Purgatory

 


  1. Bullet Purgatory is a theological belief


  1. Bullet The word means a "purification" or to be made clean.


  1. Bullet Sins can be mortal or venial.


  1. BulletIn Purgatory only Venial Sins are cleansed.



Objection #1 – Purgatory is a made up Catholic doctrine and does not exist.


Actually purgatory has scriptural support even though not explicitly by the name of purgatory.  One can think of it as a place or a condition of temporal punishment that occurs after death for those who still posses venial sins that have not been paid for and are therefore not fully united with God as nothing impure can enter God's presence (Rev. 21:27). It is intrinsically tied up with the Catholic belief in praying for the dead and the time between the two judgments, the particular or individual judgment and the general judgment when Jesus returns. The individual judgment applies immediately as we die so we know what our final destination will be. The general judgment reveals our sins publicly (Luke 12:2-3).


The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a


"purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified" (CCC 1030).


That purification involves suffering often in the form of fire (an analogy Paul uses) to burn away those impurities or sins in a person. Why should one burn away sins and suffer for it?  The answer lies in the fact that nothing impure can enter God’s presence (Rev. 21:27) therefore some cleansing is needed.  So where do we find Biblical support for purgatory. The first indication comes from 1 Peter 3:18 which says, “In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison:” This statement implies a middle state of sort for two reasons: 1) People who are in heaven are not in prison and are free and 2) if they were in hell there is no need to preach to them for they are eternally damned by their choosing.


A second support comes in the form of praying for the dead which can be found in 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 and here the idea is to afford solace to those who are not yet in the presence of God. The passage in question reads as follows:


[43] And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.

[44] (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead),

[45] And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them.

[46] It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.


The last line implies that we should pray for the dead so that their sins would be loosed.  For sins to be loosed they must have been bound in the first place and upon loosing the only place left to go is heaven.


St. Augustine said, in The City of God, that "temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment" (21:13). It is between the particular and general judgments, then, that the soul is purified of the remaining consequences of sin: "I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper" (Luke 12:59).


St. Monica (St. Augustine mother) asked him to pray for her after she died. Why would she do it she did not believe that she would have to be purified. In the Acts of Paul and Thecla (A.D. 160) and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity both, refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Even the great C. S. Lewis believed in purgatory.


Objection #2 – Some of the Early church fathers opposed purgatory therefore it is not valid.


On the Fathers that were silent on purgatory Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, to name a few, it must be said that there are many more that did support it (Tertullian,  Clement of Alexandria- Stromata, Origen- Homilies on Jeremias, Gregory of Nyssa- Sermon on the Dead, Augustine- Enchiridion). Space permits me to only listed a few here. It is clear that the fathers would not always be correct on all things, so the church has to decide not by democracy but by the spirit and deep thought on this matter. The Catholic church is a theocracy and not a democracy which is a modern day invention. However the scriptural passages suggest that it is valid although no one knows how long one remains in purgatory.


Objection #3 – Purgatory still does not make sense even though the passages in 1 Pet. 3:18 and 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 lend support for it.


If one goes back to those passages purgatory can does makes sense when taken as a whole. Consider the following logic


a) There will be an individual judgment when we die,

b) There are different degrees of sins that we commit that we don't always seek repentance for (1 John 5:16-17).

c) Nothing impure can come to God so purification is needed

c) Pain must be involved hence the need for prayers to the dead by those still living,


Other supporting passages include the books of Wisdom 3:5-6, Hebrews 12:23, and 2 Samuel 22.


Objection #4 – I’ve heard Roman Catholics use 1 Cor. 3:15 in defense of Purgatory. Is this valid?


Let us first examine the verses in question but start with verse 13 which is often neglected:


3:13. Every man's work shall be manifest. For the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire. And the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.

3:14. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

3:15. If any mans work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.


Verse 13 is clearly telling us that all our work will be revealed in fire that will try our work. If at the end of that trial our work is in accordance with God will for us there will be a reward in heaven, but if our work burns we will suffer a loss but yet will be saved so as by fire. In hell we are not saved and in heaven there is no fire to try us. This therefore does imply a third or a middle state that eventually leads to heaven.


You mentioned Venial sins earlier on but aren’t all sins sin? What then is a venial sin?


It is true that all sins are sins in God eyes for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:28). However, the apostle John in 1 John 5:16-17 actually tells us that not all sins are the same:


5:16. He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask: and life shall be given to him who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death. For that I say not that any man ask.

5:17. All iniquity is sin. And there is a sin unto death


and in the book of James we read (James 1:14-15)


1:14. But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.

1:15. Then, when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death.


The word concupiscence means “beginning to desire” or “to desire”. Clearly James is talking about a division of sins as the latter part of the verse implies a spiritual death. Catholics therefore divide sins up into Mortal and Venial. To grasp what is a Venial sin, let us first examine what do Catholics mean by a Mortal Sin. For a sin to be Mortal it must meet three criteria;


1) It must be a serious matter,

2) You must give your full consent to it, and

3) You must have sufficient time for reflection of its consequences.


If any of those three criteria are not met then the sin is Venial.


Objection # 5 - Ok, let’s suppose I did commit a venial sin before I die and purgatory was real. Why do I still need to suffer in purgatory?


We still need to be suffer in purgatory because while God forgive us of those sins that we repent of, he still demands reparations from us. See the tract on Indulgences. It is akin to one neighbor telling another, “I am glad that you are sorry for smashing my window the other day, but the window still needs to be repaired”. Scriptural proof of this can be found in 2 Sam. 12:13-14 which reads:


12:13. And David said to Nathan: I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David: The Lord also hath taken away thy sin: thou shalt not die.

12:14. Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee, shall surely die.



Questions:


I’ve done some really bad things in my life should I therefore aim for purgatory?


If there is no purgatory and all my life I have been good and I suddenly do something bad before I die can I really be sure that I will make it to heaven?


Lazarus remained in the tomb for some 4 days before Jesus raised him from the dead. During that time, where was his soul since upon death our soul leaves our body?