In Heaven, Will We Pray for People?
In Heaven, Will We Pray for People?
My cancer has probably returned and it’s very likely I’ll be going home soon with absolute delight and joy to be forever with my God, King and Saviour.
My ONLY hesitation is leaving my unsaved children behind. Can we continue to pray for them in heaven? Will we pray in heaven when we’re with God? I think, and believe, from your teaching and God’s word, that it seems like we won’t, very thankfully, be watching the world left behind. Jesus prays for us in heaven; we don’t pray for those in heaven from here on earth. Thanks
- Sorry to hear about Sue’s cancer returning.
- Praying for Sue.
- Sue has the gift of preparing for death.
Yes, We Will Pray in Heaven
- If we define prayer broadly, then yes – then we will pray in heaven. We will worship, we will talk with God, we will give thanks and praise, we will honor Him.
Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.
- If we think of prayer as petition or intercession, then it is hard to say. The martyred saints of Revelation 6:9–10 are in some way asking God for something, and that is petition.
When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
- What we don’t know is if we will have any knowledge, or how much knowledge, of what happens on earth when we are in heaven.
Hebrews 12:1 doesn’t specifically say, but it paints a picture of God’s faithful people of the past as “witnesses” or “spectators” that are, in some sense, watching us and cheering us on.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
When Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:30–31), they spoke about what Jesus was going to accomplish on earth.
And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
At the same time, there is no sorrow or heartache in heaven:
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
When they are in heaven, whatever God’s people know of earth causes them no pain, no stress, no sorrow, no anxiety, no tears. They see it all considering God’s good, perfect, just, loving plan. They know that the judge of all the earth does right (Genesis 18:25), that God’s ways are perfect even when we don’t understand them (Romans 11:33–34).
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”
We don’t pray for the dead; when we pass from this life to the next, our time of choosing is over. Hebrews 9:27 tells us it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.
We don’t ask the dead to pray for us; Jesus is the only intercessor or mediator in heaven that we have or need. We’re told that we shouldn’t communicate with those in the world beyond, other than God Himself.
Final Principle, especially for one who is aware that their life doesn’t have many days left: God appoints our days, and gives us exactly the time we need. It doesn’t always seem like that – but it’s true. How we use the time God gives us is another matter; we don’t always use it well. But God gives us the time we need for what He wants us to do.
LORD, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Why should the New Testament, including the writings of Paul, be considered Scripture?
That’s a good question. I can answer in a few ways. First of all, Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would speak to them, reminding them of His words and His actions, and that they should expect this revelation from the Holy Spirit. Jesus told that to His disciples in His upper room discourse, which you can read in John 14-16. This Saturday, I’m going to preach a message on continuing in the Apostles’ doctrine, so I’ve been thinking about where they got this doctrine. As Jesus told them, the Holy Spirit would reveal these things to them. That which the Holy Spirit revealed to the Apostles is the New Testament.
Secondly, Ephesians 2:20 says that the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. What does that have to do with Scripture, you wonder? Friends, the New Testament is the inspired record of that foundation in the Apostles and prophets, which Jesus Christ promised and established in the Church.
Third, Paul consciously wrote his letters for a wider audience than just the specific congregations addressed. They passed the letters around to different congregations. It’s understood in the New Testament that they’re written for a general audience, as well as specifically for each church named.
Fourth, Peter talks about the writings of Paul, and he puts them in the category of Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 says that people like to twist Paul’s writings as they do the other Scriptures. If they’re doing it with the other Scriptures, of course they’re doing it with the writings of Paul himself.
Fifth, let’s consider 2 Timothy 3:14-16 – But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
What Holy Scriptures was Paul referring to in this passage? Obviously, it’s the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. Notice in verse 16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Paul did not say those Scriptures are given by inspiration of God. Neither does he use the exact same terminology for the same Holy Scriptures given by inspiration of God. He makes it broader.
Paul and the other Apostles were aware that God was moving in and through them to produce the writings that would be the authoritative revelation of God for the Church in the New Testament, for God’s perfected work in Jesus Christ. He transitions from Holy Scriptures to all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. That is another indication that we can know that the writings of Paul, along with the entire New Testament from from Matthew to Revelation, are to be considered Scripture.
Finally, consider the very valid measure of canonization. The early church just understood this. Christians got together and gathered the writings that had been reliably given to them by an Apostle, or by someone who had a definite Apostolic connection, and which had inherent consistency and evidence of being the Scripture of God. The early church agreed upon the Scriptures. The early church did not create the Bible; God created the Bible. But the early church recognized the Scriptures.
Is Paul teaching purgatory in 1 Corinthians 3:15 when he says he shall be saved through fire?
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
There is a huge difference between what we see here in 1 Corinthians 3 and the Roman Catholic idea of Purgatory. In 1 Corinthians 3, it’s the work that’s being judged. But in Purgatory, it’s the worker or the person who is being judged. There’s no indication of a time period when these things are burnt off.
Here’s my perspective on the Roman Catholic understanding of Purgatory. Roman Catholics base the assurance of salvation upon receiving the sacraments. In classical and medieval Roman Catholic theology, you are saved because you receive grace from God, but God dispenses His grace to you through the church. Just like there’s a teller at the bank whom you do transactions with, the priest is sort of the teller at the bank of grace. The priest dispenses God’s grace with the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders.
So, in the Roman Catholic system, the salvation of a person is assured if they received the sacraments. Here’s the problem. They would look around and see people that lived like the devil yet checked all the sacramental boxes. What do you do with that? Well, God has to deal with that somehow. They decided that the way He would deal with it would be to burn away those impurities. He would make the unfaithful believers suffer in Purgatory, where they would be purged from their sins and cleaned up before they go to heaven.
I believe that is a fundamental denial of the finished work of Jesus Christ. We are made clean by what Jesus Christ has done for us. When Jesus said on the cross, It is finished, Tetelestai, paid in full, it was finished. There is nothing more to be done to atone for our sins.
1 Corinthians 3 is speaking about the judgment seat of Christ, where it’s a judgment for reward. It’s not for entrance into heaven, and not the same as Purgatory at all.
Is Calvinism considered a false doctrine if I am not a Calvinist?
I believe that there are some incorrect things within the systems of Reformed Theology and Calvinism. Those two systems overlap greatly, but they’re not identically the same thing.
Friends, I don’t march in the parade of any system of theology. I am what some people would say derisively and with criticism, “David, you’re a Biblicist. You really just rely on the Bible. You think that all we need is a biblical theology, and not a systematic theology.” I’m not saying that there’s no value in a systematic theology. No, God forbid, there is value in it, and it’s good and helpful.
But I believe that I understand and appreciate the limitations of systematic theology in a way that those who are the champions of systematic theology sometimes don’t understand. So, I don’t subscribe to any full system of theology. When I say that I think that there’s some things wrong in Calvinistic theology, I’m speaking about it as a system. And I would say the same thing for strict Arminian theology, and on and on.
Now, is it false doctrine? Well, I think there are some things that Calvinism gets wrong. You specifically asked, “Is Calvinism considered false doctrine if I’m not a Calvinist?” Well, there are Calvinists and people who hold to Reformed theology who would say you are in grievous error for not believing the five points of TULIP, the five points of Reformed theology. There are people who will say that of you, but here’s what you need to do. You need to stick close to your Bible. That’s really what matters.
Of course, some things are mysteries, and people will have diverging opinions on different issues. But if you stay close to your Bible, you’ll work your way through those things.
I’m a great appreciator of Charles Spurgeon. I’ve read a lot of Spurgeon sermons through the years. Whatever passage I’m teaching from, it’s my habit to read what Spurgeon preached on that. I feel like I’ve received a lot and benefited a lot from the writings and the preaching of Charles Spurgeon. In his younger days of ministry, Spurgeon was adamant about Calvinism. There are quotes of him saying things like, “The gospel is Calvinism and Calvinism is the gospel.” But although he was definitely a Calvinist, I believe he was a sensible Calvinist in this sense. He held very strongly to what he believed, but there are also many wonderful, beautiful quotes from Charles Spurgeon. In the sermons I read, I keep my eyes open for quotes like this, and I’ve compiled them into a document. There are quotes from Spurgeon sermons that say things like this, and I’m paraphrasing, “Am I a Calvinist or an Arminian? It depends on what question you ask me. If you ask me why a man is saved, I’ll give you the Calvinistic answer. It’s only due to God alone. If you ask me why a man is damned, I’ll give you the Arminian answer: it’s only man’s responsibility. It doesn’t really matter what you call me, just as long as I stay close to my Bible.” That’s the attitude I want to have. Even though I may not come to every same conclusion that Charles Spurgeon came to, I still admire him as someone who’s contributed a lot to me and to many others.
Why do you think God chose man to write Scripture and not some other method? Also, why didn’t Jesus write any Scripture?
That’s a great question. I think God gave us the Scriptures through human agency because, largely, that’s how God likes to work. God likes to work in partnership with man. The Bible says we are co-laborers with Christ, fellow laborers with Him. Jesus calls us as servants into His work. Of course, there are certainly things that God does without any participation of man whatsoever. But in many ways, in many instances, God delights to do His work with the cooperation of men and women who will serve Him and be instruments in His hands. God did that in bringing forth the Scriptures through the personality of human instruments. This is one of the glorious things about the Bible.
I believe exactly what we read previously in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. It is God-breathed. It’s a wonderful, powerful thing. It is the word of God. Yet God did not erase the human personality of His instruments. I can read Paul and say, “That’s Paul.” I can tell Paul anywhere. I can read Isaiah and say, “That’s Isaiah, I knew that was Isaiah.” I can read Revelation and know, “That’s John writing.” God did not erase the human personality of the instruments that He used, because that’s God’s common way of working, although it’s not His exclusive way.
For example, God used human beings instead of delivering His word by angels from heaven. According to Jewish tradition, and later confirmed by the New Testament, the Law came to Moses by angelic visitation, but even Moses had to write it down. And we see the stamp of Moses in it. So, God wanted the personality of His people to be expressed in and through His Word.
Why didn’t Jesus write any Scripture? I’ll suggest one reason for that. We would consider His part of the Bible to be more important than any other portion of the Bible. But if it’s all the Word of God, that’s just not true. Think about a Red-Letter edition of the Bible, where the words of Jesus Christ are in red. That’s harmless enough. I’m not saying throw away your Red-letter edition Bible. No. But it is a huge mistake to think that the red letters are more inspired by God than anything else in the Bible.
Friends, Genesis is just as inspired as Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, or the book of Revelation. Everything from Genesis to Revelation is equally inspired by God. That’s an important principle for us to understand. Actually, Jesus did dictate the seven letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. But if Jesus were to write out a “Book of Jesus,” we would almost irresistibly think that was higher and more important than anything else. But God wants us to see all of His word as being equal in authority.
How did the people of the Old Covenant receive their salvation?
Believers who are part of the New Covenant understand the atonement that Jesus worked on behalf of His people by looking back to what Jesus the Messiah did on the cross. Under the Old Covenant, they looked forward to what the Messiah would do in fulfilling all sacrifices by His perfect sacrifice. How much detailed awareness they had of that would differ from person to person. But without doubt, we do know that no one has ever been saved by keeping the law, by keeping God’s commandments. Because if you fail in one commandment, you’ve failed in them all. And everybody has failed to keep God’s commandments. Some fail a lot worse than others, but everybody fails. Nobody is good enough to save themselves through their law keeping. It’s a huge mistake to think that in the Old Covenant people were saved by works, and in the New Covenant people are saved by faith. No, no, all are saved by faith.
Now, when God gave the Law to Israel, He also gave them a sacrificial system and the priesthood. He gave all of those things together. God wanted them to understand that there was a remedy for their sin. Every Old Testament sacrifice looked forward to the perfect sacrifice that the Messiah would offer. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. He was saved by faith, and so was everybody who was saved under the Old Covenant. It was done by their individual and personal faith in the living God, expressed through their honor and obedience to the law and the sacrificial system, which looked forward to the perfect sacrifice that Jesus would make.
Why didn’t God the Father send Jesus straight after Adam’s sin?
All I can tell you is this. In Galatians 4:4, Paul says that in due time, God sent His Son. God sent Jesus at the proper time, at just the right time. There were probably many reasons in the plan of God, but God wanted a long preparatory work up to the cross, and then a long period after the cross for the message of the Gospel to go out. In the wisdom of His timing, God knew when that would be.
Proportionately, far more of humanity has lived after the time of Jesus, than lived before Him. So, in the course of population as it’s moved through history, God sent His Son Jesus Christ fairly early in the development of the earth. The population gains in the earth in the last 2000 years have far outstripped anything that existed before that.
So, God decided, “I’m going to send Jesus before most of humanity ever walks the earth.” But He established that there would be a long preparatory time, mostly so that He could work in and through His people, Israel, to prepare them and the world for the coming of the Messiah. But when He sent Jesus, it was at just the right time, in due time.
What is your opinion on the show The Chosen?
I’m going to give you a fairly ignorant opinion because I’ve only watched a few episodes. Here’s my general view on any kind of media based on the Bible or Jesus. I always go into it expecting it to be terrible. I don’t expect any director, filmmaker, painting, or any other kind of artistic expression to get anything right about the Bible. When my expectations are set so low, if they get anything right, I’m pretty happy about it. That’s the general perspective I go into things with.
The main thing that would bother me about The Chosen is if people embraced it as a substitute for the Bible, loving The Chosen app, but thinking the Bible is pretty boring. It’s not good if the show itself contributes to that attitude in a person, and it’s not good for them.
There’s a huge amount of speculation in The Chosen. A lot of it is done to make an interesting story and plotline, to draw the viewer into the story. I think they try very hard to never contradict the Scriptures. I’ll give an example from the couple episodes I saw. Is there any hint at all in the Scriptures that Peter was getting in trouble for fishing on the Sabbath on the Sea of Galilee, or that it was because he had to pay off a debt to Matthew the tax collector? Is there any hint of that? No, none whatsoever. It’s fully fabricated.
I almost wish that The Chosen would put a red light in the corner of the screen that would flash when the story includes extrabiblical speculation. They could also put a green light when dealing with things that are actually in the Bible. That way everybody would be able to say, “Oh, this interesting story may or may not be true. Oh, but in this part, these are the words in the scenes of the Bible.”
My main concern is that it is used as a substitute for the Scriptures. A few years back, there was a woman named Sarah Young who wrote a very popular book called Jesus Calling. I’m sure the publishers loved it. It sold millions of copies. But friends, that book purported to be the words of Jesus, and they weren’t. Those were made up words from that woman’s head. Maybe they were good words, maybe they were bad words, but they were made up. They were not the words of Jesus.
This is the problem. I actually spoke with people who would much rather read Jesus Calling than they would read their Bible. That’s not good. That’s not right. Look, I’m not into book banning. If somebody wants to read Jesus Calling, go ahead and read it, but remind yourself on every page, “These are not the words of Jesus. This is what a woman imagines the words of Jesus to be.” If you keep that in mind, fine. We should use the same kind of principle with The Chosen.
I will say that I think it is encouraging that many people have become interested and engaged with Jesus because of The Chosen. My prayer is that they would remain interested and engaged with the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus who actually exists. We don’t emphasize the Jesus of the Bible because we’re Bible salesmen or because we idolize the Bible, no. The simple truth is that only the Jesus of the Bible actually exists. If somebody creates a Jesus outside the Bible, that’s an imaginary Jesus, and that Jesus can’t save anyone.
Does God hate sinners, or does He love them and want them to be saved?
Some verses seem to say that God hates the sinners (e.g. Psalm 5:4-5) and others say that He wants them to be saved and He loves them. Could you please explain this topic? Does He hate them or love them?
Does God hate or love sinners? The answer to that is yes. There are passages that speak to it from both perspectives. You’re absolutely right that some passages that speak of God’s hatred and opposition and judgment toward sinners, no doubt about it. And then there are other passages that speak of God’s love for sinners. Those passages which speak about God’s love for sinners mainly center around His provision for them in Jesus Christ, and what God has provided for them. God’s expression of love to a sinful world was to provide for them a way to not go to hell. Without Him, no way out was provided. If you go to hell, it will because you rejected what God provided for you in Jesus Christ.
The ancient rabbis used to have a problem with this. They used to think that God had two thrones in heaven. One was a throne of mercy and grace, and the other a throne of judgment. They pictured two different thrones, because they couldn’t get their head around this exact issue: How can God be a holy God of judgment, and at the same time be a loving God who saves? So, they thought that God must operate from two different thrones. They figured that when God is going to judge, He sits on this throne of hatred toward sinners, but when He’s going to rescue and save, He sits on His throne of grace and mercy.
In light of the New Testament, we see those two thrones are reconciled into one throne of Jesus Christ. Hebrews calls it “the throne of grace” that we are invited to approach. On the cross, Jesus was treated as if He were a sinner hated by God. Now I want to stress that He was not hated by God, but He was treated as if He was. That way He received the treatment that we deserved.
Both of these principles are true in God: on the one hand His holy judgment and hatred of sin, and on the other hand His love for sinners and His offer of salvation and rescue in Jesus Christ.
Is a believer still saved if they die with unrepented sin?
Repentance is part of salvation. I’ve heard it described as the fruit. What about sins not repented for and a person dies? Are they still saved?
Yes, and let me kind of clarify. Repentance is a very important part of God’s work in His people. We repent and believe. I don’t think of repentance and faith as being two different things. Repentance and faith are two aspects of the same thing. Repentance is turning from my sin, and faith is turning toward God. I can’t turn toward God unless I first turn from my sin. So, repentance and faith are linked together.
If a person truly comes to God in faith, they will repent. An illustration is that if you’re in New York, and you need to come to Los Angeles, I don’t have to tell you, “Okay, now leave New York. And now come to Los Angeles.” If I just tell you come to LA, that’s enough, because you can’t come to LA unless you leave New York. In the same way, we can’t truly trust and rely on and cling to Jesus Christ and have true faith in Him without actually forsaking the trust that we put in ourselves and the confidence we have in our own sin and our own things.
Now, I want to emphasize that we aren’t saved by our repentance, and we don’t earn salvation by our repentance. Repentance is part of our essential response to God. But if we had to repent of each and every sin that we commit before we could be allowed entrance into heaven, then we would all go to hell. Just consider how many times and in how many ways we sin before God in a day without even knowing it. There could be many individual acts of sin that I’m not even aware of.
So, there’s a general repentance that is essential at the beginning of the Christian life. Then there is a specific repentance of things that the Holy Spirit makes us aware of, which we need to forsake and put behind us, because they would hinder our fellowship with God. So those things kind of combined collectively make up this idea of repentance.