Should We Pray for the Dead?

Should We Pray for the Dead? LIVE Q&A with David Guzik - July 6, 2023

Should We Pray for the Dead?

From Ramona via Facebook –

Should we still pray for someone who passed away who did not know the Lord, or who did but did not seek Him intentionally throughout his life? Is someone’s fate done, decided once they pass way? Going through the grieving process I cannot not pray for that person, but someone said that if you haven’t done anything to point that person towards the Lord when he was alive, there’s nothing that can be changed now. Thank you and God bless your ministry.

Here’s the quick answer: We should not pray for the dead. Prayers for the dead are made in either ignorance or defiance of the biblical truth that mankind is determined in this life, not the next.

Hebrews 9:27

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

The point here really wasn’t to speak against reincarnation or the certainty of coming judgment, but to emphasize the certainty of the once-for-all death of Jesus.

Just as certainly as we die once and then face judgment, so Jesus only had to die once (not repeatedly, not continually) to bear our sins.

John 8:24

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

Jesus gave them a serious warning; the day of grace will not last forever. Death would make the sinful darkness of these religious leaders permanent.

People are born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and if we hold on to our sin, and do not deal with it, we will die in our sins. Since all sin must be dealt with, those who die in their sins will have to pay for their sins in hell. But if we have our sins dealt with now, on this side of death, by trusting in whom Jesus is and what He did to save us, we can avoid dying in our sins.

Luke 16:19-31

In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and neither of them can change their fate once they have passed from this life to the next.

2 Corinthians 6:2

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

The eternal state of mankind is determined in this life, not the next. The Bible tells us nothing of second chances after this life. If there are such second chances, God did not want us to know about them.

So again, we should not pray for the dead; their fate is settled. Pray for their family members and friends, those grieving the death of the person concerned.

Do you think the events in Revelation 13 will happen literally?

Do you think the events in chapter 13 of the book of Revelations (Beast from the Sea, Beast from the Earth, 666) shall be followed as it is in the book?

My general answer to that question is yes. I believe that God gave us the Book of Revelation to convey real and helpful information to us. Certainly, some things are more applicable to the generation in which those things will come to pass. But there is instruction, help, and preparation for us even in those things which may not happen soon, as well as for the people in church history past.

Yes, I believe that these are real things. Of course, the book of Revelation uses a lot of vivid symbolic language, analogies, and signs. But those symbols, analogies, and signs point towards real things and real events. These are signs or symbols of real things that will really happen. I do believe that, in large measure, these things will happen just as it has said. Certainly, there will be nothing that happens in contradiction to what the Scriptures have said. I believe that there are plenty of things in God’s unfolding plan of the ages which He has not specifically revealed. The general picture is revealed, of course. But there may be things that are not specifically revealed, and that’s fine. God knows what should and shouldn’t be revealed to His people. But in the big picture, yes, it’s going to happen.

I believe in a futuristic understanding of Revelation, where most everything in the book of Revelation describes real events that will happen in the future. There are other people who describe it with more of a literary approach. It is important to understand the literary structure and organization of Revelation, which does use a lot of signs and symbols, but I would emphasize that these are signs and symbols which point to real things and real events, not make-believe things or make-believe events.

How should we respond when people living a sinful lifestyle say, “You can’t judge me”?

When a person is challenged because of their sinful lifestyle, what is a good comeback or response when they say, “You can’t judge me”?

I would say something like this. I would tell that person, “I have no intention of judging you. My judgment doesn’t even really matter. Who cares about my judgment? My judgment is somewhat irrelevant. But what matters is before God. What matters before God? Does God judge you? Does God judge anyone?”

This idea of God being a real, legitimate, qualified judge is lost on much of humanity today. I think it would be very good for people to regain their understanding of and confidence in God as judge. It’s a wonderful truth. You can let that person know that you have no intention of judging them, but God most certainly will.

Is it biblical to ask the Holy Spirit to take control of our mind? Since God did not make us as robots, how great is the Holy Spirit’s role in controlling our thoughts and minds?

Is it biblical to pray to the Holy Spirit to take control of our mind? Since God did not make us as robots, how great is the Holy Spirit’s role in controlling our thoughts and minds? Scripture references would be appreciated.

It’s tough to come up with a specific Scripture reference about the Holy Spirit controlling our mind, because the Bible doesn’t speak in that kind of terminology. But I’ll give you a couple references which speak to the general principle.

First off, the Bible says in Romans 12:1-2 that we should not be conformed to the world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of our mind. This is not the adaptation of the Spirit taking control of our mind, but the renewing of our own mind as we’re transformed by the ongoing work of God.

Another principle comes from 1 Corinthians 2:16, which says that we have the mind of Christ. We know from the context and the way the New Testament presents these things that it’s not talking about a mind meld, but that we have the nature of Christ within us. The mind of Christ is, at least in some sense, accessible to the believer, especially through God’s revealed Word.

On principle, the Holy Spirit does not control a believer in the way that a person might be controlled under demonic possession. Under demonic possession, a person’s personality can be overwhelmed. A classic example in the Gospels is the Gadarene demoniac. That person was sorely and seriously afflicted by demonic spirits and had essentially lost control of their own functions or faculties, at least some of the time. The Holy Spirit does not work like that in the lives of believers. The Holy Spirit works in and through a person without controlling them, as would be the case in demonic possession. Our transformation doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit possessing our minds or taking control of our minds. No, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Does the principle “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God ” apply to practical situations like buying a house?

I know the word says, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” I am believing and seeking a house in this market, yet the natural odds are against my finances – any words of encouragement? Does faith apply to this?

I’ll speak to you very straightforwardly and honestly. I don’t have any doubt that you look at your life, your financial situation, and your living situation, and you can see that it would be a significant blessing for you to own a home, even this particular home. There is nothing wrong with you praying about this and asking God for it.

But I want to remind you that there are things which God sees that maybe you don’t see. There might be reasons why this home isn’t so great for you. Maybe it would extend you financially beyond what you’re able to bear. Maybe it will require unexpected repairs that you can’t see. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pray in faith for this home. But you should pray in what I would call a contingent faith, a dependent faith, saying, “Lord, as far as I can see, this is a great house and a perfect home for me. I pray that you would bring all things together for it.” But at the same time, even while you are confident in praying in that sense, you can also say, “But Lord, You see the things that I cannot see. If this isn’t the right house for me, even if I can’t see it yet, I want You to reign over this and for You to demonstrate Your love and Your power in this.”

I think there are two errors we can fall into. One is to never be bold in asking God for anything. Let’s remember what it says in James 4:2, “You have not because you ask not.” There’s a very real place in the Christian life for us just to simply ask the Lord for more. But then there’s another attitude that violates the principles of humility in the Christian life and the fear of the Lord. Whenever we ask, we do it always in recognition that “Father Knows Best.” We trust that God knows. We don’t allow that to cripple us into never asking, but we always ask with boldness, as far as we can see. Friends, God doesn’t hold us to be responsible for more than what we can see.

So, we pray boldly for what we can see, and then just trust the Lord to display His goodness and His will in everything else. I hope that’s helpful for you. Thank you for your question. I’m going to pray that God gives you a lot of wisdom and that God brings you this house or a house that’s even better.

Not long ago, Sweden was a pioneer in missionary work. What’s your opinion about the current condition of the country?

Hi Pastor. Not long ago, Sweden had been a pioneer in missionary work. What’s your opinion about the current condition of the country? I have heard that some people there are burning Holy Scriptures in the name of freedom of speech.

I don’t know much about this specific occasion you’re talking about. I’ve heard bits about this on social media, that there have been some burnings of the Quran in Sweden. I don’t think that’s what you’re referring to as Holy Scripture. Maybe other people are burning copies of the Bible, maybe out of sympathy with Muslims, maybe they’re burning the Bible and the Quran, I don’t know.

Whatever it is, I’ll give you my sense of the spiritual condition of Sweden. First, Sweden is an unbelievably secular country. I can’t speak for every Swede, of course, but Biblical Christianity is seen by many Swedish people as an oddity. They’re kind of surprised that people still do that. They think it’s something from the Middle Ages, so there’s a sense of surprise that people still do that. I’ll be in Sweden in a few weeks. It’s remarkable to see how secular the country is. According to some surveys, it is the most secular country on earth. It is certainly one of the most secular countries on earth. So, its spiritual condition is very low.

The other problem is that a lot of the church influence in Sweden isn’t good. There are some good churches in Sweden, of course. Praise the Lord for them. May the Lord bless them and strengthen them, and may the Lord multiply and bless every good church in Sweden. But the Church of Sweden itself is very compromised and very weak. If people want to see the future of ministries that are fully egalitarian, fully open to women on every level, just look at the Church of Sweden. That’s your future right there. If egalitarianism was the answer to revival in the Church, then the Church of Sweden should be one of the most revived churches on the face of the earth. But of course, it’s not.

Do you have passages or advice for a Christian man struggling with being single, who wants to marry a godly woman and raise a family?

I’m a Christian man struggling with being single and wanting a godly woman that I can marry and have a godly family with. Do you have passages/advice that can help?

Here’s the problem. Every individual story is a little different as to why they have difficulty in getting married. Some people are too carnal or fleshly in their pursuit of a mate. Other people are too spiritual in their pursuit of a mate, and they’re almost waiting for God to drop somebody down from heaven. Therefore, there’s a difference from person to person in such a situation to situation as to why people face this very common dilemma.

I would encourage you to be bold in the way that you meet people. Sure, you’re going to face some rejection along the way, but be bold and proactive. It is a curious situation, as I said. There are some people who are not spiritual enough in their pursuit of a mate, while other people are way too spiritual in their pursuit of a mate. There are some people who are too proactive, and others who aren’t active enough. There are some people whose standards are too high, and others whose standards are too low.

So again, it’s difficult to say what your specific situation is. But in general, I would just encourage people who want to get married, especially men, to just be more proactive. There’s something strange in the Christian world today, where a lot of Christian men say, “I’m single, and I really want to get married, but I can’t find anybody suitable for marriage.” And there’s also a lot of Christian women who say, “I’m single and want to get married, and I can’t find anybody suitable for marriage.” There’s some strange disconnect in this.

Does God “love” angels (even though he doesn’t love Satan)? If so, is it a greater or lesser “love” than He has for people?

We’re talking about whether or not God loves Satan, and I would put faithful angels in the same category. When we talk about angelic beings, we can put them into two different categories. There are faithful angelic beings and there are fallen angelic beings, which would include Satan (Lucifer, son of the morning) and the angels that fell with him. Their fall is described in the book of Revelation, which says that he drew a third of the stars of heaven with him.

I don’t think that God has a love relationship with either faithful or fallen angels in the way that He has with human beings. I think there is a difference in compatibility between humans and between angelic beings. Human beings are made in the image of God, while angels are not.

Does God’s blessing to Abram include all his descendants, including Ishmael and the Arab peoples (Genesis 12)?

In Genesis 12, when God says, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you,” was He including ALL of Abram’s descendants? Including those of Ishmael, today’s Arab peoples?

No, I don’t think so. The promise to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” was part of the covenant that God gave to Abraham. But that covenant was not passed down not to all of Abraham’s descendants. Remember that Abraham had more descendants beyond just Isaac and Ishmael. After Sarah died, Abraham married a woman named Keturah, who gave birth to six sons.

So no, the promise to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” does not carry on to all of Abraham’s descendants. It’s part of the covenant that passed down through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel.

However, God has a blessing for the descendants of Ishmael, there’s no doubt about that. The book of Genesis speaks about God’s plan and destiny for the descendants of Abraham and Hagar. So, yes, God has blessing for the Arabic people and the descendants of Ishmael. But that particular part of the promise really belongs to the covenant that God made that was passed down to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Is our spirit “created” upon conception by God, or does it exist before being conceived / in the womb?

The Bible says that God knew us before we were in the womb. My question is: is our spirit “created” upon conception by God? Or does this mean the spirit existed before being conceived / in the womb?

The Bible doesn’t speak clearly about this, so we want to be careful about being dogmatic. But I’ll give you my understanding of this based on the general tone and presentation of the entirety of Scripture. Yes, God creates a person’s spirit/soul/inmost being upon their conception. However, that person existed in the mind of God, the will of God, and the plan of God, before their conception.

There’s a sense in which every person exists before conception in the plan and will of God, but not in actuality. I would say that we don’t have a preexistence before our conception, but it’s at our conception that God creates a spirit or a soul. However, people can exist in the mind and in the plan of God before they are ever born because, thankfully, God knows the beginning from the end.

Can people in heaven pray for us?

I have heard some people claim that loved ones who have passed on can pray for those of us left behind. Is there any scriptural evidence or suggestion for that? I have a problem with that position. How can we refute this?

In Luke 16, Jesus told the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In this story, Jesus gave a rare description of what it’s like in the world beyond. But in this description of the world beyond, the rich man who was in torment was aware of his relatives back in this world. He was not aware of what they were doing, but he was aware that they existed. He was also aware that he did not want them to end up in the same place that he was. But he was powerless to do anything about it.

The people whom we have known in the Lord who have gone on before us may or may not know what’s happening with us in this world. But even if they know, they’re powerless to do anything about it. That’s not how it works.

How would you respond to a Catholic or Orthodox Christian who says the doctrine of praying for the dead came directly from the church fathers and Apostles?

I would say that, as helpful as the church fathers and other leaders in the early church were, they don’t compare to the Word of God. Again, we don’t dismiss the early church fathers. We don’t dismiss godly people throughout church history, who have an insight into the Scriptures. But neither do we allow something that’s not Scriptural to be established merely on the authority of other believers, whether those other believers be ancient, modern, or somewhere in between.

Not only is it not a biblical doctrine, but as I said before, it goes against biblical principles, which I shared in the very beginning of the program. Sometimes Protestants are far too dismissive of the church fathers or others throughout church history who have been helpful in their theology and understanding of the Scriptures. No, we should respect them, we should learn from them, but never should we ever put them on the same level as the Scriptures themselves. Listen, there were things going astray in churches in the New Testament times, so of course things could go astray in the period that we call the period of the early church fathers.

What are some practical examples of fleeing from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14)?

Good question. What are the main idols people worship today? They worship sex and romance; they worship money and financial success; they worship popularity and fame. Christians need to run from the worship of those things, and distance themselves from them. When you run away from something, you’re putting distance between yourself and that thing.

I’ll say something that may sound harsh or even counterproductive. There may be some people right now watching this on their phone. If you can’t find a way to use your phone in a way that honors God, maybe you need to get rid of it. You’re committing idolatry with your phone; you are more in love with your phone than you are with God. If that’s the case, you need to flee from that idolatry. You need to put yourself on a fast from your phone until this thing is broken in your life. To flee from something is to put distance between it and yourself, so that it does not and cannot have an undue influence upon your life.

Do Catholics believe they are saved by Jesus plus works?

Are Catholics not saved? Do Catholics believe they are saved by Jesus plus works? If so, perhaps they are not saved?

The official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church has an overemphasis on works in salvation. It’s not proper to say that they believe that they are saved by works. But I would say that they have an overemphasis of on works and salvation. That’s the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. But there are many Roman Catholics who don’t believe the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. We need to get away from the conception that salvation is a matter of belonging or not belonging to the right or wrong group. That’s not what’s really important.

What is important is that you have an individual relationship of trust and love with Jesus Christ – and not a Jesus of your own imagination, but the true biblical Jesus – and you bring the real you to the real Jesus. You trust in Him, rely on Him, and cling to Him. That is how to be right with God. It is not on the basis of who you are, but on what Jesus has done.

So, are there people in the Roman Catholic Church who have done that and are in right relationship with God? Absolutely. Are there people in good Protestant churches who have not done that as well? Absolutely. Again, we need to get out of the conception that salvation is a matter of the group that you belong to. No, what matters is the individual’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now, I’m not saying that the group you belong to doesn’t matter. Of course, it does. It’s going to be very difficult for most believers to grow spiritually in a church like the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it could be very difficult and present a lot of hindrances. So that should be considered and avoided.

Who really was Melchizedek?

I believe Melchizedek was a unique man. I don’t believe that he was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, though I’ll allow that he could be. As I weigh the evidence, I think it’s more likely that he was just a man who was a remarkable picture or type of Jesus Christ. So, he was the priest of Salem, which later we know as Jerusalem. He was the king of righteousness. He was a remarkable man that God used in the Old Testament, in this marvelous encounter with Abraham, who had a real relationship with God as the priest of Salem.

Are Christians in the United States experiencing a sense of persecution?

Well, yes. But let’s face it, it’s very minor persecution. I think one of the big mistakes people make when considering persecution is they just think it’s like an on-off switch, where either there’s no persecution, or Christians are being shot to death in the streets. They assume there is no in-between. But that’s a wrong way to think about things. There can be all sorts of gradations in persecution.

I think there’s a very real minor level of persecution that we see from time to time in the United States. Listen, when there were governments unrighteously and unjustly trying to shut down churches and tell churches when and where they couldn’t meet for worship, it was a minor foreign persecution. We don’t want to exaggerate it. Of course, people are not being killed in the streets, and we’re happy for that, but it was a minor form of persecution. When the government is telling Christians when they can and can’t meet, that’s persecution on some level.

How can I know that I am truly saved?

I’ve prayed a thousand times for salvation, and yet I still doubt that I have salvation. I don’t think my original altar call as a kid was genuine at all. People now say that I must be saved, otherwise I would not care about this issue. How can I truly tell that I am saved?

The Bible says that if you believe with your heart on the Lord Jesus Christ, believe that God raised Him from the dead, confess your sins, and put your trust in Jesus, you will be saved. Jesus says He won’t cast out anyone who comes to Him. I hope you’re not thinking that you’re somehow an exception to that, as if somehow, you’re the one whom God would cast out.

I understand that some people find faith more difficult, and it’s harder for them to believe. But you can believe this, you can put your trust in this. The promises that Jesus makes to those who come to Him include you. You don’t need to think that they are talking about everybody except you. They include you. And you can say, “I put my trust in Jesus.” Nobody can put their trust in Jesus perfectly. But to the best of your ability, you put your trust in Jesus. You’ve repented of your sins. You look to Him for your salvation, and not to yourself; you’re not trying to earn it yourself. You’re trusting in what He can do and what He has done for you. You find your rest in that. That’s your assurance. And you can say, “I may not feel like I’m saved today, but Jesus says I am, and that’s good enough for me.” I hope it is good enough for you. I hope you have a sense of real peace and rest in that. That will be my prayer for you.