The word "purgatory" is defined in the Webster's Dictionary of Modern English as, "a place or state of torment". What is meant by the Catholic Church when the word "Purgatory" is used? How does Rome's teaching of this doctrine effect Biblical understanding? With these questions before us let us consider, What Saith Rome?
"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. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification..." (Catechism p.268, para #1030, 1031).
It is generally accepted that there are few Catholics who will not have to spend some measure of time in this place called "Purgatory". Purgatory is basically an intermediate state where an individual must be "purified" from sins which were not dealt with while sojourning on earth. This is not to be understood as a place of pleasure. The Baltimore Catechism on page 85, question #173 describes this abode as a place of "suffering". Purgatory is believed to be a temporary place. That is, those who enter it will eventually make it to heaven but they must first suffer for their sins. In Roman Catholic theology, most people will make it to heaven eventually. Most people will thus be "saved", according to Catholic teaching.
The Catechism describes those in Purgatory as being "...imperfectly purified...". They are also described as failing "... to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."
You see, the teachings of Purgatory all stem from the Catholic Church's belief in a works salvation. Basically Purgatory teaches that you must pay for your own sins. Not all of them, only those which Christ failed to pay for. In great contrast the Bible speaks of those who are truly saved in this manner, " For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Here, the Word of God tells us that through the sacrifice of Christ believers are " perfected forever". If you fail to accept God's way of salvation and go the way of the Roman Church you will certainly at the time of your death still be found, "...imperfectly purified..." as well as failing "... to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." A truly "saved" person is said to be "perfected forever", not requiring in any way a "Purgatory".
In a Catholic article discussing why it is Fundamentalists do not accept the teaching of Purgatory it is said, "The main reason for such strong opposition to purgatory is that it can't coexist with Fundamentalism's notion of salvation. For Fundamentalists, salvation comes by "accepting Christ as one's personal Savior." Aside from that one act of acceptance, no acts--meaning no good deeds and no sins--make any difference with respect to one's salvation."
(Catholic Answers, Purgatory, http://www.catholic.com/answers/tracts/purgator.htm )
I could not have said that better myself. Purgatory is rejected because it is true that "... no good deeds... make any difference with respect to one's salvation." The Bible sets forth salvation as a "gift". ("For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9) In light of Biblical teaching, Purgatory is similar to making children submit to a whipping before allowing them to open their Christmas presents. Salvation is a free gift, true believers have no need of a Purgatory.
Consider again the sad state in which Catholics are said to be in at the time of their death: "...imperfectly purified..." as well as failing "... to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." I do not believe that the doctrine of Purgatory is in any way a teaching from God. However, I do believe that the Bible teaches that unsaved people will be in torment from the time they die to the time they face the White Throne Judgment, from which they will be cast into Hell for eternity. [Turn to Revelation 20:11-15.] This is the scene in which Jesus Christ will judge the unsaved, the Final Judgment Day, where people who haveô@ not accepted Jesus Christ on the only terms He would allow, are judged on the only other basis possible, their own works, thoughts, and motives.
Notice verse 13, from whence these doomed people come to be judged. "... death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."
This is the temporary place in which the spirits of those unsaved have been residing from the moment they died to the time when Jesus Christ calls them forth to be judged. This place is a place of torment, but it is temporary in the sense that these people will come forth, so they can be permanently judged, and then cast into eternal Hell. During this time of "temporary" punishment, people who believed the Roman Catholic lie about Purgatory, will be thinking that Purgatory does exist and that they are in it. Through their supernatural torments, they will comfort themselves with the thought that this torment is just temporary, and soon I will come out of it, see light, and go to Heaven. Jesus Christ tells of these type of people, as they have come out of this temporary Hell, and are in the light awaiting their final judgment. It is obvious that these people expect to be going to Heaven after their encounter with Christ at the Judgment Seat.
"Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:22-23)
The Lord Jesus pinpoints exactly when this sad occurrence will happen. Jesus says, "Many will say unto me in that day..." The "day" being referred to here is the day of Judgment. After the 1000 year Millennial Kingdom we are told there will be a Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:12-15). It is at this time that all the unsaved dead will stand before the Lord Jesus facing official judgment for their sins. You see, before this time no unsaved man has stood before the presence of God. They have, however, been suffering in hell, some for thousands of years.
It is fascinating to consider the responses voiced by those in Matthew chapter seven. They speak to the Lord Jesus of "prophesying in His name" of doing "many wonderful works". These are interesting words coming from individuals who quite possibly have been suffering in torment for thousands of years. It is almost like they where expecting to be released from their eternal condemnation.
I believe that in this very scripture we are observing the same responses that will be voiced by those who have been deceived into thinking that they are in a temporary "Purgatory". In light of this it is quite possible that there are Catholic people in hell today who mistakenly believe they are in Purgatory expecting to be released.
Jesus Himself has told us their is not Purgatory!! As Jesus hung on the cross, one of the condemned thieves turned to Him for Salvation. Even though he did not enunciate all the portions of the Salvation Plan, Jesus knew his heart was broken for sin, and knew that the thief recognized Him as the only Savior of the world. Listen to this conversation, in Luke 23:39-43. We will only quote here the last statements, in verses 42-43.
"And he [the thief] said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Where did Jesus say this thief would wake up, that very day that he died? In Paradise!! Not Purgatory, but Paradise. If ever there was a person who needed to "purify" his sins, it was this thief, who had no recorded remorse over his sins before this day. In Roman culture, a man was crucified for thievery only after a lifetime of thievery, when he was considered by the court as an habitual criminal that could never be reformed. Certainly, if Purgatory really existed, for the express purpose of "purifying" a person's sin, this man would have needed it. But, Jesus Himself said that this thief would be going immediately to Paradise.
In Part Two, we will be examining another instance in which Jesus told us in no uncertain terms that we who have accepted Jesus' sacrifice in the way in which He stipulated, do not need any further purification for sins.
Friend, there is no Purgatory. If you die and it can be said of you that you are "...imperfectly purified..." as well as failing "... to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." I am sorry to say that you are eternally lost.
It is a heart breaking thought to consider that there could be people in hell today who believe they are in Purgatory unaware that it is too late for them. The people in Matthew chapter seven knew of Jesus. They are recorded as saying, "Lord, Lord...". However, notice very carefully Jesus' sad response to them: "I never knew you: depart from me..." Friend, you may claim to know Jesus, but does Jesus know you?
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that nothing will hurt you spiritually. You will also know the greatest heart peace that the greatest God can give to one of His own children.
If you would like to become Born Again, and come to know this wonderful heart peace, turn to our Salvation Page now.
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