April 26, 2013

Annamma & Pastor : Praying for the Departed

[Annamma’s home. Pastor enters with a Bible. Annamma is dressed well as she just returned from church]

Annamma: Welcome back. Good morning, come on in. I had gone to the church. Today was my father’s memory service and prayer of incense We just dispersed.
Pastor: (with a conceit smile) Good. What good does it do for your departed father other than you incurring some experiences.
Annamma: This is the opinion of people who don’t try to learn the Bible, instead carry the Bible everywhere. You are no different.
Pastor: Praise the Lord! Why did you say so? Is praying for the dead Biblical; can you show me the Bible verse to support it?
Annamma: Can you show me a verse, which says that we should not pray for the dead?
Pastor: “The dead do not praise the LORD, all those gone down into silence.” (Psalms 115:17). How clearly the Bible says that the dead do not know any thing.
Annamma: Why did you stop with a partial verse? Read the complete verse.
Pastor: “The dead does not praise the LORD, all those gone down into silence. It is we who bless the LORD, both now and forever.”
Annamma: This is an example for telling the people partial or out of context versus and confusing them. The verse says we will praise the Lord forever. But, we cannot live forever in this world. In other words, David who wrote this, did not live for ever nor do any of us. Isn’t it? So the meaning of this verse is not what you understood it to be. Also our Lord has commanded that one who believes in Him will live forever (John 11:26, 8:51).
Pastor: Then what does the word ‘dead’ mean in the verse?
Annamma: There are two types of death. The ‘dead’ here refers to one of them.
Pastor: A man has two types of deaths? Show me the Biblical evidence for this. Praise the Lord.
Annamma: I will talk based on the Bible only. One is death due to sin. Other is the physical death.
Pastor: I did not understand.
Annamma: Read Genesis 2:17. What did God tell Adam and Eve if they ate the fruit?
Pastor: “From the tree you shall not eat. The moment you eat from it, you are surely doomed to die.”
Annamma: Who said this?
Pastor: God tells Adam and eve what will happen to them if they ate the fruit.
Annamma: Did Adam eat the fruit?
Pastor: yes, they did.
Annamma: Did they die immediately as commanded by God?
Pastor: No, they did not die immediately and lived for another 900 years. But spiritually they died.
Annamma: So they did die spiritually. This is death because of sin. Because of this Spiritual death, he lost communion with God. He was expelled from Paradise. This is the result of spiritual death. One looses communion with God. Ezekiel 18:4 says ‘one who sins will die.” And in 18:20 says “Only the one who sins shall die”. “Then desire conceive and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death” (James 1:15).
Pastor: Can a person who is spiritually dead, live again? i.e. can he come out of the Spiritually dead state?
Annamma: Yes, one can. Listen to the following verses.
• “The sting of death is sin”(1 Corinthians 15:56)
• “You were dead in your transgression and sins. But God who is rich is mercy because of the great love he had for us even when we were dead in your transgressions, brought us to life with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-5)
• “Even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the un-circumcision of your flesh he brought you to life along with him having forgiven us all our transgressions” (I Colossians 2:13)
• “Therefore it says [to the spiritually dead] ‘Awake O sleeper, and raise from the dead. And Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14)
From all these verses we can see that people spiritually die in sins. But by God’s grace we can get out of this spiritually dead state.
Pastor: What state are the people who are spiritually dead in?
Annamma: They are separated from communion with God and do not praise God. They are in silence. Because they are in silence, they cannot praise the God. But believers and people who live in God, will praise the Lord forever.
Pastor: What does it mean ‘forever’ as in ‘will live for ever’?
Annamma: That is an important word. It does not mean that soul will only praise the LORD till one dies physically. But it means the soul will praise the LORD even after one’s physical death. If it is not this idea, then Palms 115:17 will be contradiction to one another. Even though a true Christian will die physically, his living soul will praise the Lord forever. That is what the Psalm 115:17 says. Since the word ‘die’ is used for both spiritual death as well as for physical death, one has to be careful not to be mistaken.
Pastor: In many parts of the Bible, a word ‘Sheol’ has been used to refer to a place where souls of unrighteous people live. So where is Sheol?
Annamma: This word is not limited to that context alone. It has also been used to refer to a shadowy underworld residence of spirits of the dead in sin, to describe living in sin, and in some other meanings also.
Pastor: It is written “For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol?” ( Psalm 6:5)
Annamma: That is a misunderstanding. David has written, “I praise you, Lord, for you raised me up and did not let my enemies rejoice over me. O Lord, my God, I cried out to you and you healed me. LORD, you brought me up from Sheol; you kept me from going down to the pit.” (Psalms 30:2-3). It is clear that the word Sheol is used here with meaning ‘a life in sin’ or ‘spiritual death’. Because, when David prayed that his life has been brought up from ‘Sheol’, he was alive.
Pastor: Why did David pray that his life has been brought up from ‘Sheol’, while he was alive?
Annamma: David sinned and experienced the life in Shoel (meaning living in life of sin). Then he repented and prayed to God in tears. God forgave him in His mercy. David was thankful to God and praised and prayed to God who raised him from Shoel. Faithfuls whether they are alive or departed from this world, will praise the Lord. That is why David said “It is we [faithfuls] who bless the LORD, both now and forever” “For if you live according to the flesh you will die but if by the spirit, you put to death, the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:5-13)
Pastor: I am confused. You are telling me, if a person dies still he lives?
Annamma: We so far were discussing about two types of death. Still you did not get it? Souls never die. The souls of the faithful will praise the Lord forever. Read Ezekiel 18:21-24.
Pastor: “But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps from all my statures and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced. Do I need derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? Says the LORD GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live? And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil, the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does can he do this and still live? None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered because he has broken faith and committed in sin; because of this, he shall die”
Annamma: In these verses it is clearly written that there are two kinds of death. Hope it is very clear to you.
Pastor: So are you saying that the believers who are dead are rejoicing in heavenly presence and not in silence or in a state of sleep?
Annamma: Isn’t this what the Bible says? “I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent has eternal life” (John 5; 24). ” And every one who lives and believes me, even if he dies will never die“ (John 11:26). “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death” (John 8:51). They are praising God all the time. Our Lord promised “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mathew 28:20). So, how is it possible that there could be no life after death?
Pastor: So the people who live according to the word of God do not die?
Annamma: “I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death” (John 8:51). So it is clear that a believer will die and his soul will live in Heavenly Presence and rejoice the LORD. This is what this verse says. Our Lord said “And every one who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:26). “The world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:17).” We are indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him thorough a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection” (Romans 6:4,5). So when the soul is renewed what it does is not silence but live in the newness of life. Read Luke 20:32
Pastor: “He is not God of the dead, but of the living”
Annamma: Read Mathew 22: 32
Pastor: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of the Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living”
Annamma: Was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living during the time of our Lord?
Pastor: No, they had been dead many generations back.
Annamma: Our Lord says that He is not God of the dead. But He also says that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who were dead many years before. Isn’t this a contradiction?
Pastor: It looks like it. What does it mean?
Annamma: Those patriarchs died and their body became soil. But believers including those patriarchs are not dead for God. Using their names as an example, we are taught that those believers are still living in Heavenly Presence and are not in silence as you said . Again we see that “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.\" \"You are greatly misled” (Mark 12:27). You guys don’t learn biblical truth well enough but quote partial versus and distort the truth. To such people our Lord said: “You are greatly misled”. “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad”. Here also we can see that Abraham had been dead for centuries, but our Lord says he is rejoicing His day. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities nor present things nor future things nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38). Tell me, can death separate us from our Lord as you say? “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” “Yet we are courageous and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6,8).
Pastor: I agree that believers can overcome physical death. But do they have the ability to speak?
Annamma: Read Hebrew 11:4
Pastor: “By faith Abel …though dead, he still speaks “
Annamma: What do you think? Is it proved beyond doubt that dead has the ability to talk? Read Luke 16:25
Pastor: “Abraham replied, My child, remember that you received what was good during your life time, while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here where as you are tormented”
Annamma: We can learn two things from this. 1) The life and death of the rich man and Lazarus were known to Abraham even though he was dead long before the rich man and Lazarus. 2) Abraham who is dead talks to rich man who is also dead. So what can you infer now? Can the dead talk? Read 1 Samuel 28:11-19.
Pastor: (reads) Here, in these verses prophet Samuel who was dead before Saul says, what happened to the King Saul and what would happen to Saul in future?
Annamma: Here also two things are clear. 1) Samuel who is dead talks. 2) Dead knows things that have already happened on earth and that which would happen in the earth in the future.
Pastor: Annamma, any more evidence on this in the New Testament?
Annamma: Yes. Read Luke 9:29-33
Pastor: This section describes the Transfiguration of Jesus. Elijah and Moses came and conversed to our Lord.
Annamma: Did Elijah and Moses live during the same era as our Lord?
Pastor: They lived many generations before.
Annamma: So Elijah and Moses who died many many years back came and talked to our Lord. So are the dead in silence as you said or can they talk?
Pastor: I agree now that the dead can talk. May be Moses and Elijah could talk after they are dead, because they are such great prophets and saints. But ordinary believers, can they talk?
Annamma: They can talk too. Read 1 Peter 3:19
Pastor: “In it he [Jesus] also went to preach spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient, while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved thorough water”. I have a doubt here. Our Lord spoke to people in prison and not to the dead. Praise the Lord!
Annamma: People to which Jesus preached, lived during the time of Noah, which was some 2300 years before the time of Jesus. So you really think those people were in some prison for all this 2300 years? You are something! Any way read 1 Peter 4:6
Pastor: “For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead. That though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God”.
Annamma: What do you say? Are you clear now that our Lord preached to the dead? They were not all prophets or saints. Now read Psalm 14:7
Pastor: “Jacob may rejoice and Israel be glad when the LORD restores his people”
Annamma: Here Jacob who was dead was able to know and rejoice when LORD restores his sons. So is Jacob in silence as you teach? I will show more examples. “Abraham you father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad “ ( John 8:56). How could Abraham do this? He was dead long long ago. “May Ruben live and not die out” ( Deutornomy 33:6 ). Here Moses pray for Ruben who is dead long ago.
Pastor: I agree to all this. But where does it say that we have to pray for the dead. Was it there in the early church? Wasn’t it added later?
Annamma: The Bible does not say if we should or should not pray for the dead. So we have to look at evidences.
Pastor: Yes, we have to see Biblical evidences. Praise the Lord.
Annamma: First we have to understand about the church and our Lord. We have seen that Church is the body of our Lord and our Lord is its head. (Ephesians 1:22, Colossians 1; 24 etc). Any doubt in it?
Pastor: No, No. They are Biblical verses.
Annamma: Church includes the living believers and the believers who are dead. So both are closely related.
Pastor: No doubt for it. The are like different parts of a body. They are all related.
Annamma: See, they are like different parts of a body. In a body, the parts help each other for their growth. Likewise, in mutual prayer, these parts of our Lords body are in communion and are spiritually prospered.
Pastor: This is pure logic. Praise the Lord. Show me the evidence.
Annamma: Aren’t the dead and living believers different organs of the body of our Lord, which is the Church.
Pastor: There is no mention of family and organ in the Bible. Praise the Lord.
Annamma: Listen to this. Apostle Paul has written that “raised us up with Him and seated us with him in the heaven in Christ Jesus\"
. “Therefore, since so great a cloud of witness surrounds us, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that cling to us and preserve in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” These are Lord’s commands. So a human body has visible and invisible parts, which work collectively for mutual growth. Like wise the visible and invisible member of the church should pray and work collectively for spiritual growth. This is what we call as the experience of a family.
Pastor: Stop Stop. Now you are just talking logic. The maximum I can agree is that there is a communion between the living believers, and so they could be called a family. I would not go any further. If we pray for the dead they do not know it. The prayer by the living believers for the dead without their consent or knowledge is of no use to them. With out my knowledge, suppose you pray for me. What good does that do for me Annamma?.
Annamma: So far we were discussing that dead can hear and talk etc. But if I pray for you, you may benefit. That is what the Bible says. Read 1 John 5: 16.
Pastor: “If any one sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly he should pray to God and he will give him life.”
Annamma: Here our Lord clearly says that if you see your brother sinning and if you have love and compassion for him, then if you pray for him, Lord God will forgive his sins. There are two types of sins. 1) Deadly sins 2) not deadly sins. So if some one prays for his brother’s non-deadly sins, those sins are forgiven. And so we are praying for the sins of people who are dead but whose soul is living. Because of our prayer, sins of those who are dead also will be absolved. This is Biblical.
Pastor: If that is the case, you can pray for any Tom, Dick and Harry who did all kinds of sins and they will receive eternal life. Then why should people live in just and as per Bible?
Annamma: We have to understand Bible well enough. There are some believers who lived in Christ and entrusted their life in God, but did non-deadly sins some how, by his knowledge or not. So we are praying for such people who died in Christ. Church does not teach to pray for the people who did not live in God nor died with out hope in Christ. You should also know that, church does not pray for people who committed suicide as they died without hope in Christ. The rule of the church is that, such people should not even be buried in the church cemetery.
Pastor: If this is the canon of the church then why pray for all the people who are dead?
Annamma: Any sinner can repent at any time. The thief who was crucified at the right with Christ lived a sinful life all through out his life. But he repented at the cross at the last hour. But not only he was forgiven, but also he was offered Paradise by our Lord. Therefore we ( the church) assume that when people die, they would have at least repented on their deathbed. If he did repent, then our prayers will be useful for him. Otherwise the prayer will come back to us.
Pastor: How can a prayer come back to us?
Annamma: In Mathew 10:12-13 “As you enter the house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come up on it. If not, let your peace return to you.” How does the peace return here? Just like that the prayer also will return.
Pastor: Payer is useful for the living people. What proof is there to show that prayer is effective even for the dead?
Annamma: If the soul of a living person gets the benefit of a prayer, why would we doubt that when that person dies and his soul gets separated, that this is not the case. Because whether a person lives or dies his soul lives. If one’s non-deadly sins are forgiven because of other’s prayers, then the soul in a living person or dead person will be forgiven. “May he be blessed by the LORD who is ever merciful to living or dead” (Ruth 2:20).
Pastor: I agree, but can you prove that some one really prayed for the dead and dead benefited out of that prayer.-
Annamma: Yes, read John 11:21-22. These sentences describe what Martha told our Lord. She told Him that if He were there her brother would not have died. “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” So what is Martha request here? Ask what for whom?
Pastor: Probably to ask for life of her brother Lazarus who is dead? Praise the Lord.
Annamma: Yes, it is. Our Lord accepted that prayer. He raised Lazarus. Our Lord accepted a prayer for Lazarus who was dead. This is a clear evidence. Again let us look at the following verses.
• “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you” (Hebrews 13:7). We are commanded here to remember all your church fathers that led us and taught us. All of those church leaders are not alive now. We are ordered to remember them and pray for them.
• 2 Timothy 1:16-18. The Oneshphorus mentioned in this verse had been dead. The Biblical scholars agree on it. Protestant Scholar Dummale mentions it especially in his Bible interpretation. We see here that Paul is praying for Onesiphorus who was dead.[1]
Pastor: Any more, more conspicuous evidences in the Bible?
Annamma: Yes there are. Read 1 Timothy 5:4
Pastor: “If a widow has children or grand children, let these first learn to perform their religious duty to their own parents for this is pleasing to God” (1 Timothy 5:4)
Annamma: Who is a widow?
Pastor: a lady whose husband died.
Annamma: So her son’s father died?
Pastor: Yes.
Annamma: The verse asks ‘the sons of the dead father to perform religious duty for the father. How can sons do that?
Pastor: That is a good question. Praise the Lord. Can you tell me?
Annamma: We cannot do any thing materially to a father who is dead. Can we? But we can pray for them or we can celebrate Holy Communion in their name. This is what the Bible teaches us. We have to obey it. We call such Holy Communion as ‘Anida Qurbana’. ‘Anida' in Syriac means departed. (Qurbana means Gift or offering). Read 1 Corinthians 15:29
Pastor: “Otherwise what people will accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?” What is this? How can one be baptized for the dead?
Annamma: To know the meaning of the word baptism read Mathew 20:22. This was our Lord’s reply when mother of Zebedee prayed that her sons (James and John) be commanded to sit on His left and right side.
Pastor: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized” (Mark 10:39). The word baptizing here means difficulty, sacrifice etc?
Annamma: Yes it is. “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, how great is my anguish until it is accomplished” (Luke 12:50). So it is clear that baptism means suffering, difficulty, sacrifice etc. The Jewish church had a practice of suffering for the dead. When Apostle Paul says ‘be baptized for the dead ‘ he refers to this Jewish Practice.
Pastor: Any other interpretation other than this?
Annamma: What other way can we interpret this? Lord said we have to baptize and perform religious duty for the dead. The only way to achieve this is to celebrate Holy Communion, observe Lent, do charitable act etc. All these are Biblical and involves prayer and some sacrifice and suffering. Read Deuteronomy 26:14
Pastor: “I have not eaten any of the tithe as a mourner; I have not brought any of tithe as a mourner; I have not brought any of it out as one unclean; I have not offered any of it to the dead.” What does this verse mean? Nothing has been spent for the dead?
Annamma: See, the Jewish burial is very expensive. Subsequent 30-40 days are considered as mourning days. The priests and relatives pray and offer sacrifices in those days. And so, those days were very expensive for the family. So this verse says nothing has been taken from tithe[2] for those expenses has been done honestly . “For thirty days the Israelites wept for Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:8). “And for thirty days the whole house of Israel mourned for Aaron.” (Number 20:29). So when it is written they mourned for 30 days it meant, they were praying and performing other religious things.
Pastor: Any more evidence in the Bible to prove that one prayed for the dead?
Annamma: Yes in Exodus 28- when God instructs the making of Ephod[3] these instructions were given. A breast piece[4] should be made and “Each stone engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes” (Exodus 28:29). “Whenever Aaron enters the sanctuary, he will thus bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breast piece of decision over his heart as a constant reminder before the LORD” (Exodus 28:29). Here Lord commanded it is not enough to remember the Israelites but should remember in special the 12 patriarchs who were dead. Isn’t it a command to pray for the dead?
Annamma: We have seen that Martha, sister of Lazarus prayed for Lazarus and her prayer was accepted and he became alive from the dead. Read Mathew 9:18
Pastor: An official came to him and said “My daughter has just died. But come lay your hand on her and she will live”.
Annamma: That father prayed for whom?
Pastor: For his daughter who was dead.
Annamma: We know, our Lord accepted that prayer. And in Acts 9:40 describes such an incident. “Peter knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said “Tabitha rise up”. She opened her eyes”. Wasn’t it prayer for the dead ? Lord accepted that prayer too.
Pastor: Yes, our Lord listened to that prayer. But I have one doubt. You said that people who died physically with hope in Jesus Christ do not die really. But can they see Lord and listen to Lord?
Annamma: Yes they can. “Who ever keeps my word will never taste death“ (John 8:51). “The hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear me will live” (John 5:25). “Because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs, will hear his voice” (John 5:28). “Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day” (John 8:56). Read Job 19:26,27
Pastor: “Although devouring worms shall see God, then my heart also will see the light; but now my body is consumed.”
Annamma: Here Job believes that after his death he can see Lord. Read 1 Corinthians 13:12
Pastor: “At present we see indistinctively as in a mirror but then [after death] face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known”.
Annamma: Here Paul says that the soul will clearly and fully see after it is separated from the body. Read Romans 14:8,9
Pastor: “For if we live, we live for the Lord and if we die we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life”
Annamma: From this verse what we see is that Lord rules both the living world and dead world and both living and dead are equal to him. I don’t know how you guys carry the Bible all the time and say that the dead are in silence. Read Hebrew 9:27, 28
Pastor: “Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ offered once to take away the sins of many will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him”
Annamma: Don’t you know that people who wait for him also includes the souls of the departed believers. Those departed souls wait anxiously for the Lord’s coming. Isn’t it foolishness to say that those souls are silent and ignorant? The church teaches that both the dead and living are part of the church and both should be in communion. Isn’t denying church’s command a sin? Since our Lord tells that we should pray for the dead, isn’t opposing it a sin. We should not teach heresies “We want you to be aware, brothers about those who have fallen asleep” ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13). So be aware of those who have fallen asleep.
Pastor: Praise the Lord!. I will rejoice in God today as I learned so much from the Bible. Praise the Lord. Thank You
Annamma: I am glad that you are learning. We can talk again. Come back and see us. Bye.