Christians speaking to the dead

trueseek1's picture

Had never thought of it this way, until I found a book on the shelf expounding on one of the well known passages of the Holy Scriptures: The Transfiguration passage. Jesus has a live visit from Moses and Elijah and in the presence of the other fallible men, a couple of apostles, he enters into conversation with these two "dead saints". The author also highlighted another instance when God rose the dead and they went into the cities to show themselves as alive in Christ. I had read these passages many times before, and heard countless evangelical sermons on them, but in all my previous readings of the last couple of hundred years of evangelical commentaries, I had never heard of the reality that these visitations represented. Does anyone know how did the faithful early Church fathers who honored God, in the nonheretical Church, view these passages?

Also, the author differentiated clearly between using a medium to reach the dead as Saul did to talk to Samuel, and both these passages, with the understanding that Christ revealed clearly that it is not sinful to have a conversation with a live saint, but evil if one tries to use mediums as the ungodly do.

Thanks for all insights on these passages.

michael_legna's picture

Cloud of witnesses

lars said -
It seems that there should be a real distinction made between those of us who remain on earth and those who have gone on to be with Christ. Even though we are still counted as one family [Eph. 3:14-15], it still remains that we are in different circumstances.

Yes, the saints already in heaven are known to be righteous so their prayers are all that more effectual.

James 5:16b The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Their presence around us is even used by Paul to exhort us to run the race with patience so we too may obtain.

Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

lars said -
It should first be noted that to ask or "pray" for the saints to pray/intercede on our behalf, is asking them to perform the role of mediator.

No, I don't think you have shown this at all. You have not shown that praying for someone is mediating, otherwise having people alive on earth pray for us would also be having them mediate (which of course they don't). Interceding and meditating are two different things, especially when you are considering mediation at the level Christ did it.

lars said -
The scriptures are quite plain that there is "one mediator between man and God, the Man Christ Jesus".

Even if we accept your previous complaint - that praying is a form of mediation (which still has problems as I showed above), you have not shown that this form of interceding for another is mediation in the same sense as Christ mediated for us.

Certainly no one who asks the saints who have gone before us and make up the Church Triumphant in heaven is thinking of them as mediating in the same manner as Christ did.

lars said -
If this was to be an acceptable practise, i.e., asking the saints who have gone on before us, to pray for us, there would be some indication or instruction in the Scriptures themselves, which there is none.

Claiming there is none means you have reviewed every scripture and shown us the results of that review and you have not done that, so the most you can do is claim that you are unaware of any support. But I will show you some below here:

We pray or ask the angels to intercede for us in Ps 103

Psalm 103:20-21 20 Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. 21 Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

and in Psalm 148 we similarly exhort the angels and hosts to pray worshipfully to God

Psa 148:1-2 1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. 2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.

Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us. In the book of Revelation, John sees that "the twenty-four elders [the leaders of the people of God in heaven] fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints"

Rev 5:8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.

Angels do the same thing in Rev 8
Rev 8:3-4 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

And Jesus himself warned us not to offend small children, because their guardian angels have guaranteed intercessory access to the Father:

Mat 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Their circumstances are different than ours are too, but they can still intercede for us.

Jesus is the only mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:5) but He is not the only intercessor.

This in no way means we cannot or should not ask our fellow Christians to pray with us and for us which is taught just prior to the verse identifying Jesus as the sole mediator. (1 Tim. 2:1–4).

We should ask the intercession of those Christians in heaven, who have already had their sanctification completed, for "the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (James 5:16).

lars said -
Secondly, I believe it is in the plan/wisdom/command of God, that we who are walking with Him here on this earth, are to pray with each other and for each other, due to our common circumstance in this world. That is, our faith has not turned to sight, just yet. So we are all "looking through a glass darkly", walking by faith in this world. We are all having to walk in this world, trusting God in the manner and to the degree that is suitable to the development of our faith and maturity process.

So because we see darkly we should help each other, but those with full sight like the saints in heaven and the angels should not? Doesn't this sound like the blind leading the blind and they both fall into the pit? Doesn't it make more sense to ask those who can see to help us?

lars said -
This world is the quarry in which the stones of the eternal temple are being carved. We are all being hammered and chiseled by the Master Builder, so that we will fit perfectly in His building, when we are moved to the temple site [Eph. 2:19-22].

It is for this reason that we are to pray for one another, because who better can bear one another's burdens that those who have the same burdens.

No doesn't it make more sense that God use the vessels He made in the best way possible?

2 Tim 2:20-21 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

These saints in heaven have been made into vessels of gold and silver and now you want God not to use them? It makes no sense to me.

You want to claim that the saints in heaven and the saints are separated by circumstances which makes our asking them to pray for us out of place. I think if the line of death is not a significant issue in God's eyes, then the differences in circumstances are minor by comparison and so you claim does not have sufficient support.