, 3:17.) And Paul prays that “your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless.” (I.Thess. 5:23.) How could the body be preserved blameless if it were full of sin? The fact that Jesus was clothed upon and incarnate in a human body, like unto our own body, should be sufficient argument to prove that sin is not in the body. In admitting that some have been sanctified (sanctification is the act of divine grace whereby w& are made holy) in the hour of death, or upon a death-bed, some one may still inquire why may not all be thus sanctified or made holy on a death-bed? As well argue that because some sinner has been converted on his deathbed, all sinners should wait to be converted on a death-bed. God says, “Now is the accepted time,” “Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” with God there is one eternal now. Delay is presumptuous and dangerous. We may not have a death-bed. A justified soul must walk in the light and obey God in order to remain justified. To refuse and reject the light of sanctification is to disobey God and forfeit the experience of justification. Hence, there comes the time when a soul must become sanctified in order to remain justified. Not to do so would be disobedience and sin. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, his son, cleanseth us from all sin.” (I. John 1:7.) The promises of cleansing are all in the present tense. The only way to make sure of a holy heart in death is to have a holy heart now, for we may die now. “Be ye also ready (not waiting until death to get ready): for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 24:44.)