Q: Can I pray for the dead to go to heaven?
There is no indication in the Scriptures that you can pray for the dead to go to heaven. In fact, there is a clear indication that praying for the dead to go to heaven is of no use. Here are two clear indications:
1. In Luke 16 (discussed in the previous post), once the rich man had died, he went to Hell. And he could not get out. The Scriptures show us here that it was an immediate thing. There was no “in-between place” or “purgatory”. That part is missing from the story, because it doesn’t exist! Ouch! So if going to heaven or hell is an immediate thing, and you cannot get out of hell, then there is no sense praying for the dead. You are wasting your precious time when in fact you could be doing something much better with it, like serving God in some truly admirable areas – like helping the poor, or praying for the sick, or sharing your faith with someone who needs to hear about Jesus Christ and His offer of forgiveness to all who will accept it. Now this is spending your time wisely.
2. The book of Hebrews tells us that once a person dies, it is time for judgment. Now there are two separate judgments, one for those who have accepted God’s free offer of eternal salvation, and one for those who have rejected it. Those two judgments are entirely different judgments. But they will nevertheless occur, and they will occur after a person dies. While it is true that the judgments themselves do not occur immediately after a person dies, the eternal state of that person is indeed decided immediately after that person dies. So when the Bible says,
“… it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)
it indicates we will be judged for the things we said and did while alive — and unless we have repented for those things while we were still alive, we will be subject to that judgment and there is no one else who can pray us out of that.
“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36)
‘Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION.”‘ (2 Corinthians 6:2)