Catholic / Protestant Dialogue

The Communion Of Saints

As Catholics, we believe in the “communion of saints,” as professed in the Apostles Creed.

…I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

The term “Communion of saints” means that all the faithful (those living, and those in heaven) are one body in which all members communicate with each other, pray and worship together, and are in communion with each other. Christianity has always held this belief, and it was not until 1500 – 2000 years after Christ, when Protestantism formed to protest against the Catholic Church, that the precious doctrine of the communion of saints was jettisoned by these protester groups.  

Great Chasm? Not So Fast.

When I was a Protestant, I believed that a great chasm separated the dead from the living and prevented them from communing with each other. To justify this teaching, we Protestants cited Luke 16:22-31, the famous account of the rich man and the beggar.

Luke 16:22-31

“The time came when the beggar [Lazarus] died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side [To be with Abraham and others who died in God’s favor]. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

“He [the rich man] answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” ~ Luke 16:22-31

Protestantism teaches that this great chasm prevents the dead from communicating with the living. But wait a second. The dead guy in question here (the rich man) is in hell, not heaven. I can accept this passage of scripture as justification for teaching that dead people in hell cannot communicate with their living relatives. But it says nothing about dead people who died in God’s favor not being able to communicate with the living. This alone raises reasonable doubt about the Protestant teaching against the communion of saints. 

The Defense Rests

But when we consider a stunning passage of Scripture in one of the books that have been conveniently deleted from Protestant Bibles, this reasonable doubt becomes overwhelming evidence in favor of the defendant, the communion of saints. Furthermore, it allows us to acquit and vindicate Catholicism’s ancient teaching on the communion of saints, and turn the tables and prosecute Protestantism’s modern teaching against the communion of saints. 

The book in which we find this evidence is the Book of 2 Maccabees, a book which was in the Septuagint, the Scriptures used by Jesus and the Apostles, and against which neither Jesus nor the Apostles spoke one disparaging word; a book that remains in Catholic Bibles to this day; a book that not even Martin Luther removed from Protestant Bibles, but only moved from its position in the Old Testament to a position between the Old and New Testaments: a book that only began being removed from Protestant Bibles in the 1800s— yes the 1800s! Here is that evidence, that passage of Scripture from the precious Word of God, the Book of 2 Maccabees.

The Communion Of Saints Is Biblical

To set the stage, Judas Maccabeus is leading his Jewish military force against a gentile invasion force led by Nicanor. 

2 Maccabees 15:6-17

In his utter boastfulness and arrogance Nicanor had determined to erect a public victory monument over Judas and his companions. But Maccabeus remained confident, fully convinced that he would receive help from the Lord. He urged his men not to fear the attack of the Gentiles, but mindful of the help they had received in the past from Heaven, to expect now the victory that would be given them by the Almighty.

By encouraging them with words from the law and the prophets, and by reminding them of the battles they had already won, he filled them with fresh enthusiasm. Having stirred up their courage, he gave his orders and pointed out at the same time the perfidy of the Gentiles and their violation of oaths.

When he had armed each of them, not so much with the security of shield and spear as with the encouragement of noble words, he cheered them all by relating a dream, a kind of waking vision, worthy of belief [In this vision, Judas Maccabeus is visited by two people who died in God’s favor– Onias the High Priest, and Jeremiah the Prophet. The details of the vision follow.]What he [Judas Maccabeus] saw was this: Onias, the [deceased] former high priest, a noble and good man, modest in bearing, gentle in manner, distinguished in speech, and trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community [Here we see a dead person, one who died in God’s favor, praying for God’s people. This teaching has not changed in the Catholic Church to this day.].  

Then in the same way another man appeared, distinguished by his white hair and dignity, and with an air of wondrous and majestic authority. Onias then said of him, “This is a man who loves his fellow Jews and fervently prays for the people and the holy city—the prophet of God, Jeremiah [the same Jeremiah for whom the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible is named].” Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said, “Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall shatter your adversaries.”

Judah Maccabee's Vision - Copy 1

Judah Maccabee’s Vision, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1794 – 1872. (Image source: Hathi Digital Trust Library, Columbia University Library, victorianweb.org.)

Encouraged by Judas’ words, so noble and capable of instilling valor and stirring young hearts to courage, they determined not merely to march, but to charge gallantly and decide the issue by hand-to-hand combat with the utmost courage, since city, sanctuary and temple were in danger. ~ 2 Maccabees 15:6-17

The Faithful Departed

So in this passage of Scripture, we see not one but two dead followers of God (Onias and Jeremiah) communicating with a living follower of God (Judas Maccabeus). The difference between the dead Onias and Jeremiah in 2 Maccabees 15, and the dead rich man in Luke 16, is that Onias and Jeremiah died in favorable standing with God, whereas the rich man died and went to hell. Deceased followers of God can absolutely communicate with living followers of God here on earth. This is an ancient and constant teaching of the Catholic Church that exists to this day. 

Subtraction, Not Addition

Protestantism accuses the Catholic Church of having added to Christianity over the centuries, but the truth is that Protestantism has subtracted from Christianity over the centuries.

Come Home

I invite my dear Protestant brothers and sisters to investigate the early church, the church launched by Jesus and the apostles. You will find what I found, that the earliest church was Catholic, not Protestant. The Catholic Church is your home. As a once-prodigal son, I have returned home to the Catholic Church. I pray that you do the same. 

The Bible is always proven true.

12 replies »

  1. In 2 Maccabees 15:6-17, the appearance of Onias and Jeremias was in a vision,not an actual appearance, which see:
    2 Maccabees 15:12 AND THIS WAS HIS VISION: That Onias, who had been high priest, a virtuous and a good man, reverend in conversation, gentle in condition, well spoken also, and exercised from a child in all points of virtue, holding up his hands prayed for the whole body of the Jews. 13 This done, in like manner there appeared a man with gray hairs, and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty. 14 Then Onias answered, saying, This is a lover of the brethren, who prayeth much for the people, and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremias the prophet of God. 15 Whereupon Jeremias holding forth his right hand gave to Judas a sword of gold, and in giving it spake thus, 16 Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with the which thou shalt wound the adversaries.

    If you read the entire book of Luke, you learn that Jesus was speaking in parables. The idea that one can receive communications from the dead is simply not supported.Which see:
    Ecclesiastes 9: 5For 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. 6Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; NEITHER HAVE THEY ANY MORE A PORTION FOREVER IN ANYTHING THAT IS DONE UNDER THE SUN.

    In fact,it is specifically prohibited by God, which see:

    Deuteronomy 18: 10 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, 11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with FAMILIAR SPIRITS, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12For 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.

    • LEONARD, YOUR COMMENT:

      In 2 Maccabees 15:6-17, the appearance of Onias and Jeremias was in a vision, not an actual appearance

      MY RESPONSE:

      Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night BY A VISION, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” ~ Acts 18:9

      Leonard, did God not actually speak to Paul because it was “in a vision” and not an “actual apearance”?

      the man Gabriel, whom I had seen IN THE VISION at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. ~ Daniel 9:21

      Leonard, did Daniel not see the real Gabriel because it was “in a vision” and not an “actual apearance”?

      If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him IN A VISION; I speak to him in a dream. ~ Numbers 12:6

      Leonard, are you saying that God did not actually make himself known to his prophets because he only promised to do so “in a vision” and not in an “actual appearance”?

      In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him IN A VISION, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. ~ Acts 9:10

      Leonard, did God not actually speak to Ananias because it was “in a vision” and not an “actual apearance”?

      And God spoke to Israel IN A VISION at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied. ~ Genesis 46:2

      Leonard, did God not actually speak to Jacob/Israel because it was “in a vision” and not an “actual apearance”?

      LEONARD, YOUR COMMENT

      If you read the entire book of Luke, you learn that Jesus was speaking in parables.

      MY RESPONSE:

      Thank you for pointing this out. Protestantism relies far too much on a very literal interpretation of Christ’s parables (which you rightly point out is incorrect). I will be sure to point this out to my Protestant friends when they use the parable of the rich man and the beggar as proof that the dead cannot communicate with the living.

      LEONARD, YOUR COMMENT:

      Deuteronomy 18: 10 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, 11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with FAMILIAR SPIRITS, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

      MY RESPONSE:

      This is a straw man argument on your part. No where in my post do I advocate seeking the counsel of witches or enchanters. Rather, I advocate not removing a book from the Scriptures (1800 years after the fact) that Jesus Christ himself used and did not say to remove.

      Thank you for your comments.

      God bless.

    • Leonard
      You are thinking too much in the box. In other words you only see what is possible to human beings. That being the case, we would have to throw out the entire Bible because of all of the marvels that are written about God that seem impossible to us. To God nothing is impossible. Reading and understanding the Bible is not easy, yet our brothers and sisters who are protestants believe that anybody can interpret the Bible. Not so fast my friend!!! Peter disagrees, “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever cam through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” (2 Peter 1: 20-21)

      • Well reasoned and well stated, brother Efrain. I admire Leonard’s zeal for the Lord and I have hope that he will see our point of view. Thank you as always, and God bless!

      • Martine, I agree 100% with Peter: “… no prophecy of scripture…is a matter of personal interpretation…”. That is precisely what too many self-identified Christians do–INTERPRET. How about just reading the Bible and believing what it actually says, instead of twisting to make it say whatever you think it ought to say,what it “really means”, or what it “points to”. If you try this sort of creative interpretation with your mortgage contract, you’ll find yourself homeless in short order. The Bible–just like your mortgage contract–means EXACTLY what it says. Twisting or adding to those words changes nothing…

    • If the Bible says that God appears in a vision, I’ll concede that it probably WAS God. If the the Bible says that the angel Gabriel appears in a vision, I’ll concede that it probably WAS Gabriel. When you claim that dead relatives–or dead “saints”–can “watch over us” or communicate, or see anything about us in any way, I’m going to refer you again to:
      Ecclesiastes 9: 5For 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. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; NEITHER HAVE THEY ANY MORE A PORTION FOREVER IN ANYTHING THAT IS DONE UNDER THE SUN.

      I’d be curious to see the proof you have that this verse is wrong…

      • The Bible says that God appeared in a vision, and that Gabriel appeared in a vision, AND and that Jeremiah and Onias appeared in a vision. Removing books from the Bible 1800 years after Christ does not actually change the Bible, sorry.

        Regarding your point about Ecclesiastes 9:5, let’s take the verse as literally as you claim to take it so that I can make my point. About dead people, the verse says that “the memory of them is forgotten.” Now, do you literally not have memory of any dead person who has ever lived? Do you really not remember any dead relative, friend, celebrity, or historical figure? I have memories of dead relatives, friends, celebrities, and historical figures and I would bet that you do too. You can not take this verse so literally and so out of context with the rest of the Bible.

      • Sorry, Tom, but you need to stop inserting your own “wisdom” into the Bible, and accept the Bible as it is written. Dead people do not remember YOU (or me). They don’t know what we’re up to and can neither teach, warn or advise us of anything–which see:
        NEITHER HAVE THEY ANY MORE A PORTION FOREVER IN ANYTHING THAT IS DONE UNDER THE SUN.

        I don’t understand your reference to the removal of books “… Removing books from the Bible 1800 years after Christ does not actually change the Bible…”. How is this statement even relevant? If the Bible says the dead know “nothing”, then how does this change the argument that neither of us can communicate with or receive communications from the dead? Please, use more scripture and less opinion to defend your arguments. I believe the Bible–not the opinions of other human beings–however well-intentioned. We all know just what the road to hell is paved with…

      • Your comment:
        “I don’t understand your reference to the removal of books “… Removing books from the Bible 1800 years after Christ does not actually change the Bible…”. How is this statement even relevant?”

        My response:
        It’s relevant because the dead Jeremiah and Onias appear to the living Judas Maccabeus in the Book of 2 Maccabees, in direct contradiction of Protestant, which is why that book was marginalized and then removed altogether from Protestant Bibles. Unfortunately for Protestantism, the dead Moses and Elijah appear to the living Peter, James, and John in the the Books of Matthew (17:3) and Mark (9:4).

  2. I agree with you Tom. God allows those that have gone before us to communicate to us but not be here physically. Sometimes you may hear a voice, a familiar scent, something that let’s you know they are here. Ask those communion of saints to pray for our intentions. We don’t pray to them. It is just like asking a friend to keep you in their prayers. That is what other religions do not understand. Keep preaching it brother.

    Valerie

    • Valerie, I agree with you completely. It’s just like asking a friend to pray for us. Thank you for your comment and your encouragement!

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