Skip to comments.A Second Chance for the Dead?
Posted on 01/27/2011 4:37:54 PM PST by hawkins
What happens when a person dies? Since death happens to everyone eventually, the question is frequently pondered. Will there be a second chance at life? What happens to our loved ones when they die? Can the living do anything to make the afterlife of the dead better? There are a number of teachings on the topic of death and afterlife. Some theories say that there is nothing after life. Many eastern theologies believe in reincarnation. Christianity speaks of Hades and then an all encompassing judgment. Catholicism speaks of purgatory. The concepts of prayer, baptism, and preaching for the dead, as well as purgatory, are related items which will be examined in this article. That such beliefs have been present for ages is not argued. From a Biblical point of reference, is there authorization for belief in these teachings?
Prayer for the Dead
Praying for the dead is an ancient practice to which there is no particular point of origin. Though the passage of 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 is part of writings not included in most Bibles, many of those who hold to the practice of praying for the dead start there for affirmation of their conviction. That particular passage states the following speaking of the Jew Judas Maccabees:
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, in asmuch 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 sin.
Not only seen in this verse is the idea of praying for the dead, but atoning for their sins which leads to the concept of indulgences and purgatory. However, these last two concepts can be put on hold for a moment. This passage, weak because it is predominantly not viewed as inspired, demonstrates the practice of praying for the dead did occur. However, it far from validates the behavior. The Jews engaged a number of recorded behaviors which were not pleasing to God. Many of these behaviors are pointed out throughout the Old Testament and the New. How can it be determined if their example was good or bad? Man Biblically determines authority for his actions the way any person learns authority: Commands, approved examples, and necessary inferences (those based on truth). Though Judas Maccabees provides an example, his actions were not commanded or approved of by God and cannot therefore have authority. This passage does not authorize prayer for the dead. Further scriptural passages must be examined.
2 Timothy 1:16-18 is an inspired Biblical passage which many prayer for the dead proponents look to for authorization. Here is how that passage reads adjusting the translator inserted punctuation not in any original Biblical text:
The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day and in how many things he ministered at Ephesus. Thou knowest very well.
For those first reading this passage, they are likely not to see the connection at all to prayer for the dead. The connection is made by assuming the gentleman, Onesiphorus, is dead. Then the words the Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day is believed to be a prayer for him. First, there is no evidence in all of scripture stating Onesiphorus was dead at the time. Second, in context the apostle was speaking of his own imprisonment and how disciples had turned from him. Yet, Onesiphorus stood by him and cared for him. Paul then hopes God is merciful to Onesiphorus because of the care he gave during that time or day. Why would he need mercy and from what? He would need mercy from potential persecution from Pauls persecutors or those who fled him. Prayer for the dead has nothing to do with this passage. Such an explanation of this passage further sheds dubiousness on the idea of prayer for the dead. There is no authority for such an action in this passage.
A third popular passage established as prayer for the dead is John 11:41-43. The context is the man Lazarus is dead. Jesus comes to his tomb and before bringing him to life, tells Martha she will see the glory of God. He then prays to the Father in thankfulness that he could attribute what would happen next to the glory of Him. Following this Jesus tells Lazarus to come forth. Lazarus returns to life. The prayer was in no sense for Lazarus or his wellbeing in the afterlife. The prayer was a prayer of thankfulness that Jesus had opportunity to glorify God. Again, there is no authorization for prayer for the dead in this passage. From the three passages examined, it is seen the supposed examples of authorized prayer for the dead are weak and truthfully, non-existent.
Baptism for the Dead
If it can be demonstrated an individual is baptized for the dead, though there are no examples of prayer for the dead, it is assumed one can pray for that individuals welfare stemming from the baptism. Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and therefore, salvation (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, I Peter 3:21). If an individual can be baptized for a dead person, then they can ensure the salvation of the individual in the afterlife. To validate such a belief, the passage of I Corinthians 15:29 is used:
Else what shall they do that are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for the dead?
First, it is important to note that the very last word of the passage, dead, is present in the Greek, yet, many translations rather than use dead insert the word them giving rise to confusion. Second, the context is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some doubted the resurrection as they do today. Paul establishes in I Corinthians 15:29 that men are baptized because of Christ (Romans 6:3-11). If Christ is dead and not raised, why would anyone be baptized? Why would they be baptized for a dead guy? The point is: they werent baptized for a dead guy, but Christ who was alive, had been witness by man, and then ascended to heaven. Baptism for the dead though practiced by different collections of people past and present has no scriptural authority.
Preaching for the Dead
If it can be demonstrated the dead are preached to in the afterlife so they can have a second chance, then one can logically pray for their acceptance. Ephesians 4:8-10 speaks of Jesus Christ ascending to heaven. Then the term ascended is examined. The question is asked what does it mean except that he also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? From this and a verse we will examine in a moment, it is assumed that Christ was going somewhere below the earths surface. The following verses use the term under the earth in possible relation to people located there: Philippians 2:10, Revelation 5:3, and Revelation 5:13. Many commentators simply refer to the lower parts of the earth as earth itself, however, it can be appropriately discerned as well that the Hadean realm (realm of those physically dead) is referenced. Is the official location of such a place below the earths surface? Most likely not, but the since this is where bodies are buried it is referenced as such. Hades as seen in Luke 16 is divided by such a gulf as cannot be spanned. It consists of a place of torment and what Jesus would call Paradise. Jesus when he died went to the portion of Hades called paradise (Luke 23:43). Jesus did not stay in Hades but was resurrected (Acts 2:27). Ephesians 4:8 speaks of Christ leading captive captivity. What is meant by this is that through Christs death, burial, and resurrection faithful man was no longer held in captivity under sin. The truth being that without Christ, all men are left in their sins (I Corinthians 15:17).
Because Christ was among those no longer physically living (though with the faithful in paradise), the text of I Peter 3: 18-20 stands as a beacon of hope to those holding to the theory Christ spoke to the dead:
Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water:
This text is read by some to say Christ literally went and spoke to the disobedient. If that were so, it was only to the disobedient of Noahs time being punished (torment portion of Hades). That would sort of kill the idea that God is not partial (Romans 2:11), but it would show he preached to the dead. Fortunately this verse can easily be explained without contradicting scripture. In the same fashion which Israel in the time of Moses drank from the spiritual Rock that was Christ (I Corinthians 10:4), so did the living, disobedient people of Noahs time have the same opportunity to drink of Christ as Noah preached to them (2 Peter 2:5). There is no authority for baptism of the dead.
It is an interesting concept which states a person could be selfish and disobedient in this life then, with the realization after death that God is real and demands obedience, renounce their sin and be saved. Why preach on earth? Just preach after death! It would be wonderful if man could pray those who died in their sins out of their condemnation. It would be great if man simply had to be baptized for the condemned so they could be pure. Masses of people would be in the water all day long. However a man can deliver only his own soul as Ezekiel stated:
Ezekiel 14:13-14 Son of man, when a land sinneth against me by committing a trespass, and I stretch out my hand upon it, and break the staff of the bread thereof, and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast; though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord Jehovah.
Having examined prayer, preaching, and baptism for the dead, the related topic of purgatory will now be broached.
Purgatory for the Dead
That man must be holy before God is without question. It is a concept backed by Isaiah 59:1-2, Hebrews 12:14, and Revelation 21:27 as well as a host of other verses. However, how man is purified to stand before God is a question pertaining to purgatory. The concept of purgatory suggests man must be purified in the flesh and after his death to be able to stand before God. The tarnish by venial sins (not so bad sins) for which there has been no repentance or insufficient temporal (earthly) payment must be cleansed away by fire according to purgatory proponents. Purgatory stated directly is: punishment inflicted after death to bring about the pure state of an individual.
I Corinthians 3:11-15 is often used to explain the state of purification by fire, however, such an explanation is misinterpretation and out of context. The passage speaks of the fact that the Church is built of individual souls. When men preach the Word of God to others they build up the Church. However, not every person receiving the word stays committed to Christ (Matthew 13:18-23). Men whose material makeup is a commitment to Christ (Gold, silver, precious stone) will stand the earthly test of trials and temptation. Men whose material makeup is corrupt, perishable, compared to wood, hay, and stray will fail the test. Ultimately, these men will perish, but an individual who was true will be saved. He will be saved as well as those he worked with who were true to Christ. To say this passage has to do with an afterlife punishment to purify a man is a mistake. When a man dies, his state is already determined as seen in Luke 16. It is at that point he simply waits the final deliverance of eternal punishment or reward.
Still, Matthew 5:25-26 and Matthew 18:23-35 are used as examples sins can ultimately be paid for through punishment. In the case of the former, a man is thrown in jail by a judge in regard to a legal matter and said to not be able to come out until the last cent is paid. In the case of the latter, a man who owed his master a great debt was turned over to torturers until his debt was paid. While both of these discuss punishment in full, the focus of their texts is not the punishment. In Matthew 5 the focus is making peace with your fellow man. In Matthew 18 the discussion was the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness was given through the Lord. However, when the man refused to repent and act as his master he was sentenced to punishment. To make the verses about punishment after death is to twist the meaning of the scriptures.
The Bible has much to say about the punishment awaiting man who does not repent. Luke 16:25-26 establishes there is no crossing over from punishment to freedom. Daniel 12:1-2 notes that there are two choices in life: everlasting contempt and everlasting life. There is no partial contempt just as there is no partial everlasting life. Jude 1:7 speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah suffering eternal punishment, not a punishment that was limited because they paid enough price. In Matthew 25:46, Christ speaks of punishment for the unmerciful in life, he says they will go to eternal punishment. To suggest a purgatory that could be paid for by indulgences or penalty is not scriptural. If sins could be paid for by the blood of bulls and goats, Christs sacrifice would not have been needed (Hebrews 10:4). If the sins of man could be paid for by their own blood and pain and work, Christs sacrifice would not have been needed (Hebrews 10:11). However, nothing done by man on earth or after his life on earth could ever make man pure before God. Sin separates man from God. It is only through Christ that man can come to God (John 14:6). The doctrine of purgatory is false teaching and has no authority through the scriptures.
Praying for the dead will not help them. They have cast their lot upon the earth (2 Corinthians 5:10). Being baptized for the dead will only get a man wet. Preaching to the dead is a fairy tale. Purgatory is only wishful thinking. There is no authority for these doctrines. If a man does not want to worry about his death, he should submit to God (Matthew 5:3). If he is concerned about the salvation of others, he should preach to them the gospel of Christ (Mark 16:15). There will come a day when all knees will bow before the Lord. There will be those who call upon his name for salvation. For those who did not love him and failed to be obedient to His will upon this earth, Jesus has a response:
Matthew 7:23 And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.
The dead are beyond our grasp. Concern yourselves with the living. Find eternal life in Christ. Our God is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living.
There are no do-overs....
Ecclesiastes 9 :5-6
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
That’s another thing I don’t understand....is why people pray for the dead.
I can see praying for Him to help healing their hearts for the loss of a loved one, but to actually pray for the dead seems a little creepy to me.
“Oh to have a second chance at making things right. Where is the do-over button?”
It’s next to the dead horse you are beating.
I believe that the “do over button” is over at the Catholic Church. We Protestants only get this one shot.
Fits right in with Hebrews 9:27 something about it is appointed to everyone ,once to die and then the judgement.
IMO only prayers for the dead was a doctrine dreamed up by someone who didn’t know how to answer the grieving-and offered it as some solace.But I could be wrong.
I would observe that the Books of the Maccabees are inspired Scripture. They have been in the Church’s canon from the beginning, and were first relegated to an appendix by Luther and the English reformers, then dropped only by later protestants.
The notion that they were “added” by the Latin church at the Council of Trent is unsupportable, as we Orthodox (as well as the Copts, Armenians and Ethiopians) who regard Trent as an heretical conventicle, not an Ecumenical Council, have always had them in our canon of Scripture since it was fixed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (by reference to the Council of Carthage in its canons).
Prior to the “Reformation” prayer offered for the dead was universal among Christians. It is one of the great tragedies of the history of Christianity in the West that the Latin church’s venial use of its erroneous doctrine of purgatory led protestants to reject the notion (indeed this was one of Luther’s motives for tampering with the canon of Scripture, as the clearest Scriptural support for prayer for the dead comes from Second Maccabees). But even the Assyrian Church of the East, whose entirely Semitic canon of Scripture, the Peshitta, not only lacks much of the longer Greek Old Testament canon, Maccabees being among the omissions, but the Book of Revelations and several non-Pauline epistles the rest of us regard as canonical, prays for the dead in its liturgy.
The notion that we ought not pray for the dead, or that there is no point in doing so, is an innovation every bit as much as purgatory as an explanation for why we pray for the dead was an innovation. Innovation in Christian praxis and doctrine is a bad thing: it contaminates the Faith once Delivered to the Saints.
This is only my stupid opinion, but I think when people start praying to the dead, it is never good enough.
The next step is try to communicate with them. NOTHING against Catholics, nor am I saying they all do it, but I know several (whom consider themselves good Catholics, not good Christens)who go to fortune tellers to speak with their dead.
They also bury “Saints” statues for whatever it is their wishing for.
Anywho, no matter how many times I showed then in the Bible how evil doing such a thing is, they refuse to believe.
To me, the dead are dead. I still may mourn for them, but NEVER pray to them.....nor statues.
No, that was it. Go with God.
That is absolutely perfect!
Then we all wait for resurrection and the judgment.
That's not any different than Catholic belief.
At the same time all Christians believe in baptism ~ and that's where our old life dies and we are reborn as new men and women in God.
Your typical believer in reincarnation also believes that we only die once ~ and they usually refer to that as being "released", presumably from the Great Mandala or Wheel of Life. Some of them believe you may have many "Earthly lives" while all the while doing what you can to get off that wheel.
I'm sure one of these approaches is more nearly scientific than the other ~ but which one?
they can always vote the straight Democrat ticket early and often to pass the time.
Purgatory is not a do-over or a second chance in Catholic teaching. Those who assert such here are spreading disinformation. Purgatory has only one exit: heaven. Those in hell never passed through purgatory.
There are no do-overs.
There are no second-chances.
Your last chance is your dying breath.
That’s Catholic teaching.
Nice try; but wrong.
Not only is a dead horse being beaten, but it’s the wrong dead horse at that!
It amazes me how ill-informed Protestants are about what they attack. Purgatory is not a second chance for anyone and the Church never taught that it was.
“This passage, weak because it is predominantly not viewed as inspired, demonstrates the practice of praying for the dead did occur.”
That’s the kind of outright lie anti-Catholic Protestants are known for. To MOST Christians the 2 Maccabees IS INSPIRED. Protestants are only a minority among Christians on this and hundreds of other issues.
Besides that, the passage in Corinthians was likely Paul referring to a local pagan cult which baptised for their dead in the Aegean and he knew his audience was familiar with this practice so he used it to illustrate to the mumbling church which was arguing over resurrection or no resurrection, probably due to the inveigling of judaisers ... kind of a familiar story don’tchaknow!
Make that the Gulf of Corinth, not the Aegean.
So I don't get into it.
We are, in any case, more than our observable four-dimensions. There are the other 7, or 14, or whatever ~ including heart, mind, spirit,soul ~ and several intuited and named by Orthodox Jews.
Folks are free to add to the list.
Modern physics is not far behind.
Let me predict that about the time we figure out all the dimensions in this universe (and maybe beyond) and DO STUFF with that knowledge, you'll find Time Wrapped UP in a thrice!~
Dang - thought this was about Jerry Garcia coming back.....
So you sound New Age. (not Christian in the true sense) Is God everything to you?
At the same time I am firmly of the belief that God enables us to examine the entirety of our environment ~ so that we can have DOMINION OVER IT. That includes the various dimensions ~ both those visible and those invisible, the great, the small, the fields that permeate the Universe, and even the dimensions that may extend into the areas beyond this Universe.
I find it more than a koinkydink that the ancients appear to have intuited certain elements of profound knowledge of existence without the ability to directly observe those elements.
Give you an example. Abram looked out on the night sky and saw the local galaxy, only he didn't really see it, and couldn't perceive, that all he could see were 25,000 stars or star-like points ~ and without the ability to judge depth at the vast distances, he'd had no idea that those stars had a meaning transcending chasing sheep and goats on a grassy plain in Mesopotamia.
It is only in our time that we know the vast distances from here to Uranus ~ otherwise invisible to the Ancients, and the far vaster distances to the next star, or from here to the center of the local Galaxy, or the incomprehensible distances out to the "edge" where everything just falls off into invisibility.
We are the first people in history to have a shot at seeing everything, and yet Abram intuited that there was but one God ~ of course God gave him some hints in that business of banning human sacrifice. Still even as he was renamed Abraham he did not know anything of the enormous vastness of the Universe that we know, and now we see God's Creation with new eyes, and we should be most respectful ~ even fearful. His Domain is greater beyond even that tidy little 13.8 billion lightyears we can see (in any direction).
Scripture even tells us about “atoms” stating that we have faith to believe that everything that is seen is made up of that which is not seen. Now, we know that, indeed, atoms cannot be seen by the naked eye. Back then, they had to accept it on faith in the scriptures being true.
A protestant polemical site that perpetuates the myth that the Latins added the balance of the canon that the protestants slander as “the Apocrypha” hardly constitutes proof my position (which in this matter is the position of the Orthodox Church) is wrong.
The very fact that I am writing as an Orthodox Christian, who considers Trent to be a gathering of heretics completely void of authority, to tell you that First and Second Maccabees, Tobit, Baruch, the long versions of Daniel and Esther, and so on are canonical Scripture ought to give you pause.
Your site adduces a handful of Church Fathers to bolster your view. One can find as many or more early Fathers who rejected the canonicity of the Apocalypse of St. John (Book of Revelations, if you prefer) Sts. Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory the Theologian (called Gregory of Nazianzus in the West), Polycarp, and John Chrysostom spring readily to mind. It uses Christ-denying Jews (Josephus and the consciously anti-Christian Council of Jamnia) as sources of authority — hardly convincing.
Finally, it asserts without a shred of evidence that the canon was fixed prior to the Council of Carthage. When? How? By whom? Surely there would be a record of such an important event.
The earliest list of the New Testament canon we all agree on occurs in a letter of St. Athanasius in the 4th century. All earlier sources have missing books or extra books. How is that if the canon was fixed in the first century? Or is your site giving the Council of Jamnia, a bunch of rabbis who denied that Jesus is the Christ, authority to decide what books the Church reads? That was the only canon-fixing in the first century we have an actual record of. Letting Jews who deny Jesus decide our canon for us (as distinct from the Jews who awaited the Christ before his coming) seems to me to be a new judaizing heresy.
Carthage, of course, was a local council, and unless one accepts the Latins’ theory that a Papal assent to a council in his patriarchate gave it universal force — a theory I reject as an Orthodox Christian — its action did not gain universal force until its canons were incorporate by reference in the canons of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. (Some Orthodox will credit the Fourth Ecumenical Council, by virtue of a vague reference to “the ancient canons”, but I incline to the stricter view.)
Arguing that books every Christian tradition which predates the 16th century hold to be Scripture are not Scripture seems a bit of a tough argument to make. The website you link doesn’t manage to make the argument.
Almost a mystery how right up even to Columbus people thought the earth was flat and he would fall off the edge and yet, the Bible which had already been around for several hundred years talks of the earth in “sphere”, “orb”, and “compass”, all inferring “round”. It all is there, just no one listening. ( a lot of this is in the Book of Job, which by the way is the oldest book in the Bible)
Not so David ... Jerome had placed the apocrypha in a separate section of the Christian Bible.. I specify Christian Bible because the jewish Canon does not include them as inspired books .
The OT Canon belongs to the Jews, not to the church ..Rome had no right to officially add to THEIR canon in our Bible at Trent .
No where is the practice of prayers for or to the dead taught in the NT (The inspired books given to the church ) No where does Christ teach it or model it
The Latins' heretical conventicle at Trent, utterly void of authority, did not add anything to the Church's canon of Scripture. We Orthodox Christians, along with the Copts and the Armenians and the Ethiopians, all of whom reject Trent as having any authority, and yes, the Latins, have had the books you protestants sneer at as "the Apocrypha" in our canon of Scripture since it was fixed, centuries before Trent.
The Jews did not fix their canon until 90 A.D.
Why do you cede the Church's authority to judge which books are inspired of the Holy Spirit to a council of rabbis who denied that Jesus is the Christ, and thereby denied that Spirit? Do you really think the blind guides who could not see that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the prophecies perfectly had the judgment to decide anything for the Church? Neither the Church at the Sixth Ecumenical Council nor the Latins at Trent (who happened to reaffirm the Church's judgment, not that that matters, since as I pointed out Trent was void of authority) added anything to the Jews' canon: they have their own canon, the Church has its canon. Rather, the Church refused to accept the judgment of Jews who has seen the fulfillment of the prophecies, but not perceived them (even as the prophet said they would) as to what constituted Scripture, and the Church made her own judgment on the matter. The Jews who translated books into Greek went to the trouble of translating the books you want to toss out, why was that?
Protestants removed books from the Church's canon because Jews who denied Christ (not Jews who expected the Christ, to whom the Old Testament might reasonably be said to belong) had not included them in their canon. The Latins did not add them.
The reconstruction of Christianity as an ideology founded on a text, rather than a way of life founded on a Person, undertaken by "reformers" who arrogated to themselves the authority to toss books out of the Church's canon, and then misuse that purported authority to imitate the judgment of those who denied that Jesus is the Christ is, quite frankly, not the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints. You cannot find any Christian tradition prior to the 16th century that did not pray for the dead -- not even the (Nestorian) Assyrian Church of the East, which along among ancient churches does not include the Second Maccabees in its canon.