A possible scenario: You die and find yourself in Heaven, And you are asked a question!
Your Mother and Father are in hell, do you love them enough
to trade places with them?
I lost my parents before I knew how the forgiveness of sin was accomplished, so I do not know if they are in Heaven.
I could plead with God, pray through the Holy Spirit and our Lord
Jesus, and ask that my Father and Mother be included in the
forgiveness that Jesus accomplished.
But would He accept that, is it necessary that forgiveness comes
only through personal request? I think the Roman Catholics are
convinced that forgiveness of sin is earned during purgatory. I find no convincing scripture that supports purgatory, and I am
still searching for some that will ease my sorrow by convincing me that God will accept prayer that will provide forgiveness for
those who may be eternally in hell.
Are you aware of any such scripture? Are you concerned about
the same fate for those you love?
And do you love them enough to trade places with them and be placed in hell for eternity?
Your question has some difficult, and some plain, answers from Scripture.
Let’s start with the issue of “trading places” with someone in hell. This is not an option, so it’s not edifying to spend alot of time debating or considering it.
However, my opinion is that it is not possible for someone to even consider this. To want to “trade places” with someone in hell is to not grasp or understand the nature or finality of hell. It has nothing to do with how much we love someone. It is not possible for humans to truly understand the consequences of such a choice, and upon immediately being given the ability to understand it, the choice would no longer be a choice.
In other words, if God gave you the ability to understand the TRUE nature of hell, the choice to “trade places” would evaporate because you would understand that knowingly and willingly choosing hell FOR ANY REASON is not possible.
Revelation 21:1-5 says, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. AND GOD SHALL WIPE AWAY ALL TEARS FROM THEIR EYES; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: FOR THE FORMER THINGS ARE PASSED AWAY. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
Every person in heaven will no doubt be aware of someone they know and love who did not accept God’s free gift of salvation. And yet, God promises us that we will not cry, or sorrow, or have pain. It is not possible for us to understand this reality on this side of heaven, but that does not diminish the faithfulness of God’s promise.
The Bible tells us that every person who ends up separated from God will be without excuse, clearly implying that every person had the opportunity at some point to respond to God either through the Gospel, or through the clear revelation of God in creation (Rom 1.20). I don’t see how knowing that those in hell “deserve” to be in hell would alleviate our sorrow, but it does not change the clear teaching of Scripture. Whoever ends up in hell, chose their destiny.
I do not know how it will be possible to not grieve our lost family and friends. I do not believe that God will remove that knowledge from our memories or consciousness; there is no implication in Scripture that God will “wash” our minds of our previous life or knowledge (although the sin nature will be removed).
Apparently, we will be aware (Luke 16:19ff) of family and friends who are not in heaven. But NO, we will not suffer sorrow, tears or pain. I don’t understand it, but God has promised it and God never fails to keep a promise.
About purgatory… you are correct, there is no Biblical support for the idea of Purgatory. If you choose to trust in this doctrine, you are choosing to trust a teaching of the Catholic Church, not a teaching that originates in the Bible. It is not the point of this answer to debate whether the Catholic Church is right about Purgatory. In the context of this answer, it’s suffices to affirm to the Questioner that Purgatory is not found in Scripture.
Without regards to your father and mother (whom only God knows their eternal destiny), the Bible clearly teaches that there is no second chance to accept Christ, or repent, after death (Heb 9.27). So the plain answer to your other question is “no”, you cannot pray for someone’s salvation to be realized AFTER they have passed away.
The time for concern about salvation is NOW, today (2Cor 6.1-2). For all of the history of our sin cursed world, people have had to live with the struggle of wondering about the fate of their loved ones. Our peace and hope comes from knowing the God is perfectly just, perfectly holy and perfectly loving.
When you find yourself struggling over the possibility of lost loved ones, turn your thoughts to God’s Word and the fact that you serve a God who is faithful and perfect in every way. The fate of any person who has already passed is eternally decided and belongs only to our Holy God.
The living are all around, and there are plenty who still need to hear the wonderful News that you have to share with them.
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The following Biblical account (NOT a parable; the context and grammar demands this story be taken literally) is profoundly applicable to our question today:
19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell,[c] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “