So now, I guess I am jumping into the fire with this post. There are so many teachings I did not understand about the Catholic Church when I was not Catholic, many of which were out of just plain ignorance and some out of misinformation that I was given; and the teaching of purgatory was one of those. I remember thinking: "There is no way that purgatory can be a valid teaching, it is not spoken about at all in Scripture. And there is no need for it: Christ paid it all on the Cross!" Out of all the Catholic doctrines that are disagreed with by Protestants, there are maybe 2 or 3 others that raise just as many questions and ire as the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.
I was on my way home this afternoon listening to Catholic Answers radio and Patrick Madrid was on today taking calls and one of the callers called in to ask about the Scriptural basis for Purgatory and also why as Christians and Catholics we are in need of Purgatory. After hearing the question and the explanation, it inspired me so much that I just had to set out a'bloggin' .
There are many questions that pop into a Protestants mind when you mention Purgatory. 1) Purgatory is a second chance for all those who die. 2) Purgatory is a place where souls "work" or "earn" their salvation, and also 3) a completely false doctrine that was conjured up by the Catholic Church and has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. There has been countless numbers of works written over the past two millenia on the subject and I hold no claim as an expert or a theologian, however I do come from a different point of view and want to give a clear view of what purgatory is....and is not and the SOLID Scriptural basis for the concept of Purgatory.
First, what is the need for Purgatory and what is it? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030-1031:
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.
Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. 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:
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.
And in Revelation 21:25-27, speaking of Heaven:
During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there.
The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there,
but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
So based on what we read here, Puratory is NOT a second chance for people to change their mind on their relationship to and with Christ, so let us be perfectly clear on that point first and for most. In what we see in Scripture and what we read in the previous paragraphs of the CCC, we see that Purgatory is a place of cleansing and purification and also the last part of our Sanctification (being made Holy and being purified from sin).
"Cleansing and purification from what?? Once I believe that Christ died for my sins, isn't that it? It is all done!" I can hear the responses now. The answer is ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY YES!!! (and NO). The reason I say No is that few people now realize that there are two dimensions of sin.
The first dimension is the eternal dimension and this has to due with our eternal destiny. The Sacrifice that Christ made for us once and for all upon the Cross is an eternal Sacrifice that purchased our eternal souls from Hell, this is true and this cannot be earned by us as Christians in any way, shape or form. This is a gift that is given to us as Christians and allows us to join the Father in eternity.
Now for the second dimension, the Temporal dimension. Ever since Adam and Eve and the fall in the garden, every sin has eternally separated us from our Creator, but they have also come with temporal effects (i.e. cause and result). I have two good examples for this:
1)Your child is out playing baseball in the yard and you know that he is an ARod Jr. because he hits a home run....right through your beautiful kitchen window! After your anger subsides you will always offer your forgiveness to your child. Why? Because they are your child and there is nothing they can do to earn it...IT IS THEIRS. But there is another side to this; you still have a broken window. Your child will have to work and work and forego allowances whatever it takes to teach them about reprucussions of their actions.
2)On a more adult scenario, let us suppose that a man goes out and has an affair on his wife and then realizes the error of his ways. He would go to confession and be forgiven absolutely of all his sins. Later he finds out that he has contracted some sexually transmitted disease such as Herpes or AIDS. Does this mean that he is not forgiven? By no means. What this means is that he is suffering the consequences of his actions.
This principle is set forth in Scripture from beginning to end. Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden for their disobedience. Cain was set out as a wanderer as a result of his murder of Abel. Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land after is disobedience. David's son died after his adultery with Bathsheeba. Consequences follow actions. Whenever we willingly choose to disobey the laws set in place by God, there is never a null effect and there is a bit of a stain that is left on our souls. Though our forgiveness is bought and paid for, the stain and effects of sin still have to be accounted for and this is the purpose of Purgatory. It is kind of like a "heavenly mud room" Your mama wouldn't dare let you play in the house after you have been out rolling around in the mud, you have to get clean first. To sum it up, if you are in Purgatory, you are going to Heaven....PERIOD.
Now for the Second Part. Is Purgatory scriptural? Obviously there is nowhere in Scripture that will obviously describe Purgatory. Is it a physical place? Is it a process? Do you spend years or eons there? These are all details that aren't provided for us in Scripture. What we do know is that when we die, if we have these attachments to sin still with us, stained on our soul, that we must be made perfectly clean prior to being presented to Christ. So whether Purgatory is a physical place, an instantaneous process and how it is done, we don't have the answers. Having said that, this is what we do know from Scripture about Purgatory:
Now I realize that some of you don't have the Maccabees in your Bible, but it was there 600 years ago....trust me! :-) And this was what 2Macc 12: 43-44 states:
He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view;
for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.
So, here is the question. If the soldiers Judas Maccabeus was collecting an offering for were in heaven, why would Judas be praying for them. If they were in Hell, there would be no use for them either, so why was he collecting an offering for them? (Purgatory) Even if you don't belive in the authority of the Deuterocanonical books, it is worth much attention that the early Jews believed in a final purifcation before they stood before God and furthermore, they believe that Judas Maccabeus acted in "a very excellent and noble way".
I Corinthians 3: 13-15:
the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work.
If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage.
But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.
Now this is an interesting passage that Paul writes. So at "The Day" each person's work will come to light and at the end, "the person will be saved, but only as through fire". Again the Scripture begs the question: If you are in Heaven, why would you pass through the fire? And we know that if one is in Hell, then they do not leave...so what is Paul referring to here. We must be made spotless and holy before Christ
And whoever speaks 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.
Now in this verse we have Christ speaking about the Unforgiveable Sin. Again, in Heaven there is no need for sins to be forgiven, but Christ is definitely alluding to the fact that there will be a place will sins WILL be able to be forgiven "in the age to come".
And finally 1Peter 3:19:
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
Here Peter speaks of Christ preaching to the "spirits in prison". Where were they? Heaven? Nope, because if they were in Heaven, Christ would have had no need to preach to them. Hell? Nope, because we know that repentance is not possible in Hell.
All this leads us to believe that yes, there is a Purgatory and THANK YOU LORD that there has been a way provided to remove all imperfections and attractions to sin from our souls before we come face to face with our Blessed Lord.
Finally....can you avoid Purgatory? I think that is for another blog..................