Is prayer for the dead Biblical?  


By BibleAsk Team

Prayer for the Dead

Prayer for the dead is not a biblical practice. The Bible clearly shows that there is no second chance for the sinners after death in the parable of the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). The dead’s books have been closed and they are sleeping till the Resurrection Day to be awakened and given their rewards or punishments. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

Revelation 20:12 tells us that God’s record books will be opened, and the dead will be “judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Death and Hades will hand the dead that are in them, and the dead will be “judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (verse 13). Those who reject Christ in this life, judge themselves to eternal death (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:44-48; Luke 16:23; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:15; 21:8).

The Scriptures teach that a man must accept salvation in this present life and that his personal probation closes at death (Matthew 16:27; Luke 16:26–31; Romans 2:6; Hebrews 9:27; Ezekiel 18:24; Revelation 22:12). According to these verses there is no second chance. Therefore, prayer for the dead is not Biblical and is useless. The Scriptures are clear that: We live once, die once, and are judged once. For this reason, Paul admonishes the believers: “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) since death can come at any time (Ecclesiastes 9:12).


The Catholic Church teaches that Purgatory is a place that a Christian’s soul goes to after death to be cleansed of the sins that had not been fully satisfied during life. People that offer prayer for the dead believe that their prayers help their loved ones speed out of suffering in Purgatory. But the concept of Purgatory is not taught in the Bible.

The Bible declares that Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins (Romans 5:8). Isaiah 53:5 declares, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Jesus suffered for people’s sins so that they could be delivered from suffering. To say that they must also suffer for their sins is to say that Jesus’ suffering was insufficient (1 John 2:2).

There are no Bible references that teach that once a person dies, he can be saved after death by virtue of what people in this life are doing for him. The salvation of the dead is not dependent on what the living do. A person takes his record with him to his grave that he’ll meet in the judgment. For more on Purgatory, check:

The State of the Dead

The Bible refers to death as sleep. The dead simply “sleep” in their graves until the Resurrection Day. Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep…So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead“ (John 11:11-14; also Psalms 13:3; Daniel 12:2; Acts 7:60;  Job 14:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 15:51;  1 Corinthians 1:18).

Death is a state of total unconsciousness, during which 15 minutes or a thousand years seem the same. “His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalms 146:4; also Job 14:21; Psalms 115:17; Psalms 6:5; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6; Job 7:9, 10). The teaching that the dead become heavenly angels, or some righteous ghost like entities, is without scriptural support.

The Scriptures clearly teach that the dead will be raised up at the Resurrection Day at the end of the world to receive their rewards or punishments. The saints will be raised, given immortal bodies, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout … and the dead in Christ shall rise … and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; also Revelation 22:12; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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