by Tony Warren
What about Praying For the Dead?
here are few doctrines so couched in man made tradition and superstition, as the Roman catholic belief that by praying for the dead, it will benefit these souls, or that they can also intercede for us is some way. Should Christians pray for the dead? Absolutely not! This is not only a totally unchristian idea, but it is in some ways downright Pagan. Is God’s loving kindness declared after men are in the grave that the dead receive blessings, and our prayers for them are answered? Man says yes, but God says no!
- “Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.
- Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
- Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? “
The land of forgetfulness is where the unsaved dead are. It is a place of oblivion, where there is no memory, and souls are not capable of anything, as they are in dark silence. Death for them is a state of unconsciousness, as they wait the judgment of God at The Last Day. They have no knowledge, no comfort, no praise of God, and most assuredly, no power of intercession.
- “Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.
- For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?”
When the unsaved die, there is no consciousness or memory. That is why it is called the land of forgetfulness or oblivion. How then are these souls supposedly interceding for us, suffering penance, or purging their sins when they do not recall either God, or anyone else? They don’t speak with God, they don’t pray for us, and they can’t give God thanks. The scripture rhetorically asks, “in the grave who shall give thee thanks,” because those there have no remembrance!
Moreover, why would we need their intercession for us from the grave? Did not Christ atone for “all” of our sins? Is He not the ultimate intercessor, who, by His suffering, redeemed us from all unrighteousness? So if we were saved before we died, then according to God’s word we do not come into any condemnation whatsoever. And if we were not saved when we died, then the judgment is already appointed unto us. This judgment is not something which can be plea bargained down to something less that we can handle, it is divine justice which must be meted out. It is the full wrath of God which His righteousness demands. It is not only unbiblical to attempt to negate this, but it is illogical for a Christian to conclude that man should pray for those who have died, yet in their sins. For if they have any stain of sin yet to be purged at death, then after death is no opportunity to change the judgment thereof.
- “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
- And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
All of our sins, bar none, were put away “once” by the sacrifice of Christ. Anyone who needs purging from sin after death, has obviously never had his sin atoned for by Christ in life, and is thus still dead in trespass and sin. And after death is the judgment, not the opportunity for atonement.
- “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”
This is the righteous justice of God that takes place at The Last day! The dead will come out of the grave and be judged according to their works. If they have the stain of sin from their life, they will be justly condemned of God, according to their works. No amount of praying either for or to them in the grave will help them. They are reserved in silence, waiting for this white throne judgment to be given according to their labors on earth. Not according to our prayers for them afterward. Hebrews chapter 9 informs us, it is appointed unto men to once to die, and then we are judged. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. There is nothing in God’s word that states otherwise, and yet the Roman Catholic documents deny this most basic of Christian truths:
Circumventing Christ’s personal intercession for the living, by man’s interceding after they are dead is antithetical to God’s word. The “faithful departed” need no concern by us, for they have no sin before God, and can not come into condemnation (Romans 8:1). As for the unfaithful, it is clear that neither Jesus Christ, the Apostles, nor the Church growing up from them, have ever shown concern for the dead. Their concern is always to tend to the living, whom God has given to evangelize. This is not a truth to be trampled upon as insignificant, or worthlessly cast aside. It indeed is very understandable that the saints wouldn’t tend to the dead, since the whole tenor of the gospel is that the time for everyone to get right with God is in this life, not in the life to come. Now is the acceptable time for the redemption of salvation.
- “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great Salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;”
The retort to God by many seems to be, “we escape very easily if we can neglect Salvation in this world, and it is by men’s prayers for us after we are in the grave!” That is in essence what this unbiblical doctrine of praying for the dead teaches. The humanistic reasoning of those who cannot bear to believe the truth about the death of loved ones or friends. But the Christian principle applies, “he who loves friends, father, or mother, more than Christ, is not worthy of Christ (Matthew 10:37).” Christ and His word come first, except we have left our first Love and replaced it with tradition.
- “And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
- But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”
- “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
- Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”
Should Christians pray for the dead? Jesus is not teaching the Church to be concerned for the dead, but just the opposite. He teaches that we not be concerned with the dead, and that we follow Him by tending to the living. we are to preach the gospel to them that are alive, for they are the ones who can and will benefit from it. The dead, as in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich man, have already had their chance in life. Our prayers should tend to the living. In the whole of the Bible, both New Covenant and Old Covenant testimony, there exists not one single solitary example of true Children of God praying for, to, or with, the dead. For the souls of believers who die go to be with the Lord, and the souls of unbelievers live not again, until the last day, when they are raised up to stand for judgment.
2nd Corinthians 5:8-11
- “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
- Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
- For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
- Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.”
We labor of judgment is in this world, and we know that all must appear before the judgment seat and receive in himself the judgment of the things done in his body. Therefore, nothing can add to a man’s good works after he has left the body. And except Christ paid for our bad works in life, we must pay for the bad works ourselves, after death. That is why the scriptures say, “knowing this, we persuade men.” i.e., that’s the reason we preach the gospel to persuade men while they are alive. Because we know of a surety the fate of those who neglect so great a salvation and die without conversion.
Another theory of this Church is that, if man is assisted by prayer after this life is over, this is the result of the things he had done in the body, and therefore, these good works of others, are actually his. This is extremely convoluted and more than that, begs the question. Even if it were true (which it isn’t, because it’s not things “he” did in his body), it still fails to answer the fundamental question of payment for his bad works. In other words, what about his sin? No one is going to heaven for his good works, they go because of the good work of Christ. But unless one has been saved in this life, made righteous by the work of Christ, then he is destined for hell as judgment for his works on earth. That is a fundamental tenet of true Christianity. For a man’s works, whether good (in Christ) or bad, follow Him. We must all stand before God to account for those works. The praying for someone after death cannot change a man’s works, nor give him repentance unto salvation.
- “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
- And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”
That is the reason why the Apostles preached so fervently, because no one is promised to see tomorrow, and the time to be reborn from above a new creation, is now! When one dies, the time of adoption of sons is finished, and man’s works follow him. Whether his righteous works in Christ, or his own dead works, which must be condemned of a just God.
- “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
- That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
The implication of the doctrine of intercession after death is that man can be born again, even after physical death. Again, this is an idea without any foundation in God’s word. And if he is born again in this life, then he needs no prayers after death, for according to God’s word, he is perfect, without blemish, without spot, having been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. The unsaved are kept in store, reserved unto the 2nd resurrection, and the judgment, at The Last Day
2nd Peter 2:9
- “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished”
They are not reserved until they get out of Purgatory, or until someone prays them out, but reserved unto the day of their judgment. So where do these untenable doctrines of redemption from the grave come from? If it is not from the scriptures, then where do people get them? The truth is, it comes from the traditions of carnal men, who for their own purposes, take advantage of the melancholic desires, wishes, and superstitions of people. These ideas are simply pagan ordinances handed down “as if” they were true Church doctrine.
So should Christians pray for the dead? Though these men attempt to mix apples and oranges, there is quite a bit of difference between burying and honoring the memory of the dead, and praying for, to, or with those dead! Clearly, not only does this doctrine hold claim to being able to help the dead, but that the dead can help the living. Just how the dead can help us, when (by their own admission), the dead themselves (supposedly) need our help, is yet another illogical and contradictory conclusion of this convoluted teaching. Of a truth, when your assumptions are unbiblical, your conclusions will be unbiblical. But when you do not assume, but abide by the word of God as supreme authority over the Church, your conclusions will be based on solid foundation.
- “The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.
- But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.”
Here the power of the dead is contrasted with the living. The dead are silent, they cannot intercede for us, they can’t speak, they cannot talk to or praise God, as they know nothing. They are in silence, oblivious unconsciousness awaiting the day when they must all stand before God and give account. It is only the souls of the believers who have had their sins paid for, who praise the Lord after death. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But the dead, who are not in Christ, do not praise God, as they know nothing and cannot intercede for anyone.
- “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
- 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.”
- “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
Contrast this with the illustrations of the souls of the saved who die, and yet cease not saying Holy, Holy, and praising God. Scripture shows that the unsaved who die, know nothing and are in darkness, in silence and remembering nothing until they are raised up in the 2nd resurrection to stand before God. And of the saved who die, not one word is spoken about them interceding for anyone. For they are new beings, which serve God, and not themselves.
Why would those who live on earth pray to “another” intercessor and make a mockery of God’s Chosen Vessel who intercedes on man’s behalf? Is the Lord’s arm so short that it is so ineffective as intercessor, we need the dead?
- “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought Salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.”
- “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
- Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
That we would need some other intercessor, who can’t even intercede for himself, is frankly, ludicrous! We have an intercessor, and our intercessor lives forever making intercession for us. It is the Spirit of Christ which is our advocate, not the spirits of dead people. A Spirit which ever lives to be our advocate before God. Our prayers are tainted with sin, even without our knowledge, and Christ takes our iimperfect prayers, brings them perfectly before God and speaks for us in what is God’s will, and for God’s purpose. That is how we are always praying “Perfectly. What dead soul can do that for us?
- “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
- And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
This is the Spirit which helps our weaknesses, not the spirits of the departed. And the key here is, according to the will of God, not the will of man, nor the will of the dead interceding for the living, or the living interceding for the dead. As if this were even possible.
Some Roman Catholics are uncomfortable with their own phraseology, and so they insist that they pray “with” the saints, and not “to” them. However, if one is communicating, or attempting to seek out or pursue the dead in any way, they are by very definition, practicing Necromancy. This is the heathen religious tradition and practice, which is customary in nearly all pagan religions.
- “When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
- There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
- Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a Necromancer.
- For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.”
We are not to be charmers [chabar], or those who become fascinated with the spirits of the dead. We are not to ask of, or consult the [owb], which is the familiar spirits of the dead. We are not to be a Wizard [yidd’oniy], or one who is in communion with the spirits of the dead. And we are not to be a Necromancer [darash], or one who pursues or seek out the spirits of the dead. I mean how much plainer can it be that communing with, for or to the dead is unbiblical? We have biblical examples of the abomination inherent in this desire to seek help from the dead.
1st Samuel 28:3
- “Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.
1st Samuel 28:6-7
- “And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
- Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.”
Saul wants to speak with the dead and seeks out this witch of Endor to help contact the spirit of Samuel who had died, because God wouldn’t answer Him, by dream or by His prophets. This witch brings up an evil spirit (Not Samuel, as the wicked have no command of God’s saints) as Samuel, which God uses to prophecy and tell Saul the punishment for his evil ways. The very next day Saul dies at the hands of the Philistines. A Witch has no power to call up the righteous spirits of the dead, and God had already made it clear He wouldn’t answer Saul by dream or Prophet. But God uses this evil aberration to prophecy (as he did with the evil High Priest Caiaphas), and illustrate to all of us the wages of such wickedness. This communing with those who have died is always pictured by God as evil. In all of the Holy canon, there is not one single instance where praying to, for, or with the dead, is a Godly act. On the contrary, as we see, it is Pagan and ungodly.
Nevertheless, some remain unmoved by all these precepts. I had one person reluctantly confess, “OK, OK, there is no mandate for this, but what is really so wrong with praying for the dead?” My answer is, Everything! First of all, it is a testament to our ignorance of the truth of God’s word. Second, while the Roman Catholic books may say it is a holy and proper thought to pray for the dead, scripture condemns it by telling us that after death, is the judgment. We cannot change the judgment of a man who has died. It is our job to tend to the living! Third, God condemns this practice by telling us in no uncertain terms that the dead know nothing and are in silence. Fourth, God tells us that it is in this life that man must be warned, must repent and be purged of every sin by the Lord. In the next age, it will be a time of judgment. And fifth, this doctrine denies that the wages of sin in this life is death, and makes the wages of sin, Purgatory instead.
Further, unless there is some community of life between the dead and the living, then no one is assisted by the prayers of one for the other. But no community between the dead and the living exist, therefore, neither the suffrages or prayers of the living, nor the suffrages or prayers of the dead, profit one or the other. As so vividly illustrated by our Lord in His parable of Lazarus and the Rich man. He who hath an ear, let him hear:
- “And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
- And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
- And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
- And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
- And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
- But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
- And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
- Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
- For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
- Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
- And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
- And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
Many things we see illustrated in this parable. And number one is that the dead cannot intercede for those living on earth. Number two is that even the righteous (Abraham) couldn’t intercede for the wicked. What was Abraham’s response to the rich man about his family alive on earth, who he wanted intercession for? Abraham says, No, they have Moses and the Prophets (a synonym for the scriptures or law of God), let them hear them. And if the people on earth won’t hear that, then he says, “neither will they hear if one rose from the dead” to intercede and warn them. i.e., if man doesn’t hear the scriptures, He won’t hear Christ (He who rose from the dead to) tell them. He is therefore lost on earth. There is no intercession. A lesson by God for all of us who have the ears to hear it. Those on earth (the living) have God’s word, and that’s all they have, and they must hear by that, or they will not hear one who rose from the dead.
- “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
It is by God’s word that He draws men to Him and gives them the faith to overcome. It’s not by prayers to the dead, it is living faith by hearing God’s word, that we’ll pray for the living. And we note the though the Catholic Catechisms say praying for the dead can help loose them from their sins, God (who is our Authority) says that it is our praying for the living that will help loose them from their sins, in Christ.
- “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
It doesn’t say, after he is dead, pray, for it will save him, it illustrates that his forgiveness is in this life. While he is yet sick, not after he is dead.
- “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
Saints shall save a soul from death, and that doesn’t mean physical death. It is salvation from the second death. If we could be saved from the second death after our physical death, then God’s teaching that, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation,” is in vain. This is where the prayer of the true Christian should be. Where it can do some good, in the prayer of faith for the living. Not in prayers for an outcome which has already been decided by a man’s works in this life.
Jesus Christ does not need help from anyone as an alternative intercessor. Not Mary, not Saints, not Christians, nor our dearly departed friends and relatives. Therefore there is no good, nor need in praying for or to the dead. For we cannot change the destiny of anyone once they have died. That moment seals the fate of that person. Whether as a saved man, absent from the body, and present with the Lord (2nd Cor. 5:8), or to be absent from the body, and in silence and having no consciousness again until the second resurrection and judgment.
And so before anyone prays for another deceased loved one, or Saint, they should face the very pertinent facts of God’s word. These are unbiblical traditions of men, not the word of God, and are borne out of man’s humanism, and his leaning unto his own understanding. God’s word never calls for praying for the dead, nor does God imply that it does any good. On the contrary, God’s word illustrates that it is against God’s will, as his decision has “obviously” been made. Not a sparrow falls to the earth without God’s say so. His will for us is that we feed His sheep, and attend to the living.
Therefore, let us go forth with renewed vigor to honor God with more than mere words and traditions. Let us go forth praying for the living, and serving the living God by worshipping Him in spirit and truth. For superstition and pagan rituals involving the dead, are the way of the unrighteous, not the way of the Godly. The heart of the righteous honor God by honoring His word. Honoring tradition or the commandments of men, over God, is going the way of the Scribes and Pharisees.
- “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
- But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
The doctrines of men verses the commandments of God. There is a difference! And no one is going to escape accountability by claiming that they didn’t know the difference. For we are not led by men, but by the authoritative word of God. It is the Spirit of God which reveals truth, through God’s word. Should Christians pray for the dead? To what end? Praying for the dead is like asking God for fertilizer to help a tree, after axe has been laid to the root (Luke 3:8-9), and it has already been chopped down. We need to stop wallowing in pity and face the fact that at this point, it is too late to help that tree. The time for prayers for people is now, while they are alive. Once we are dead, our fate is sealed. Do we not understand why King David prayed and besought the Lord for his sick Child so long as the child was still alive. But he got up and ended beseeching the Lord after he knew the child was dead. He “obviously” understood what so many pagan religions today do not. That the time for supplication and prayer is while men are alive. While they live “as dead” in their trespass and sin. Not after God has taken them in physical death and they are appointed to the judgment.
We humbly pray that the Lord, who is Gracious and merciful above all, would give us the wisdom to discern His truth, and the strength to turn away from all unrighteousness in these doctrines of men.
Copyright ©2001 Tony Warren
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