Prayers for the Dead: Memorial Day in 2 Maccabees

Since this Monday is Memorial Day, I thought it would be fitting to talk briefly about prayers for the dead.  This is particularly so since the most explicit Scriptural depiction of prayers for the dead involves praying for the souls of dead soldiers.  It comes from 2 Maccabees 12:38-46:

Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs.

But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden.

Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice.

In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.

It’s a moving passage. Judas has lead his army in battle, and discovers afterwards that God permitted some of the Israelites to be killed in battle, since they’d been wearing idolatrous amulets.  This scene alone captures a strange contradiction: on the one hand, these men died fighting for God and Israel; on the other hand, they still clung to superstition and idolatry.

I’m reminded that Joe Feuerherd, the publisher of The National Catholic Reporter, died of cancer yesterday morning.  I’ve made it clear in the past that I think that much of the Reporter’s  agenda is not just wrong, but heretical. But while Feuerherd may have clung to some heresies (and I can’t say even that much, since I know next to nothing of the man), he lived a life dedicated in some way to God, and Katherine Jean Lopez’s moving tribute makes clear that this was a man motivated by charity.  Our job isn’t to sort of the contradictions of human existence, or to guess how God might judge the moral gray areas in each other’s lives. Our job here is to pray for both the living and, in a particular way, the dead.

I’m aware that some Protestants will reject 2 Maccabees, because they don’t see it in their Bible.  I would say only this in response:

  1. On what basis can you show that 2 Maccabees isn’t Scripture?  I’ve mentioned before nobody in the Early Church thought the 66-Book Protestant canon was the correct canon of Scripture. So if Protestants can’t show why their own canon is right, I don’t see how that’s a basis for rejecting 2 Maccabees.
  2. 2 Maccabees was believed to be inspired Scripture by the early Church. It’s affirmed as canonical by Origen, Augustine, Jerome, and a lot of other Fathers. Are there any reasons for believing we know better than them on this issue?
  3. There’s sound reason to believe Jesus treated 1 and 2 Maccabees as Scripture. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah celebrates the Maccabees’ re-dedication of the Temple. Both First and Second Maccabees call for it to be celebrated, and these are the only Scriptures which do so (remember, the Talmud and Mishnah weren’t written yet, and were never considered Scripture).  And we see Jesus Christ Himself celebrating Hanukkah in John 10:22.  
  4. Even if it isn’t Scripture, it’s still true. Even if one refuses to accept the Second Book of Maccabees as inspired Scripture, that doesn’t mean the Book is false. If you don’t want to treat it as Scripture, at least treat it as a history book.  And it shows that the pious Jews of Israel believed in praying for the dead. Judas Maccabbeus calls for the praying, and there are no signs that anyone thinks this is strange.  The author of 2 Maccabees even talks about how this practice proves that there’s an afterlife, something rejected by many of the Jews who rejected these Books (Luke 20:27). So the controversial part wasn’t that Judas was praying for the dead, but that there was an afterlife.
  5. Even if it were false, it’d still tell us something.  Even if the author of 2 Maccabees were completely making up this account, we’d still be able to tell that some of the Jews before Christ believed in praying for the dead.  After all, the author explicitly praises the practice.
So praying for the dead was done prior to the time of Christ, and the early Church continued the practice, and there’s no hint in Scripture that it’s somehow immoral or wrong.  Beyond that, there are plenty of hints of it throughout the New Testament.  For example, when Paul writes to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:19, he says:

Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.

It’s somewhat remarkable that while he tells Paul to greet Priscilla and Aquila, he doesn’t tell him to greet Oneisphorus, only to greet that man’s household.  While it’s not 100% clear, this seems to suggest that Onesiphorus is now dead, something made more clear a few chapters earlier (2 Timothy 1:16-18):
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

So there are references to greeting Onesiphorus’s family, while Onesiphorus himself is described in the past tense (“he often refreshed me“).  This is followed by what looks very much like a prayer for his departed soul: “May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!” It’s possible that’s not what’s going on here. Neither Paul, nor apparently any other New Testament writer, felt that it was necessary to write on whether or not to pray for the dead.  But given that the early Christians (and the Jews before them) did pray for the dead, this silence seems to suggest their approval.

Of course, it’s much easier to simply say that 2 Maccabees is part of the Bible, and shows quite clearly that it is “holy and pious” to pray for the dead. So this Memorial Day, offer up a few prayers for those who died defending our freedom (and the freedom of others), as well as for all of the recently departed, including Joe Feuerherd. May the Lord grant that they will find mercy from the Lord on that day!

10 Comments

  1. Objections to praying for the dead also stem from other assumed beliefs such as assurance of salvation and Once Saved Always Saved.

    But praying for the dead is one of the most natural human responses after the death of a loved one.

    It’s the most natural thing in the world to ask God to have mercy on the departed soul and to welcome our friend into His Kingdom. Love demands it.

  2. Don’t forget that Hebrews 11:35-37 is a direct reference to 2nd Maccabees 7.

    And an equally huge proof that a lot of people don’t know about – and I only found by accident – was that 1 Maccabees 2:52 (“Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?”) is directly alluded/quoted by James 2:21-24. This is why James says “scripture was fulfilled” in regards to Gen 15:6, because he and the ancient Jews knew the testing of Genesis 22:1 was a ‘credited as righteousness’ situation.”

  3. Praying for the dead is a whisper within our hearts thanks to even the most basic natural law written there. Thus, jungle shamanism and at least four eastern Asian religions are drawn like moths to the concept, albeit horribly misconstrued as ancestor worship. Ah, how the light of Christ reveals all the things we have wondered about for so many millennia.

  4. Nick, fascinating proof with James 2. I’ll probably steal that from you.

    Thanks, tskal.

    David and Brad, I agree. Yesterday, I overheard a Protestant woman I know talking about how her dad had died, and was now in Heaven looking after her. It’s something we intuitively get, and it isn’t until Protestantism “unteaches” it that we’re able to pretend it’s not real.

  5. THE APOCRYPHA, DOES IT BELONG IN THE BIBLE?

    The word canon comes from a Greek word that means, “measuring stick.” Over time, the word came to be used metaphorically of books that were “measured” and thereby recognized as being God’s Word. When we talk about the “canon of Scripture” today, we are referring to all the biblical books that collectively constitute God’s Word.

    Problem: Roman Catholics argue that the apocryphal books, seven books and four parts of books of doubtful authenticity and authority [The Roman Catholic Apocrypha consists of: Tobit, Judith, the Additions to Ester, the Additions to Daniel (Prayer of Azariah and the Three Young Men, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon), the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (also called Sirach), Baruch (also called 1 Baruch), the Letter of Jeremiah, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.] belong in the cannon. Note that while Protestants call these books “the Apocrypha,” Roman Catholics actually refer to them as deuterocanonical (literally, “second canon”). This so-called “second canon,” however, does not have secondary status among Roman Catholics.

    The Roman Catholic Church decided these apocryphal books belong in the Bible sometime following the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther had criticized the Roman Catholic Church for not having scriptural support for such doctrines as praying for the dead. By canonizing the Apocrypha, which offers support for praying for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:45,46, the Catholics then had “scriptural” support for this and other distinctively Catholic doctrines.

    Solution: Unlike the New Testament books, which claimed to be inspired (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 3:16), the apocryphal books never make that claim. No apocryphal book was written by a true prophet or apostle of God. And no apocryphal book was confirmed by divine miracles. No apocryphal book contains predictive prophecy, which would have served to confirm divine inspiration. [Geisler and MacKenzie, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, p. 162.]

    It is fact that no New Testament writer quoted from any of the apocryphal books as holy Scripture or gave them the slightest authority as inspired books. Jesus and the disciples virtually ignored these books.

    Questions:
    What does it say to you that not a single apocryphal book claims to have been
    Inspired by God?

    If the apocryphal books are inspired, why weren’t the writers of these books confirmed by divine miracles like the Old and New Testament writers?

    If the apocryphal books are inspired, why didn’t they contain predictive prophecy like the Old and New Testament books?
    What does it suggest to you that the New Testament writers often quoted from the Old Testament, but never quoted from an apocryphal book?

    In view of the fact that the New Testament writers virtually ignored the Apocrypha, do you think they viewed it as Scripture?

    Many church fathers, notably Origin, Jerome, Athanasius, and Cyril of Jerusalem, denied the Apocrypha’s inspiration and canonicity. The early Jews of Palestine, including the Jewish Council of Jamnia which met in A.D. 90, rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture. Also, Philo, a Jewish teacher who lived in the first century, quoted from virtually every Old Testament canonical book, but never once quoted from the Apocrypha.

    There are historical errors in the Apocrypha. John Ankerberg and John Weldon summarize a few of these:

    Tobit contains certain historical and geographical errors such as the assumption that
    Sennacherib was the son of Shalmaneser (1:15) instead of Sargon II, and that Nineveh
    was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus (14:5) instead of by Nabopolassar
    and Cyazares….Judith cannot possible be historical because of the glaring errors it
    contains….[In 2 Maccabees] there are also numerous disarrangements and discrepancies
    in chronological, historical, and numerical matters in the book, reflecting ignorance or
    confusion. [John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Protestants and Catholics:
    Do They Now Agree? p.59]

    Questions:
    Does God make mistakes?
    Do books inspired by God contain mistakes?
    Did you know that history and archaeology are true friends of the Old and New
    Testaments because they verify numerous customs, places, names and events in
    Bible times?
    Did you know, by contrast, that the apocryphal books contain many historical errors?
    What does that tell you regarding whether the Apocrypha is inspired by God?

    The Apocrypha contains a number of unbiblical doctrines, such as the doctrine of the mass (2 Maccabees 12:42-45; compare with Hebrews 7:27), the notion that the world was created out of preexistent matter (Wisdom of Solomon; compare with Genesis 1 and Psalm 33:9), the idea that giving alms and other works can make an atonement for sin (Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] 3:3; 3:30; 5:5; 20:28; 35:1-4; 45:16; 45:23; compare with Romans 3:20), the invocation and intercession of the saints (2 Maccabees 15:14; Baruch 3:4; compare with Matthew 6:9), the worship of angels (Tobit 12:12; compare with Colossians 2:18), purgatory and the redemption of souls after death (2 Maccabees 12:42,45; compare with Hebrews 9:27).

    Because we know the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and because the apocryphal books contain doctrines that contradict the Old and New Testaments, we conclude that the apocryphal books are not the Word of God, because God does not contradict Himself.

    TESTS OF CANONICITY

    The issue of the Apocrypha relates directly to the question of canonicity. When the church formally recognized what books belonged in the canon, there were five primary tests that were applied:

    1.Was the book written or backed by a prophet or apostle of God?
    2.Is the book authoritative?
    3.Does the book tell the truth about God and doctrine as it is already known by previous revelation?
    4.Does the book give evidence of having the power of God?
    5.Was the book accepted by the people of God?

    Measuring the Apocrypha against these tests shows that the Apocrypha falls far short of the Old and New Testaments. The books were not written by prophets or apostles of God. The books do not ring with the sense of “thus saith the Lord.” The book contradict doctrines revealed in the pages of the Old and New Testaments.

    The Holy Spirit of God is truly the divine author of Scripture. Though He used erring humans as penmen, He superintended them as they wrote, keeping them from all error and omission. Scripture has final authority because it is a direct revelation from God and carries the very authority of God Himself (Galatians 1:12). What the Bible says, God says. The Scriptures are the final court of appeal on all doctrinal and moral matters. This is what Protestants call sola scriptura (“Scripture alone”).

    Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He never said “tradition cannot be broken.” Jesus used Scripture as the final court of appeal in every matter under dispute. To the Sadducees He said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). He told some Pharisees that they invalidated the Word of God by their tradition which has been handed down (Mark 7:13). Jesus informed them, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). To the devil, Jesus consistently responded, “It is written…” (Matthew 4:4-10).
    Following Jesus’ lead, Scripture alone must be our supreme and final authority.

    Questions:
    1.Would you please read aloud Mark 7:8 and 7:13, where Jesus is speaking to some Pharisees?
    2.What is Jesus’ attitude toward tradition here?

    3.Would you please read aloud Colossians 2:8?
    4.According to this verse, is it possible for human traditions to lead people astray?

    Often you may hear that it was the Roman Catholic Church that gave us the Bible. This simply is not true. The canon of Scripture was being established in the very days that the Bible was being written, before the Roman Catholic Church was even in existence.

    The Lord Jesus used the Scriptures as His final court of appeal. As noted above, Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). To the devil, Jesus consistently responded, “It is written…” (Matthew 4:4-10). Jesus affirmed the Bible’s divine inspiration (Matthew 22:43), its indestructibility (Matthew 5:17,18), its infallibility (John 10:35), its final authority (Matthew 4:4,7,10), its historicity (Matthew 12:40; 24:37), its scientific accuracy (Matthew 19:2-5), and its factual inerrancy (John 17:17; Matthew 22:29).

    1. Adam,

      This article is ridiculous, and filled with factual errors. For example,

      The Roman Catholic Church decided these apocryphal books belong in the Bible sometime following the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther had criticized the Roman Catholic Church for not having scriptural support for such doctrines as praying for the dead. By canonizing the Apocrypha, which offers support for praying for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:45,46, the Catholics then had “scriptural” support for this and other distinctively Catholic doctrines.

      Check out the Council of Florence’s Bull of Union with the Copts from 1442, in which the Catholic Church (along with representatives of the Orthodox and Coptic Churches) proclaimed the Catholic canon of Scripture:

      “[The Church] professes that one and the same God is the author of the old and the new Testament — that is, the law and the prophets, and the gospel — since the saints of both testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates their books, whose titles are as follows.

      “Five books of Moses, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, Esdras, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, namely Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; two books of the Maccabees; the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; fourteen letters of Paul, to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, to the Colossians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two letters of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude; Acts of the Apostles; Apocalypse of John.”

      So unless you’re arguing that the Church responded to Martin Luther by inventing a time machine, you’re just presenting a false version of history.

      Nor was Florence acting outside the norm. The early Christians repeatedly affirm the canonicity of the Deuterocanonical Books and the Third Council of Carthage, at which St. Augustine was present, declared this exact same canon of Scripture. And even the source you’re mentioning says that there’s “virtually” no reference to the Deuterocanon in the New Testament, and that “Jesus and the disciples virtually ignored these books.” This implicitly concedes that there are at least some references to the Deuterocanon in by Jesus, the Apostles, and the New Testament authors. Which means that these books actually have more New Testament and Apostolic support than the Book of Esther.

      That’s quite a patrimony for the Catholic canon. How does the Protestant canon fare? Can you find me a single pre-Reformation Christian who used the 66-book Protestant canon?

  6. The Doctrine of Purgatory

    Purgatory may be defined as “a place or state in which are detained the souls of those who die in grace, in friendship with God, but with the blemish of venial sin or with temporal debt for sin unpaid. Here the soul is purged, cleansed, readied for eternal union with God in Heaven.” [Catholicism, George Brantl, ed. (New York: Doubleday, 1994), p. 232].

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter joy of heaven.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Image Books, 1985), p. 93].

    The Roman Catholic teaching on purgatory was pronounced as Church dogma in A.D. 1438. The best way to describe it is that it is a temporary hell with the sole purpose of working off the temporal punishment for a person’s sins.

    The Doctrine of Indulgences

    The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Church is the steward of a vast reservoir of merit called the “treasury of the Church” or “treasury of merit.” This treasury was allegedly earned by the works and prayers of Jesus Christ, His mother Mary, and the saints of all ages. This treasury of merit is so vast that it can never be exhausted or depleted.

    According to Roman Catholic theology, the Church has the power to dispense from this reservoir “indulgences,” which are said to cancel the debt of temporal punishment. [The modern Roman Catholic teaching on indulgences has been stated and clarified in three documents, dating from 1967 (Indulgentiarum doctrina, of Paul VI), 1968 (The new Enchiridion of Indulgences, issued by the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary), and 1983 (the new Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church).
    Because Christ, Mary, and various Catholic saints have provided “super-abundant satisfactions” to God through their many merits, the Catholic Church believes it can offer these same merits to Catholic believers in exchange for remission of punishment.

    Catholics speak of both a “partial indulgence” and a “plenary indulgence.” A partial indulgence is one that takes away just a portion of a person’s temporal punishment. A plenary indulgence cancels all the temporal punishment a person has accumulated. The more temporal punishment remitted through indulgences in this life, the less time someone will have to spend in purgatory. Understandably, the partial indulgence requires fewer acts of piety that a plenary indulgence.

    Once a person has earned an indulgence, he or she can apply it either personally (thereby reducing his or her own temporal punishment for sins committed), or can by prayer apply it to the account of a dead loved one believed to be in purgatory. So indulgences can benefit both oneself and one’s dead loved ones. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 411.)

    Answering Roman Catholics
    The Doctrine of Purgatory

    Consider what Roman Catholics are saying in regard to the doctrine of purgatory. Let’s say you are a good-hearted Catholic, and you do all the things required of your Church throughout life. You regularly attend Mass, you work hard to maintain sanctifying grace in your soul by being faithful, and you confess your sins to a priest when you do wrong. You are always careful to participate in the sacrament of penance after committing what you think may be a mortal sin. You do all this and more, keeping with what your Church tells you. When you die, you will likely still have to go to purgatory before being granted entrance into heaven. Throughout someone’s lifetime he or she could attend over a thousand Masses and still die not fully purified from sin. Protestants respond that this hardly seems like the “good news” of the gospel (Ephesians 2:8,9).

    Questions:
    •Did you know that the word gospel means “good news”?
    •Does it sound like “good news” to you that you can attend over a thousand Masses throughout your life and still die not fully purified from sin?
    •By contrast, does the following statement by the apostle Paul sound like “good news”: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as result of works, that no one should boast: (Ephesians 2:8,9)?
    •Is believing in Christ sufficient for salvation? Or must we combine believing in Christ with doing good works?
    •Did you know that there are about 200 scriptural references in the New Testament that salvation is said to be by faith alone, with no works in sight? Here are few scriptures for you to review: Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16,17; Romans 3:20; John 3:15; John 5:24; John 11:25; Galatians 2:16.

    The doctrine of purgatory is an outgrowth of the insufficient Roman Catholic view of justification. Since only perfectly righteous people get into heaven, and since in the Roman Catholic view of justification someone is not absolutely and once for all declared righteous by God, then somehow a person must become perfectly righteous before entrance into heaven is granted. This happens via purgatory (among other things). Contrary to the Catholic view, the biblical view of justification involves a singular and instantaneous event in which God declares the believing sinner to be righteous.

    From a scriptural perspective, when Jesus died on the cross He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus completed the work of redemption at the cross. No purgatory is needed for those who trust in Christ. In His high priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). First John 1:7 says, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.

    We are cleansed not by some alleged fire of purgatory but by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrew 9:14). Jesus “Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). It is through Jesus’ work on the cross that we are made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). The apostle Paul spoke of his life as “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:7-9). It is through this wonderful work of Christ on the cross that believers are “blameless,” and hence are in no need of some alleged purgatory (Jude 1:24; Ephesians 1:4).

    In Hebrews 10:14: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified”. In other words, no further purging is necessary because Christ has perfected “for all time” those who have believed in Him. That which is already perfect “for all time” needs no further purging. There is no need for purgatory for those who have truly trusted in Christ as Savior.

  7. Question: “What does the Bible say about praying for the dead?”

    Answer: Praying for the dead is not a biblical concept. Our prayers have no bearing on someone once he or she has died. The reality is that, at the point of death, one’s eternal destiny is confirmed. Either he is saved through faith in Christ and is in heaven where he is experiencing rest and joy in God’s presence, or he is in torment in hell. The story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar provides us with a vivid illustration of this truth. Jesus plainly used this story to teach that after death the unrighteous are eternally separated from God, that they remember their rejection of the gospel, that they are in torment, and that their condition cannot be remedied (Luke 16:19-31).

    Often, people who have lost a loved one are encouraged to pray for those who have passed away and for their families. Of course, we should pray for those grieving, but for the dead, no. No one should ever believe that someone may be able to pray for him, thereby effecting some kind of favorable outcome, after he has died. The Bible teaches that the eternal state of mankind is determined by our actions during our lives on earth. “The soul who sins is the one who will die. . . . The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him” (Ezekiel 18:20).

    The writer to the Hebrews tells us, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Here we understand that no change in one’s spiritual condition can be made following his death—either by himself or through the efforts of others. If it is useless to pray for the living, who are committing “a sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16), i.e., continual sin without seeking God’s forgiveness, how could prayer for those who are already dead benefit them, since there is no post-mortem plan of salvation?

    The point is that each of us has but one life, and we are responsible for how we live that life. Others may influence our choices, but ultimately we must give an account for the choices we make. Once life is over, there are no more choices to be made; we have no choice but to face judgment. The prayers of others may express their desires, but they won’t change the outcome. The time to pray for a person is while he or she lives and there is still the possibility of his or her heart, attitudes, and behavior being changed (Romans 2:3-9).

    It is natural to have a desire to pray in times of pain, suffering, and loss of loved ones and friends, but we know the boundaries of valid prayer as revealed in the Bible. The Bible is the only official prayer manual, and it teaches that prayers for the dead are futile. Yet we find the practice of praying for the dead observed in certain areas of “Christendom.” Roman Catholic theology, for example, allows for prayers both to the dead and on behalf of them. But even Catholic authorities admit that there is no explicit authorization for prayers on behalf of the dead in the sixty-six books of canonical Scripture. Instead, they appeal to the Apocrypha(2 Maccabees 12:46), church tradition, the decree of the Council of Trent, etc., to defend the practice.

    The Bible teaches that those who have yielded to the Savior’s will (Hebrews 5:8-9) enter directly and immediately into the presence of the Lord after death (Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:23;2 Corinthians 5:6,8). What need, then, do they have for the prayers of people on the earth? While we sympathize with those who have lost dear ones, we must bear in mind that “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). While the context refers to the gospel age as a whole, the verse is fitting for any individual who is unprepared to face the inevitable—death and the judgment that follows (Romans 5:12;1 Corinthians 15:26; Hebrews 9:27). Death is final, and after that, no amount of praying will avail a person of the salvation he has rejected in life.

    Recommended Resources:The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums, and Psychic Phenomena by Ron Rhodes and Logos Bible Software.

    Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/praying-for-the-dead.html#ixzz3NPWliTig

  8. GOSPEL MESSAGE (Part II)

    The crisis of humanity is Jesus: You can be very religious, you can spend hours and days or an entire lifetime of following religious pursuits and apparently honoring God, but the test will always come: What will you do with Jesus?

    Jesus Christ. He can change you. He can give you a new life. He can wipe out the old pattern of failures and all the hurt and agony and anguish that you have been going through and give you a wholly new heart

    That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:10-11 NIV)

    The Good News of Jesus Christ still sounds foolish to many. Our society worships power, influence, and wealth. Jesus came as a humble, poor servant, and he offers his kingdom to those who have faith, not to those who do all kinds of good deeds to try to earn salvation. This looks foolish to the world, but Christ is the mighty power of God, the only way we can be saved. Knowing Christ personally is the greatest wisdom anyone can have.

    The message of Christ’s death for sins sounds foolish to those who don’t believe. Death seems to be the end of the road, the ultimate weakness. But Jesus did not stay dead. His resurrection demonstrated his power even over death. And he will save us from eternal death and give us everlasting life if we trust him as Savior and Lord. This sounds so simple that many people won’t accept it. They try other ways to obtain eternal life (being good, being wise, performing religious rituals, etc.). But all their attempts are futile. The “foolish” people who simply accept Christ’s offer are actually the wisest of all, because they alone will live eternally with God.

    In 1 Corinthians 3:22, The Apostle Paul says that both life and death are ours. While non-believers are victims of life, swept along by its current and wondering if there is meaning to it, believers can use life well because they understand its true purpose. Nonbelievers can only fear death. For believers, however, death holds no terrors because Christ as conquered all fears (see 1 John 4:18). Death is only the beginning of eternal life with God.

    If you just receive Jesus into your life, accepting Him only as your personal Lord and Savior, and repent of your sins, then you have an absolute guarantee that you will enter into heaven.

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