Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Get out of Purgatory Free!

Go buy this. There are at least 200 of my church people that read this blog every day or so. This is your pastor's son-in-law. Which means you could win MAJOR purgatory points for you or your loved ones.

P.S. Send me 10,000 dollars.

So this has turned into an interesting discussion on Purgatory so I have amended the post a bit. Please join. Much is being learned and said. Come on in and join the Catholic/Protestant dialogue and learn a thing or two, or maybe teach a thing or two. Here are a few excerpts.

Sussane: "I don't have a problem with any other Christian believing in Purgatory...I'm not offended or anything...I just don't personally believe in it since Scripture doesn't come right out and say anything about it that I'm aware of. Scripture is indeed ambiguous about many things, though, and only God knows everything that happens to our souls after death..."

Doug: "The idea of a final purification before the resurrection is a very ancient one, and orthodox Jews pray for the dead to this day. As Scripture says, "He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. *For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.*" 2 Macc 12:43-44 "

44 comments:

Joey said...

aren't you funny. ha. i mean...HA! sorry....it's always better the second time. OH! and coke black tastes absolutely terrible. Thanks for that.

Susanne said...

I don't believe in purgatory, but making points with my pastor...not a bad idea. :) Seriously, I'd love any album of Shaun's, so I need to buy it. I also want to buy a Five Cent Stand album with "Heaven Bent" on it. Do you guys have that on a CD yet, or are you planning to? That is a beautiful song.

Susanne said...

Just bought the album!

Douglas said...

Sorry, I purchased a 2 year music subscription service on the wife mandated condition that I put an endo to actual cd purchasing for that time period. I'll have to wait until Yahoo Music adds it to their collection.
-----------------------------------

"I don't believe in purgatory"

I've been trying for years to convince my Protestant friends to add "at least yet" to statements like that. The furthest I've gotten is for some of them to admit that Scripture is somewhat ambiguous on the topic, depending on which books you have in your Bible and how you interpret certain NT passages. It's kind of like those who deny the existence of hell. Some will admit that it may exist, but almost nobody thinks that if it does they might end up there. The difference between people's personal perceptions of hell and purgatory is that most people who believe in purgatory think that they will end up there for awhile.

Doug

Seth Ward said...

I believe in a purgatory of sorts, personally. I have no problem with the concept.

It is sort of like when you repent. When you repent, there is a real sorrow, or pain that takes place. It is a beautiful pain because it is healing. Same kind of thing. I just don't see why things would be much different as far as sin "purging" from her to there.

The Cachinnator said...

Who is this "her" that you are purging there, Seth? Something Amber should know about???

Seth Ward said...

here man I meant here!!!!!!

I have been mis-spelling like a mad dog lately. Or more than usual.

And while we are on the subject, what would YOUR thoughts be on the subject of the ole' cleaning oven?

... my fellow Baptist.

(or anyone else for that matter. This is not something that I really think is too awfully important n the grand scheme of things so if you disagree, I am not at all offended.)

Also, did any of my Protestant friends reading this know that C. S. Lewis also believed in Purgatory? I thought that was interesting.

Susanne said...

I don't have a problem with any other Christian believing in Purgatory...I'm not offended or anything...I just don't personally believe in it since Scripture doesn't come right out and say anything about it that I'm aware of. Scripture is indeed ambiguous about many things, though, and only God knows everything that happens to our souls after death. I don't have a problem with purgatory as long as the end result is spending eternity in Heaven with Christ. As long as I get to spend forever with Him, then purgatory won't be a problem for me! I think it's pretty pointless to argue about it if the end result is the same. Make sense? Kinda like arguing about new earth vs. old earth. No matter how long it took him to do it, God still created it! :)

Seth Ward said...

Absolutely Susanne.

As a matter of fact Christians should have that attitude about a whole lot of things.

Always love reading your comments.

whosebob said...

I think one's belief in and understanding of Purgatory can be affected by the understanding one has of the Atonement.

Many (though not all) Protestant Christians understand the Cross strictly in terms of "substitutionary punishment," and in that framework Purgatory doesn't make any sense, because it would be either be "double jeopardy" (i.e. Christ suffered punishment for your sins and then you suffered for them too) or it would imply that something is being added to the finished work of Christ.

Does that make sense?

By the way, I'm an American Catholic and didn't realize how much my own personal understanding of the Atonement had been influenced by the popular Protestant outlook (i.e. Cross == substitutionary punishment) until I started digging into the subject more deeply a few years ago. Once I started to unravel the differences between the Catholic and Protestant schools of thought in this regard, it gave me a whole new outlook in how to understand the disagreements over other matters like Purgatory, the Mass as Sacrifice, indulgences, etc.

I have lots of friends who are Protestants, and don't intend to slight their beliefs by pointing this out. It's just that I think it's a really worthwhile subject and one that's rarely explored.

In Christ.

IC XC NIKA

euphrony said...

I think that two things we can all readily agree on is that 1) Those who are saved in Christ go to heaven and 2) other than #1, God is rather vague on the who process of what happens after our death. Personally, my views seems to be more along the lines of those of Edward Fudge, the so-called "limited hell" perspective. Fudge holds a debate on this with Robert Peterson in the book Two Views of Hell.

I'm not completely versed in Catholic dogma, whosebob. Everything I've read in the Bible points to Jesus taking our sin, our shame, so that we do not suffer the wages of that sin. And under that, the standard view of Purgatory does not make a lot of sense. Now, I'm not saying that there's not something that goes on between the passing of the physical body and the spirit's entrance into heaven: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 tells us that at the End, the "dead in Christ shall rise first", which (with other passages) seems to indicate that when we die, we lie in the grave until the return of Christ.

Douglas_Coombs said...

If Jesus took all the shame and pain for our sin, then any suffering here on earth is a repudiation of the efficacy of Christ's atonement. Jesus died so that we would not have to face the eternal consequences for our sin. He didn't take all the pain and suffering away from sin, though. That is why Paul wrote that he made up for what is lacking in Christ's sufferings through his own imperfect and nondivine suffering here on earth (Col 1:24).

The verse Euphrony cites (I Thess. 4:16) refers to a bodily resurrection. Purgatory is not a bodily suffering, nor is it a place per se; it is a state of existence.

I Cor 3:10-15 clearly refers to a purification of the soul that is necessary after baptism and before seeing God. It seems to me that the verse is also speaking of a purification that occurs after death.

I should probably clarify that when I say Scripture is ambiguous on the matter, that it doesn't express things with the precision we do today. Scripture also isn't crystal clear on the eternal/divine nature of Christ. The arians had a saying that went something like, "there was a time when the Son was not." They also had several verses to support that view, and explanations for verses that contradicted that viewpoint. Hebrews 1:5 and Colossions 1:15 come to mind as verses that could be taken to support such a view. The fact that the coeternal nature of Christ is simply a given in evangelical circles is really more a matter of interpretive tradition rather than the idea being absolutely provable from Scripture, since there are many verses that could be interpreted otherwise (e.g., Job 38:7, Psalm 82:6, John 10:34-36, Mark 13:32 and I Tim 2:5).

I guess that's a long way of saying that while I don't think Scripture alone irrefutably lays out a concept of purgatory, I believe the elements are all there if you look. I also think that there is just as much evidence for purgatory as for other beliefs like the coeternal nature of Christ.

Anyway, that's alot to write and I still haven't touched on the beautiful doctrine of the efficacy of praying for the dead.

Seth Ward said...

LOOK OUT!!!

Seth Ward said...

I think that suffering is too often equated with death.

Death is the penalty. Suffering has long been thought to be "taking on the suffering of Christ WITH Christ AS Christ" So suffering in a sense is a kind of gift. "On Understanding of Pain God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world" as Lewis puts it.

Seth Ward said...

btw, don't be shy about disagreeing here. Its good to learn from eachother. Disagreement can be incredibly healthy.

The Cachinnator said...

I disagree! It's very unhealthy! DISAGREE!

The Cachinnator said...

Kidding... KIDDING! I'm kidding. I'll weigh in later, but I'll just say that good stuff is being said here. Also, there's suffering and there's suffering. Most of what we today would call suffering isn't. We're just wimps.

Seth Ward said...

Excellent point.

Totally whimps. I mean, in five years, in stead of hip replacements, we will be injecting stem cells in your thigh and regrowing tissue. (the NEW stem cell stuff not the stuff from the emb.)

euphrony said...

Doug, thanks for expounding a little bit. Like I said, we can at least agree that there are many Christian tenets that are not spelled out quite as clearly as the Ten Commandments. I tend to look at 1 Cor. 3:10-15 and see something very different from what you seem to. I see it as similar in thought to Job's in Job 23:10 ("When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.") - that the "fire" in 1 Cor. is the trials of life, by which God purifies us and makes us come forth as gold; I do not read a link to purgatory here.

I agree that suffering is a kind of gift, that reminds us of the fact that we are not at the top, self-reliant, and that we need God. The eternal consequences of sin, death - this is what we have been redeemed of, not necessarily the immediate consequences (if I were to have an adulterous relationship with my friends wife, God will forgive me of this but my friendship will never be the same again).

Susanne said...

Is purgatory why Catholics believe in praying for the dead? I never understood that. I've always believed that once you're dead, no praying can help you if you were lost at the time you died. That's why it always bothers me when someone is talking about someone they know who just died and they say, "Please pray for them and for their family." I see how praying for their family will do much good, but I don't see much point in praying for the dead person. Is this a totally new topic? Anyway, I think no matter which view is correct, we should live our lives as if people do not get a second chance...we should not leave anything to chance as far as eternity is concerned.

Douglas said...

"Is purgatory why Catholics believe in praying for the dead? I never understood that. I've always believed that once you're dead, no praying can help you if you were lost at the time you died."

Yes, purgatory is why Catholics believe in praying for dead Christians. Both Catholics and Protestants agree that if you die and are headed to hell, then no amount of prayer will help. However, Catholics believe that we must be actually holy and purified of all evil before we enter heaven. Since Christians are obviously not like that here on earth, then there must a some way of attaining that before we get to heaven. Catholics believe prayer can help your grandmother in purgatory just like it can help your teenage in high school.

The idea of a final purification before the resurrection is a very ancient one, and orthodox Jews pray for the dead to this day. As Scripture says, "He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. *For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.*" 2 Macc 12:43-44 emphasis added

Doug

Susanne said...

Thanks so much for the explanation! I always enjoy reading your posts, Doug. Great food for thought. I'm still a little confused though about why we would need to pray for those being purified if they're on their way to Heaven anyway. I assume that they wouldn't lose their salvation while in purgatory? Are you just praying for them to get to Heaven as soon as possible rather than stay in purgatory?

Douglas said...

"Are you just praying for them to get to Heaven as soon as possible rather than stay in purgatory?"

Yes! You are starting to understand! You now understand far more about purgatory than I did before trying to convert a Catholic who actually knew their faith. Every moment apart from our Lord's presence in heaven is a suffering we shouoldn't wish on anybody. On top of that, the more saints there are in heaven, the more people there are praying for us here on earth. From what I see, we could use all the prayer we can get. And if the prayer of a righteous man on earth avails much, how much more the prayers of those who are in heaven and completely free from sin.

"Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out" (Cyprian of Carthage, Catechetical Lectures 23:5:9)

"Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them" (John Chrysostom - Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5).

Pendrax said...

Interesting topic. Thanks for suggesting we discuss this Seth! :-)

I am not very well informed, but of course have an opinion anyway!

Has anyone else read Randy Alcorn's book "Heaven"? I'm about 100 pages into it and am fascinated by his notion that Heaven is a physical place not a spiritual one, and that there is an "intermediate Heaven" (also physical) that is where we exist between our death and the great white throne judgment of Revelation 20.

I don't think this is purgatory. It's Heaven. I don't think further refining of the believer beyond what happens on earth is really possible or necessary. God does not accept us into his presence on the basis of who we are, so we don't need to get better in any way (Eph 2:8-9). Christ is our way to Heaven.

Alcorn does neatly solve the time-sequence problem that has always confused me. How do I reconcile Jesus' words from the cross in Luke 23:43 with Paul's in 1 Thess 4:16? Alcorn suggests the intermediate Heaven as the solution.

In any case, I think I'm stating pretty standard Protestant stuff so far. I'm still a little fuzzy on the whole works-judgment piece where we have to give an account of our life to God (Romans 14:11-12), but perhaps that's a different thread?

euphrony said...

Pendrax,
Consider this possibility when looking at Luke 23:43. Here is how it apears in the NASB:

"And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'"

Now, read it this way:

"And He said to him, 'Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.'"

What's the difference? The comma at today is moved from before to after - and punctuation was not used in Greek writing, so that is our addition. By moving the comma, you can take this from meaning that in a couple of minutes the thief and Jesus would be feasting together in heaven to it being am emphatic statement ("I'm telling this you right now") that the thief would go to heaven but with no timeline given.

Submitted for your consideration.

Susanne said...

Thanks for your words, Douglas. I don't understand this part though:
"the more saints there are in heaven, the more people there are praying for us here on earth." I know you quoted some outside sources, but I can't think of anywhere in the Bible that tells of saints in heaven being able to pray. Not really important to me in the grand scheme of things since the Holy Spirit is already our intercessor (Romans 8:26, NIV: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express"), but still curious.

Rob, I liked what you had to say. The part that really hit me was, "God does not accept us into his presence on the basis of who we are." How true that is, and how thankful we all should be!! I'll have to check out Alcorn's book as well.

whosebob said...

I would like to suggest some helpful resources from the Catholic POV, if that's okay:

First are the very fine Purgatory, Prayers for the Dead, and Communion of Saints articles in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. Just keep in mind that materials in the 1913 C.E. sometimes exhibit a "combative defensiveness" that was not untypical in scholarly Catholic works of that era, particularly among English-speaking Catholics. Since I mentioned "atonement" as well, in relation to the concept of Purgatory, let me also recommend the Atonement article.

Second are the Saints and Purgatory pages on ScriptureCatholic.com.

Third are the relevant paragraphs from the indispensable Catechism of the Catholic Church (pay attention to the footnotes!): Purgatory and related == 1030 - 1032 (actually, that whole section on the afterlife is relevant to this discussion, 1020 - 1065); 1471 - 1479, 1498; Communion of Saints == 946 - 962; Christ's redemptive suffering and death == 595 - 647.

Fourth are some pages from the Catholic Answers website: Purgatory, Roots of Purgatory, Intercession of the Saints, Praying to the Saints.

I hope those materials contribute positively to the discussion.

IC XC NIKA

Seth Ward said...

Whosebob, thanks for those links! Very helpful in understanding those doctrines. Personally, as a Protestant, I love that Catholic Encyclopedia. It is an unbelievable source of information for the Catholic AND the Protestant. It is akin to the Christian or Religion version of the Wikipedia. I have yet to be disappointed when using it as a reference.

operamama said...

this article rocks! i have no valid opinions, but i just wanted to let everyone know that i enjoyed reading this, and i have learned a lot. purgatory is a concept that i have been thinking a lot about lately. this gives me a great start. thanks all.

Seth Ward said...

So it seems that we are thus far agreeing that there is possibly something inbetween here and heaven?

Or at least we are all open to the possibility of an 'in between.'

Safe to say?

Susanne said...

Safe to say that I agree with the possibility of there being something in between here and heaven. I'm just not going to worry about what it might be, though, because I know that when I die I'll be with Jesus for eternity! What a wonderful day that will be. Maranatha!!!

Oh - and like we were discussing this morning, the idea of saints praying for us does intrigue me. I don't know much at all about that doctrine, but it does intrigue me and make me want to read more about it. Thanks again for a great topic, Seth, and thanks to everyone for discussing!!

Douglas said...

Susanne,

I think the reason you didn't fully understand the bit the saints in heaven praying for us, was that I changed topics without stating so. We hadn't really discussed that up to that point. I think you still got the basics of purgatory down, though it could be fleshed out a whole lot more. Doctrine is just so interconnected, it's hard to talk about something like this without getting into other topics. Purgatory is connected to all of the following and is much easier to understand if one understands the other concepts as well.

1) Inclusion of the Deuterocanonicals in the OT, Macabees is the book that most directly talks about praying for departed souls.
2) The communion of saints. What is the relationship between the members of the mystical body of Christ in heaven, hell and purgatory?
3) The place of tradition and church authority. Does the Bible have everything we need to know to know and do God's will. How do we know what Biblical interpretation is correct?

I slipped in a quote from Maccabees (#1) some quotes from saints (loosely #3) and and a comment toward the end on the saints in heaven praying for us (#2). In other words, I've been very bad at staying on topic. Of course, it can be tough at times. Have you ever tried having a conversation on the formation of the NT canon without getting into questions of Church authority? Try talking to a modern day gnostic about that topic and it will go there in about two seconds with some sort of accusation that the Church manipulated the canon to buttress their doctrinal decisions... and if we're honest, they are at least partially right, but that's another discussion.

Getting back to the topic of purgatory, I had a friend tell me once that purgatory may well exist (and may even likely exist) but he just wasn't going to worry about it because it didn't affect how he lived his life. In once sense, he was right. He wasn't going to be more gentle with his wife and kids or reach out more to strangers just because he believed in purgatory. His motivation was love for Christ and that wouldn't change much (or at all in his eyes). On the other hand, inclusion of prayers for the departed can have a huge effect on one's life. Inclusion of prayers for the departed at family prayer time will lead to interesting discussions between you and your children and between your children and their friends. Inclusion of prayers for the departed in a setting with other Protestants can quickly earn one the left foot of fellowship. And of course, if our prayers can lessen the suffering of Grandma Betty and quicken her entry into heaven, won't that make a huge difference in her temporal life. As good parents, we do what we can to lessen our children's unnecessary suffering: shouldn't we do the same for our parents and grandparents? Lastly, if the Catholic Church is right about purgatory, might there be other things that are much more Biblical and true than previously thought? I know from experience that that can be a frightening thought. As Chesterton wrote, it is not so frightening at first, when one is just learning about what the Church really teaches and is trying to put behind all the myths. It is only after one starts to actually believe some of the uniquely Catholic doctrine that such study and prayer becomes alarming and even frightening.
http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/02/conversion-to-catholicism-general.html

Doug

Seth Ward said...

I think the most attractive thing to me about purgatory, whether I decide to believe it or not, is the concept that we are not disconnected from those who have gone on. I think most of the time we just sort of imagine the spirit world and the hereafter as being a bunch of bodiless spirits floating around with Jesus.

I believe that we are still very-much ourselves. In fact, more ourselves than we ever were able to be here in this life. If there is a purgatory, I imagine that would be the purpose. Another refining fire in the totality of God working through us to be the Saints we were meant to be.

Susanne said...

The only problem I have with those who have gone on before us knowing about what's going on down here is that the Bible says that in Heaven there will be no more tears in our eyes. That seems to say to me that we won't know about what's going on back here, because if we did, wouldn't we cry many tears of sadness? It would make me sad if I was in Purgatory/Heaven and I saw my family member doing terrible things, or if I looked down and saw a world at war. Thoughts?

Seth Ward said...

Good question Susanne.

Doug? Whosebob?

Douglas said...

Sorry to take so long answering. This will be off the cuff, so forgive me.

From my own perspective, even if people in heaven were ignorant of the specifics, they would still know that there were wars and bad things going on down on earth. I doubt there's been a single day in the last 10,000 years when somebody didn't die somewhere of some preventable cause, if only people would love and care for each other more. Every single day in America 3500 human lives are taken through abortion. That isn't going to change overnight. If I were to die and go to heaven tomorrow, all the crap going on right now would still be going on. I don't think that people suddenly become ignorant of their former life when they go to heaven. Surely, even if they don't know the specifics, they know some pretty horrendous stuff is going on down below.

Also, God is in heaven and He knows everything. Is He then not sad? Does he not have tears or sadness for what goes on down here on earth? I ask that sincerely and not rhetorically. I haven't thought about it and don't know which way I'll end up after I do think/read about it. I guess there are some who would argue that God is impassible, but those conversations are beyond what I understand.

All of that is along way of saying that I really don't know what our state of mind will be when we get to heaven. I do think though that specific knowledge isn't any more saddening than general knowledge. This is especially true when we love as Christ loves. Christ says love your enemies and the stranger, not just those who are our friends.

Good question. I wish I had a better answer, but I don't. I don't understand that whole heaven emotion thing.

-----------------
To change topics and go to the question of whether saints can intercede for us to heaven, I've heard reference given to Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4. I wrote an explanation of this, but I was looking for a reference and found something that explains it better than me, so I deleted what I wrote and give you this link if you are interested.
http://www.catholic.com/library/Intercession_of_the_Saints.asp

Doug

Douglas said...

BTW: Is there a webpage somewhere that explains how to leave pretty links instead of text urls that can be copied but not read.

euphrony said...

Doug, for a hyperlink type the following:
<a href="http://www.website.com">Web site name or other text here</a>

So, for your above link it would look like
<a href="http://www.catholic.com/library/Intercession_of_the_Saints.asp
">Reference</a>

Hope that helps you out.

Now, on the topic, have I missed scripture that says that once we pass from earth we ever consider it again? I'm not trying to say one thing or the other, but I'm not sure of a biblical reference to what we do after we die besides worship before God. The lack of definition makes me a bit skeptical. (I'm not discarding the parrable of Lazarus and the rich man. I'm just not sure that Jesus was trying to paint an accurate picture of the afterlife or if He was telling a story to make a point.)

The Cachinnator said...

This one's pretty good if you can read the content for all the ads on it.

And just because I've been quiet doesn't mean I'm not all up in this discussion. Doug, I really can't thank you enough for your presence here, your words, your prayers, and your spirit. It's beautiful and enlightening. Thank you again.

As someone who finds himself drawn to Catholicism in many ways, I must say that I can easily believe in purgatory. Doug and Whosebob, I don't think I'm telling you anything you don't know here, but many Protestants and especially Baptists are raised on shameful misinformation about Catholicism. We are typically taught it about as accurately as Judaism is taught in Saudi Arabia.

For me, I'm finding that belief is something of a process. I realized some time ago that purgatory made some sense to me. (Just as I did the deuterocanonical works and at least a much grander understanding of Church authority and history.) I'm not yet praying for those gone before me, but I'm not surprised that I'm prayerfully pondering it.

And as for Susanne's question about tears in heaven, if this idea comes from Revelation 21:4, then read it again. It says that God "will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." It doesn't actually say that there will be no tears, it says we will be comforted and that along with that comfort comes peace and the cessation of mourning, crying, pain, and death. It doesn't say it will instantaneous. It really doesn't say anything about process, just result.

So that could be entirely compatible with a belief in purgatory.

And as for what I said earlier about suffering, it's a matter of perspective. Pain isn't suffering. It can be, but it is not by definition. Not having two cars isn't suffering. Not making 100k/yr isn't suffering.

I agree that suffering can be holy, I just hope we are all clear about what suffering truly is. It's deathly serious.

Douglas said...

Euphrony and Cach,

Thanks for the hyperlink info!

-------------------------------

Euphrony,

You are right about scripture not being too clear on all that folks will do once we get to heaven. The apostles certainly didn't write scripture like St. Thomas wrote the Summa. Revelation refers to angels and the 24 elders offering the prayers of the saints to God (8:3-4 and 5:8). This seems to indicate that they are interceding for us. The parable of Lazaraus in Luke also seems to indicate that folks in the afterlife can intercede for us. Tobit 12:15 directly states that angels pray for us. Also, II Macabees 15 (esp. v. 14) relates a vision that Judas Macabees had in which he sees an old man and is told that it is Jeremiah the prophet, long dead, who loves the Jews and prays for them (present tense). Lastly, Revelation 6:14 relates a story about the saints begging God to intervene on earth and take vengeance for their deaths.

Is this convincing? In large part, it depends on how much credence you give to the deuterocanonicals. By itself, when I was a Protestant, such evidence was only partially convincing. Since nobody in heaven ever wrote a book of scripture, all we have for references are the visions and parables of people on earth. That's not the type of literature that is wisely assumed to be literal in most cases.

What tipped my opinion when I was still a Protestant was the witness of the early Christians. The early church fathers didn't blink at stating that the saints in heaven pray for us. One can also find requests for these prayers on early Christian tombstones. The first Christians spoke of this like it was a commonly known fact and didn't contradict it. That's what tipped my opinion regarding how to interpret the scriptures that by themselves could be taken in a dozen or more ways. I will end with a couple early church father quotes and a tombstone inscription.

"But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep" (Origen, On Prayer 11)."


"Atticus, sleep in peace, secure in your safety, and pray anxiously for our sins" (funerary inscription near St. Sabina’s in Rome [A.D. 300]).

"You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us so that we may love him" (Ephraim the Syrian, Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).

Anyways, I don't know what you will find convincing. There are other ways at arriving the same conclusion other than the path I took.

---------------------
Cach,

Thanks for your kind words. It's nice after getting reprimanded recently by others to find that somebody takes my words in the spirit they are meant. Too often I come off as a bit of a jerk, which I try hard not to be.

Thanks especially for the comments on the emotions/comfort of our departed brothers and sisters in heaven. I hadn't thought of the passage from Revelation that way before. Thanks for helping fill the empty spaces in my brain/theology.

Doug

Susanne said...

Thanks, guys, for so much information! Very interesting. As for what I was asking about whether or not the dead know about what's going on down here, I think that heaven will be such a wonderful place that even if we know about this world, we'll have such an understanding of the big picture that it won't bother us nearly as much as it does while we're alive. Cach, I see what you're saying about that Revelation passage. I can see how that would jive with the idea of purgatory. Much to think about! Thanks!

euphrony said...

Doug,
Thanks for your responses. What I am enjoying most here is the honest discussion. I may not be changed in my convictions as they stand right now, but one thing I do find importanrt is to have them challenged - constantly - so that I must ask why I believe and answer myself. This keeps me centered not one what I believe, but on what I have been given: the Word of God.

I'm rather pressed for time right now, but I'll try to respond more later. Seth, could you do us a favor and link this post somewhere near the top of you blog so we can find it a little easier? Just asking . . .

Seth Ward said...

I don't really know how....

me have no computer sav.

do you mean in a post or something?

I got rid of a couple of less-than-popular posts.

Jenny from Chicago said...

I hate to state the obvious, but you realize that the Protestants don't have the Maccabees in their bible. Only Catholics acknowledge that book of the bible.