Today, we will continue with our response to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.
This week, we will continue our examination of chapter ten of Armstrong’s book that we began last week, in which he presents passages that allegedly support veneration/worship of “saints.”
#80) Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
Beneath this passage, Armstrong writes, “Catholics believe that the saints in heaven are aware of happenings on the earth. They are not isolated and removed from earthly realities, but intimately involved in them, as Hebrews 12:1 strongly suggests.” – p.135.
The Roman church teaches that deceased Catholics that have been canonized as “saints” are in Heaven, and they are also able to hear prayers/petitions directed to them by their earthly devotees and then able to forward those prayers/petitions to God. Armstrong presents Hebrews 12:1 as a proof text that the “saints” observe what is happening in the temporal world and stand at the the ready to assist Catholics as part of the “communion of saints.”
As we discussed last week, Catholics accord deific powers to their saints, claiming that they are omniscient and omnipresent, as God alone is, and able to hear the prayers of their petitioners throughout the world.
Does Hebrews 12:1 support this doctrine? In Hebrews, chapter 11, the author cites sixteen individuals (and the unnamed prophets) from the Old Testament who were trusting in God by faith alone when they died, although they had not yet attained the ultimate gift of salvation through the promise of the Messiah (vvs. 13-16). The author’s point in Hebrews 12:1 is NOT that these Old Testaments saints are semi-deific, omniscient and omnipresent witnesses of what is happening in the temporal world, but that they are witnesses of the true faith according to their testimony in the pages of the Old Testament:
“Witnesses. The deceased people of chapter 11 give witness to the value and blessing of living by faith. Motivation for running ‘the race’ is not in the possibility of receiving praise from “observing” heavenly saints. Rather the runner is inspired by the godly examples those saints set during their lives. The great crowd is not comprised of spectators, but rather is made up of ones whose past life of faith encourages others to live that way.” – John MacArthur, The MacArther Bible Commentary, p. 1873.
With the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them and with Jesus Christ as their sole Mediator, all those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior by faith alone can go directly to God’s throne of grace in prayer. There is no need for any other intermediaries.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16
But do Christians who go home to Heaven know what’s going on with their family and friends back in the temporal world? Scriptures are silent on this specific question, but there’s nothing to indicate they are granted the deific powers of omniscience and omnipresence.
For more information on Hebrews 12:1 and the “cloud of witnesses,” see the informative articles below:
Who are “the cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12:1?
Do those in heaven know what is happening on earth?