Several Objections against Mary
Straight to Jesus Why Mary ?
1. Why go to Mary when I can go straight to Jesus ? After all doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus is the One Mediator between God and man ?
The source of goodness is God and God alone. And Jesus is the only way to the Father, John 14:6. This true teaching is constantly repeated during the course of the year in the Sunday liturgies. The question is, “Does Jesus want to work through others who by His grace co-operate with Him as His secondary co-mediators ?”
[ The prefix “co-” means “with” not “equal.” See One Mediator]
Some Catholics will point out that Sacred Scripture implores us to pray for others (1 Tim 2:1-3, Heb 13:19.). And this is helpful. It shows the illogic of those who misunderstand the One Mediatorship of Jesus Christ and wrongly think that it forbids the asking for the Saints to pray for them and it also shows the illogic of those who would suggest that His One Mediatorship denies that He can work through others as secondary co-mediators.
However, that limited response does not directly address the first question and explain what is wrong in the mindset of so many who ask the original question. Nor, does it explain why a person would not be better off in just forgetting about Mary and the other Saints so that he might “concentrate exclusively on Jesus Christ when he is praying.” Consequently, a more direct response to the question is needed to help our separated brothers and sisters in Christ so that they might understand why it is extremely beneficial for us to ask the Saints in Heaven to pray with us to Jesus.
In going to “Jesus only” Protestants sometimes think of the situation as being as follows: imagine Jesus sitting over here in this corner and Mary as being over there in that corner. Why go out of your way to Mary when you can go straight to Jesus ?
However, Jesus is not part of His creation, nor is He restricted by it. There are many ways to Jesus for the simple reason that everything that is true - when correctly understood - points us to Jesus. Everything that is beautiful points us to Jesus because He is the Creator of it all. Everything that is good points us to Jesus. Jesus is not just over there in that corner of creation He is all around us as He holds His creation in existence. Therefore, there are *many different ways* to Jesus. Of course, none of them contradict each other. They are all good. They are all true.
We certainly want to address the original question of “Why should I go to Mary when I can go straight to Jesus?” However, first I would like to suggest an even better question. What “I” do is important, but what God does is infinitely more important. After all He loved me before I ever loved Him. So, I propose the more humble question “How does Jesus come to me ?”
As for me, Jesus has never appeared in His resurrected body telling me to do this or that. He did not reach down from heaven and hand me the Bible. He did not even write the Bible, but by His will it was written by others. The collection of its many different books into one volume and its translation from Greek and Hebrew into my native tongue and its preserving and passing down through the ages to me and its interpretation has come to me through the work of many different people.
Even when I think of God “speaking to me directly” I need to realize that He is doing so through my own person, that is my own mind, since He does not appear to me in His resurrected body.
God comes to me through many other people as well. He comes through the evangelist, the Bible teacher, the preacher, everyone who aids me in mind, body, or soul. He even comes to me through the person who lifts me up with a loving smile when I am feeling down.
A good Christian would never worship part of God’s creation, but he also would not reject how Jesus works through His creation either.
Therefore, the original question becomes, “Do I want to reject Jesus and the help that He wants go give to me through His many holy saints especially those in Heaven whom He has purified (Rev 21:27), or do I want to open myself up to co-operate and receive Jesus’s grace that He wills to give to me through others ?” If I want to receive Jesus in every way that He wants to come to me, I must seek out His help in every way that it comes to me including that help of His that comes through others and especially that help that God wills to give through those in Heaven.
Can you imagine an early Christian saying to the preacher, to the evangelist, to the teacher, to Matthew, to Mark, to Luke, to John, “No thank you. Jesus is my only mediator and that must mean that He wants me to ignore your help.”? How terrible that would be. And, now God’s Saints in Heaven are purified by His grace. Revelation 21:27 “ . . . but nothing unclean will enter it [Heaven], nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Therefore, God can work through the Saints in Heaven in even more profound ways because their hearts and souls have become purified from all sin. James 5:16 “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” And therefore, it would be very foolish for us to not avail ourselves of their help, or if you prefer, the help that God wills to give us through them and by their co-operation. 1 Corinthians 12:20-21 “But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’ ”
Would the Bible be richer and more focused on God if it only mentioned God’s name and the references to
1 Corinthians 11:1
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
And by growing in love with the Saints we are able to love God better.
“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“ … serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
1 John 4:8, 16
“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. … and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
To ignore Mary is to reject many of the things that God wants to do for us through her. She is His most pure vessel.
Luke 1:28, 41, 42, 45
“And coming to [Mary], [Gabriel] said, ‘Hail, full of grace ! The Lord is with you.’ … and
“And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.’ ”
Therefore, Mary is full of grace. She is the most blessed person of God’s creation. God has blessed her the most because she is the one who has co-operated most fully with His grace. In the parable of the talents Jesus explains how those who receive and act upon His grace will receive even more.
“For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Cf. Luke 19:26
Therefore, to receive Christ in the fullest way is to receive Him in all the ways that He comes to us. It is to receive Him and His love made manifest in others and to grow in love with God first and also to grow in love for all those in the body of Christ.
Saint Louis Marie de Montford showed how True Devotion to Jesus Christ is enhanced and most fully expressed when we go to Jesus while assisting ourselves of the help that Jesus wants to give to us through Mary. He summarized it well when he pointed out that there is no shorter way to Jesus than the route were we avail ourselves of God’s help that we receive through Mary. There is no easier road than the one with Mary. God works through her to help us grow more deeply in love with Him. There is no surer road to Jesus than the one through Mary. Understanding Mary helps us to understand who her Son is. And of course understanding Jesus helps us to understand her too. In fact, it is not unusual that those who ignore Mary often misunderstand how Jesus is truly God and truly Man. Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and Oneness Pentecostals and even some Protestants fail in this regard.
“Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed. It is not just a question of learning what he taught but of “learning him”. In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ (cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother.”
[Rosarium Virginis Mariae by JPII, section 14]
While we do seek out God, it is important to remember that it is He who has pursued us first. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” John 6:44
And God often comes to us through others. God gave Mary a very special role in our salvation. Mary is God’s most pure vessel. And for that reason He chose her to be His mother. And it is worth noting that He chose to work His first miracle at her request in John chapter 2 when the text seems to imply that He would not have done so had she not interceded on behalf of the bride and groom at the wedding at Cana.
So, in conclusion, the correct response to the question of why should we go to Mary when we can go straight to Jesus? is that there is no straighter way to Jesus than through Mary, or stated in another way, there is no straighter way to Jesus than by availing ourselves of the help that Jesus wants to provides to us through Mary.
Pray Worship Definitions
2. To Pray: A definition. Does it mean to worship ?
We worship God and God alone – The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This teaching is reinforced in *every* basic Catholic catechism. Biblical passages from both the Old and the New Testament which teach this fundamental truth to worship God and only God are proclaimed at various times throughout the year at
When we speak of “praying” to the Saints it is important to understand the meaning of that word. The word “pray” does not mean to worship. It means to ask. This can be seen in King James Bible as well as more modern literature such as Shakespeare. The context shows that it just means to ask or beseech.
Genesis 13:8 “And Abram said unto
Acts 8:34 “And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man ?” KJV
"I pray thee" was one of Shakespeare's favorite phrases.
Romeo and Juliet
JULIET: Ay, those attires are best: but, gentle nurse, I pray thee, leave me to myself to-night … (4.3.1)
JULIET: I would thou hadst my bones, and I thy news: Nay, come, I pray thee, speak; good, good nurse, speak! (2.5.30) ]
So, when Catholics speak about praying to the Saints in Heaven we are referring to when we are asking for their help by praying with us to Jesus.
Worship – A definition
There are different types of honor that we can give someone. The greatest form of honor is adoration and it goes to God and to God alone. The Bible also tells us to honor others, Matthew 10:41 and 19:19. This is a fundamentally different type of honor or respect that we give to those who have lived and died in God’s friendship, the saints. As Greek terminology developed to explain Christian theology two different words were used to explain these different types of honor that we give. The type of honor that we only give to God, adoration, is called Latria. The type of honor we give to finite creators is called dulia. The type of honor given to Mary is only the second type. It is called hyperdulia [hyper [beyond]+ dulia = "beyond dulia"] because of all of God’s creatures we believe that He honored her the most on account that she was most open and co-operative with His grace.
It is also worth mentioning how the definitions of some words have changed over time. As the English language came to be developed the word “worship” included both types of honor. It included adoration and simple honor, latria and dulia.
For example, even up until 1972 in
We can see an example of how this word “worship” had been used in the past to meant only “to honor” rather than to “adore” in 1 Chronicles 29:20-21
"And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king. And they sacrificed sacrifices unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings unto the LORD ... " KJV
They worshipped the Lord and also the King, meaning they honored them both, but as we read on we see that only God is offered sacrifice. Only God is adored.
So, in the past the word worship included the different types of honoring someone. Today however, it is synonymous with that highest type of honoring or adoration. And the Catholic Church has always taught that this is to be given to God and to God alone.
Theological: Adding or Subtracting from the Glory of God ?
3. Theological overview:
“After all,” the Protestant may say, “Don’t you Catholics believe that Jesus is God and if He is God is that not enough for you ? Are you saying that somehow the Saints make up for what Jesus Christ lacks ? Aren’t you then trying to add to what Christ does ?”
“Doesn’t focusing on the Saints distract from the Greatness and the Glory of God who alone is to be adored ? Does this devotion to the Saints subtract from what Christ did ?”
John 14:6 “ Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
We worship God and only God.
The questions above in this section might not be expressed and or even be explicitly thought out, however even if a person is intuitively embracing them even in a fuzzy sort of way then these issues have to be clearly stated and answered. As long as one’s objections stay on a fuzzy or emotional level they will not be adequately dealt with.
When we look at the role God has given to Mary for our salvation we should not see it as a question or a choice of either Jesus or Mary. The answer is JESUS, JESUS, JESUS. And how Jesus works through Mary, and how Jesus enables Mary to do truly good works. These good works that Mary, and the other saints, do are done in and through Jesus Christ.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
So, how are we to understand the good things that we or the Saints do ? Does the credit belong solely to ourselves ? Some holy Christians summed up the principles involved as to how we can do good things as follows:
“If anyone asserts that we can, by our natural powers, think as we ought, or choose any good pertaining to the salvation of eternal life . . . without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit . . . he is misled by a heretical spirit . . . [it goes on to cite Jn 15:5, and 2 Cor 3:5]
“That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.”
“That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.
“We also believe and confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith in him and love for him…”
[The Catholic Church’s Second Council of Orange, 529 A.D. Canons 7, 18, 20, and the Conclusion]
God is the source of all that is good. Therefore, the goodness that is within us is not something that we have created; rather it is the goodness, or grace, that we have opened ourselves up to receive from God. And so, the goodness within the Saints in Heaven neither adds to the glory of God, nor does it subtract from the glory of God because it is precisely God’s glory being manifested within them because they freely choose [with the help of God’s grace] to co-operate with it, to receive it, and to act in conjunction with it. The good works that the saints do are done in and through Jesus Christ. [Ephesians 2:10, John 6:28-29]
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.”
John 6:28-29 “So they said to him, ‘What can we do to accomplish the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.’ ”
So, it is not a question of needing more than what God does, but one of desiring *all* that God does and all that He wants to do for us. If we do not desire all the help that God wants to send to us then we have to ask ourselves, “Is it God that we are truly desiring ?”
God wants to help us through Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke,
God Is Not Petty
The pagans often attributed to their gods various human weaknesses and even sins. It is very important that we not do that to the One True God because He is All Powerful and All Good. When the Bible speaks about God as being a jealous God it is not the type of petty jealously that man in his weakness sometimes falls into. God is never petty. Nor, is God offended when we pay attention to or when we love someone else. He even commands that we do. Mark 12:29-31. When the Bible speaks of God’s “jealousness” it is always in the context of how he does not want us to place anyone above Him or to worship anyone else but Him. God does not have a petty jealousy. He is like the artist who is glad for us to notice the goodness that He does in and through others.
Do the prayers of the Saints distract from the work of Christ ? No. On the contrary, they demonstrate and help explain who Jesus Christ is, and what He is doing through them, and what it means to follow Him.
The Saints and their example point us to Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
4. Doesn’t 100% of our love go to God and therefore 0% goes to Mary ?
Does loving our spouse, our children, our parents, or our friends take away from the devotion that we owe to God ?
Some people misperceive love as if it were a physical commodity. They reason that since God is worthy of 100% of our love, that we should only give it to Him with 0% left over for Mary and the other Saints. However, love is not a physical commodity, say like a bushel basket of corn where you give it all to God and have nothing left over.
Love is not something where the more you give the less you have. It is not a finite commodity that gets used up. “God is love,” 1 John 4:16. When thinking about “love” we need to consider that this is not of the natural realm, but it is of the supernatural. God who is Love is Infinite.
By truly giving 100% of our love to God the way that He wants it, He pours grace and love back into our hearts so that we can love the Saints. Giving our love to Mary does not take away from the love that we have to give to God. The more love that we give, the more love we have to give.
The belief that a Christian could love or focus on God alone to the exclusion of loving others is not the Christian way.
1 John 3:10 “ … no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother.”
1 John 4:21 “This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
So it is not a question of loving Jesus or Mary, but rather we are called to totally love Jesus and to totally accept Jesus and how Jesus works through Mary as well as how He works through other Christians as well. And we are called to love her as well. To reject that help and the love that Jesus want to give us through Mary is to deny His plans for our life.
We are to pray to God. Aren’t you Catholics putting Mary in God’s place ?
Doesn’t the idea of praying to the Saints in heaven and Mary's Immaculate Conception take away from the unique characteristics of God, and therefore place the Saints on the same level as God ?
Aren’t you Catholics placing Mary to high ?
To say that Mary could hear thousands of Catholics who are all praying at the same time and asking her to pray with them to Jesus would be to give to Mary infinite and Divine like qualities and hence make her a goddess.
5.1 We are to pray to God. Aren’t you Catholics putting Mary in God’s place ?
NO, praying to Mary and the other Saints in Heaven does not put them in God’s place or on the same level as God.
It must be restated that we worship, adore, and we offer sacrifice to God and only to God, the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. And only God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Savoir. Salvation is only made possible by the merits that were won for us by Jesus Christ. God is the source of all that is good.
All of the good things that God’s holy people have done and are doing are the manifestations of the glorious working of God in their lives and only made possible by their co-operation with His grace. We believe that God has chosen to manifest His glory through their lives. Because He has chosen to honor them so should we. We ask them to pray with us to Jesus because we believe God has been faithful to His promise of giving them eternal life, a sharing to be in union in His love. [Genesis 27:29 and John 11:24-26]
Perhaps one reason for some confusion and misunderstanding of Catholicism is the following; Protestants pray only to God and they worship only God. For them the two verbs, to pray and to worship, are almost synonymous, meaning the same thing. Not so for Catholics. We worship only God. However, we define "to pray" to mean to talk to or to ask for the assistance from someone in heaven.
Also, the only from of worship that Protestant's have is to pray. Again these words, worship and prayer, can take on synonymous meanings for them. Catholics worship our Heavenly Father, not only by praying, but we also worship the Father by taking part in that perpetual offering of that one Sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His Life, Death, and Resurrection, to our Heavenly Father. The verbs to pray and to worship do not mean the same thing for a Catholic.
Just as we honor our parents or others here on earth, we also honor those whom God has taken to heaven. God does manifest His Glory as He works through His creatures, the angels and the saints. They are vessels of His Grace.
5.2 Doesn’t the idea of praying to the Saints in heaven and Mary's Immaculate Conception take away from the unique characteristics of God, and therefore place the Saints on the same level as God ?
This in no way takes away from the unique characteristics of God. It is only because the Saint’s prayers, just as the prayers of our neighbors and loved ones here on earth, are done in Christ that they have value.
Mary was saved from sin from the first moment of her conception. However, this in no way takes away from the unique characteristic of Jesus being without sin.
Some Christians somewhat inaccurately state that it is because Jesus was without sin that He redeemed Mankind. While it is true that Jesus was without sin, and that is why He is the perfect and unblemished Sacrifice, if another person, a simple man lived his life without sin and he was sacrificed for others that would not merit heaven for the rest of humanity. While such a person would not be deserving of hell that doesn’t mean that even he himself would have merited the everlasting joy of being united with God in heaven. A baby who is sacrificed in the womb through abortion before he has the chance to commit any personal sins does not thereby redeem mankind. Jesus was able to do that and bridge the chasm between God and sinful man because he is not only Man, but also God. Therefore, his sacrifice has infinite merit so that it not only saves man from the just punishment of hell, but also wins for him the gift of heaven.
Mary was saved from sin from the moment of her conception by the grace of God. This points to how we will also be completely freed from all sin when we enter heaven. See Revelations 21:27. Mary would not have been saved from sin had not the saving work of Jesus Christ been applied to her. Her Immaculate Conception points to the Glory of God and His Power.
5.3 Aren’t you Catholics placing Mary to high ?
The particular gifts that God has given to Mary do not place Mary to high, rather they point to two realities. They point to the power of God. And they point to the spiritual realities that will be made manifest in the rest of the church when we go to Heaven.
Don’t Rob God of His Glory.
One reason Catholics extol Mary so highly is that the One who has molded her and works through her in none other than her Son, Jesus Christ, who is God. To deny how great He has made her is to rob Him of the recognition that He deserves for His greatest work. He is the Artist and she is His masterpiece. Ironically, some misguided Christians in their zeal to give the glory to God do rob him of the recognition that He deserves by denying that His greatest work in her was ever done.
Why was Mary blessed more than other Christians?
Sometimes we are more open to God’s grace than we are at other times. In the course of their lives some people are more open to God’s grace than are other Christians. God is omniscient. He knows everything. He even knows our future. He is the One who created Time and Space and so He is outside of it and is not restricted by it.
If it were possible to take a movie of our lives and then to place the frames of that movie onto a wall, then a person could see it from the beginning to the end. God is outside of Time, outside of the movie in a sense, so He knows how our lives will turn out. God knows how open each of us will be to His grace. So, He chose that individual whom He knew would be most open to His grace to be His mother. And that person is Mary. Luke 1: 41-42 “
Mary receives a crown, but so do all Christians. See 2 Timothy 4:8, and 1 Peter 5:4. And these crowns are in fact the crowning of God’s greatest work, His new creation in us. God’s love is made manifest when our hearts and souls are transformed by His grace into a loving and holy family, His people, God’s family. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17
The following terms apply to God and yet they also apply in some way to members in the church; foundation, light, teacher, apostle, father, shepherd, and rock.
See ONE MEDIATOR
5.4 To say that Mary could hear thousands of Catholics who are all praying at the same time and asking her to pray with them to Jesus would be to give to Mary infinite and Divine like qualities and hence make her a goddess.
As clearly stated in section 2 and repeated in section 5.1 above Catholics clearly state that there is only One God, of which there are Three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Mary is a creature and clearly not Divine.
Eventually the end of the world will come, and after which no more human beings will be created. Therefore, the number of humans that could be praying to Mary at a given point in time is a finite and not an infinite number. And so Mary would not require infinite powers to hear them.
God is Eternal. That is, He existed - and will always exist - in heaven before he created space and time. [Please note: Certain words like the word ‘before’ are inherently based upon the concept of time so it is somewhat inappropriate to use this word to express a concept ‘before’ time was created, but our earthly experience and our human language leaves us at a disadvantage when speaking about the things of heaven.]
Anyway, Heaven does not limit a person in regards to time and space because it exits outside of time and space and always will.
God has given us many gifts including the ability to hear and to speak. When we use God’s gifts here on earth it does not make us Divine. And when we get to heaven we will be blessed with even greater gifts. Using them then will not make us Divine either. When Mary hears and responds to all those who pray to her does not require God’s Divinity, and so the argument above in 5.3 has no basis.
Does it make sense for a Christian to limit capability of God and His power to bestow whatever gifts He desires to those who are with Him in heaven ?
The Protestant may counter, “But there is no need for God to give the saints in heaven the power to offer prayers, in Christ and through and by the merits of Christ, on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Christ on earth.”
In the strictest sense, it is true that there is no need for God to do anything. He is perfect and complete in Himself. However, He chooses to manifest His Glory by asking us to go to our brother in Christ here on earth and ask for their intercession even though Christ does not NEED to do that. However, it pleases Him to manifest His glory and love within those of us on earth to ask for prayers of others on earth and to offer up holy prayers for others including those who ask for them. Our prayers for them are holy and good because of God’s grace working within us, for He would not ask us to do that if it was not a good thing to do since God is perfect in everything He asks of us. So, it is pleasing to God and good that we ask for others on earth to pray for us, and it is good that they offer those prayers.
Likewise, when a person goes to heaven it pleases God to manifest His grace through their prayers for us, not because He needs to, but because it pleases Him.
1 Corinthians 2:9
“But, as it is written,
‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him … ’ ”
6. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6. Doesn’t this passage deny that those who have died can know about us and love us ? And so isn’t the idea of them praying for us ruled out ?
It is impossible to assert that this passage requires us to believe that the Saints who have died in Christ cannot pray for us on earth.
Ecclesiastes : What this Book is really teaching
“For the living know that they are to die, but the dead no longer know anything. There is no further recompense for them, because all memory of them is lost. For them, love and hatred and rivalry have long since perished. They will never again have part in anything that is done under the sun.”
Although this appears to refute the idea that those who have passed on can know anything about those still on earth a closer examination of the context of this Book makes such an assertion impossible. [ A verse taken out of context is just a poor pretext to support a preconceived and *assumed* idea.]
While a person might be able to make a case that the teachings here in Ecclesiastes apply even in a literal way to those under the Old Covenant, the New Testament clearly shows that this does not apply to the Christian under the New Covenant. The passage “There is no further recompense for them” surely cannot apply to the Christian who dies in Christ and who as a consequence gains the beatific vision and eternal life in heaven.
Also the passage
“For them, love and hatred and rivalry have long since perished”
cannot apply to the New Testament Christian in a literal manner. Love does not cease for the Christian who dies. In the New Testament we are called to love God because He is love.
1 John 4:7-8
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”
1 John 4:16
“ … God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”
“No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, … nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
“Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. . . . So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Therefore, since love does not pass away for those who die in Christ it is impossible for the Christian to assert that Ecclesiastes applies in a literal sense to those who are under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.
While these above arguments should suffice we can find more passages from the Book of Ecclesiastes which do not apply in a literal way to the New Covenant Christian.
“For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast; but all is vanity.” However, as Christians we believe that a man who dies with faith in Jesus Christ has a much better reward coming to him than the beast.
“There is nothing better for man than to eat and drink and provide himself with good things by his labors.” As Christians we believe that it is better to live a life of faith and love of God and neighbor rather than to just indulge in physical pleasures of life.
“ … and I applied my mind to search and investigate in wisdom all things that are done under the sun. A thankless task God has appointed for men to be busied about.” However, as Christians we are called to give thanks in all things.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
“I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind.” To worship and praise God is not vanity.
“He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.”
However, we can see some of the things that God has done. And some of them are recorded in Sacred Scripture, the Bible.
Ecclesiastes: What this Book is really teaching
[I offer this as my own, hopefully, humble opinion for the Church to judge.]
There are many different types of literature in the Bible. There are Books that are historical, and others are prophetic, some are poetry, possibly some are parable, and yet others are wisdom literature. It is necessary to determine what kind of literature a particular book is in order to interpret it correctly.
When the whole Book of Ecclesiastes is taken in context it appears that it is a pastoral letter written to a person who is undergoing a deep personal crisis and time of great suffering. [The virtue of humility has taught me to hold my own personal opinion in no high regard, but until the Church established by Christ offers me an authoritative teaching to the contrary I will tend to hold to this opinion of mine as probable.] The Book of Ecclesiastes seems to be addressed to a person who is probably very depressed. [See Ecclesiastes 2:17 “Therefore I loathed life” also 1:2, 18.] It is not intended to be read as theological treatise of what we hold to be true by faith concerning the after-life. If fact, several verses tend to deny knowledge of what happens in the after life. Possibly this book was written before God had revealed much about that.
“ … Man knows not what is to come, for who can tell him what is to come after him?”
“Who knows if the life-breath of the children of men goes upward and the life-breath of beasts goes earthward?”
“I recognized that man is unable to find out all God’s work that is done under the sun, even though neither by day nor by night do his eyes find rest in sleep. However much man toils in searching, he does not find it out; and even if the wise man says that he knows, he is unable to find it out.”
“Just as you know not how the breath of life fashions the human frame in the mother’s womb, So you know not the work of God which he is accomplishing in the universe.”
Our relationship with God goes much deeper than just being filled with intellectual doctrines. Dealing with the deep personal struggles that come with life requires more than just knowledge about the after life. Qoheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, offers gentle pastoral guidance to an individual who is experiencing some tragic loss. He offers honest recognition of the deep pains that sometimes come in life. He does not deny the suffering individual’s right to suffer with some well meaning but ill advised platitude. [Even Jesus wept when Lazarus died. Cf. John 11:35.]
When someone is suffering greatly he does not need to have another to come along and logically or theologically explain away his suffering. The suffering person – in this case the reader of Ecclesiastes – needs the second person – Qoheleth – to come and to suffer with him. Romans 12:15 states “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
All through the Book Qoheleth acknowledges various deep sorrows and injustices in life. Gently he encourages the reader to preserver in faith and he offers an occasional if not sparse word about enjoying the natural joys that do come in life. [See 3:12, 5:17, 7:3, 7:18, 8:12, 11:9.] He is careful not to test or challenge the faith of the suffering person. While suffering with the him, Qoheleth points gently toward God and concludes with,
“The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad.”
Therefore, the statements in Ecclesiastes about man’s life ending at his death are an acknowledgement of the pain concerning what appears to be true on the natural level. It is not intended to be understood as a theological declaration as to what happens on the supernatural level at the end of life. For example, see Ecclesiastes 3:21, 10:14, and 11:5 above.
Another example of a statement of this type can be found in
“Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus was praying Psalm 22, out loud, from the cross when He made the statement above. He was calling to His followers’ mind’s the triumphal meaning that is revealed at the end of that Psalm. Jesus knew that His listeners would have been reminded of the rest of that prayer when He prayed the opening verse just as the opening stanza of a song brings the meaning of the whole song to the mind of the hearer.
Psalm 22: 2, 22-25
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? …Save me from the lion’s mouth, my poor life from the horns of wild bulls. … For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.” NAB
Jesus was giving us a message of hope when we follow him to the cross. Luke 9:23-24.
Even though believers in God may feel abandoned when they suffer, in reality God the Father is closer than ever when we are doing His will.
So, again we see an example of a statement that is not intended to be interpreted as a declaration of a supernatural fact. When seen within the whole context this is clear.
In conclusion, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 should not be taken out of context. And it is impossible for the Christian to assert that this passage applies in a literal sense to those under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. And so this passage does not in any way declare that the Saints in heaven cannot pray with us to Jesus Christ.
“Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead.”
Catholics do not seek out oracles from Mary or the other Saints in Heaven. And the Catholic Church does forbid the things above, however this does not preclude the possibility of Mary appearing to God’s people and instructing them to follow her Son.
[The Catholic Church teaches that public Divine revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. If a supposed Marian apparition goes contrary to that public Divine revelation –which includes everything that the Bible teaches – it is declared to be false by the Church.]
Acts chapter 7 shows how heavenly creatures can be used by God to give us heavenly and life giving messages.
“It was this Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you, from among your own kinsfolk, a prophet like me.’ It was he who, in the assembly in the desert, was with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our ancestors, and he received living utterances to hand on to us.”
Some people claim that we cannot ask the Saints whose earthly life has ended to pray with us because, they claim, those Saints are dead. However, a closer look at what the Bible teaches shows that the Saints are not dead. Christians are blessed with the gift of Eternal Life.
Because of Original Sin all of mankind was separated from God. Because of sin we have incurred the punishment of death and we fell under the dominion of Satan. However, Jesus Christ has conquered Satan and death and He has rescued the spirits from the prison of Hades.
The Saints are more Alive in Heaven than we are on earth because they are more closely united with the Author of Life, God. [Cf. Romans 5:12-19, Romans 6:23, Hebrews 2:14-15, and 1 Peter 3:19]
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” KJV
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. RSV
“And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”
At the account of the raising of Lazarus, Martha seemed to have believed in “soul sleep” where the holy ones of God do not know anything until they are raised on the last day.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.’ ”
However, Jesus corrects this misunderstanding of Martha.
“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ” She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, ...’ ”
While a person’s body may not be raised until the last day the Saint’s soul goes to Heaven when he dies. See Revelation 6:9-11 in the next section of this series of articles.
“ ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
“and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
When a Saint dies his soul goes to Heaven while he awaits the resurrection of his body on the last day. God is the author of life. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” And since their souls are closer to God, since they are united with Him in Heaven, they are more alive than we are. They are not only forgiven for their sins they have been purified and washed free from them.
“ … but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
Therefore, since the Saints are alive in Christ the passage about the dead in Deuteronomy 18 is not a reference to them.
8. Can the Saints hear us ? Are they even aware of us ?
Some Protestants will contend that the Saints in heaven cannot hear us and furthermore are not even aware of us here on earth. However, several passages from the Bible show otherwise. The Saints in heaven have profound concern for what is going on down here.
“… and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; and they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,10 and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.’ ”
“And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast, that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear thy name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’ ”
Hebrews 12:1 says that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. A brief review of Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 will reveal who Saint Paul is speaking about.
Hebrews 11:1-40; 12:1-29
1 “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.
2 Because of it the ancients were well attested.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice …
5 By faith Enoch was taken up …
7 By faith Noah, warned … built an ark …
8 By faith Abraham obeyed …
13-16 All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, …
20 By faith regarding things still to come Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.
21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph …
22 By faith Joseph, …
23 By faith Moses … left Egypt…
31 By faith Rahab …
32 What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,
33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, …
35 Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.
36 Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.
37 They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented.
38 The world was not worthy of them. …
39 Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised.
40 God had foreseen something better for us …”
1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us
2 while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. … 3 Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. …
18 You have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm
… the mountain …21 Indeed, so fearful was the spectacle that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
22 No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering,
23 and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect,
24 and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant …
28 Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.
29 For our God is a consuming fire.”
After Saint Paul gives us a veritable list of the heroes in the Old Testament we see that they are surrounding us and cheering us on to fight temptation, to win the race, to follow Jesus Christ.
“I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
God has infinite joy. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. Therefore, the reference to there being more joy in heaven refers to the Saints having more joy. Therefore they know about us.
“When he broke open the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘How long will it be, holy and true master, before you sit in judgment and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?’ Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little while longer until the number was filled of their fellow servants and brothers who were going to be killed as they had been.’
*Therefore, the souls in Heaven have a passionate interest in the events of Earth.
Prayers of the Saints : More Biblical Support
The Bible shows us how the prayers of others are very beneficial for us and that we should ask for their prayers.
In Genesis God tells Abimelech that he is to return Sarah to Abraham and how because of Abraham’s prayers Abimelech will be saved.
“Therefore, return the man’s wife—as a spokesman he will intercede for you—that your life may be saved.”
Also, in Job we see God telling Job’s false friends Eliphaz and Temanite that they are to go to Job and ask for Job’s prayers. God tells them that he will accept Job’s prayers on their behalf.
“ … the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and with your two friends; for you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job. Now, therefore, take seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up a holocaust for yourselves; and let my servant Job pray for you; for his prayer I will accept, not to punish you severely. For you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job.’ Then Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, went and did as the LORD had commanded them. And the LORD accepted the intercession of Job.”
Again in First Kings we see how King Jeroboam appeals for the intercession of a prophet, a man of God, who intercedes for him.
1 Kings 13:4-6
“ … King Jeroboam … stretched forth his hand from the altar … But the hand he stretched forth against him withered, so that he could not draw it back. … Then the king appealed to the man of God. ‘Entreat the LORD, your God,’ he said, ‘and intercede for me that I may be able to withdraw my hand.’ So the man of God entreated the LORD, and the king recovered the normal use of his hand.”
God did not create a me and Jesus only type of arrangement for our salvation. God works through others and God wants us to recognize others seek their help since it is nothing less than God’s help that comes through them. See Acts 9:4
1 Corinthians 16:18
“… for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people.”
And we also see this Biblical encouragement to ask for others prayers made in the New Testament.
“I urge you, (brothers,) by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in the struggle by your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the disobedient in Judea, and that my ministry for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the holy ones …”
Also see Col 4:3; 1 Thess 5:25; Eph 6:18-19; 2 Thess 3:1
The prayer of others can be life giving.
1 John 5:16
“If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life.”
“ … The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
When the saints on earth die and go to heaven they are more righteous because they are even closer to God, and therefore they are even more open to the workings of God’s grace so that their prayers become even more efficacious for us. Asking for the prayers of others cannot violate Christ’s role as sole mediator, see Romans 15:30-32 above. We are all required to love one another and the Saints in heaven express their love for us by praying for us. We are all part of the ONE Body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. Although they have gone before us they are still connected to us through the head of Christ. It would be Scripturally wrong to say that we do not need them. See 1 Corinthians 12:21 below.
The ancient practice of asking the Saints in heaven to pray with us and for us goes back to the early church. The Bible shows that they are in heaven interceding on our behalf and taking our prayers up to God.
“When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.”
“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.”
The Saints in heaven belong to the Body of Christ. And the Christians on earth also belong to the Body of Christ. So, we have the question, “How many Bodies does Christ have ?”
1 Corinthians 12:27
“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:20
“But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
Cf. Eph 4:4; Col 3:15
Therefore, the saints here on earth are united with the Saints in heaven in the one Body of Christ. We would be wrong to ignore the help that Jesus wants to give us through them and their intercession on our behalf.
“… pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
We need the prayers of the Saints in Heaven because we are all one family, and part of following Jesus is being humble enough to accept that we need there help.
1 Corinthians 12:20-21
“But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’ ”
Therefore, it is a good and holy thing to avail ourselves of help that God wants to give to us through their intercession done in Jesus Christ.