In many ways you are on the right tract.
Protestant theology not only
separates the living members of the Church from the dead ones,
but in doing
so separate the Head from the Body. In their desire to keep the focus on
they neglect the members of Jesus' Body. By this I mean they forget
that the point of the Incarnation was to unite God and man.
a man, Christ forever involved man in his own salvation. That is not to
say that man can pay the price Jesus paid on the Cross but rather, as members
of the Body of Christ, we become co-redeemers every time we preach the gospel
by word or deed.
He has also commissioned all Christians to pray for each other and the
world. To that our Protestant brothers would say, Amen!, however, they
fail to follow through on that principle.
You see, if all Christians share
in Christ's intercessory mission, that must include the Christians who
are in His Presence, be they in Heaven or Purgatory. Those Christians aren't
dead; they are alive in Christ. They are still a part of the Body.
- If they
had a ministry of healing whilst on earth, wouldn't that ministry be more
powerful now that they can discern God's will unfettered by worldly encumbrances?
The question of praying for the dead is a bit different.
theology, we are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ. When we express
that faith, we are declared righteous and nothing else is necessary for
us to enter Heaven. They say Christ's righteousness is legally imputed
to us and simply covers up our sin. Therefore, Protestants reject the notion
of purification after death.
The problem with this theory is that nothing unrighteous can enter Heaven.
If we are simply declared righteous, without God actually making us righteous,
we are condemned to spend eternity in that condition.
Catholic Theology says that when God declares us righteous, he infuses
(and not just imputes) the righteousness of Christ into us. Now being made
righteous by grace through faith, we must continue in that righteousness.
Of course none of us really do because, although sin is vanquished when
we are justified, the desire to sin (concupiscence, or as the Protestants
put it, sin nature) remains. The remedy for this situation is for man to
constantly yield to grace, repent of sin, and to allow the Holy Spirit
to sanctify or purify us.
This process often takes more than a lifetime. The part of this process,
which continues after death, the Church calls Purgatory.
It's important to note at this point that the entire process is
a work of grace. Indeed our salvation is a complete work of grace from
beginning to end which requires our free will cooperation along the way.
Now our Protestant brother would agree that in this life, we continue
to grow in faith as the
Holy Spirit sanctifies us.
- So what happens if that
isn't completed in us by the time we die?
At this point, they don't know what to say. Some have answered by
That God immediately finishes the job after we die.
pretty much a tacit admission of Purgatory. After we die, we exit time as
we know it. We put a time frame on Purgatory so we can understand it with
our human minds. For all we know Purgatory could could last a micro instant yet we should still pray for those souls because God is not limited by
time and space and He can make our prayers efficacious in the eternal
We can only grasp at this mysteries. St. Paul wrote that we see dimly
through a dark glass.
(1 Corinthians 13:12)
So it is with these matters but we do know enough to pray for each other.
We know enough to pray for that friend or relative who might not be following
God or is struggling with sin, hence,
we should continue to pray for the
dead until the Jesus returns and the need for Purgatory is no more.
I hope this helps,