What happens to a Christian who dies without having been baptized?

Imagine for a moment that someone is in the hospital, days from death when she turns to Jesus trusting Him to forgive her sin and give her peace with God. Her impending death makes baptism impossible, so what happens to her when she dies? What about in the case of a healthy young man who gets saved and refuses to be baptized. He goes his entire life showing all the signs of being a genuine Christian but is never baptized. What happens when he dies? In both cases the answer the same. They go to heaven. One of the key components of true, Biblical teaching is that salvation is in no way dependent on anything the person does. None are ever saved, or kept saved, by any ritual, good deed, regulation or lifelong habit. Salvation is fully given to one who trusts Jesus. No other things are necessary. In the book of Galatians Paul says that any attempt to add anything else as necessary to salvation is a denial of the gospel. One who is saved, is saved by Jesus regardless of whether or not the person has been baptized.

A portion of the account of Jesus’ death on the cross highlights this truth. When Jesus was crucified, two other men were executed alongside him. Luke 23 tells us about these men, and the response of one of them in particular. “ And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The criminal beside Jesus was not going to come down from that cross alive. The Roman soldiers surrounding the crosses would have killed him themselves before letting him come down (in fact, the Bible tells us the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals to speed up their death so they could be taken down that day). This man was never going to be baptized. However, what did Jesus promise him? Jesus assured the believing thief that he would enter into heaven with Jesus. The lack of baptism was not going to keep him from heaven, because baptism does not save. The thief was saved because he believed Jesus to be God and Savior.

Should a Christian be baptized? Absolutely. To refuse baptism is disobedience to the commands of the Bible. However, salvation is no more necessary to anyone’s salvation than attending Sunday School or giving in the offering. Salvation is completely accomplished by Jesus apart from any work an one does.