Sharon Harris is wife, mother, English teacher, amateur photographer, and gardener.

Should I pray for people who have died so God will allow them to enter heaven?


Question: Should I pray for people who have died so God will allow them to enter heaven?

Answer: God’s infallible guidebook for us, the Bible, does not advise us to pray for anyone after his or her death. At death, a person’s destination is set and doesn’t change. It’s either the paradise of heaven or punishment in hell. The apostle Paul wrote that men and women have only one chance to live on earth, die, and be judged by Jesus based on their faith in Him.

“…Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”  Hebrews 9:27-28

In his day, Paul knew that some useless baptisms were taking place as people asked for water immersion on behalf of their dead loved ones; they hoped it would assure the deceased their admittance into heaven. The scriptures do not teach that a person must be baptized to enter heaven. So, why would it do any good to baptize someone else for them since it’s not a requirement for eternal life? Paul wrote that these people practiced rituals that Jesus never taught them to do, and they wouldn’t follow what He actually did teach them (I Corinthians 15:29-34).

Today, in addition to baptizing for the dead, some Christians believe there is a “waiting area” or “purgatory” before entering heaven, and that people still living on earth can pray for them to graduate from purgatory. The Bible doesn’t not impart this in any way.  In a related practice from the past, some Jews believed that the spirit of a dead person hovered over the dead body until the 4th day after death. Jesus illustrated a person’s journey into heaven is immediate when He shared a parable about a poor man dying and was carried by angels into heaven (Luke 16:22-31). As He was dying, Jesus promised the thief on the cross near Him that they would be together that same day in heaven (Luke 23:43). Before Stephen died, he saw Jesus waiting to welcome him to heaven (Acts 7:54-58). In another example, Paul encouraged his fellow believers that when his human body died, he would certainly be in the presence of Jesus:

“So we are confident and happy that when we leave our earthly bodies, we will be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8

Are YOU sure that you will go to heaven to be with Jesus when you die?

You CAN be sure, and here’s how.  

Say to Jesus:

Jesus, I know you are the Son of God who died for my sins on the cross. Please forgive me for ignoring you and disobeying you all my life. I repent of all of this in my past.  I have done many wrongs, and I ask you to forgive me of my many sins and let me begin anew. Please come into my life right now and show me the right way to live. Help me to understand how to know you better and have daily fellowship with you. Teach me all that you want me to know and do. I want my faith to grow stronger so I will trust you more. I am so thankful I have your assurance from the scriptures that I can spend eternity with you!  Thank you!  Amen.

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.”  Jesus in Luke 15:7

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