|New Apostolic Church USA|
The nature of my work leads me to deal with a variety of churches such as the Assembly of God, Evangelical Free, Nazarene, Wesleyan, Mennonite, Free Methodist, all stripes of Baptist, ELCA, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Roman Catholic, Church of God, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Episcopalian, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Foursquare, United Church of Christ, Salvation Army, all sorts of independent or non-denominational, and my own beloved Evangelical Covenant Church.
But today I've stumbled across another denomination: The New Apostolic Church USA. A Wikipedia article gives a better history about them their web site does and reveals a staggering number of schisms since their establishment in 1830. They have an interesting ecclesiology with a system of apostles, elders, evangelists, etc. and unique belief about being sealed with the Holy Spirit called 'Holy Sealing'.
The most unique amongst their beliefs is a service for the dead which they claim as Biblical and based on the teachings of Jesus. Here it is from their FAQ:
Q – “We would like to know more about Service for the Departed.” (We have had many questions on Service for the Departed. We hope to address most of them below.)
A - The doctrine of Service for the Departed is based on the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The most powerful proof that souls in eternity can be helped is that Jesus Christ entered eternity, immediately after His victory on the cross, to preach the gospel to those who were in captivity there. “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” (See 1 Peter 3:19,20 and 4: 6) That Jesus Christ would preach the gospel to these souls is demonstration of His longing to minister to them and proof that they can be helped. This was the first time that service was rendered to the departed.
Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is “Lord of both the dead and the living.” (See Romans 14:9) He would that all would be saved (See 1Timothy 2:4). The souls in eternity are part of that “all”. He told His disciples, “Most assuredly I say to you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25) Ministering to these souls in spiritual misery and captivity is perfectly consistent with the nature and intention of Jesus Christ. He wants to minister to all souls. He has proven that He can.
The Apostles of Jesus Christ continue this ministry today. It was the commission of Christ that His Apostles continue in all of the works which He began. In the Service for the Departed, the sacraments of the church are dispensed to living proxies for the blessing and benefit of the departed. The faithful in the world wide congregations pray and intercede for these departed souls that they are able to find grace. There is a great outpouring of compassion and invitation from the living in favor of the departed. Again, this is perfectly within the mind and spirit of Jesus Christ.
We understand that there are many indiscernible mysteries regarding eternity. But there are certain truths to which we hold. We believe that eternity is not simply divided between heaven and hell; that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. Can mankind really be divided that simplistically? Rather, eternity is comprised of many realms. Souls enter those realms, upon their physical death, depending on the condition / development of their soul. Jesus Christ gives us an insight into eternity with His explanation of the state of Lazarus and the rich man in eternity. They find themselves in very different realms. The rich man is in torment. Lazarus is in fellowship with Abraham. Lazarus is not in heaven. We consider heaven to be that place, prepared by Jesus Christ, where we can be forever together with Him (See John 14:1-3). This text from John provides further illumination of eternity in that, besides this place that Jesus is preparing, there are many other mansions (realms) in the Father’s house. Revelation also affords us glimpses into eternity where we see different realms and various spiritual conditions revealed (See Revelation 6:9-11). Even the Old Testament gives us a hint of the diversity of eternity’s realms. Commenting on the death of Moses and Aaron, we read that Moses was gathered to his people and Aaron to his people (See Deut. 32:50). On first consideration we would say that each was gathered to their own family members in eternity until we consider that Moses and Aaron were of the same family, they were brothers. Could it mean that both were gathered to their own spiritual kind?
Our celebration of Service for the Departed is in no way contradictory to Old Testament prohibitions against spiritualism and calling up the dead (See Deuteronomy 18:10,11). There is a tremendous difference between necromancy and ministering to souls in eternity. Jesus did not defy biblical prohibition when He went into eternity to minister to souls or when He called Lazarus out of the tomb. These were not acts of darkness or superstition but rather acts of love and compassion. It is love and compassion that motivates us in the Service for the Departed. Souls in eternity need to receive the treasures of Jesus Christ. Their condition is not hopeless. They are not beyond the loving reach of the Lord. He began this ministering in eternity. The Apostles of Christ and believing souls continue it.
Services for the Departed are held on the first Sunday of March, July and November.