There are a lot of people who believe and teach a lot of different things about life and death and eternal life. The answer to the questions about what happens to us when we die is extremely important because we only get one chance at having the right answer!
The Mormon Church has been engaged in an interesting practice concerning life after death. Mormons provide an opportunity for deceased persons to be baptized by proxy and to receive the gospel in the afterlife. They draw names from a church-run genealogical database and use those names in these baptismal ceremonies.
One of the big objections has come from Jewish people because they discovered that Jews who were killed in Nazi concentration camps were being submitted for posthumous baptism by proxy. Survivors of these family members have been offended by the idea that Mormons are trying to alter the religion of many of the Holocaust victims, who were murdered because of their religion.
This debate has been going on for several months. Last month the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors issued a joint statement saying that a new computer system and policy changes will prevent this from happening in the future.
While this practice is interesting, it is filled with erroneous assumptions and practices. Let me list a few.
1. A person never comes into the faith and is baptized by proxy. Even in this life, someone cannot make a decision for Christ for someone else. No child is a Christian just because the parents are Christian. God doesn’t have any grandchildren. Salvation is the result of a personal decision.
2. A decision for conversion is something that is generated by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, not generated by a computer. Salvation is not something where people are randomly selected. It is offered to every person.
3. Salvation and baptism do not come after death. The decisions we make in this life determine our ultimate destiny in the afterlife. Once death occurs, it is too late to make a different decision.
4. The posthumous baptism by proxy practice is inconsistent with the Bible. Read the following passages: Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 7:13-24; Romans 1:16, II Corinthians 6:2; Luke 23:39-43 and many, many more.
5. God does have an after-death database – It is called the “Lambs Book of Life” (Revelation 20:12; 21:27).
6. This whole practice of posthumous baptism by proxy eliminates the sense of urgency and passion for evangelism. Christians need to understand that nobody knows how much time we have to make a positive witness to a person. Our task is to change the population of heaven. Our witness must be made to people while they are alive.
I hope the knowledge of such a practice of posthumous baptism by proxy will encourage us to be more persistent, persuasive and productive in making a witness to all people.