Prayers on behalf of the dead have no meaning, for nothing can be changed by them. God's Word shows that the dead no longer have any physical or mental activity (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). Each person who dies sleeps in his grave in unconsciousness until the resurrection (John 5:28-29; Daniel 12:2; Job 19:25-26; 14:12-14; John 3:13; Acts 2:29, 34). Clearly, prayers should be for the living while there is still hope of repentance, not for the dead, who can do nothing.
Prayers for the dead are based on the false teaching that man possesses an immortal soul. Some believe that at death a wicked person's "immortal" soul is tormented in hell. Friends and relatives then pray that the departed "soul" be spared some of its suffering. However, the Bible says that the soul itself can die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; also, compare the last parts of Genesis 2:7, 17). In addition, Solomon says the human spirit returns to God, not to some place of punishment (Ecclesiastes 12:7; see Job 32:8). God preserves the spirit until He can return it in the resurrection from the dead when eternal judgment—to either eternal life or eternal death—is determined (see Ezekiel 37:1-14; Revelation 20:14-15; 21:6-8). There are absolutely no biblical grounds for the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
God promises to resurrect those who have died before being called and offer them salvation. This includes most of humanity! In the future, God will resurrect to physical life the billions of people from all of earth's history who have not had their minds opened to the truth of God's way of life (Revelation 20:11-13). For the first time, these people will be able to accept or reject God's gift of eternal life. God's Plan to convert humanity is so much more hopeful and loving than the traditional belief of an ever-burning hell as the destiny of those ignorant of Him and His Word!