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Comparative Theology, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
33- Do angels and saints know our condition on earth?
Do the souls of the saints know our condition? Do our prayers reach them?
We reply in the affirmative. The proofs are:
(a) There is no doubt that knowledge in heaven is greater than that on earth. It is surprising that someone asks: Do saints in heaven know our news and our prayers on earth? The Apostle Paul replies, saying: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1Cor.13: 12).
So in the next world our knowledge will increase and many secrets will be revealed to us when we take off this body which binds the soul. There, the knowledge of the soul will expand and go beyond the sphere of limited knowledge to a wider sphere. To this knowledge will be added the knowledge revealed by God to the souls, namely, anything that is enclosed within the sphere of the Divine Revelation.
(b) The knowledge of the angels is shown clearly in the Lord's words: "...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Lk.15: 7).
This means that the news of the earth reaches the inhabitants of heaven, whether the angels or the souls of the saints. They know who repents and who needs repentance, and they rejoice over the repentance of one sinner. Unless they know the news of the earth, how could they rejoice?
c) The angels know our prayers because they carry them to God's throne. There are numerous text-proofs in the Book of Revelation. It is written: "Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of all the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand" (Rev.8: 3,4). Here we see the prayers of the saints ascending before God from the angel's hand and censer. So how can the angels not know our prayers?
Likewise, the twenty-four priests know our prayers and ascend them before God. In the Book of Revelation, it is written: "...the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev.5: 8). This is proof that they know the prayers which they ascend to God.
Similarly are the angels of little children of whom the Lord Jesus Christ said: "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt.18: 10).
d) The story of Abraham, the rich man and Lazarus (Lk.16). our Father Abraham said to the rich man: "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things" (Lk.16: 25), and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. How did our Father Abraham know the evil things which Lazarus endured? How did he know the good things the rich man received? How did he know that the rich man's family "have Moses and the Prophets", when he had departed from earth hundreds of years before Moses and the rest of the prophets? How did he know all that? How could Abraham, of whom the Lord said: "Your father Abraham our rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John.8: 56), not know?
(e) A testimony from the souls of the martyrs: St. John says in the Book of Revelation: "When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony for which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed" (Rev. 6: 9-11). Therefore the martyrs know, after their death, that the Lord has not yet avenged their blood. They cried with a loud voice to God, saying: "How long will You let the evil prevail on earth? Until when are You going to let the strong in body destroy Your children? Until when will they keep on shedding this blood?" How do they know all these things? They do know, and when the number of their fellow servants are completed, they will know.
(f) The amazing story about the Prophet Elijah (2Chr. 2l): It is written in the Book of Chronicles that King Jehoram killed all his brothers, walked in the ways of King Ahab, built high places on the hills of Judah, caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves and led Judah astray. Then he received a letter from the Prophet Elijah who had departed from earth and ascended to heaven many years before. The letter he received from the Prophet
Elijah read: "Thus says the Lord God of your father David: Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel… the Lord will strike your people" (2Chr.21: 12-14). How did that happen? How did Elijah, after his departure from earth, know what was happening? How did he send his letter to Jehoram?
(5) The greatness, knowledge and ministry of the saints
(a) During his lifetime, Samuel the Prophet was consulted about a lost donkey. It was said about him: "...there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he says surely comes to pass. So let us go there; perhaps he can show us the way that we should go" (1Sam.9: 6). If the man of God, while he was on earth, knew the unseen, how much more would his soul know in heaven!
(b) When Elisha was on earth, he perceived what Gehazi did in secret when he accepted the gifts from Naaman the Syrian (2Kin.5: 25-27).
(c) One of the officers of the King of Aram said about Elisha to his master the king: "...but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom" (2Kin.6: 12).
(d) Elisha perceived, at the time of the famine, that the King of Israel had sent a messenger to kill him (2Kin.6: 32). If Elisha, while still in the flesh, had the gift of knowing secret things, how much more would he know in heaven after putting off his body?
(e) Likewise, St. Peter the Apostle knew what Ananius and Sapphira did in secret. He disclosed it to them and punished them (Acts 5: 3,9).
(f) Also, St. Paul knew that after he would leave, savage wolves would come in among the Ephesians and would not spare the flock (Acts 20: 29).
If the Apostles knew that much while they were still in the flesh, how much more would the Lord reveal to them in heaven!
These saints have knowledge and have a message for people. Their life, which started on earth did not end with their departure to heaven. We ask them to intervene more than we ask those who are still striving on earth like ourselves and have not yet departed.
(6) Other examples of the greatness of the saints
(a) The bones of the Prophet Elisha were capable of performing a great deed. They were a blessing and brought a dead person back to life by mere contact, without prayer; they were only bones with no life in them (2Kin.13: 21). How much more effect would Elisha's soul have in heaven? Undoubtedly his soul is more powerful than his bones; having more knowledge and having more favour with the Lord! How much more effect would the souls of saints similar to Elisha, have in heaven?
(b) If the handkerchiefs and aprons which touched Paul's body had the blessing of healing many sick and of driving out many demons (Acts 19:12), how much more blessing would his soul and the souls of saints similar to him, have in heaven?
(7) The saints who departed are still living
The Lord explained this fact when He said: "...have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt.22: 31,32). Therefore those saints are still living. Why should we consider them dead and not ask their prayers?
We should not forget as well the appearance of Moses and Elijah with the Lord Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses died fourteen centuries before the birth of Christ and is still living just as Elijah who was taken up to heaven. Their souls did not die; they are in Paradise and they see more than we do.
(8) Examples of the intercession of the angels
There are two examples in the Book of the Prophet Zechariah: (a) The intercession of the angel for the sake of Jerusalem: The angel prayed and said: "O Lord of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?" (Zech.1: 12) If the angel interceded for Jerusalem even without the latter asking him to, how much more will he intercede if you ask him for his prayers?
(b) The intercession of the angel of the Lord for the sake of Joshua the high priest: The angel stood against Satan who was going to bring an accusation against Joshua, and said to him: "The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" (Zech.3: 1,2)
(c) Another example is in the Book of Genesis: An angel of the Lord guarded and saved Jacob. Jacob talked about him when he was blessing Ephraim and Manasseh and said: "The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads" (Gen.48: 16).
(d) We should not forget that the Holy Bible said about the angels: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" (He.1: 14) This means that they have a work to perform for the people on earth.
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