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Can Prayer Be Offered From Heaven?

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Question #1:   Greetings, my friend.  Can the deceased in heaven pray for those on earth?

Response #1:  I can only observe that scripture has precious little to say about the heavenly state of believers who have gone to be with the Lord in general, let alone when it comes to such specifics. I often receive questions about the interim body as a result (understandable given that this issue is discussed only peripherally in few passages which are generally misunderstood, especially 2Cor.5:3 which is universally mistranslated without excuse; see the e-mail response, "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State"). I have posited in the past (based on scripture) that departed believers can at least to some degree observe what is happening on earth through the heavenly sea described in the book of Revelation:

"..... the sea of upper waters is thus not only a separating barrier between God's heavenly temple and the world below, but also an access point. This latter function helps to explain the appearance "on the sea" of the tribulational martyrs as they "come out of the world" (Rev.15:2; cf. Rev.7:14). In this respect, then, the heavenly sea of "waters above" seems also to act in the capacity of an "observation port" of sorts for the heavenly throngs witnessing the events unfolding on the earth below. Scripture provides few details of such heavenly observation of the earth, but it is clear that angelic kind is very aware of what is happening here below (Job 1-2; Kng.22:19-22; Lk.15:10; 1Cor.4:9; 11:10; 1Pet.1:12), and there are also indications that departed believers, now in residence in the third heaven, may also be able to view earthly events in this way (Jn.8:56; Heb.12:1; Rev.6:10). If so, this sea seems to be the "viewing lens" for such observation, although it is important to note that God is so overwhelmingly glorious and wonderful in Person that such earthly events will no doubt only be of interest from the heavenly perspective to the extent that they reflect His glory and the progress of His plan. [From "Coming Tribulation 2B: the Heavenly Prelude"]

So your question is certainly a good one – if I were in heaven watching events as they transpired below, wouldn't I be praying for those I'd left behind? One would think so – if such a thing were allowed. In Luke 16:19-31, the rich man in Hades makes a request of Abraham, not a prayer per se, but he is asking for the most important thing, namely, for the salvation of those left behind. Now if anyone could ask God for something after death, Abraham surely could. But Abraham, of course, tells the rich man that "Moses and the Prophets" are sufficient. In Revelation 6:9-11, the martyrs coming out of the Great Persecution in the Tribulation's second half do make a request of the Lord – of retribution on those who have taken their own lives. This seems to be a unique situation inasmuch as they have not actually received their interim bodies when they make the request:

. . . . . I saw below the altar the living persons who had been slain because of the Word of God and because of the testimony which they had maintained. And they cried out with a loud voice, saying "How long, O Master, holy and true, will you [wait and] not render judgment and vindication for our blood upon those who dwell on the earth?" And a white robe was given to each one of them that they might rest yet a little while longer until their brothers who were destined to be killed in the same fashion should also fulfill [their course].
Revelation 6:9-11

Further, their vindication and divine retribution for the Great Persecution is one the major developments in the Tribulation's second half and has always been an expressed part of God's will. As believers who are prepared to the point of not falling away and of successfully holding out until martyrdom, it is likely that these individuals understand very well the meaning of the coming bowl judgments in this respect. So that all these martyrs are doing is asking for the will of God to be carried out, a will of which they have long been well aware. The urgency of their request serves to help us understand the difficult burden upon believers in those days, but does not, I think, give us a general rule about the possibility of prayer on the other side of this temporary world (especially given the fact that, as I say, they are technically in transition when they utter these words).

On the other hand, there are also things to suggest that there is no prayer from heaven:

1) Prayer is very much for our benefit here on earth. By that I mean, we draw closer to God by praying. He already knows what we need. But we come to have a better understanding of His character and develop a closer walk with Him through the process of prayer. In heaven, there will be no physical want and no need of such development. Everyone there will be in perfect peace and have no need whatsoever. It is hard to fathom that the one thing theoretically capable of upsetting us then (i.e., observation of the troubles of loved ones on earth) will in fact be allowed to do so.

2) Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit pray for us and intercede on our behalf from heaven (Rom.8:26; 8:34). Apart from the fact of their divinity, it is also apparently obvious that the Lord and the Spirit are here in us as well as there interceding for us, so that their role is unique. They continue to work out the plan of God, whereas our free will time in the plan of God will by that time be over. Not that we do not have a blessed and eternal role to play of course, but our opportunity to intercede and participate is here and now. We have gifts, time, opportunities, and resistance, all of which are key to making our choices here important and their consequences eternal. So from the point of view of free will, since we only actually have it here in time (when properly defined as the opportunity to say yes to God when saying no is possible), the only place our prayers can be meritorious is while we are still in these corrupted and corruptible bodies. Satan is, true enough, still accusing us – and that will continue until the 7th trumpet blows – but the angels will continue to be "morally involved" until the end of time, whereas we enter eternity the moment we pass from this world.

None of this is perhaps decisive, but it does lead me to believe that the short answer to your question is "no". I will add that issues of this sort have caused much disruption in the church throughout the centuries (i.e., purgatory and the like; see the link: "Is there a purgatory according to the Bible?"). It is easy to see how becoming too fixated upon what those departed are doing or how they are doing (in heaven, hell, or "purgatory", an invention born of just such speculation), can negatively affect the true and proper focus of what we should be doing and how we should be doing it here and now. For that reason, I would say that it is almost certainly deliberate that, even if there is prayer in heaven, we are given very little biblical reason to say so.

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dear Bob,

As a pastor, I have found your web site stimulating and very helpful. Thank you. You made the statement, "In Genesis chapter three we find Eve alone in the garden conversing, strange as it may seem, with a snake." Even though the creature was called a "serpent", I see no reason to believe it came into its "snake-like" characteristics until after it was cursed by God: "Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Gen. 3:14. I do not bring it up because it is a great doctrinal issue, but only to establish Biblical accuracy. It appears the serpent was a very different creature from a snake when first viewed by Eve and likely much more appealing than a slimy snake. Do you agree?

Response #2: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for your encouraging words. I would certainly agree that the snake/serpent as portrayed in the biblical account must have been quite different in a number of ways from the snake/serpent with which we are now familiar after the curse. Scripture only describes the changes in general terms (i.e., after the curse it will crawl on its belly and eat dust: Gen.3:14). So we of course assume that previously it had to have had a more upright or at least elevated stature than is presently the case. That is not to say that there were not other changes associated with this one fundamental change (i.e., its apparent ability to speak ends with the curse as well), only that scripture is not explicit about it. To get to the specifics of your question, I am not using the word "snake" or the word "serpent" in any special or technical sense. These words in English are synonyms (with snake derived from a Germanic root and serpent from the Latin). The Hebrew word employed in Genesis chapter three is nachash, the generic word for "snake" throughout the Old Testament, and even today in Modern Hebrew. It is true, I suppose, that when we say "serpent", since it is a slightly more archaic term and often used by translators of Genesis to make a distinction from "snake" that we feel that there must be some difference, but in Hebrew and in precise English vocabulary there is no difference unless we choose to assign one not otherwise there. Bottom line: a native Hebrew speaker in 1200 B.C. would have understood from the word nachash an ordinary snake, even though it is clear from the text that such creatures had a markedly different appearance before the Genesis 3 curse – as you rightly point out. 

See also the following links:

       "The Temptation" (in BB 3A)

       "The Genesis Serpent"

       "The Judgment"  (in BB 3A)

       "The Serpent's Seed" (in CT 3B)


Yours in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill
 

Question #3: 

I was wondering if you could check the Hebrew for me, in Gen. 3:15, where it says, "He shall bruise you on the head..." Now, Jerome has SHE shall bruise you on the head. Now, is it masculine or feminine here, or neuter? I researched a little, and it appears to be a neutral pronoun here. So, why the "she" from Jerome? Of course, the Roman Catholic Church sees Mary in the "she", though even their more modern translations say "it" or "he" (see the attached link for an argument in support of that position). Anyway, is this guy right? That "she" makes more sense, since it says "I will put enmity between you and the woman."? But it is Christ who destroyed the works of the devil, not Mary or any woman. So, which would be the best translation--he, she, or it?

Thanks and God bless.
 

Response #3: 

The Hebrew has "he" (pronoun hu`), not "she" (that would be the pronoun hiy`). The word "woman" in Hebrew is, of course, feminine, and would require the latter feminine pronoun, whereas the text has the former masculine one. The word "seed" is masculine, so we can take "he" (pronoun hu`) as referring to either the seed per se or the male individual represented by the seed or both (there is very little theological distinction since the seed is of course Jesus Christ). The one thing that the Hebrew grammar will most definitely not allow here is to have the "he" (pronoun hu`) refer to "the woman". There is no indication of any Hebrew textual variation on this passage, and no compelling reason to think that the text may have been changed. The very strange explanation proffered by these gentlemen you ask about in the link you supply for some change in the Hebrew original has no basis in fact. The idea that somehow the Romans destroyed the Bible is, of course, nonsense. And "7 books left out of the original" can only be meant to refer to the Apocrypha, a collection of non-biblical books Jerome himself only translated under duress and is on record as not seeing as scriptural (it wasn't even official "canon" in the R.C. Church until the 15th century; see the link: "Is there any value to the Apocrypha?"). The Qumran scrolls show clearly enough the veracity of the Hebrew text we have received. If there are occasionally problems with that text, they are far, far fewer with the problems one encounters in the Septuagint which is at least one step removed from the original, and orders of magnitude less than those of the Latin Vulgate, which, as we currently have it, has been heavily influenced by the Old Latin, the LXX, and by R.C. church doctrine, quite apart from its own sizeable textual issues (reestablishing its original form is generally agreed to be a nigh on impossible because of widespread homogenization).

So while there is no good reason to suspect the Hebrew version, the situation with the Vulgate is otherwise. Of all the ancient witnesses to the Bible, the Vulgate is the by far the worst. Even the problematic Septuagint looks good in comparison. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) there were so many undocumented changes over the centuries and so many versions of versions floating around and cross-fertilizing that it is virtually an impossible undertaking to ascertain with any degree of confidence what it was that Jerome actually penned in many places; 2) since this was the text used both to support theological argumentation and to support R.C. church doctrine, creative "changes" are not uncommon. Genesis 3:15 is a case in point of the second reason above. However, we do have three fine manuscripts of the Vulgate, manuscripts of persuasive antiquity, which read ipse here (i.e., "he himself") instead of ipsa (i.e., "she herself"). Given the passion with which these gentlemen support this ridiculous and completely unscriptural idea, it does beg the question of whether earlier proponents of this heretical view were equally passionate about the point, passionate enough in fact to put out an amended version of Jerome's original. My experience with textual criticism suggests to me that this is indeed what happened; and the "new version" squared so nicely and satisfyingly with what many in the R.C. church have always wanted to teach and believe (i.e., that the seed was Mary and not Christ), that the fact that it had no original basis in scripture and was different from older versions of the text proved no obstacle to its near wholesale replacement of what Jerome had written. Understand, this is not a complicated issue. Any first year Hebrew student would see and read "he" instead of "she". Jerome was by and large a very careful translator (as even these gentlemen point out). Without some rational explanation, it is difficult to see why Jerome would make this leap. The gentlemen go on at length about the value of the LXX, but the LXX has autos (the masculine pronoun), not aute (fem.). In short, the assertion that "Jerome wrote it this way", an attempt to piggy-back on his authority, is, to my mind, unsubstantiated, contrary to the methodology of the Jerome we know, and easily explainable as a later change (though difficult to justify as an original change). There is simply no evidence that there is a problem with the Hebrew text (it is even backed up by the LXX and, as I say, at least three good mss. of the Vulgate), whereas all logic and weight of standard textual criticism stands against this bizarre and self-serving interpretation. The Seed is Christ, a fact we can easily discern since it is most definitely He who will defeat the devil when He returns.

In our Lord who will crush the head of Satan on that day of days.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

I originally linked to your site from http://www.kjvbible.org/ (otherwise known as Christian Geology). I can barely believe the wealth of material here!

My original reason for looking was a long time conviction of a huge gap of time between GEN.1:1 and verse 2. But you have so much more here, all thoughtfully and clearly set out. In many cases you have written the way I have thought on these things, and I so appreciate your respect and careful treatment of God's word.

For me, you have really scratched more than the surface and laid bare the beauty of biblical understatement; 2 brief little verses. And yet they signal some of the most awesome events in the whole history of the created universe. For years I've pondered on the wonder and beauty of the heavens and the Earth that might have been, before the events that gave rise to the Earth's description in verse 2 of GEN.1.

I know it's probably a moot question . . . but is it at all possible that the destruction and laying waste, was in some way, an actual payback by Lucifer/Satan and his followers against God for being cast out of Heaven, after their rebellion? As opposed to God's execution of Judgment.

That is, some terrible act of retribution and unbridled rage at their rejection and ousting from their supremely privileged place before the presence of God? Revenge on a cosmic scale even! Am I driving up a one way street here, or is this 'line of enquiry' maybe worth exploring?

I have read in other places that Lucifer and the angels were given positions of administration and charge over worlds, and specifically over the Earth. And it also seems to me that since his fall and rejection from Heaven, it has ever been one of his chief aims to 'wound' and grieve the heart of God as much as is possible.

So if this is more than a remote possibility, can the question be resolved to some degree? Nowhere in verse 2, either in the original language of words or grammatical construction, does there seem to be any hint that the utter devastation being described is in fact a judgement; rather an emphasized description of some awful aftermath . . . but initiated by whom, and for what reasons?

As I said, it may be just a moot point; but if you can blow away the cobwebs on this one for me (and maybe others) I'd much appreciate it.

Response #4: 

Thanks so much for your encouraging words about the "Genesis Gap" study. I am very pleased if it has been helpful to you in some small way. As to your question about the cause of the upheaval whose aftermath is described in Genesis 1:2, I suppose the best answer would be to encourage you to read the entire five part series, "The Satanic Rebellion", of which "Genesis Gap" forms the second (and smallest) part. I find in scripture a pattern of judgment, replacement, and restoration which is central to the plan of God for history in the Person of Jesus Christ, His dealing with Satan's revolt, the redemption of believing mankind, and the ultimate disposition of all things. According to this hypothesis (biblically based, in my view, and documented throughout the series), the Genesis Gap judgment is answered by the seven day restoration and the beginning of the process of replacement of Satan and his angels through the creation of mankind. This "phase one" is followed by a second phase, wherein the judgments of the Tribulation are answered by the restoration of the millennium and the replacement of Satan's world rulership by Christ's millennial reign, and then by a final third phase wherein the final judgments in time (described in Revelation chapter 20:7ff.) are answered by the universal restoration by the creation of new heavens and a new earth with their focal point, the New Jerusalem, and the final fulfillment in replacement of the fallen angels with the entire family of God as millennial believers are resurrected (cf. 1Cor.15:23) and of all temporal rule as the Father returns to take up His eternal rule (cf. 1Cor.15:24-28). Here is a synopsis of this process, which is, in essence, the superstructure of the plan of God (whose foundation is Jesus Christ):

Phase I: Constitution: Lays the foundation for the eternal victory (the "much" phase).

Judgment I: The Genesis Gap judgment: judgment is passed upon Satan and his angels while the devil's original headquarters, the pre-historic earth, is devastated and the original universe plunged into darkness.

Restoration I: Earth is restored to a habitable environment (the Seven Days of Re-creation).

Replacement I: The creation of the first Adam begins the human race (the source of eventual replacement for Satan and his angels). The gift of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, provides the grace necessary for the salvation of the human race after the fall through the Messiah's work on the Cross. The Church can then be called out for replacement.

Phase II: Completion: Realizes eternal objectives with victory in time (the "more" phase).

Judgment II: the Tribulation: God's judgment upon the devil's kingdom and upon his earthly subjects. Satan and his angels are expelled from heaven and later imprisoned.

Restoration II: the Millennium: earth is restored to an environment of blessing.

Replacement II: Christ the King replaces Satan as the de facto ruler of the earth. The Church is resurrected in replacement.

Phase III: Consummation: Crowns the victory with surpassing blessing in eternity (the "most" phase).

Judgment III: The Final Judgments: Satan and his angels are removed to the lake of fire along with unbelieving humanity (following the Great White Throne judgment).

Restoration III: The New Heavens, New Earth and New Jerusalem provide an unparalleled and eternal environment of perfect blessing.

Replacement III: The Advent of the Father: along with Christ, He will rule forever from earth. The Church is complemented by the double portion of millennial believers.

This is, admittedly, a very short discussion of some rather involved principles (and certainly does not exhaust the evidence for the views espoused), but it does give a starting point for understanding this set of teachings. As to Satan's expulsion from heaven, even though prophetic scripture describes it vividly as being a past reality (Is.14; Ezek.28), technically of course that event is still future (Rev.12:9; cf. Lk.10:18; Jn.12:31). So one would have to posit what the devil had to be so upset about, since he had managed to sway a third of angelic creation to his banner and was literally daring God by his actions to do what God indeed did do (lay waste the universe and turn off its light, the aftermath of which actions Genesis 1:2 so vividly describes). Finally, while the devil and and his angels are quite powerful in human terms, to deprive the entire universe of light seems clearly a task far beyond any creature means. The present presence of both darkness and light is clearly an intermediate situation. It was not always so (what God creates is light and has no darkness – unless divine judgment is involved; cf. 1Jn.1:5) and will not be so in the eternal future (cf. Rev.22:5; cf. Rev.21:23). But it would seem clear enough that only God is capable of turning off and on the universal light.

As I say, it is hard to do justice to the entire "Satanic Rebellion" series in a short e-mail, so I would commend that to you for further investigation (see the link: The Satanic Rebellion).

Yours in Him who is the true "light of the world", our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill


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