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Author Topic: Hebrews 3:7-19 and prayers for the dead  (Read 8166 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: August 26, 2008, 09:21:47 PM »

 
Quote
7So, as the Holy Spirit says:
   "Today, if you hear his voice,
    8do not harden your hearts
   as you did in the rebellion,
      during the time of testing in the desert,
 9where your fathers tested and tried me
      and for forty years saw what I did.
 10That is why I was angry with that generation,
      and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
      and they have not known my ways.'
 11So I declared on oath in my anger,
      'They shall never enter my rest.' "[a]
 12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15As has just been said:
   "Today, if you hear his voice,
      do not harden your hearts
   as you did in the rebellion."

 16Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed[c]? 19So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.




 


A Protestant recently informed me that the above Scripture is proof that prayers for the dead are useless, because it says that the disobedient and unbelievers were unable to enter God's rest because He swore they never would. What do you all think?
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2008, 10:13:52 PM »

Orthodox Study Bible comments that verses 7 through 11 from the above passage refers to those who rebelled after the Exodus and describes 3 types of God's rest: Sabbath, Egyptian bondage, rest in the kingdom.

Verse 12 referse to those in Christ not being immune from turning away from God.

Verse 14 states that Union with Christ belongs to those who persevere in their faith to the end and not to those who stop with a one-time profession of faith.

Finally, verses 16-19 talk about the consequences of Israel's disobedience and her failure to believe in God in the wilderness.

Faith is the fundamental component of entering God's rest while the failure to enter into God's rest is due to unbelief.

The passages have absolutely nothing to do with prayers for the dead.  Please do not be concerned.   Smiley 

The Epistle to the Hebrews is Paul's (who was a former Jew) way of preaching Christ to the Jews using references from the Old Testament like Exodus and Psalms.  Verse 15 is directly from Psalms 95:7,8 where Psalm 95 is an invitation to worship and those who refuse the invitation will never find rest for their souls.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2008, 10:17:03 PM by SolEX01 » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2008, 12:05:07 PM »

If prayers for the dead are worthless, and we pray for them anyway, we have wasted our time.

If prayers for the dead can save a person, and we fail to pray for them, what have we done?
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2008, 01:12:45 PM »

 

A Protestant recently informed me that the above Scripture is proof that prayers for the dead are useless, because it says that the disobedient and unbelievers were unable to enter God's rest because He swore they never would. What do you all think?

Hi Sister,

 Our Protestant friends really do have some great arguments, and it's really inspiring (to me at least) how well they've memorized Holy Scripture.  The problem here is that Protestants and Orthodox apologetics begin from two different points; Protestants begin with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura- the Bible Only- where Orthodox correctly begin with Holy Tradition of which the Holy Bible is a part of.  Now, given that our arguments begin from two separate and distinct starting points, it's no wonder our conclusions are completely different.  I apologize for not addressing your question specifically, but I first wanted to give you some initial relief from the confusion. 

 In addition to SolEXO1's great answer, you might want to check out Elder Cleopa of Romania's book The Truth Of Our Faith in which he specifically addresses this very issue.

In Christ,

Gabriel
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2008, 01:37:48 PM »

  A Protestant recently informed me that the above Scripture is proof that prayers for the dead are useless, because it says that the disobedient and unbelievers were unable to enter God's rest because He swore they never would. What do you all think?

Unlike GabrieltheCelt, I find this belief among Protestants to be astounding in light of the fact that the Jews (whose Scriptures they are referring to) pray for the dead.
For centuries, four times a year the Jews offer the "Yizkor" prayers for the dead as well as being recited by the loved ones on the anniversary of the death of their loved one.
Furthermore, 2Maccabees 12:46 reads:
"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."
And even though Protestants may argue that the Deuterocanonicals are not part of their Scripture, this passage clearly shows that the Jews in the centuries BC prayed for the dead.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2008, 01:38:32 PM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2008, 02:29:54 PM »

Obviously this passage is being misunderstood by Protestants. What this clearly says is that the disobedient and unbelievers cannot enter Paradise. But are those we pray for "unbelievers"? No, they're just people on their way to deification - the ultimate destination of the saints. These people are not completely impure: they believed in God and were not persecutors of Christ's Body; they made great or little mistakes and died with them, but they've been offered to pay for. Unlike the RCC I don't think all of these people we pray for will go to Paradise (otherwhise prayers would have been truly useless) but on the contrary we ask God to be merciful with those who, although not empious as those who sinned against the Holy Spirit (as Jesus said), but are in an imperfect condition which could lead them to the same destiny.
To confort us as Orthodox believers there's the continuous witness of many Church Fathers and the testimony of the catacombs in Rome: the first Christians truly believed in prayers for the dead long before the Council of Nicea. I think a "free thinker" could find more possibility to "demonstrate" that Christians never believed in Christ's divinity (because many theological words to express the Trinity were absent before Tertullian) then finding "proofs" for the non-belief in prayers for the dead.

In Christ,    Alex
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2008, 06:19:34 AM »



If our judgment is final upon the moment of the death of the body, how then can we be judged for the fruit of our Life's works, of which for some are not yet manifested or come to full fruition sometimes for many generations, i.e., the works of Origen. 
By praying for those who have reposed we are asking that the Lord of the Harvest would grant that their lives bear fruit, each according to its kind and that that fruit would be for some ten fold, fifty fold or hundred fold.


We Protestants, of course, make just this sort of prayer all the time. I myself came to faith while reading Charles Wesley, who died in 1788. The Mission I work for is producing a translation into Albanian of Athanasius "On the Incarnation", of long extracts from John Chrysostom's homilies on Matthew, and has produced or is producing writings by various other authors long dead, including John Wesley. We pray for those books to be blessed to their readers. But we don't see it as praying for the authors, for we believe that the Wesleys, Athanasius, Chrysostom and the rest are together with Christ, in heaven, waiting for and assured of the resurrection of the body and eternal glory. We see the prayers we offer as being for the readers, for God's work in their lives.

As regards Wesley, Athanasius, Chrysostom and the rest finally having their works judged at the Last Judgement, they will (we think) be judged and rewarded for the deeds and works done in the body (in their own earthly lives), not for the ways in which later generations chose to benefit from their writings.

If prayers for the dead were only what the above quotation says, then we do the same thing and call it by a different name. I have never been to a service where prayer was offered for the dead, so I do not know first-hand, but I believe you believe that prayers offered for the dead can benefit them themselves now (not just others now living who may benefit from their writings and other good works), and if so, then that is where Evangelicals and Orthodox diverge on this particular issue.

Nonetheless, you expressed your practices appositely and clearly, and I hope you get your 'post of the month' status as someone suggested! Smiley
« Last Edit: November 05, 2008, 06:21:23 AM by David Young » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2008, 08:11:18 AM »

Quote
7So, as the Holy Spirit says:
   "Today, if you hear his voice,
    8do not harden your hearts
   as you did in the rebellion,
      during the time of testing in the desert,
 9where your fathers tested and tried me
      and for forty years saw what I did.
 10That is why I was angry with that generation,
      and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
      and they have not known my ways.'
 11So I declared on oath in my anger,
      'They shall never enter my rest.' "[a]
 12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 14We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15As has just been said:
   "Today, if you hear his voice,
      do not harden your hearts
   as you did in the rebellion."

 16Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed[c]? 19So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.




 


A Protestant recently informed me that the above Scripture is proof that prayers for the dead are useless, because it says that the disobedient and unbelievers were unable to enter God's rest because He swore they never would. What do you all think?
Your friend is ignoring that they were living when God swore, so what does that say, in particular if your friend is "once saved always saved."
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2008, 11:42:05 AM »

As was pointed out already, the people being talked about in the passage in question are not those saints which we pray to, but those who died  in unbelief (Heb. 3:17-19). The saints, on the other hand, are alive with God. We know this is true not just because of tradition (which is very clear on the matter), but also because of what the Bible says:

Quote
"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony  they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and  avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow  servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." (Rev. 6:9-11)

"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing  before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands... And he said, 'These  are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they  are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple'" (Rev. 7:9, 14-15)

"And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were  holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (Rev. 5:8 )

In these passages the saints are alive with God in heaven, and notice that this is before the time of the final judgment. It is not just at the end of time that these saints are alive with God, but they already serve him "day and night". We also find here a passage talking of offering up the "prayers of the saints" to God by those who are alive in heaven. And as was mentioned by George, the book of 2 Maccabees clearly shows that the Jews of the time offered up prayer for the dead:

Quote
"He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide  for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view;  for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with  a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for  the dead that they might be freed from this sin." (2 Mac. 12:43-46; cf 2 Mac. 15:11-14)

As Jesus said in the Gospel: "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." (Lk. 20:38; cf Mk. 12:27) And so  there is "a great cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1) in heaven, awaiting the final judgment.
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« Reply #9 on: July 12, 2009, 06:52:45 PM »

For Protestants who want us to provide a "proof text" for praying for the dead, here are two. One is from the Old Testament and the other is from the New Testament, both from books that all Protestants consider to be canonical.

1. Moses prayed for Reuben after he had died. [Deuteronomy 33:6]

"Let Reuben live and not die."

This prayer was offered after Reuben had already died.


2. Peter prayed for Tabitha after she had died. [Acts 9:36-42]

"Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord."

Hope this helps.

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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2009, 04:05:46 AM »

Gebre Menfes Kidus,

Neither of the examples you gave are what we Evangelicals deny, nor are they to what we refer when we speak of your prayers for the dead (or Catholics, or Mormons for that matter). Essentially, prayers meant for any further atoning, expiation, or redemption from one's own sins after death is what we deny. And with this the Apostle John agrees:

Quote
1 John 5:16
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

Even a cursory understanding of Greek shows this passage deals with human vitality -- aka natural life, or longevity. In short, it simply says that once a person dies in unconfessed sin, even a brother, to further pray for them (that is for their sin) is useless.

Whatever our differences on authority and tradition, any tradition, however sacred or historic, that is in direct contradiction of the teaching of Scripture cannot be Divinely given (else God is shown to be fallible).

Besides, Scripture already addresses what happens to us concerning failings and what not as believers...

1. We are judged.
Quote
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

2. Our works are tried as by fire.
Quote
1 Corinthians 3:13
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

3. Yet, we are saved.
Quote
1 Corinthians 3:14-15
If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Purgatory smurgatory ... the day (of Judgment) will reveal it, and that's all there is to it.
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« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2009, 04:36:23 AM »


 In short, it simply says that once a person dies in unconfessed sin, even a brother, to further pray for them (that is for their sin) is useless.

Whatever our differences on authority and tradition, any tradition, however sacred or historic, that is in direct contradiction of the teaching of Scripture cannot be Divinely given (else God is shown to be fallible).

Sacred scripture tells us:


"It  is  a  holy  and  pious thing  that atonement 
be  made  for the  dead,  that  they  might be  delivered 
from their  sin."
 


~ 2 Macc  12:46

I'd like to comment if I may, for those who don't know the context of this atonement.

What had happened was that many of the dead Jewish soldiers were found to have small idols in their clothing.  They had been worshipping idols, seeking their protection in warfare,  and the text says that this idolatry is the reason God allowed them to be slain in battle.

So the surviving soldiers began to offer profound prayers that this dreadful sin would be forgiven and Judas Maccabeus decided to send a large quantity of silver to the Jerusalem temple for prayers for the forgivness of these idolators.

The whole incident substantiates not just prayers for the dead but the hope and belief that sin, even very serious sin (mortal sin if you will), may be forgiven by God even after death.

2 Macc 12: 39-46
King James Version
http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/Kjv2Mac.html


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« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2009, 04:52:05 AM »

Gebre Menfes Kidus,

Neither of the examples you gave are what we Evangelicals deny, nor are they to what we refer when we speak of your prayers for the dead (or Catholics, or Mormons for that matter). Essentially, prayers meant for any further atoning, expiation, or redemption from one's own sins after death is what we deny. And with this the Apostle John agrees:

Quote
1 John 5:16
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

Even a cursory understanding of Greek shows this passage deals with human vitality -- aka natural life, or longevity. In short, it simply says that once a person dies in unconfessed sin, even a brother, to further pray for them (that is for their sin) is useless.

Whatever our differences on authority and tradition, any tradition, however sacred or historic, that is in direct contradiction of the teaching of Scripture cannot be Divinely given (else God is shown to be fallible).

Besides, Scripture already addresses what happens to us concerning failings and what not as believers...

1. We are judged.
Quote
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

2. Our works are tried as by fire.
Quote
1 Corinthians 3:13
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

3. Yet, we are saved.
Quote
1 Corinthians 3:14-15
If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Purgatory smurgatory ... the day (of Judgment) will reveal it, and that's all there is to it.

Briefly I will say:

1. Apostolic teaching and tradition is Divinely given, as is the Word of God.

2. Far from contradicting the Word of God (Bible), Church Tradition illuminates and clarifies the Scriptures so that we do not fall prey to subjective human interpretations. (Whatever one may think about Orthodoxy, there is far more consistency and unity of belief amongst Orthodox Churches than there is amongst the thousands of Protestant sects. This is undoubtedly due to the Orthodox belief in the Divine authority of Apostolic Tradition as well s the Holy Bible.)

3. The question at hand was whether or not it is appropriate to pray for the deceased. Since Protestants hold to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, I provided biblical precedents from the OT and the NT for prayers for the dead. Now it appears that you concede the biblical basis for praying for the dead, but you want to critique how and why we pray for the dead. I think it is a bit arrogant and dangerous to judge the prayers of another, especially when those prayers are offered to God on behalf of others. Perhaps this is one of the greatest forms of prayer, to pray not for ourselves but to pray for others. And perhaps this is the greatest act of faith and the greatest evidence that we trust in the Cross of Christ and hope in the inexhausitible grace of God, that we pray even for those who have departed from this earth. God is bigger than we think, the Cross is more powerful than we think, and Divine grace is more abundant than we think. Where Protestants see death as the end of hope, we Orthodox see Christ as greater than death. And thus we pray even for those who have died, trusting that God transcends our earthly limitations and our temporal mindsets.

"O death where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" [I Corinthians 15:55]

Selam
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« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2009, 05:02:58 AM »

Despite all the lauds and accolades for praying for the sins of the dead, it don't jive with undeniable Apostolic Tradition -- the very words of Apostle John himself. He's the one that said if a brother dies with sin not repented of NOT to pray for him.  Wink
« Last Edit: July 13, 2009, 05:16:17 AM by Cleopas » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2009, 05:50:23 AM »

Despite all the lauds and accolades for praying for the sins of the dead, it don't jive with undeniable Apostolic Tradition -- the very words of Apostle John himself. He's the one that said if a brother dies with sin not repented of NOT to pray for him.  Wink

Actually, the passage doesn't appear to be speaking of a brother dying with unrepented sin; nor does it speak of praying for the dead. It's speaking about praying for living brothers; those commiting sins that don't lead to death OR the one sin that leads to death. Those who are commiting sins that don't lead to death, we should pray for, but those commiting the sin that leads to death, St John says; "I do not say that he should pray about that."  The Orthodox Study Bible speaks of that sin as being willful, continual disbelief in the grace of the Holy Spirit towards us.

1 John 5:14
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. [15] And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. [16] If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17: All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

« Last Edit: July 13, 2009, 05:52:00 AM by Riddikulus » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2009, 06:14:06 AM »

Despite all the lauds and accolades for praying for the sins of the dead, it don't jive with undeniable Apostolic Tradition -- the very words of Apostle John himself. He's the one that said if a brother dies with sin not repented of NOT to pray for him.  Wink

Does St. John, or rather your read of him, mention how one determines that a sin is not repented of?
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« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2009, 06:14:17 AM »

Despite all the lauds and accolades for praying for the sins of the dead, it don't jive with undeniable Apostolic Tradition -- the very words of Apostle John himself. He's the one that said if a brother dies with sin not repented of NOT to pray for him.  Wink

The questions come to mind:

1.  Who is the arbiter of whether or not a brother has repented?

2.  Is it the implication that we may pray for a dead brother provided we know he has repented?
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2009, 06:42:46 AM »

Actually, the passage doesn't appear to be speaking of a brother dying with unrepented sin; nor does it speak of praying for the dead. It's speaking about praying for living brothers; those commiting sins that don't lead to death OR the one sin that leads to death. Those who are commiting sins that don't lead to death, we should pray for, but those commiting the sin that leads to death, St John says; "I do not say that he should pray about that."  The Orthodox Study Bible speaks of that sin as being willful, continual disbelief in the grace of the Holy Spirit towards us.

And pray tell, how is such a one then a brother, seeing they have willfully and continually disbelief the gracious work and wooing of the Spirit of God?
Nay, such will not do. Will not do at all. *shakes head*
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« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2009, 06:44:02 AM »

Does St. John, or rather your read of him, mention how one determines that a sin is not repented of?

I'm not hunting red herrings, but thank ya anyways.  Wink Cheesy
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« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2009, 06:46:58 AM »

The questions come to mind:

1.  Who is the arbiter of whether or not a brother has repented?

2.  Is it the implication that we may pray for a dead brother provided we know he has repented?

1. See answer above, concerning prey of choice.  Wink

2. Hardly. For if they have indeed repented there would be no purpose for which to pray for further atonement, it having already been received upon their confession thereof.
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« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2009, 07:01:28 AM »

The questions come to mind:

1.  Who is the arbiter of whether or not a brother has repented?


1. See answer above, concerning prey of choice.  Wink

Interesting, you would seem to have no way of implementing the injunction of Saint John.
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« Reply #21 on: July 13, 2009, 07:42:24 AM »

Dear Cleopas, this is not quite on topic but your motto is interesting since to the Orthodox mind Catholicism and Protestantism/Evangelicalism are in fact simply two sides of the same coin.

The Pope declared himself the sole arbiter of faith and morals and Scripture.  The Protestant Reformation just took this principle one logical step further and declared that every man is his own Pope, his own arbiter of faith and morals and Scripture.  Hardly a hair's breadth of difference between the two positions.


The Russian theologian Khomiakov has a small explanation of the meaning of the word "catholic" (from Greek kata holon - according to the whole.)  He explains more of this...

He divides Christianity into three strands...

1. Catholic - kata holou - according to the whole - Orthodoxy

2. Kata-monou - according to one man - the Pope

3. Kata-ekastou - according to every individual - Protestantism (kind of your omni-papism)


"The Apostolic Church is not the Church kath'hekastou (according to the understanding of each individual) as the Protestants teach,

"It is not the Church kata tou episkopou tes Romes (according to the understanding of the bishop of Rome) as the Latins preach;

"Orthodoxy is the Apostolic Church.  She is the Church kath'holou (according to the understanding of all within her unity), the Church as it was before the Western schism and as it is now for all whom the Lord has preserved from schism..."
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« Reply #22 on: July 13, 2009, 10:46:25 AM »

The questions come to mind:

1.  Who is the arbiter of whether or not a brother has repented?


1. See answer above, concerning prey of choice.  Wink

Interesting, you would seem to have no way of implementing the injunction of Saint John.

Indeed, between Mat. 7:1 "Judge not lest you be judged," "I [Christ] judge no man" of John 8:15, the warning of Rom. 2:1 "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things" and 14:4 "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand," along with the admonition of 14:13 "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way," and that of I Cor. 4:5 "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" with the observation of  4:3 "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.".....etc, one is left with wondering how dear Cleopas, with his interpretation of St. John, can fulfill the command of St. James (5:16) the Brother of God, first bishop of the Mother see of Jerusalem, to whom the Lord entrusted the Church:"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  Particularly how are we to see St. Paul teaching "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God" (Romans 15:30) and "I give thanks to my God in every remembrance of you, always in all my prayers making supplication for you all" (Philippians 1:3-4).

I can't remember, Cleopas, are you OSAS? And how does that effect your interpretation of St. John?

Of course, as always, there is that problem that that Church which wrote, selected, perserved and handed down the Epistle of John also prayed for and to (the glorified) departed.  Why trust our judgement in one but not the other?
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« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2009, 01:54:09 PM »

Forgive my interjection, but it seems there is a greater question afoot, which is the function of conscience.

Most of the Scriptures quoted have to do with guilt vis-a-vis God.  We sin against Him, but He forgives us with His infinite love.

The problem of Humanity is accepting that love and forgiveness that we know we are not worthy of.  So, the question is this: if Eternal Damnation is reserved for the enemies of God, and Kingdom of Heaven is for those who love God (however imperfectly), what of those who have grave misgivings regarding their deeds once they pass?  Does God force them into heaven?  Does God overcome their will in order to force them to choose entering into rest?

To be honest, until the General Resurrection, all of us are in an 'intermediate state.'  The Church rejects the idea of Purgatory because it was taught as being 1) material, 2) temporal and 3) punitive.  However, there is sufficient experience of the Church that some people after dead struggle with their consciences.  I don't think there is anything revolutionary about that.  God allows some more time to pass into rest, and we can offer prayers for them as a consolation and help in that process.  Nothing more.  God does not force anyone into His Kingdom, and there is no Scriptural evidence as to the exactness of the process of death or the exact nature of the conditions of souls after death.  There are parables and snippets, but one can hardly argue that there is immediate post-mortum deposition of the soul from the New Testament.  So, both sides argue from silence when it comes to the Scriptures.  The 'Particular Judgement' is shrouded in mystery, as well it should be.  Repentance is aided with a little uncertainty.  Even St. Paul spoke of it (1Cor9:27).

So, a true Sola-Scripturalist has to shrug and say, 'I'm not entirely sure what happens until the Last Judgement.'  That's fine because it is honest.  One of my Evangelical seminary professors said it in a systematic theology class.

Anyway, I think that prayer, even when it is misguided (imagine all the times we have prayer fervently for someone we thought was in trouble when they turned out to be quite well) is of benefit to those who pray.  It is an act of love, which must certainly be helpful.  Of course, too much obsession with it in a particular case can lead to all kinds of weirdness as we have seen historically, but I do think that flippantly condemning it may lead to other problems as well.
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« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2009, 01:59:57 PM »

Quote
Anyway, I think that prayer, even when it is misguided (imagine all the times we have prayer fervently for someone we thought was in trouble when they turned out to be quite well) is of benefit to those who pray.  It is an act of love, which must certainly be helpful.  Of course, too much obsession with it in a particular case can lead to all kinds of weirdness as we have seen historically, but I do think that flippantly condemning it may lead to other problems as well.

I've discovered this lately, as well.  Anything that brings us closer to God (and, by default, closer to our fellow man) is good.
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« Reply #25 on: July 13, 2009, 05:00:16 PM »

Well said, FatherGiryus. I agree with what Shultz has related, having discovered its truth as well quite recently.  Smiley
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« Reply #26 on: July 13, 2009, 05:34:17 PM »

I do think that flippantly condemning it may lead to other problems as well.

Dear Sir,

Though we obviously disagree, I very much enjoyed what you had to say.
Also, please forgive my brevity and directness for evidently appearing flippant.
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« Reply #27 on: July 13, 2009, 05:38:10 PM »

Dear Cleopas, this is not quite on topic but your motto is interesting since to the Orthodox mind Catholicism and Protestantism/Evangelicalism are in fact simply two sides of the same coin.

Yes. I know. I'm familiar with the Orthodox categorizations thereof. That's the point.  Wink Cheesy
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« Reply #28 on: July 13, 2009, 05:40:09 PM »

I can't remember, Cleopas, are you OSAS? And how does that effect your interpretation of St. John?

No! Not at all.  Wink
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« Reply #29 on: July 13, 2009, 06:40:32 PM »

Actually, the passage doesn't appear to be speaking of a brother dying with unrepented sin; nor does it speak of praying for the dead. It's speaking about praying for living brothers; those commiting sins that don't lead to death OR the one sin that leads to death. Those who are commiting sins that don't lead to death, we should pray for, but those commiting the sin that leads to death, St John says; "I do not say that he should pray about that."  The Orthodox Study Bible speaks of that sin as being willful, continual disbelief in the grace of the Holy Spirit towards us.

And pray tell, how is such a one then a brother, seeing they have willfully and continually disbelief the gracious work and wooing of the Spirit of God?
Nay, such will not do. Will not do at all. *shakes head*

Well, I don't judge who is a brother and who is not. If I were to see a brother in such a condition, it would not be automatic for me to declare him no longer a Christian brother, but one with struggles I don't understand, one on the path that according to St John leads to death. Physical or spiritual death, I wonder? Still, perhaps you have some reliable way of judging whether or not someone who claims to be a Christian, and yet has such doubts, is still a Christian?

BTW, I'm still shaking my head that you tried to make this passage about not praying for the dead. Such will not do. Will not do at all.  Tongue
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« Reply #30 on: July 13, 2009, 07:20:06 PM »

Despite all the lauds and accolades for praying for the sins of the dead, it don't jive with undeniable Apostolic Tradition -- the very words of Apostle John himself. He's the one that said if a brother dies with sin not repented of NOT to pray for him.  Wink

The Lord say's in John 14:13-14  13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

So would you say that excludes praying for the sin's of the dead, or wouldn't anything, include forgiving the sin's of those deceased we pray for? Since he say's ANYTHING you ask for I will do it.
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« Reply #31 on: July 13, 2009, 08:21:24 PM »

Quote
Anyway, I think that prayer, even when it is misguided (imagine all the times we have prayer fervently for someone we thought was in trouble when they turned out to be quite well) is of benefit to those who pray.  It is an act of love, which must certainly be helpful.  Of course, too much obsession with it in a particular case can lead to all kinds of weirdness as we have seen historically, but I do think that flippantly condemning it may lead to other problems as well.

I've discovered this lately, as well.  Anything that brings us closer to God (and, by default, closer to our fellow man) is good.


I agree. I can't think of any situation that doesn't benefit both prayer and prayee with a "Lord, have mercy".
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« Reply #32 on: July 13, 2009, 08:27:49 PM »

I do think that flippantly condemning it may lead to other problems as well.

Dear Sir,

Though we obviously disagree, I very much enjoyed what you had to say.
Also, please forgive my brevity and directness for evidently appearing flippant.

Dear Mr. Hart,

Perhaps I should have been more clear that I wasn't necessarily going after any particular person here, but the general tenor these discussions usually take 'on the street.'  Frankly, you have been the picture of kindness in comparison who have flat out called us 'pagans.'  Obviously, you are not guilty of such insults, which I think are more tragic for the speaker than anything else.  As a new poster, I don't know you, and so I won't pretend to know anything about you aside from this thread.  From it, I assume that you are not the type to engage in insult-trading.

I can sympathize with Protestant discomfort with elaborate post-mortem cosmologies.  Frankly, I find most of them troubling as well.  However, my direct experience has led me to believe neither Purgatory nor instantaneous deposition are adequate descriptors of what happens.  I've read enough 19th century Spiritualist literature to know that all that is a bunch of nonsense as well.

As Orthodox, I think we need to be careful that we do not fall into the trap of assuming that everything have to do with God, the Universe, and even our lives is subject to intellectual scrutiny.  After all, most of us enjoy an airplane trip without feeling compelled to understand aerodynamics or aviation mechanics.  We know that planes fly.

This attitude of accepting 'mysteries' is behind the original understanding of 'Sacraments.'  Death is indeed a great mystery.

We also know God is just and merciful.  We also know that enough utterly rational, dependable and reasonable people have had experiences with apparitions of the dead to warrant serious consideration that some spiritual door does not slam shut behind us as we shed this body for a time.  We are still part of the One Body of Christ, and I am even so bold as to say that if it were possible, God would save us up to the very last moment.  However, being that I am also risk-averse, I will try to do as much repenting as I can now.
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« Reply #33 on: July 13, 2009, 08:46:30 PM »

I do think that flippantly condemning it may lead to other problems as well.

Dear Sir,

Though we obviously disagree, I very much enjoyed what you had to say.
Also, please forgive my brevity and directness for evidently appearing flippant.

Dear Mr. Hart,

Perhaps I should have been more clear that I wasn't necessarily going after any particular person here, but the general tenor these discussions usually take 'on the street.'  Frankly, you have been the picture of kindness in comparison who have flat out called us 'pagans.'  Obviously, you are not guilty of such insults, which I think are more tragic for the speaker than anything else.  As a new poster, I don't know you, and so I won't pretend to know anything about you aside from this thread.  From it, I assume that you are not the type to engage in insult-trading.

I can sympathize with Protestant discomfort with elaborate post-mortem cosmologies.  Frankly, I find most of them troubling as well.  However, my direct experience has led me to believe neither Purgatory nor instantaneous deposition are adequate descriptors of what happens.  I've read enough 19th century Spiritualist literature to know that all that is a bunch of nonsense as well.

As Orthodox, I think we need to be careful that we do not fall into the trap of assuming that everything have to do with God, the Universe, and even our lives is subject to intellectual scrutiny.  After all, most of us enjoy an airplane trip without feeling compelled to understand aerodynamics or aviation mechanics.  We know that planes fly.

This attitude of accepting 'mysteries' is behind the original understanding of 'Sacraments.'  Death is indeed a great mystery.

We also know God is just and merciful.  We also know that enough utterly rational, dependable and reasonable people have had experiences with apparitions of the dead to warrant serious consideration that some spiritual door does not slam shut behind us as we shed this body for a time.  We are still part of the One Body of Christ, and I am even so bold as to say that if it were possible, God would save us up to the very last moment.  However, being that I am also risk-averse, I will try to do as much repenting as I can now.
[/size] Wink

Well spoken, Father. Btw, welcome to the forum! Smiley
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« Reply #34 on: July 14, 2009, 02:43:11 AM »

One of the reasons I became Orthodox was due to its acceptance of divine mystery. Protestantism is plagued by too much rationalism, in my humble opinion. The supernatural is not irrational, but there are mysteries that surpass mortal reason and transcend the limitations of human intellect.

God is not bound by space and time, as are mortal creatures. From our linear perspective death is final, and it would appear that physical death is the end of all hope. But why should we reduce sacred truths to our finite understanding. God transcends space and time, and He is Lord over life and death. By faith we pray even for the deceased, trusting that the power of God is greater than our mortal understanding.

Protestants profess a doctrine of "Sola Scriptura," but their own doctrine often trips them up. For example, Protestants may quote Hebrews 9:27 as an argument against praying for the dead. The verse reads, "It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the Judgment." They will say that according to this verse no person can die twice. But didn't Lazarus die twice? And what about Tabitha?

The point is that our Orthodox practice of praying for the dead will never be understood by those who hold to "Sola Scriptura." The doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" has produced thousands of Protestant sects and cults, each one claiming to be more biblically sound than the next. As Orthodox Christians we know that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, that's why we dare not subject the sacred Sriptures to subjective human opinion. Rather we allow those who walked with Our Lord and were anointed at Pentecost to interpret its true meaning and guide us in its proper understanding.

We have established that there is both an OT and NT biblical precedent for praying for the dead. We have shown how prayers for the deceased are based on selflessness and altruism. We have explained that praying for the dead is an act of faith, demonstrating our trust in the inexhaustible grace and mercy of God. And we have reasoned that it is better to defer to infallible divine mystery than to rely on our own fallible understanding. So if Protestants choose not to pray for us when we die, then so be it. But let us nevertheless pray for them- in life and in death.

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« Reply #35 on: July 14, 2009, 01:32:30 PM »

And pray tell, how is such a one then a brother, seeing they have willfully and continually disbelief the gracious work and wooing of the Spirit of God?
Nay, such will not do. Will not do at all. *shakes head*

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) the Samaritan showed mercy and compassion upon the victim in Jericho not knowing what kind of character the victim was. The person lying on the side of the road could have been a rapist, a murderer, or a thief; yet the Samaritan did not care.

Christ told the Lawyer who inquired about eternal life to show the same mercy to others that the Samaritan demonstrated to the man from Jericho. That is mercy without measure.

Therefore, if it is merciful for us to pray for one another while we are still alive, should not that mercy be extended to us after death?

Also, who among us has not willfully disobeyed God at some point in our lives? Who here is without sin? Who here is not in need of mercy? Nay, all of us are in need of mercy friend. As much mercy as we can muster.
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« Reply #36 on: July 14, 2009, 07:58:25 PM »

And pray tell, how is such a one then a brother, seeing they have willfully and continually disbelief the gracious work and wooing of the Spirit of God?
Nay, such will not do. Will not do at all. *shakes head*

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) the Samaritan showed mercy and compassion upon the victim in Jericho not knowing what kind of character the victim was. The person lying on the side of the road could have been a rapist, a murderer, or a thief; yet the Samaritan did not care.

Christ told the Lawyer who inquired about eternal life to show the same mercy to others that the Samaritan demonstrated to the man from Jericho. That is mercy without measure.

Therefore, if it is merciful for us to pray for one another while we are still alive, should not that mercy be extended to us after death?

Also, who among us has not willfully disobeyed God at some point in our lives? Who here is without sin? Who here is not in need of mercy? Nay, all of us are in need of mercy friend. As much mercy as we can muster.

I agree, but of course, from the point of view of most, if not all, Evangelicals (those I have had dealings with, anyway) they don't consider that they really are in need of mercy; as they are already saved if they have accepted Christ as their Saviour. Of course, not all are once saved, always saved; but all Evangelicals that I have known do tend to believe that as long as they stay on the straight and narrow, they have secured themselves a seat in the life-boat, so to speak. I get the impression that any Evangelical who would display wilful disobience, etc would be considered a serious back-slider - and possibly no longer Christian. For the once saved, always saved Evangelical, that person would be exhibiting their lack of salvation in the first place; that their apparent acceptance of Christ as their Saviour was not genuine.

However, I have never seen any Evangelical refuse to pray for anyone in such a situation; in fact they are usually most concerned to have such a brother return to the fold and secure his salvation. Of course, once someone has died unrepentant or *unsaved*, the Evangelical doesn't believe in seeking God's mercy beyond that point. God, it seems, is limited in what he can do for someone by their lifespan; beyond that last breath, God is either helpless or too angered by the deceased person's lack of repentance to respond to prayers. 
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« Reply #37 on: July 15, 2009, 12:59:44 AM »

God, it seems, is limited in what he can do for someone by their lifespan; beyond that last breath, God is either helpless or too angered by the deceased person's lack of repentance to respond to prayers. 

I'll take the devil's advocate role here (since there appears to be a dearth of evangelicals present). Perhaps it isn't that God is helpless or too angered by the person's lack of repentance but rather that He completely respects the individual's freedom to act as he so chose to act in this life: to reject God's mercy and love. Just a thought.
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« Reply #38 on: July 15, 2009, 01:53:41 AM »

God, it seems, is limited in what he can do for someone by their lifespan; beyond that last breath, God is either helpless or too angered by the deceased person's lack of repentance to respond to prayers. 

I'll take the devil's advocate role here (since there appears to be a dearth of evangelicals present). Perhaps it isn't that God is helpless or too angered by the person's lack of repentance but rather that He completely respects the individual's freedom to act as he so chose to act in this life: to reject God's mercy and love. Just a thought.

Yes. I think that's a fair description of the typical Protestant view. Of course, there is a wide discrepancy between the Calvinist Protestant (typically Presbyterians and Lutherans, some Baptists) and the Arminian Protestant (Methodists and others). The Calvinist rejects any idea of individual choice in the matter of "salvation." They argue that God chooses us when we are dead in our sins, so we cannot boast of any good works that merit our salvation- and choosing Christ would be an act of goodness or merit on our part. On the other side, Arminians argue that to deny free will and individual choice is tantamount to people being robots that are programmed by God. This diminishes God's glory since He is not glorified by programmed robots but by humans choosing Him out of love and reverence. 

I point this out simply to mention how Protestants are all over the map and contradict each other on major theological issues. This is what the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" produces. And I should know, for I held to this erroneous doctrine for almost 20 years.

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« Reply #39 on: July 15, 2009, 05:00:11 AM »

God, it seems, is limited in what he can do for someone by their lifespan; beyond that last breath, God is either helpless or too angered by the deceased person's lack of repentance to respond to prayers. 

I'll take the devil's advocate role here (since there appears to be a dearth of evangelicals present). Perhaps it isn't that God is helpless or too angered by the person's lack of repentance but rather that He completely respects the individual's freedom to act as he so chose to act in this life: to reject God's mercy and love. Just a thought.

Douglas,

I have no doubt that God completely respects an individual's freedom to act as he so chose to act in this life, and reject His mercy and love, but how would that prevent anyone from praying for mercy for any reposed individual? It seems to me that from the Evangelicals I have known, there is a belief that once life is over God is not expected to grant mercy. There's either a happy funeral with rejoicing that so-and-so has "gone home"; or something gloomy - either way there is never a mention of asking for God's mercy on whoever has passed on. 

edited to add... I should reiterate that I'm only speaking from the experiences I have had of Evangelicals and am not wishing to generalise.
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« Reply #40 on: July 15, 2009, 10:35:34 AM »




I have no doubt that God completely respects an individual's freedom to act as he so chose to act in this life, and reject His mercy and love, but how would that prevent anyone from praying for mercy for any reposed individual? It seems to me that from the Evangelicals I have known, there is a belief that once life is over God is not expected to grant mercy.

Good question. I'm not sure how my dad (of blessed memory) would have answered but I suspect something like this... It's not a question of the prevention of prayers for mercy for the departed but rather the efficacy of such. And furthermore, in one sense it "is" still mercy being extended on God's part in that those who rejected Him in this life would not desire to spend eternity with Him in the next. I believe it was St Paul who said that we "work while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work." (paraphrased of course)
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« Reply #41 on: September 18, 2009, 04:17:58 AM »

this is someone`s post on another forum :

"Job 4:11 and 12:9, Ecclus. 3:33, and Daniel 4:24 talk about how almsgiving delivers the dead from the pain and suffering of sin.

In the Book of Samuel (1 Sam 31:13) the deaths of Jonathan, Saul, and Abner required that the people fast for an entire week, believing this had a purifying effect on their souls."

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« Reply #42 on: September 18, 2009, 04:45:07 AM »

I am not aware of sources to quote; however I wanted to communicate what I recall from what I've been taught about Orthodoxy's understanding of our prayers for the deceased.  (I'm not a theologian.)

Based on writings of the Church Fathers, it may be that our departed loved ones may receive a temporary reprieve while they are in a state of their foretaste of Heaven or Hell, all of whom have sinned while in this life. God will judge us all at the Final Judgement.  We do not know how God may react to our prayers for the departed, just as we do not know how he'll react to our prayers for the living. Our prayers for the departed are an expression of our love for them.
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« Reply #43 on: September 18, 2009, 04:52:16 AM »

prayers for the death cannot be a sin, even if they are useless, it`s an expression of our love for them
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