Deuterocanonical ("Apocryphal") Books

Praying For The Dead

Whenever I see an internet article about a tragic death, I look at the comments.

Most people comment that we should pray for the victim’s family. But some people comment that we should pray for the victim’s family, and the victim.

By reading these comments, one can generally tell if the commenter’s view of the dead is more influenced by Protestantism, or Catholicism.  Protestants post that we should pray for the victim’s surviving family. Catholics post that we should also pray for the dead victim.

Protestantism 101

It is Protestantism 101 to know that we should not pray for the dead. But here’s the problem. In large swaths of Protestantism, it’s also Protestantism 101 to know that Christians will be raptured off the planet before the Great Tribulation. This is nowhere in the Bible, but multitudes of Protestants believe it wholeheartedly. Here’s another problem. In large swaths of Protestantism, it’s Protestantism 101 to know that Israel no longer has any Biblical relevance. This is also nowhere in the Bible, but multitudes of Protestants believe it wholeheartedly. Here’s another problem. In large swaths of Protestantism, it’s Protestantism 101 to know that the Roman Empire will revive in the latter days to become the Antichrist’s empire. This directly contradicts the voluminous identifying information the Bible gives us to reveal the non-Roman identity of the Antichrist’s empire to anyone who reads the Bible, and believes it over the traditions of men.

Judas Maccabee

You get the point. Protestantism has enough theological error in it that I am not taking their word for anything anymore. So why should I take their word about praying for the dead?

So Judas [Maccabee] having gathered together his army… came… to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchres of their fathers. And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews [the dead Israeli soldiers had been found to be wearing pagan good luck charms]: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. [The surviving Israeli soldiers believed (maybe rightfully so) that God allowed the dead Israeli soldiers to be slain because they had placed their faith in a pagan deity.] 

And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten… For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead… It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

~ 2 Maccabees 12:38:46


Judas Maccabaeus, by George Frideric Handel, the same “Handel” of Handel’s Messiah fame. Handel had no problem composing music about both Jesus Christ, and Judas Maccabaeus.

The Book of 2 Maccabees was in the Septuagint, the Scriptures in use during the time of Jesus and the Apostles, and they spoke not one word against 2 Maccabees. 2 Maccabees was in the Bible that all Christianity used for 1,500 years, and remains in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles to this day. Its accuracy and worthiness as devine scripture was approved over and over by church councils.

Despite that enormous creditibility, today’s Protestantism has deleted 2 Maccabees (and six other whole books, as well as parts of Daniel and Esther) from the Protestant Bible. This was the culmination of these texts being marginalized by Martin Luther.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther is the most well-known of the Protestant Reformers. Luther was a Catholic priest who (rightfully) had an issue with the Catholic Church charging people money for “indulgences.” In other words, the Catholic Church would charge people money to free the souls of dead loved ones– souls that had not yet been resurrected with their bodies for final judgment. In other words, these were souls that still had a chance. The issue of “indulgences” was one of several issues Luther had with the Catholic Church, causing him to split from it, and launch the Protestant Reformation.

Removing any verse that could possibly be used by the Catholic Church to justify “indulgences” was a major factor motivating Luther to marginalize seven whole books (Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, Sirach, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees) and parts of two others (Daniel and Esther) that were in the very Scriptures in use during the time of Christ. Luther overreached. 

Luther did not only have a problem with the Catholic Church. He had a problem with the Jews. In 1543, Martin Luther (a German) wrote a book called On the Jews and their Lies.

1543_On_the_Jews_and_Their_Lies_by_Martin_LutherIn it, Luther advocates burning down synagogues, chasing the Jews until they are wandering vagabonds, forbidding Jewish priests to administer the Jewish religion, refusing to protect the Jews from highway bandits, and on and on. The book is stunningly antisemitic and reads like a piece of hate speech worthy of Hitler or Bin Laden. This is the man who many Christians trust to marginalize books that were in the Scriptures in use during the time of Christ– books that Christ spoke not one word against. 

Why Should I Believe Anti-Catholic Pastors?

Now, when I read the verses in 2 Maccabees about praying for the dead, alarm bells go off. It can’t be right. After all, for the past several years Anti-Catholic pastors in the pulpit and on Christian radio have told me that once you’re dead, it’s all over. But those guys also told me that that there will be a pre-trib rapture, and/or that the Antichrist will rule the revived Roman Empire, and/or that Israel is no longer relevant. They directly contradicted the Bible on all those issues, so why should I believe them about praying for the dead? The Bible doesn’t say to believe Anti-Catholic pastors. The Bible says to “test all things” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Let’s do that.

Peeling The Onion

Let’s peel the onion (the Bible) to see if there is anything beneath the top layer (the Anti-Catholic doctrine we force the Bible to conform to).

The Words Of Jesus

First of all, let’s look at the words of Jesus. In a previous post, I metioned a very peculiar statement by Jesus. Here it is:

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. ~ Matthew 12:21-32

Excuse me?!?! Forgiveness in the world to come?!?! Anti-Catholic doctrine teaches that a soul’s condition at the time of bodily death is final. When we draw our last breath, we are either forgiven or unforgiven, and that’s the end of it. Is Jesus daring to disagree with this?

By the way, another popular Anti-Catholic inaccuracy is that this verse speaks about the “unforgivable sin.” The verse does not say the sin is unforgivable. It says the sin “shall not be forgiven.” There’s a big difference. “Unforgivable sin” implies that God will not forgive it. This is nonsense. There is no sin God will not forgive if we approach him and ask.

However, if we believe that God is Satan, and that good is evil, then we will never approach God for forgiveness, and our sin “shall not be forgiven.” In the verses prior, Jesus is accused of using Satanic power to do his miracles. He warns sharply against this accusation. If you convince yourself that God is Satan, you will never approach God for forgivenss. No one will approach someone they think is evil. This is why Satan is so hard at work convincing the world that good is evil, and evil is good. It is so you will not recognize God or the things of God. Now back to praying for the dead.

Are there any other verses in our Bible that we may have willfully overlooked in order to force an Anti-Catholic square peg into a Biblical round hole? Yes.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ~ Matthew 16:18

You want the truth? This verse never made any sense to me. I’ve heard it explained a thousand times, but I never bought it. Gates are a defensive device. Therefore, there are only two possibilities here. One is that the church is breaching the gates to invade hell. The other is that the church is breaching the gates for an old fashioned prison break. The church is either breaking into, or breaking people out of, hell. Either way, it makes no sense in light of Anti-Catholic doctrine that says eternal fate is sealed when we draw our last breath. 

The Words Of Paul

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised… Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? ~ 1 Corinthians 15:16-29

Excuse me?!?! What did Paul just say?!?! People were being baptized for the dead, and not only did Paul not speak against it, he actually defended it.

And notice the striking similarity between Paul’s words, and the words in 2 Maccabees.

  • Paul (1 Corinthians): Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?
  • 2 Maccabees: For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.

In each case (baptism for the dead, and praying for the dead), the reader’s attention is directed to the fact that the dead will rise again. Likewise, in each case, the author indicates that the action (baptism for the dead, and praying for the dead) would be silly if there is no resurrection of the dead. Conclusion: before the resurrection of the dead, the dead still have a chance. Don’t give up on them.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

We have a bad theological habit of thinking that death and hell are final. They are not. The Bible clearly teaches of a first death, and a second death. The second death is final. The first is not. Likewise, regarding the dwelling place of unsaved souls, the Bible clearly teaches of hell, and the lake of fire. The lake of fire is final. Hell is not. A soul in hell, whose body has died the first death, has not yet received its life sentence and been sent to the lake of fire to serve it.

And I saw the dead… and the dead were judged… And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Revelation 20:12-14

Look at it this way. Hell is county jail. The lake of fire is state prison. Until a soul’s sentencing day, it still has a chance. But the judge (Jesus) will eventually (upon His return) send the sheriff’s van to pick up the inmates from hell, and bring them to the courthouse for final sentencing. Until the gavel falls, there is still a chance. If you have a doubt about the spiritual condition of a dead loved one, I say pray for them– and I say it because the Bible says it.

The Bible is always proven true.

6 replies »

  1. I have looked at articles put together by Catholic apologists and theologist and they do not explain purgatory as a “second chance” like I had been taught or I had interpreted incorrectly because I didn’t grasp the concept as a child. It is explained as purification before heaven or a place of burning sins away to prepare us to be with God. It is used as an answer to children or grown people in countries that never heard of christ or maybe slave owners that truly saw no wrong in what they were doing because of when and where they lived. I read the scriptures to back it up and I believe there is a place after earth but before heaven to burn away sin. Being taught to pray for relatives in purgatory to get them to heaven is what I remember learning. I understood it was a second chance at heaven but that is not what the Catholic church teaches. From what I understand we pray for the the dead to have a “Short stay” in sheol A.K.A. purgatory. It is like praying God has mercy on a soul like my moms grandpa. A man who in many ways was Christ-like in his interactions with his family, knew and accepted that Jesus died for our sins and regularly went to church during his life. He was a man who may have not had a chance to build a true relationship with God or totally grasp the meaning of grace before death. Catholics also talk about purgatory being a place where Christians who die with unrepented sins repent and forgive before joining God. (1 Peter 1:7, 1 Cor. 3:15)
    I believe the answer why purgatory is not a second chance is here in PS 6:5 & Eccles 9:10. You get one chance on earth. It says no work can be done in sheol (purgatory). I took it as if you die before having a chance to ask someone for forgiveness or missed out on showing the ones you love how much you loved them then you won’t have a chance to make that up in purgatory. You receive forgiveness you have not asked for but you can not show someone you are sorry or express forgiveness. I believe we pray for the dead to have a short stay in purgatory or maybe pray they know we are sorry or that we know they are sorry. I personally do not interpret the bible talking about a second chance. I see purgatory as the inbetween detox stage before heaven. I do not believe anyone goes to purgatory and then hell.

    That being said I could be WAAAAAAY off. I just recently started looking in to purgatory. So be nice if you disagree! I am more than open to different interpretations of the verses I referenced. I would also be happy to read other verses that may contradict what I think.

    • I agree with you that the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory refers to a place of purification before final judgment. I don’t agree with the doctrine of Purgatory, but I agree with your assessment of what the doctrine of Purgatory is.

      It seems to me that before the judgment of the dead at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ, there are only two places for a soul to go, heaven or hell. Here is the final judgment:

      Revelation 20:12-15
      And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

      We have several names for hell, but I believe they are all just hell. These names include Gehenna, Sheol, and Catholic Purgatory. As I mentioned in the post, I liken hell to county jail while awaiting sentencing, and the lake of fire to state prison after being sentenced to life. Hell (contrary to popular teaching) is not permanent. The lake of fire is.

      I do not believe that sins are burned away in this temporary place. Sins are removed by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

      By the scriptural evidence I listed in the post above, I do not believe that our last breath is the finality that we are led to believe it is. I think that Protestantism has taken too much license with this idea. Martin Luther had a legitimate problem with the way the Catholic Church was charging people money for “indulgences.” That is, the church was charging people money to get their loved ones out of the temporary dwelling place of unsaved or questionably saved souls. I believe that Luther threw the Book of 2 Maccabees out of the Protestant Bible because it contains a verse that the Catholic Church could use to justify its actions:

      And making a gathering [collection of money], he [Judas Maccabee] sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead… ~ 2 Maccabees 12:43

      Luther overreached. He went too far. One cannot simply remove parts of the Bible because those parts don’t help one’s agenda.

      I showed in my post that the Bible mentions praying for the dead, preaching the Gospel to the dead, and being baptized for the dead. I still can’t get my head around exactly what all that means. Maybe it’s as literal as it sounds. What I do know is that Protestantism seems as eager as it’s founder, Martin Luther, to deny that these verses exist.

      Blessings, and thank you!

  2. I appreciate this article! I found it incitful on many levels. I recently started reading the apocrypha for the first time, and I’m trying to understand why these books were omitted from the King James Bible. I appreciate your treatment of the topic of salvation for the dead; I don’t think I understood that passage in Matthew 25 until now. By the way, I am LDS, and I have participated in proxy baptisms for the dead. It may seem like an unusual practice, but it was a very sacred experience.

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