Prayer for the Dead
16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain;
17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me.
18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy (1656 ἔλεος eleos) from the Lord in that Day– and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus. (2 Tim. 1:16-18 NKJ)
Paul is so grateful for Onesiphorus’ ministry in Ephesus and while a prisoner in Rome, his “pious wish” is the mercy shown to him be reciprocated by the LORD on Judgment Day.
It wasn’t long before this text coupled with the apocryphal 2 Maccabees 12:44, 45 gave rise to Catholic belief in purgatory. While Protestants correctly reject the eisegesis for sound reasons, they missed the most elegant explanation of Paul’s “pious wish”. It had nothing to do with purgatory or the realm of the dead at all:
7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:7-10 NKJ)
We all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive rewards for what was done in the body. As believers are already saved by grace through faith they do not come into judgment (Jn. 5:24-25) over their salvation.
Rather they are judged for deeds done in the body as Christians, to receive rewards.
Paul’s “pious wish” was for Onesiphorus to receive the “kindness” (1656 ἔλεος eleos) he so generously showered upon others and Paul, when believers receive their special rewards done for deeds while in the body.
Its impossible prayer for the dead accomplish anything.
Just as it was impossible for the redeemed with Abraham crossover and help those suffering in Hades (Lk. 16:26), so also it is impossible prayers of the living or anything they do will improve the lot of those in Hades. God who desires all men be saved (1Tim. 2:4) is perfectly motivating them to repent and be saved in the Day of the LORD Jesus, and not be cast into the Lake of Fire (Jn. 5:28-29. 1Pet. 2:6. 1Cor. 5:5. Rev. 20:13-15). The torments of Hades perfectly illustrate God going to the “perfect extreme” hoping to save all from being cast into the Lake of Fire. Of course, as the gift of free will is actual and not an illusion, there are those who simply cannot abide in righteousness with a Holy God so in spite of everything, they will be lost. Also those who commit eternal sins, such as accepting the mark of the Beast (Rev. 14:7-9), blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:21-32) or stumbling one of Jesus’ children (Mk. 9:42-48)« Back to Glossary Index