Is Roman Catholic Doctrine Biblical? Purgatory

Fire manHere is a very interesting doctrine, one which illicits all kinds of imaginitive scenes of dead people waiting, seemingly endlessly, for rescue by living friends, who are obliged, on the dead person’s behalf, to hold special masses, pray, and pay some kind of indulgence to redeem them from some holding penitentiary for the sinful, who are given another chance, even though they have died in their sins.

There are many unanswered questions to this doctrine which does not match scripture.

Firstly, is Christ’s redeeming power not enough to save those who are living who repent on earth?

Secondly, is the payment of an indulgence greater than the cross to redeem the sinful dead who could not be saved in their lifetimes by the death and resurrection of Christ?

Here’s what the Catholic Encyclopaedia has to say about this very strange doctrine:

Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

Not fully paid? How is this doctrinally correct? Do we now have to pay for our own sin, or did Christ pay for our sin at the cross?

He surely died once and for all. And how do we pay? Our righteousness is as filthy rags, according to scripture. The wages of sin is death, which is eternal separation from the Father. There is no other way to the Father but through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. There is no payment we can make. He has paid it all. The only thing we can do is receive the free pardon he has won for us at the cross through faith in him. We are not saved by payment, but by grace through faith.

The faith of the Church concerning purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Council of Trent which (Sess. XXV) defined:

“Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavour to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983).

Further than this the definitions of the Church do not go, but the tradition of the Fathers and the Schoolmen must be consulted to explain the teachings of the councils, and to make clear the belief and the practices of the faithful.

The tradition of the fathers? Councils? Is this greater than the canon of scripture? The tradition of the fathers, in many deviations from scripture such as this, contradict the teachings of Jesus, Paul, James, John, Peter, Jude, and the writings of the Old and New Testament.

How are dead people in this purgatory helped by the suffrages of the faithful? What do the traditions of this doctrine say about their suffrages? It is by indulgences, penances and payments to buy the soul in purgatory out of the place of their holding. There is no scripture for this. On this point the traditions of the fathers seriously diverge from Apostolic teaching, with no scriptural basis from the teachings of the Apostles and of Christ.

What can the faithful pay that Christ hasn’t already paid? Is there something the faithful can do that God left out at the cross? The sin-prone faithful, says scripture, are barely saved themselves. How can they save those who have already gone on ahead through death?

Temporal punishment

That temporal punishment is due to sin, even after the sin itself has been pardoned by God, is clearly the teaching of Scripture. God indeed brought man out of his first disobedience and gave him power to govern all things (Wisdom 10:2), but still condemned him “to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow” until he returned unto dust. God forgave the incredulity of Moses and Aaron, but in punishment kept them from the “land of promise” (Numbers 20:12). The Lord took away the sin of David, but the life of the child was forfeited because David had made God’s enemies blaspheme His Holy Name (2 Samuel 12:13-14). In the New Testament as well as in the Old, almsgiving and fasting, and in general penitential acts are the real fruits of repentance (Matthew 3:8; Luke 17:3; 3:3). The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and theCouncil of Trent (Sess. XIV, can. xi) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due tosin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessaryconsequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God.

Penitential works? Here is anther false doctrine coupled with that of purgatory. The doctrines of penance, which plainly declare that the work of the cross and God’s forgiveness is not enough. The sinner must pay for his own sins. This is gross error. The Roman Catholic church has a history of teaching that people must pay for their sins, sometimes through the shedding of their own blood. Luther recalls walking up the steps of St Peters on his knees until they bled as a penance. Why was Christ’s blood not enough to purge the world of sin?

Almsgiving as a penance? Yes, of course, and thus the Roman Church grows fat on the sins of the people whilst Christ and his cross are forgotten and set aside as not enough to forgive the sinner and break them free of their sin, nor empower them to overcome the temptation to sin. For the Church of Rome there is a convenience to allowing the ordinary person to remain powerless over temptation so that they can return time after time to the Confessional, to be given penance, and to the special masses for the dead to pay their way out. No wonder Luther was so moved to passionate action when his eyes were opened to the truths of Grace, Righteousness and Faith.

So not almsgiving as a willing offering to support the poor or the work of the church, but a payment for sin, and a charge against the sinner, rendered hopeless by false doctrine, which Christ had already paid at Calvary. A double payment by the penitent to the Church of Apostasy.

Venial sins

All sins are not equal before God, nor dare anyone assert that the daily faults of human frailty will be punished with the same severity that is meted out to serious violation of God’s law. On the other hand whosoever comes into God’s presence must be perfectly pure for in the strictest sense His “eyes are too pure, to behold evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). For unrepented venial faults for the payment of temporal punishment due to sin at time of death, the Church has always taught the doctrine of purgatory.

No, the Roman church has always taught the doctrine of purgatory, and what an admission of guilt to falsehoods and the captivity of souls to a wretched doctrine.

The True Church teaches that Christ has paid the price of our sin and that the only way we can be made clean is through faith in the finished work of the cross. Thereafter we are kept clean by the words of Christ and the blood, and by the faithfulness and righteousness of the Father, who forgives the contrite man or woman who confesses their sin directly to him.

To God be the glory for truth revealed.

Posted by Steve

34 thoughts on “Is Roman Catholic Doctrine Biblical? Purgatory

  1. Dear Steve,
    Very nice history on the purgatory doctrine. I fear that your sources are all from the Catholic Church. They are not a good source for accurate information on nonsense doctrines like purgatory and celebacy. They are still trying to sell these to the faithful.

    Take my advice, if there is a doctrine of the Catholic Church that makes no sense it is there for the purpose of making money. Purgatory raised the money needed to build St. Peter’s Basilica. Celebacy brought the wealth of property to the Catholic Church. Follow the money and you will find your answers.

    God bless,

  2. Every November Catholic priests get a lot of money for Masses for the dead. People pay believing that the priest’s prayers will get their dead relatives out of Purgatory. Very Biblical!

  3. 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 ? (apocryphal)

    “Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin”

    But seriously Greg, you seem to find Catholic theology useful in some way, to prove what? Are Catholics universalists, do Catholics believe in a literal hell, do Catholics believe in the virgin birth, does the Pope endorse homosexual behaviour?

    What common ground could you find with them?

  4. Every November Catholic priests get a lot of money for Masses for the dead. People pay believing that the priest’s prayers will get their dead relatives out of Purgatory. Very Biblical!

    A lot of money = approx five dollars a day which is voluntary.

    Myth busted,

    One argument anti-Catholics often use to attack purgatory is the idea that the Catholic Church makes money from promulgating the doctrine. Without purgatory, the claim asserts, the Church would go broke. Any number of anti-Catholic books claim the Church owes the majority of its wealth to this doctrine. But the numbers just don’t add up.

    When a Catholic requests a memorial Mass for the dead—that is, a Mass said for the benefit of someone in purgatory—it is customary to give the parish priest a stipend, on the principles that the laborer is worth his hire (Luke 10:7) and that those who preside at the altar share the altar’s offerings (1 Cor. 9:13–14). In the United States, a stipend is commonly around five dollars; but the indigent do not have to pay anything. A few people, of course, freely offer more. This money goes to the parish priest, and priests are only allowed to receive one such stipend per day. No one gets rich on five dollars a day, and certainly not the Church, which does not receive the money anyway.

    But look at what happens on a Sunday. There are often hundreds of people at Mass. In a crowded parish, there may be thousands. Many families and individuals deposit five dollars or more into the collection basket; others deposit less. A few give much more. A parish might have four or five or six Masses on a Sunday. The total from the Sunday collections far surpasses the paltry amount received from the memorial Masses.

  5. And on praying for the dead. Another early Christian doctrine.

    Interesting how we relate the early Christian martyrs to us when they were decidedly Catholic.

    Nor does ascribing the doctrine to Gregory explain the graffiti in the catacombs, where Christians during the persecutions of the first three centuries recorded prayers for the dead. Indeed, some of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (both written during the second century), refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Such prayers would have been offered only if Christians believed in purgatory, even if they did not use that name for it.

  6. @Bones, you beat me to it re the Priests making lots of money from masses. Lots of charismatic preachers would make more money in the first five minutes of their offering plea than a single Priest makes in a year of November masses.
    And what would he spend the money on? His wife’s jewelry?

  7. “Thereafter we are kept clean by the words of Christ and the blood, and by the faithfulness and righteousness of the Father, who forgives the contrite man or woman who confesses their sin directly to him.”


    Steve, what if a Christian is forgiven, but then commits sin in the last few days before they die.
    What if a Christian, “backslides” and even denies Christ and dies before they have a chance to repent?
    There were many Christians in the first century who died for their faith. Then there were others were buckled under persecution and denied Christ -but then came back in repentance and wanting to be admitted back into fellowship. And of course there were those who were accepted as believers for many years, denied Christ, or sinned but then died. What do you say about them?

    Re Maccabess being apocryphal, it may not be considered part of the canon by protestants but it IS generally considered to be outline practices of the Jews at the time. So if the Jews prayed for the dead, and we know Christians did even in the first few centuries (see Bones’ post re the catacombs), and they certainly did from the time of the church fathers, was it only in the first few decades of the first century that they didn’t?

  8. The first thing to remember when discussing Roman Catholic beliefs is the importance of understanding what they believe, and not attacking what Jack Chick or someone else says they believe.

    Re purgatory, many protestants mistakenly believe that Catholics are praying for people to go from hell to heaven.

    From what I understand that’s not it at all.

    btw, I’ve read that some believe that John Wesley believed in some kind of state of purification after death and before entering heaven.
    (Not that that makes it right – just saying)

  9. I’ll say at this point that many people come to faith in evangelical churches, even going into leadership, but have no knowledge of Church history, the Church fathers, and have never studied Roman Catholic apologetics.

  10. There is not one single reference to purgatory or any such place in scripture. Not one. Prayers for the dead do not indicate such a place. It is purely and simply a Roman Catholic false doctrine which has no purpose associated with true Christianity.

    I asked questions in the post which no one has answered.

    Firstly, is Christ’s redeeming power not enough to save those who are living who repent on earth?

    Secondly, is the payment of an indulgence greater than the cross to redeem the sinful dead who could not be saved in their lifetimes by the death and resurrection of Christ?

    Have you not asked these questions?

    No one has suggested that purgatory is the same as hell, SM. Purgatory is an error all on its own with no association with hell whatsoever. Hell is final destination. Purgatory is some temporal place where sinners reside in the hope that hey will be redeemed through the prayers and suffrages of the faithful.

    What suffrages? Why does a sin-prone person need to assume suffrage to release a relative from purgatory? And indulgence. Indulgences are payments.

    Did not Christ pay all that could be paid? Why is the cross rendered powerless by this false doctrine? Was it not enough? Why did thee people not receive Christ? Can they now receive Christ in this strange place called purgatory? How? Can another go there and preach to them?

    Frankly I am very surprised at the amount of support for Catholic error. Transubstantiation I can understand may cause some confusion, and interpretation of scripture be clouded by some.

    But this doctrine is so far removed from truth, how can any evangelical or even liberal lend support to it?

  11. I should qualify what I said about hell, of course. In fact the Lake of Fire is the final destination of the devil and his followers, not hell, by which I refer to gehenna.

  12. Steve – ”There is not one single reference to purgatory or any such place in scripture. Not one.”

    Luke 12:47-49 – “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

    is a possibility Steve. Depends on a number of takes on perspective, context and what the blows entail.

  13. Are you serious, ziebart? Is that your criteria for exegesis?

    Why, please tell me, are you defending this doctrine of purgatory? It’s totally preposterous and nowhere near Biblical.

  14. @ Zeibart – So the grace of God isn’t sufficient, and Catholics (are we included in the “purgatory” group too) have to go through some sort of purification rite?

    Hebrews 10:8-18

    “First he [Jesus] said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’ (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL.

    Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had OFFERED FOR ALL TIME ONE SACRIFICE FOR SINS, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because BY ONE SACRIFICE HE HAS MADE PERFECT FOREVER those who are being made holy.

    The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
    ‘This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.

    I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds:

  15. And this…

    “Modern Protestants, while they avoid the name purgatory, frequently teach the doctrine of “the middle state,” and Martensen (“Christian Dogmatics,” Edinburgh, 1890, p. 457).”8

    Here, they reference the work of Danish Episcopal Bishop Hans Martensen. It is well known that Bishop Martensen also had a proclivity for mysticism and theosophy, and therefore might not make the best witness to orthodoxy.

    Regardless of Martensen’s personal theological beliefs, support of a doctrine by other groups or individuals is not an acceptable support. Furthermore, the broad stroke of the author’s brush is far too broad in painting Protestant beliefs on this issue. He would have been more accurate to say that SOME modern Protestants believe in a middle state.”

  16. Greg, I actually quoted form the Council of Trent in the piece I put up, wich quoted it in part on Purgatory, so you’d have to admit the authenticity of what was posted.

    Here in full is what the Council of Trent determined on Purgatory:


    Began on the third, and terminated on the fourth, day of December, MDLXIII., being the ninth and last under the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IV.

    Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this oecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavour that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and every where proclaimed by the faithful of Christ. But let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude. In like manner, such things as are uncertain, or which labour under an appearance of error, let them not allow to be made public and treated of. While those things which tend to a certain kind of curiosity or superstition, or which savour of filthy lucre, let them prohibit as scandals and stumbling-blocks of the faithful. But let the bishops take care, that the suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed, in accordance with the institutes of the church; and that whatsoever is due on their behalf, from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be discharged, not in a perfunctory manner, but diligently and accurately, by the priests and ministers of the church, and others who are bound to render this (service).

    Don’t you just love that phrase, Greg, where it advised the Bishops; let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude! Wonderful! The subtlety of serpents.

  17. And from the Catechism you sourced at the Vatican:

    III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

    1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

    1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.604 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:605

    As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.606

    1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”607 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.608 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

    Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.609

    This doctrine alone, if produced by one the churches you commonly disapprove of, say Hillsong, or a megachurch ministry, like Saddleback, would produce outcry from you.

    What Bible believing evangelical Christian would assent to this folly?

  18. I notice that article references Christopher Hitchens who hated her, especially her anti-abortion stance. There are many atheist sites looking to tear her down as she contradicts their assertion that religion is poison and evil.

    I’d say she was following St Francis of Assisi’s advice

    “Preach! And if you must, use words.”

    From a 1989 interview with Time Magazine. Please notice the context of the “better Hindu etc.” quote.

    Time: What’s your greatest hope here in India?

    Mother Teresa: To give Jesus to all.

    Time: But you do not evangelize in the conventional sense of the term.

    Mother Teresa: I’m evangelizing by my works of love.

    Time: Is that the best way?

    Mother Teresa: For us, yes. For somebody else, something else. I’m evangelizing the way God wants me to. Jesus said go and preach to all the nations. We are now in so many nations preaching the Gospel by our works of love. “By the love that you have for one another will they know you are my disciples.” That’s the preaching that we are doing, and I think that is more real.

    Time: Friends of yours say that you are disappointed that your work has not brought more conversions in this great Hindu nation.

    Mother Teresa: Missionaries don’t think of that. They only want to proclaim the Word of God. Numbers have nothing to do with it. But the people are putting prayer into action by coming and serving the people. Continually people are coming to feed and serve, so many, you go and see. Everywhere people are helping. We don’t know the future. But the door is already open to Christ. There may not be a big conversion like that, but we don’t know what is happening in the soul.

    Time: What do you think of Hinduism?

    Mother Teresa: I love all religions, but I am in love with my own. No discussion. That’s what we have to prove to them. Seeing what I do, they realize that I am in love with Jesus.

    Time: And they should love Jesus too?

    Mother Teresa: Naturally, if they want peace, if they want joy, let them find Jesus. If people become better Hindus, better Moslems, better Buddhists by our acts of love, then there is something else growing there. They come closer and closer to God. When they come closer, they have to choose.

    Time: You and John Paul II, among other Church leaders, have spoken out against certain lifestyles in the West, against materialism and abortion. How alarmed are you?

    Mother Teresa: I always say one thing: If a mother can kill her own child, then what is left of the West to be destroyed? It is difficult to explain , but it is just that.

  19. Margot, Steve – I know, I wasn’t very convinced myself, but it was the best I could come up with at short notice 🙂

    Anyway, for me the entire argument for purgatory is rendered moot because I believe that there is no intermediate state between death and resurrection. You die, you’re raised, you’re judged.

    In fact, those verses I quoted are probably a good support for pre-destruction punishment of those destined for the lake of fire. I am not of the eternal concious torment camp, so see those verses as possibly speaking of justice meted out before final, everlasting destruction of the wicked.

  20. Greg, none of the scriptures you use point to purgatory. What you have produced is a classic example f eisegesis – you have adopted verses to prove a pre-scripted doctrine at the expense of its true meaning.

    That the RC church has to appeal to the Apocrypha for one o its main errors says it all.

  21. What the RC church says is extraordinary.

    All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

    This is an utter nonsense when measured against scripture.

    They are assured of their salvation, and yet impure? How? And by what power are they then purified? Apparently by the intercession of the faithful living, who will barely be saved themselves.

    So why is Christ’s cross made null for these people, who are accorded salvation and yet not purified; justified, but not sanctified!

    Now, a man or woman who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ is justified, and if justified, then made righteous, not by his own works, but by the blood of Jesus, not by his own merits, but by the righteousness which is in Christ, and which is accorded to them when they believed.

    The criteria for salvation, then, isn’t that person’s works, or self purification, nor the purification of the prayers of the saints, but by the grace of God and by faith in Christ and the redeeming power of his cross.

    And if that person is justified, he is sanctified. There is no ‘imperfect purification’. You are either sanctified by the Word and Spirit, or you are not. You have either confessed Christ as Lord, or you have not.

    And the whole purpose of the Communion is to remind us of this. We have been made righteous through faith i the risen Christ and through the blood of his cross. Communion is the remembrance of our covenant with God through faith in Christ.

    During Communion we are told ot judge ourselves. At this tme we ask for forgiveness for all sins, known or unknown, and we forgive anyone who has offended us. In this way we are kept clean before the Father, who is faithful to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

    That is why, contrary to Jim McClarty’s claims, we need to take Communion as often as we can. It is a reminder of our agreement to stay clean before God.

    We don’t need a purgatory. We are purged on earth. God himself corrects us.

    Hebrews 12
    4* You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
    5* And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
    6* For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
    7* If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?
    8* But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
    9* Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
    10* For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
    11* Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

    We are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have one shot at this life on earth. If we do not make it through as justified, sanctified and glorified in God’s sight, we will not make it at all. There is no requirement for a purgatory. The place of cleansing is on this earth during our lifetime.

    It is a gross and deep deception to tell the RC people that they can have another chance in some holding ground called purgatory, and that their relatives can be prayed for or bought out of it. It is a lie. It is simply not true.

    If they were told the truth then far more of them would live their lives circumspectly and with more dedication to Christ’s will than their own, as if, by some mysterious means, they could scrape through after they die even though they have lived their lives as sinners who believe in a Jesus ad attend three masses a year.
    12* Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
    13* and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

  22. Well at least I’m learning some new things.

    I liked this article especially the highlighted parts.

    Of all the misunderstood Catholic teachings — and there are a few of them — purgatory is often seen as the most embarrassing.

    Of all the misunderstood Catholic teachings — and there are a few of them — purgatory is often seen as the most embarrassing. Thousands of Catholics leave the Church every year. Their faith is questioned and their religious education doesn’t rise to the challenge. You’ve probably heard these questions yourself: “Where in the Bible does it say you have to confess your sins to a priest?” “Where does it say that the pope is infallible?” “That Mary was conceived without original sin?” And, “Where in the world did you Catholics get the teaching on purgatory?”
    The typical conversation goes something like this:

    Non-Catholic: “So you’re a Roman Catholic?”

    Roman Catholic: “That’s right. I’m even a Notre Dame fan.”

    NC: “Do you believe everything the Church teaches?”

    RC: “Well, yeah, I guess so.”

    NC: “Even purgatory?”

    RC: “I think so.”

    NC: “Well, let me get this straight. You believe in an all-loving God, don’t you?”

    RC: “Yeah!”

    NC: “Do you believe that this God sent His only begotten Son to die for you?”

    RC: “Sure!”

    NC: “So let me get this straight: You believe in an all-loving God, who loved you so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for you, just so you can go to heaven when you die. Yet, this loving God first sticks you in a ‘cosmic oven’ and bakes you for a couple hundred years or so until you’re done?”

    RC: “Well, I’ve never really thought about it that way.”

    NC: “Where in the Bible does it say ‘purgatory’?”

    About this time, our Catholic friend is looking for someplace to hide! He seems to have three equally unsatisfactory options. Option number one is blind faith: “I don’t know why I believe it, but I’m going to keep right on believing it anyway. After all, I’m Catholic, so don’t confuse me with the facts!”

    Option two is an over-confident triumphalism: “Silly Fundamentalist! Where in the Bible really!”

    The third option is to run for the hills.

    Each of these options fails to take the situation seriously. Blind faith ignores the importance of an answer. Triumphalism ignores the importance of the question. And running away fails to see the importance of reality.

    There is, however, another way: the way of constructive apologetics, which takes the question and the answer very seriously, and prayerfully begins to search the sacred texts and the storehouses of apostolic Tradition to find the truth about these important issues.

    The case against purgatory seems to be based on three major objections. First, the teaching of purgatory seems to contradict the finished work of Christ and offend the basic understanding of God as a loving, all-caring, all-merciful God who has forgiven our sins in Christ Jesus. Second, purgatory seems to offer a “second chance” for those who did not follow Christ in this life. Third, purgatory does not appear to be a biblical teaching. Before examining the truth about purgatory, let’s take a look at these objections and see why they should be taken seriously.

    Scripture stresses the truth of God’s love, and Evangelical Protestants have frequently had a powerful experience of Christ’s forgiveness. St. John explains: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). Jesus Christ Himself stresses mercy over judgment, stating,

    Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24).

    Scripture teaches us about a God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). The Christian believer is called to accept the mercy of God as all-powerful, capable of overcoming all sin, and yet the Catholic who holds the teaching of purgatory seems to belittle God’s forgiveness. From this perspective, God appears almost schizophrenic, wanting to forgive our sins and yet meticulously hold us accountable for them, at one time cleansing us from all unrighteousness (cf. 1 Jn. 1:9) and then later deciding to “fry us” for displeasing Him. Have we “passed out of judgment” (cf. Jn. 5:24) or haven’t we? Has Christ forgiven our sins, or hasn’t He?

    The second objection against purgatory is that it is a manufactured second chance. If you don’t really want to follow Christ, you can still get to heaven through the “backdoor.” Yet Scripture is clear that spiritual mediocrity is unacceptable (cf. Rev. 3:15-16). Jesus calls for complete commitment. He is either Lord of all, or He isn’t Lord at all. There is no second chance; we are either for Christ or against Him (cf. Lk. 11:23). The doctrine of purgatory seems to be an “end run.” But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6).

    The third argument against the doctrine of purgatory flows from a main dogma of Protestant theology, sola scriptura (“the Bible alone”). After all, where in the Bible do we find purgatory? A quick word check in any concordance will demonstrate that the word is nowhere to be found in Scripture. There’s no discussion of some third place between heaven and hell. Surely something as important as purgatory would be clearly taught in the pages of Scripture!

    Purgatory also appears to be “guilty by association”: The doctrine is caught up in the “Catholic collection” of the intercession of the saints, indulgences, the sacrifice of the Mass, and other items that are perceived as “unbiblical” and the fruit of mere human tradition. As Christ warns, “[F]or the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God” (Mt. 15:6).

    These views are held by very sincere Christians, men and women with whom we are united in Baptism. Catholics have an obligation to take these issues seriously.

    When I began to investigate the teaching of purgatory, I knew that it wasn’t enough to simply ask, “Where in the Bible is purgatory?” As a Christian, the two most fundamental truths that I held were the Trinity — three Persons in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and the Incarnation, that the eternal Son, at a point in history, took on human nature and became man like us in all things but sin. And yet the words “Trinity” and “Incarnation” were nowhere in Scripture. That is to say, the words weren’t, but the teachings were.

    I now needed to go to the Bible and examine whether the teaching of purgatory — whether the word was there or not — was to be found in the teachings of Christ and the apostles. I began to search the Gospels to see if Jesus gave any teachings concerning judgment or purification at the end of our earthly life. I began to see that several of Our Lord’s teachings, far from disproving purgatory, seemed to point to the possibility that there might be some debt of justice that would be paid after our earthly life.

    As Christ teaches about the importance of forgiveness, He gives the example of a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. He brought in a man who owed a great deal of money and forgave him the debt. The forgiven man in turn went out and met one of his fellow slaves, who owed him but a fraction of the amount, and demanded repayment. The just king summoned his slave back and said,

    “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt (Mt. 18:32-34).

    What was Jesus talking about? Scripture clearly teaches, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). And yet Our Lord Himself gives the example of a man who had been forgiven, afterward acted unjustly, and finally was handed over to repay all that he owed.

    Again in St. Luke’s Gospel, Our Lord challenges His followers to make peace with one another, so that they will not be handed over to the magistrate who would throw them into prison: “I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper” (Lk. 12:59; cf. Mt. 5:26). Christ calls the believer, who has passed out of condemnation — the sentence of hell — to live a life of justice which will be exacted to the last cent. If this is not the case, then the teachings of Jesus make no sense. The Catholic teaching about purgatory is that if, at the end of a Christian’s earthly life, this debt of justice was not satisfied, he shall be purified in purgatory before entering heaven. The teachings of Christ did not seem to contradict this. But lack of contradiction is still a long way from proof.

    In St. Matthew’s Gospel there is a tremendous confrontation between Christ and the Pharisees, in which they accuse Him of exercising authority over demons by the power of Beelzebul, the “prince of demons” (Mt. 12:24). Jesus then warns them of the sin against the Holy Spirit and states,

    Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Mt. 12:31-32).

    If this sin cannot be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come, some sins might be able to be forgiven in the age to come. Without using the word “purgatory,” Jesus is presenting teachings that seemed in harmony with the Catholic teaching on purgatory and were a bit difficult to interpret from an Evangelical perspective. While I was far from ready to accept that Jesus was referring to purgatory, I was finding myself hard-pressed to come to any other conclusion. This “forgiveness of sins” and “the age to come,” the reference to a prison in which we would not be released until we had “paid the last cent” — this is certainly not heaven or hell. We never get out of hell, and heaven is no prison.

    I came across a passage in the New Testament that I found very surprising. While addressing the very issue of sin within the Christian community — those who were believers and had accepted the Lordship of Jesus Christ into their lives — St. Paul writes:

    For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15).

    The passage is quite clear: Gold and silver, when placed into a furnace, would be purified; wood and hay would be burned away. As this is done, Scripture says we will suffer loss, but be saved “as through fire.” The image of purgatory was becoming more vivid as I read. What else could St. Paul be referring to? He can’t be referring to hell, because it’s clear that the people who undergo this “purifying fire” will be saved, while those who are in hell are lost forever. And yet he can’t be referring to heaven, because he mentions the suffering of loss, while in heaven every tear will be wiped away (cf. Rev. 21:4).

    Scripture teaches that God is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). The point St. Paul seems to make is that, as God draws us to Himself after death, there is a process of purification in the fire of God’s holy presence. God Himself purifies us of those imperfect deeds: the wood, hay, and stubble. And those works that are performed in faithfulness and obedience to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, those of gold and silver, are purified. This purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches of heaven — the new Jerusalem — and the temple within it, “Nothing unclean shall enter it” (Rev. 21:27). The biblical images of the purifying fire, through which the believer is saved while suffering loss, were now beginning to sound more and more like purgatory.

    But where is the word “purgatory?” I began to see that this question revealed an ignorance on my part. The Scriptures were written in Hebrew and Greek. “Purgatory” comes from the Latin word purgatorium. In Scripture, we do find references to an afterlife that is neither the hell of the damned nor heaven. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word sheol is used to describe this condition; in the New Testament, the Greek term is hades. I had always thought that hades was hell, but Scripture teaches very clearly that hades is not hell; it is distinct from gehenna, or the lake of fire which is the hell of the damned. In fact, the Book of Revelation describes how, at the end of time, death and hades are thrown into hell (gehenna). This is the second death, the lake of fire. Scripture teaches that at the end of time, there is no more death; and once the purification of all souls has taken place, there is no more need for hades. This same concept of sheol (in Hebrew), hades (in Greek), and purgatorium (in Latin) is purgatory as we have come to know it today (cf. Catechism, nos. 1030-32).

    The major objection to purgatory is that somehow it undermines the finished work of Christ. Is Christ’s death sufficient? Of course it is! It is sufficient to win our redemption and to allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us. The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, however, is the work of purification and sanctification. It is the application of the divine life won by Christ. Purgatory in no way should be viewed as a “second chance,” by which those who did not believe in and follow Christ can somehow “suffer their way into heaven,” despite their rejection of the Christian life. Jesus is clear that those who refuse to follow Him are guilty: “[H]e who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn. 3:18). Spiritual purification is possible only for those who have been reconciled to God in this life (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-20).

    The concept of purification after death dates back to the Jews of pre-Christian times. Evidence of this can be seen in the Second Book of Maccabees. Catholics will quickly cite this as scriptural evidence for the reality of purgatory, but we must remember that Protestants do not accept 2 Maccabees as scriptural. Nevertheless, objective readers will have to note that, even if the seven books of the Old Testament accepted by Catholics and rejected by Protestants are not biblical, they are godly writings and worthy of our consideration. In 2 Maccabees, following a battle, the faithful Jews found out that their fallen comrades each carried with them sacred tokens of idols, which the law forbade the Jews to wear:

    [T]hey turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering (2 Mac. 12:42-43).

    The sacred text notes that this was an honorable deed, and the passage closes with the statement, “Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Mac. 12:45).

    What is striking about this passage is not what it asserts, but what it takes for granted. This episode is not told in an apologetic style, as if to prove that prayer for the dead was a pious act, but rather assumes it. Moreover, once the Catholic Church is accepted as the Church that Christ founded, and thus as the Church that defines the canon of Scripture, the teaching in Maccabees takes on greater weight as inspired Scripture (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).

    What is clear and undeniable is the solidarity the early Christians felt with the deceased. Many ancient Christian monuments call out for prayer. For example, the epitaph of a bishop named Abercius, composed toward the end of the second century, provides: “Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed; truly, I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius.” This practice of prayer for the deceased predates a fully developed defense of this practice, which was provided at the ecumenical councils of Lyons II (1274), Florence (1439-45), and Trent (1545-63).

    As I began reading the Church Fathers, I was struck not only by the confidence of these holy men and the reality of the purifying fire (cf. 1 Cor. 3:15), but also by how deeply the teaching was rooted in the apostolic Tradition. The historic evidence clearly pointed to a belief in a state of purification that would later be called “purgatory.” This term corresponded to the Hebrew concept of sheol, and to the Greek term hades in the New Testament. This third and temporary state of purification is biblical, apostolic, historical and, most of all, true and completely reconcilable with the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Gospels.

    The doctrine of purgatory is completely reconcilable with a loving God who is a consuming fire. As we are drawn up into His love, into His very divine life — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we begin to burn with that same divine fire, and those impurities to which we have clung in this life must be burned away. This will inevitably involve suffering, as we let go of those imperfect things to which we are attached.

    The hidden mystery behind the teaching of purgatory is our calling to live in God for all eternity, which requires us to give perfectly of ourselves (cf. Mt. 5:48). Even with deep faith, the Christian life is difficult. We are called to manifest heroic generosity, and yet generosity hurts in this life. No matter what we’re asked to give, we seem to run out — of time, of energy, of money. God calls us to acknowledge this weakness, this poverty, and to turn to Him and cry out for help that He might fill us with His grace.

    In heaven, generosity will not hurt; the lack of generosity will hurt. That is because in heaven God will give Himself to us fully and completely, holding nothing back. Our ability to receive from Him will be completely contingent upon our ability, in turn, to immediately give back. Otherwise, the gift of God would destroy us. Like strapping a water balloon onto a fire hydrant nozzle, we would explode! It is only when we learn the habit of complete and total self-giving that we will be able to experience the joy of heaven.

    Christians are called to accept the finished work of Jesus Christ, and to allow that work to be applied to our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit, so that those who are justified will be sanctified. For us it is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.

  23. These views are held by very sincere Christians, men and women with whom we are united in Baptism. Catholics have an obligation to take these issues seriously.

    It appears to me at times that it is Catholics who are more conciliatory than Protestants, who can’t or won’t forget or forgive the past, and are still in their own Medieval religious war.

  24. I find it funny that Steve keeps posting these anti-Catholic rants yet they get exposed as having a Biblical and Apostolic basis.

    I’m not surprised given some of his biblical interpretation and beliefs are closer to JWs.

    What’s next? Candles?

  25. First, Bones, they’re not rants. They’re scripturally based apologetics defending the truths which negate the need for Jesus to be sacrificed at the mass, or for an after-life purgatory.

    Thus far you have failed to produce one piece of scriptural evidence for the RC doctrine of calling down Jesus into the wafer as a sacrifice at every mass, or for the erroneous doctrine of purgatory.

    The reason is simple. There is not a shred of Biblical evidence to defend such error.

    Neither am I anti-catholic. I there was a Biblical way to support their doctrine for the sake of seeing them all saved I would. But here is no honest scriptural means of defending these and other doctrines.

    I am interested in truth, however. If you defend these errors you become part of them. I am very interested in the way this discussion has developed.

    I don’t see why you have had to take such an aggressively indignant position when I have merely reiterated what many evangelicals would agree with in regards to extra-biblical interpretations of Christian doctrine.

    There are no evangelicals who would agree with the idea of the mass, especially the teaching that Jesus is summoned down from the throne as a sacrifice, which is clearly what is taught, by their own admission.

    You may agree with RC dogma that the bread and wine are in some way the literal flesh and blood of Jesus, but why are you defending the repetition of Jesus’ sacrifice during the mass when it is not necessary, especially when he said himself “It is finished” indicated the completed work of the cross, and the truth that he died once and for all at Calvary. Once and for means no repetition. It means completion.

    This means there is no necessity for another sacrifice of Christ for any reason, yet you defend this teaching.

    There are no evangelicals who would support the doctrine of purgatory. It is erroneous and superfluous to requirements for salvation.

    Purgatory is a place of purging, yet scripture, in several places, tells us that the purging, the cleansing, the purification, including justification, sanctification and glorification take place in this lifetime before death, are the result of grace through faith, and those who die in their sins die separated from the Father, not kept in another place undefined in scripture.

    I have given adequate and uncontested reasons for these defences of truth, which you have not even begun to refute in a systematic and scriptural way.

  26. There are no evangelicals who would support the doctrine of purgatory. It is erroneous and superfluous to requirements for salvation.


    This video is a response to Luke 12:35-48 from Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills Church. Boyd gives a brief history of purgatory and explains how the concept of purgatory can fit in a Protestant’s beliefs and how it is a disciplining of believers.

  27. Nah! Like you he’s a closet Catholic!

    Purgatory, for the bona fide evangelical, is completely unnecessary.

    It was all dealt with at the cross and resurrection.

  28. Once again I’m just trying to educate and give 2 sides rather than just believe ignorance, generalisations and misrepresentations.

    I’m not a closet Catholic.

    I might however be a closet Orthodox.

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