Praying for the dead
Posted by Clyde Herrin
The Bible tells us that after death everyone will exist for eternity in one of two places, Heaven or Hell. Some believe that those destined for Heaven will first spend time in a place called Purgatory. Here is the Catholic Dictionary’s definition of Purgatory: “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” Those who believe in purgatory also believe that the living can help those in purgatory by praying for them.
Purgatory is never mentioned in the Bible. Furthermore the Bible teaches that our sins are removed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that our own suffering has no part in this.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
The logical conclusion is that there is no Purgatory.
Those who are in Heaven have no need of our prayers. Those who are in Hell cannot be helped by our prayers. Purgatory does not exist. In light of these three facts, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no point in praying for those who have died. But there is another fact that shows there may be times when praying for the dead can help them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24)
God is omniscient. He not only hears every prayer that is being made now but also knows every prayer that will be made in the future. This means that he can answer a prayer before we even make it. He can answer a prayer for a living person even if the prayer isn’t made until after that person dies.
Suppose someone we know dies and we don’t know whether or not he was saved. We can still pray for his salvation. If God chooses to answer our prayer he will do so by having that person hear and respond to the gospel while he is still alive. Our prayers can’t change the past but they can help to determine what the past is.