In my previous article I had begun looking, I thought at first briefly, at some comments made by Armstrong regarding prayer to saints. But what was supposed to be brief has expanded a good bit, and since I thought it would be useful to bring Hahn’s recent work into the discussion, I imagine this will take a while! In the last section we had begun looking at this claim by Armstrong:
If it is objected that the dead saints cannot hear us, we reply that God is fully able to give them that power — with plenty of supporting biblical evidence: 1) the “cloud of witnesses” that Hebrews 12:1 describes; 2) in Revelation 6:9-10, prayers are given for us in heaven from “saints”; 3) elsewhere in Revelation an angel possesses “prayers of the saints” and in turn presents them to God; 4) Jeremiah is described as one who “prays much for the people” after his death in 2 Maccabees 15:13-14. The saints in heaven are clearly aware of earthly happenings. If they have such awareness, it isn’t that much of a leap to deduce that they can hear our requests for prayer, especially since the Bible itself shows that they are indeed praying. (p. 121)
We looked at Hebrews 12 previously. Now I wish to look at Revelation 6:9-10:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Armstrong tells us that here “prayers are given for us in heaven from ‘saints.'” It would be good to expand upon this commentary by looking at Hahn’s use of the same passage. Hahn quotes verse 11 as well, “And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until [the number of] their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also” and then comments:
So what do we know about the martyrs in heaven, based on this brief passage? We know that they communicate with God: They call out to Him, and He responds. We know that they are aware of events on earth, and that they plead the cause of the just against the unjust, the Church against its persecutors. We know, too, that they have some foreknowledge of the future, by the grace of God. They know how events will play out for “their fellows servants and their brethren.” What we see in Revelation confirms what we have read in Hebrews: the martyrs in heaven are a “cloud of witnesses” around their fellow Christians on earth. Furthermore, they are intercessors in heaven for the cause of Christ on earth. (97)
Let’s look again at what the text says. These are martyrs “who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.” It is easy to see the role these play in the text: the Christians to which the book is being sent by God are undergoing just this kind of persecution. Their cry to God is simple: how long will justice be delayed in avenging their deaths? The response is that they are given white robes (evidently they didn’t need a trip through purgatory before being pure), and they are told to wait a little while longer. There was a certain number of martyrs yet to be made (hard to read this without seeing God’s sovereignty, for, “blessed in the sight of God is the death of His saints”), and they are to wait until that time is completed.
Now, this is the contextual meaning of the passage. Where does Hahn, and by extension, Armstrong, get all the rest of these assertions? Where is the evidence that these souls have knowledge of current events on earth? Where is the evidence that they have communication with anyone on earth? They are not aware of events on earth; and to say they have “foreknowledge” of the future is to say nothing more than they know God is just and will punish sin, which, of course, means we all have foreknowledge of the very same kind. They are informed about the fact that there will be more martyrs, they do not have this information naturally (which they would have known were they observing events on earth). So there is nothing in the text that supports the extended comments Hahn makes, leaving no meaningful connection at all to the Hebrews passage, which we examined before.
So, at this point, we have examined two of the passages put forward by both Armstrong and Hahn and have yet to find any compelling reason to accept their usage of them. Ironically, the Roman Catholic apologist, who so often refers to “private interpretation” as all you can have as a Protestant, has nothing more himself, in fact. And when we examine his use of Scripture, we find it strained, even tortured, and anything but compelling.