Question:

I have a handful of questions about the dead. Is it okay to have masses for the dead? My uncle just past away a few days ago and as relatives, we have to attend the funeral wake for several days. What does the Bible say about people who have passed on along with the rituals performed? Is there a sin to performing such ceremonies? Are there any wandering spirits here on earth, or they are either in heaven or hell? I hope you understand what I am trying to say. It somehow bothers me to attend funerals along with the ceremonies, although I hope to see my relatives in heaven soon.


Answer:

Let's work through each of your questions.

First, masses are a Roman Catholic Church tradition. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that after death people must be purified by paying off the punishments for all temporal sins committed in life. This is done by spending an indefinite period of time in a realm they call purgatory. One of the reasons Catholics seek confession of their sins to a priest is to be absolved of their venial sins so that their time in purgatory is lessen. Masses are said for the dead and candles are lit to help speed up the process so that loved ones spend less time in purgatory. Many Catholics accept this teaching, never realizing that none of this appears in the Bible; it is solely the imaginary doctrine of men and not a teaching of God.

There is no mention of purgatory in the Bible; there is no mention of a realm where people pay for sins through punishment; there is no mention of masses; nor is there mention of lighting candles for the dead. We should consider then the warning of Christ, "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). It should also be noted that masses and candle lighting are items purchased by the family from the Catholic church. There are reasons why the Roman Catholic church advocates doctrines not found in the Scriptures.

Every culture has its traditions regarding major events in life, such as birth, marriage, and death. The traditions are not necessarily wrong, but they can become wrong if they are viewed as religious requirements by God when God didn't say anything about them. So a tradition of staying with the body of someone who passed way until they are buried isn't wrong. It doesn't do anything for the person since they have already departed this life, but it does show respect for the person and his family.

The Bible doesn't teach that the spirits of the dead roam the earth. "Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7). God says that once you die you return to Him. Your empty vessel, your body, which once contained your spirit, is all that remains on this earth. In regards to where the dead go, see: "When you die, do you go straight to heaven or hell?"