Let me take you back a few years before Christ was born into the world. Back then, the doctrine of life after death was very different from what is being taught today.
The Bible is clear that there is life after death and in that place where there exists life after death, among other things is peace. Everything else, all the turmoil, all the disasters, death and sin are no more.
ISA 65:17 FOR, BEHOLD, I CREATE NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH: AND THE FORMER SHALL NOT BE REMEMBERED, NOR COME INTO MIND.
ISA 65:25 THE WOLF AND THE LAMB SHALL FEED TOGETHER, AND THE LION SHALL EAT STRAW LIKE THE BULLOCK: AND DUST SHALL BE THE SERPENT’S MEAT. THEY SHALL NOT HURT NOR DESTROY IN ALL MY HOLY MOUNTAIN, SAITH THE LORD.
The same description in Revelation of the new Heaven and the New Earth are also found in the Old Testament, and this was the teaching that the people knew.
But between our present lives and the lives eternal, something happens – death. Though the Bible is clear some people won’t taste death, but for the majority, considering that since creation the world has had several billion people.
1TH 4:16 FOR THE LORD HIMSELF SHALL DESCEND FROM HEAVEN WITH A SHOUT, WITH THE VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, AND WITH THE TRUMP OF GOD: AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST:
1TH 4:17 THEN WE WHICH ARE ALIVE AND REMAIN SHALL BE CAUGHT UP TOGETHER WITH THEM IN THE CLOUDS, TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR: AND SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD.
So the loophole for the Devil becomes, what happens when you die. See, the Devil has no control over your life after your death, but if he could create a state of fear to manipulate your faith while alive, then your knowledge of God would be distorted.
So a series of pagan doctrines were introduced into the Church of God, such doctrines still thrive today and are key founadational doctrines for many faiths.
Even before the establishment of the papacy the teachings of heathen philosophers had received attention and exerted an influence in the church. Many who professed conversion still clung to the tenets of their pagan philosophy, and not only continued its study themselves, but urged it upon others as a means of extending their influence among the heathen. Serious errors were thus introduced into the Christian faith. Prominent among these was the belief in man’s natural immortality and his consciousness in death. This doctrine laid the foundation upon which Rome established the invocation of saints and the adoration of the Virgin Mary. From this sprang also the heresy of eternal torment for the finally impenitent, which was early incorporated into the papal faith.
Then the way was prepared for the introduction of still another invention of paganism, which Rome named purgatory, and employed to terrify the credulous and superstitious multitudes. By this heresy is affirmed the existence of a place of torment, in which the souls of such as have not merited eternal damnation are to suffer punishment for their sins, 59 and from which, when freed from impurity, they are admitted to heaven.
Still another fabrication was needed to enable Rome to profit by the fears and the vices of her adherents. This was supplied by the doctrine of indulgences. Full remission of sins, past, present, and future, and release from all the pains and penalties incurred, were promised to all who would enlist in the pontiff’s wars to extend his temporal dominion, to punish his enemies, or to exterminate those who dared deny his spiritual supremacy. The people were also taught that by the payment of money to the church they might free themselves from sin, and also release the souls of their deceased friends who were confined in the tormenting flames. By such means did Rome fill her coffers and sustain the magnificence, luxury, and vice of the pretended representatives of Him who had not where to lay His head. An Era of Spiritual Darkness, The Great Controversy, Ellen White.
So what they did, is to start teaching that after death, your punishment begins. So for the holy like ‘Mary’, they ascend to heaven after death, but for the normal faithful, there are stages to go through before getting to heaven.
This is the same lie that introduced the infamous “St. Peters at Heaven’s gate”.
So for one, they teach that whereas you may be forgiven your sins, you still need to pay off the guilt to the church. Here is an example, say you steal your friend’s phone. After a long time, you go back to your friend and repent, the friend forgives you. But you still need to pay back the equal value of the phone to your friend regardless of the forgiveness.
While this in human situations can be conceivable, in the Spiritual realm, it is completely bogus and apostasy. For one, this teaching implies that the death of Christ at the cross was not sufficient. Secondly, this pagan church takes the position of God to put monetary value to the forgiveness of sin. Can you imagine that?
So people started worshiping God more out of fear. In essence it just was too expensive to be saved. They would be required to offer penances, multi repetitive prayers to idols and still in death there is still punishment.
The same teaching was actually adopted by Islam. In Islam, it is believed that your punishment begins in the grave.
What does the Bible say?
2PE_2:4 FOR IF GOD SPARED NOT THE ANGELS THAT SINNED, BUT CAST THEM DOWN TO HELL, AND DELIVERED THEM INTO CHAINS OF DARKNESS, TO BE RESERVED UNTO JUDGMENT;
JUD_1:6 AND THE ANGELS WHICH KEPT NOT THEIR FIRST ESTATE, BUT LEFT THEIR OWN HABITATION, HE HATH RESERVED IN EVERLASTING CHAINS UNDER DARKNESS UNTO THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT DAY.
The Bible is very clear on the subject. The dead are reserved for the judgement day. No one is going to heaven immediately after death. No one is going to purgatory immediately after death. Whatever prayers you make on behalf of the dead are a waste of time.