I will take a shot at everyone's comments:
VP tells me, "Bill, you didn't answer my question - if you have eternal security, guaranteed, WHY do you need others' prayers? Usually when one prays for another, it is for healing, strength, or if dying -- that they may be carried to heaven to be in the presence of God. What should we pray for you, since you know you are a 'done deal'?"
Even we who KNOW we have eternal security based upon the promises of Jesus Christ (John 6:47, etc.) still need prayers lifted to God on our behalf. We may be saved, forgiven sinners, Christian believers, children of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ -- but, we all are still sinners (Romans 3:10, 3:23). Why? Because until the day we die or are raptured, we still have our inherited sin nature, we still sin. So, we need the prayers of our Friends for strength to withstand Satan's temptations; we need prayers for healing, we need prayers to help us meet our daily needs. We need prayers for many things; large and small.
Keep in mind that prayer is just a conversation with your Best Friend, God. As with any Best Friend, if your needs are big -- you ask His help; if your needs are small -- you ask His help. And, He will always be there to hear your prayers and to answer them. He answers all prayers: some "Yes" -- some "No" -- some "Wait a while, My child." But, always an answer.
About twenty years ago, I had been unemployed for a year. It was the last day of the month and rent was due the next day. We had $5 -- that was all. At 3:00 PM, I walked into the bedroom, lay on the bed, and prayed, asking one thing of God, "Lord, please give us a way to pay our rent." That was it -- that was my entire prayer.
The next morning, my mother in Sheffield, who had no idea I was in such dire straits (because of her health, I did want to worry her) -- called and told me, "Yesterday, I was taking a bath and for some reason felt that I wanted to send you money. This morning your brother wired you $1,000."
I asked what time she was taking a bath -- and she said, "About 5:00 PM." The same time that I was praying in California -- 3:00 PM California time is 5:00 PM Alabama time. Only the Holy Spirit could have made this happen.
I asked God to provide a way for me to pay my rent ($750) and He provided enough for utilities and food. God is awesome. Yes, He answers prayers -- large and small.
Then, VP, you ask, "Also - my other question, you keep insisting that Mary is 'dead' and cannot hear prayers. Do you not believe that the dead are now alive in Heaven, in the presence of God the Father?"
In the Bible, it tells us to pray to God; it tells us that the angels are ministering spirits to humans -- but, no where in the Bible do we read of any person who has died hearing or praying for those of us who are still alive. Mary, although a very blessed, very devout woman -- was still just that, a woman. She was not an angel; she was not, and is not, a God or Goddess. She is a person who was blessed to be the womb through which our Lord was incarnated.
Then she, like all mortal humans, died -- and her spirit went to be with the Lord in heaven. Mary can no more answer prayers or intercede for us than my mother or any other mother can who has died and gone to heaven. Mary was a mortal woman; Mary in now a spirit in heaven; Mary, along with all other Old Testament saints and New Testament saints, will receive her immortal body at the Rapture.
Then, DogSoldier tells us, "I didn't think anyone was in Heaven until AFTER the Judgment Day. Instead, the righteous dead are in Paradise."
Until the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all the righteous were in Paradise, the Bosom of Abraham, in Hades. As we are told in Luke 16:19-31, there were two compartments of Hades: Paradise (Abraham's Bosom) and Torment. Jesus Christ died and went into Hades.
Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, in his commentary on 1 Peter 3, tells us:
1 Peter 3:18-19, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison."
Jesus preached to the souls in prison. Now in the prophecy concerning Jesus, in Isaiah 61, says, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach the good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those that are bound" (Isaiah 61:1).
What is he talking about? The prison was "death" -- by which men were bound. They were held captive. Jesus came to open the prison to those who are bound, or to open up Hades to those people who were bound there, who died before Jesus died for our sins. So when He died, He descended into hell. And He preached to those souls that were in prison. And when He ascended out of hell, He brought with Him those who had been captive.
The prison which threatens all humans is death; yet, we who believe know that, on the cross, Christ defeated Satan -- and, by His resurrection He defeated death. When Jesus Christ said on the cross, "It it finished!" -- He meant that His work of salvation was finished, completed. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, that Christ declared victory over death.
So, His proclamation in to the souls in prison, in the prison of death in Hades, was that death had been defeated.
Then, we are told in Ephesians 4:
Ephesians 4:8-10, "Therefore He says: 'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.' (Now this, "He ascended"-- what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)"
When He rose from the grave, He led with Him all those who had been waiting since the days of old -- into heaven. That day, Jesus put a closed sign on the Paradise side of Hades, declaring that it was permanently out of business. He led the Old Testament saints into heaven which is the new Paradise -- and this is where we will go when we die; unless we are raptured first.
At the Rapture, we who are alive and those New Testament saints who have died in Christ -- will be snatched up (raptured) to meet Him in the clouds. On that day, we will be like Him in our immortal bodies -- not Gods, but having immortal bodies like His when He was resurrected and when He ascended into heaven -- the same immortal body which still bears the scars of the price He paid for our redemption. And, we will be like Him in our immortal bodies.
1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."
As we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, we New Testament saints and the Old Testament saints will have our immortal bodies.
DogSoldier, what you are thinking of is the Great White Throne Judgment found in Revelation 20:11-15, when all those who died not believing in Jesus Christ, all those who died still denying God -- will be resurrected to face their final judgment before the One they denied. They never were in heaven and never will be in heaven. By their own individual choices; since their earthly death, they are in Torment -- and will be in hell with Satan for eternity.
Tomme tells us, "The Bible says that when we're absent from the body we're present with the Lord. 2 Cor 5:8"
And, O No! responds with, "Tomme, that passage says that we LONG to be with God. The dead are dead, and will not know, think, hear or feel anything, until He returns for us."
The Scripture passage 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (nasb) reads, "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him."
O No, I would read this passage as Paul telling us that we are either at home, alive, in this body -- or we are at home, in spirit, with the Lord. While the physical body of those dead in Christ are in the grave -- our spirit, the very essence of who and what we are -- goes immediately upon death into the presence of Jesus Christ. So, we are very alive.
A couple of years ago, a pastor friend's wife, Anita, died suddenly and unexpectedly. After the memorial service; we all gathered at a restaurant to pay tribute to Anita. At this tribute, one lady said, "When Anita was alive. . ." And, I told her, "Anita is more alive today than she ever was; she is alive with her Lord and Savior at this very moment." And, her husband, Pastor Yeo, agreed.
What about those who die while still denying God; where are they today? Luke 16:19-31 makes this clear -- they are in Torment. Jesus Christ hung an "Out Of Business" on the Paradise side of Hades. But, he left the Torment side just as it has always been -- active and full.
So, for every one of us, when we die -- our spirit goes somewhere. For believers, our spirits go into heaven. For the non-believers, their spirits go into Hades, Torment.
Resurrection of the saints, our physical bodies, will occur at the Rapture. Resurrection of those who are in Torment will be at the end of the Millennial Kingdom -- when they will meet Jesus Christ face to face in their judgment of eternal punishment.
I pray this sheds more light on the subjects of prayer, death, resurrection, and our immortal souls.
God bless, have a wonderful, blessed day,