Baptism for the Dead?
The old cliche, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” has helped multitudes, throughout history, to avoid being victimized by someone’s scheme to defraud them. Interestingly, this cliche works in spiritual matters too. In particular, we reference the practice of “baptism for the dead.” Some people believe (from a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 15:29) that you may be baptized, on behalf of a relative, who died unsaved, and your departed relative will reap the benefits of that baptism, by going from lost in eternity to saved. In other words, a lost person (who has already died) may become saved (in eternity), if one of their relatives (on earth) gets baptized for them. What makes this doctrine “too good to be true?”
First, it contradicts the Bible and gives people a false sense of possible salvation without their having to repent and change sinful conduct on earth. The Bible teaches that people will be judged, and either punished or rewarded, for their own behavior (Ezekiel 18:20; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Once a person leaves this life, whatever their status (bliss or condemnation) is, it cannot be changed from punishment to reward, nor vice versa (Luke 16:26). Jesus made clear that this life is the time for preparation to be made for eternity (Matthew 25:1-13).
Second, the doctrine contradicts not only the Bible, but even their own books as well. The people who believe this doctrine have another book they believe in, called “The Book of Mormon.” To witness a deathblow to the doctrine of baptism for the dead, simply google “Alma 34:31-35” and read what it says. Those verses correctly teach that one has only this life to make a decision to live for God.
In fairness to the people who believe in baptism for the dead, mention should be made that they do not teach that people should behave just any way they want to, while on earth, and still hope for salvation. However, this does not change the fact that the logical consequence of the doctrine leads to that conclusion. We pray that those who believe this ungodly doctrine will read carefully what the Bible teaches about the need to repent and obey now, while there is still time (2 Corinthians 6:2).