The previous pope of Rome, John Paul II, was beatified on the 1st May by his successor, Benedict XVI, in a lavish and globally-visible ceremony at the Vatican, six years after his death on the 2nd April 2005. It was, in the words of the director of the Vatican newspaper, “a historic event which has no precedent.” Internationally, Roman Catholics welcomed the beatification, and informally he was already being called, by Roman Catholics and many others, “Pope John Paul the Great.”
Beatification is the penultimate step to canonisation; and to be canonised means to be declared a “saint” within the Roman Catholic religion. What does all this mean? Try to follow carefully now, for it’s complicated and completely unbiblical, but you need to grasp it:
Who are Saints, and Who Goes to Heaven?
The very first thing to understand is the difference between Roman Catholicism and the true teaching of the Bible on heaven, and who goes there. According to Rome, only those in heaven are, strictly speaking, “saints”. And what’s more, the moment the average Papist dies, he does not go to heaven immediately, but to purgatory – an invented place, a non-existent place with absolutely no scriptural support, a place in fact which the Papists adopted from the teachings of ancient heathenism. Only a very few Papists supposedly ever bypass purgatory and go directly to heaven when they die, and it is these extraordinary few who are declared to be “saints” by Rome. The teaching of the Bible is very different. Biblically, every single person who is converted is a “saint”. Saints are simply Christians. Saints are not dead people whom Rome pompously pronounces to be “saints”, but true believers, whether living on earth or living in heaven. In Phil. 4:21 Paul writes, “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus.” Meaning simply, Greet every one of the Christians. It would be impossible for the Philippian believers to salute the saints in heaven! In Acts 9:13, Ananias prayed and said, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man [Saul of Tarsus], how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem.” Saul could not have done evil to the saints in heaven, for they are out of reach; and if there were saints at Jerusalem, then they were very much alive on earth. Clearly, Christians, even while alive on this earth, are saints. In Acts 26:10 Paul confesses that before his conversion he imprisoned “many of the saints” – they must have been saints on earth for him to be able to do this to them. Of Peter it is written that he “came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). Well, if they dwelt at Lydda, they were not yet dwelling in heaven. In v.41 Peter “called the saints” – he called them to see Lydia who had been raised from the dead, he didn’t “call” them by praying to them in heaven! In Rom. 1:7 Paul writes “to those that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” – he was writing to living saints on earth, not those in heaven. How tragic that in Rome today there sits a false “Church”, which teaches the very opposite of what the apostle taught, in his epistle to the true Church in Rome.
And every single saint, or Christian, goes immediately to heaven when he dies. There is no purgatory, for Christ Jesus has “by himself purged our sins” (Heb. 1:3)! Paul wrote that he had “a desire to depart, and to be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23); he knew that at the moment of death he would be with Christ in heaven! In 2 Cor. 5:6-8 he wrote, “whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord”, and, “We are… willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” At death, the believer goes to be with the Lord in heaven.
The teaching of Rome, then, is completely false, for it is completely unbiblical. But it gets stranger, even, than this: