Friday, February 27, 2015


Purgatory… the name brings to mind creepy images of dark caves filled with suffering souls in smoke and fire.  There is much speculation, even from the “experts,” about how it actually works, and the degree of suffering, or how long one stays there.  But is Purgatory real?  Is it another place or state of being somewhere between Heaven and Hell?  Is it something that Christians should be concerned about?  And most importantly, does the Bible teach this concept?

Official Catholic Teaching

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

“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. 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.

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." 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. 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.”

So, according to this, when most people die, they may not be “fully purified” and ready to enter Heaven, since nothing unclean can enter it (Revelation 21:27).  According to the Catechism, we should pray for the souls in Purgatory and offer “works of penance” on their behalf, apparently, to lessen their pain and to help get them out sooner than “scheduled.”  But this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.


What is offensive to the gospel is not so much the possibility of having “another place or state” besides Heaven and Hell, but the idea that a mere human can pay for sins, whether his own or someone else’s.

First and foremost, we reject the concept of Purgatory (as all Christians should) because it involves a works-based salvation (Romans 4:4-5, Ephesians 2:8-9).  That is, Purgatory involves a sinner having to work or to endure some sort of suffering for his sins, and this work or suffering supposedly helps to atone for those sins.  But according to Scripture, this is impossible.  Atonement for sins involves the death of a PERFECT substitute (Hebrews 7:25-28; 10:14), and we know that there is only one Person who fits in that category, the Lord Jesus Christ.  No sinner can atone for his own sins, because he is tainted.  So, no one is qualified but Jesus, and we can do nothing to add to His work on the cross.  See also this article:

Other Problems

Ok, so what about the time of the Rapture / Resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15:50-52)  Those who are still alive when the Resurrection happens will not have time to go to Purgatory because Paul says that when it happens, “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).  Wouldn’t it be unfair that those who rise on that day (still having imperfections in their life) won’t have to endure the pains of Purgatory, like all those who died before them?

But Catholic apologists may say, “Punishment in Purgatory does not have to be months, years, or centuries long. Their purification could possibly last just one second!  We just don’t know ‘how time operates’ in the next life.”  Maybe so, but the doctrine of Purgatory has more serious problems to work out than “how time operates in the afterlife.” 

Anyway, concerning the length of time it takes to be “purged” and ready for Heaven, we believe that we will be changed instantly after death.  If our bodies are changed and perfected in the “twinkling of an eye” in the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52), then why can’t our soul and spirit be changed in like manner when we die?  We see no biblical reason to believe otherwise.

Temporal Punishment

The Sixth Session of the Council of Trent says:

"If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema." (CANON XXX)

Purgatory is largely based on the concept of “temporal punishments.”  According to Trent, the sinner destined for Purgatory is forgiven the guilt and the eternal punishment of his sins, but he still has “temporal punishment” to pay. 

According to the online New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, (under Purgatory, subheading “Temporal Punishment”) it is “clearly the teaching of Scripture” that temporal punishment is due (to be paid) even after a sin is pardoned by God.  It goes on to give examples, like Adam being given the power to govern all things, yet he still had to work the ground which was cursed.  Moses was forgiven for striking the rock twice, yet he was not allowed to go into the Promised Land (Canaan).  David was forgiven for his sin with Bathsheba, yet their child still died.  Again, through these examples, the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia is attempting to prove that the concept of “temporal punishment” in Purgatory is biblical.  But these examples were earthly punishments!  These are consequences that happen here on earth, not in the afterlife.

To use another example, if someone who is married commits adultery, there can certainly be “temporal consequences” for his / her actions.  The two involved in the sin may be forgiven by God, but there are still possible consequences to their sin.  That is, 1) there is always the threat of a venereal disease, 2) one offended spouse could want a divorce, 3) the offended spouse could be violently jealous, or 4) a pregnancy could result from the adulterous affair.   Again, these are all earthly consequences.  But according to Scripture, there is no punishment, temporal or otherwise, for the Christian in the next life.  The only after-death punishment that the Bible speaks of under the New Covenant is Hell, and ultimately, the Lake of Fire… but that is only for the UNbeliever.

Are We Forgiven…Or Not?

One popular Catholic priest said in a debate that the idea of Purgatory is “Pay now, or pay later,” in the sense of working out a debt.  But that is certainly not the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ.  The simple truth is, if we are “forgiven” for a sin but there is STILL some kind of punishment for us to pay, then we are not really forgiven, are we?  And it must follow that the work of Jesus on the cross was not really enough to pay the full penalty for your sins after all (1 John 1:7-9).  But would any real Christian dare say that?  That’s blasphemy!  If HIS payment was not enough for your sins, there will NEVER be enough payment for them.  But thank God that His suffering on Calvary is totally sufficient. 

Catholic apologists will say, “But Purgatory is how redemption is actually applied to us.  It is the “final push” of the sanctification process.  This was God’s plan all along.”  

No, this was not God’s plan.  God plainly tells us, over and over, that redemption is “applied” BY FAITH, TRUSTING, BELIEVING in HIS work and suffering, not ours.  See also this link:


To make matters worse, our Catholic friends are obligated to believe this false doctrine under penalty of anathema (condemnation), as noted in the Council of Trent quote above.  But there is absolutely nothing in Scripture to indicate that there will be additional punishment after death for those who are forgiven.  Otherwise, the word “forgiven” is meaningless.

Purgatory is a denial of the sufficiency of Jesus’ work and suffering at Calvary.  But proud and fallen man likes to think that he can work or earn his way into Heaven.  He doesn’t like it when people point to the cross, and that alone, for salvation. 

Next month, we will conclude this series by taking a look at the Scriptures that Catholics (and others) use to try and support the doctrine of Purgatory.  Stay tuned…


  1. Great article. I've been looking for the first one of 2015 for some time now.

  2. Hello again John,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Yes, I’ve been kinda slow in keeping up with the blog lately. I’ve been pretty busy overall, and was also pre-occupied for a while with an article in January for my other blog. If you’re interested, you can see that January post on the new blog here:

    Hope all is well on your end. By the way, I appreciate your blog, as well. Thanks again, John, and stay in touch.

    In His Name,

  3. Nice try Russell,

    A lot of writings from the church fathers will prove that Purgatory is INDEED a Bible doctrine. Luke 16:26 gives an excellent implication that there must be a middle place. Purgatory??? I already see a huge loophole in your argument against it. Oh, you are forgetting about something! Peter was the first pope (Matthew 16:18-19). Also, this part of Matthew's gospel was written in the Aramaic language. "You are CEPHAS, and upon this CEPHAS I will build My Church." There can only be one true Church, not 30,000. One has to wonder, who made you Peter's successor, Protestant Pope?


    1. Russell,

      I wanna debate ya! Do you have anything to say against my *false* argument? Because if so (which I know you do), then I hear "CRICKETS SOUNDING".....


  4. Jonathon, what argument of yours are you talking about?

  5. Hi Russell,

    When Catholic apologists attempt to defend the theory of Purgatory by quoting Scripture passages, it is obvious (to me) that they are reading the concept into the texts and are desperately searching for evidence. Do you think that Catholics pay any attention to the opposing dilemmas that arise from accepting such a belief? Here are some examples to help demonstrate my point:

    1.) We know what happens after death without the mention of this "middle place". Also, Scripture teaches that our fate is eternally sealed at the moment of our death (Luke 16:19-31 and Hebrews 9:27).
    2.) The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from ALL sin (1 John 1:7 and 1 John 3:3) If we need additional cleansing after death then His work is imperfect. Russell, look at 1 John 3:3. Would Jesus Christ need Purgatory? Nope!
    3.) There is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"(Romans 8:1). If there is no condemnation, then there is no Purgatory since it is a form of punishment.
    4.) God "forgets" about our sins when He forgives them (Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17).
    5.) So many other problems with Purgatory!!!

    Are there any Protestant churches (that you know of) who teach the doctrine of Purgatory?


  6. Jesse, there may be some Protestant churches out there that believe in Purgatory, but I am not aware of any.

    1. Russell,

      Besides the Bible texts that you mentioned in the article and the ones that I brought up when I commented on this article, do you know of any more Scripture passages and dilemmas that weaken the Catholic concept of Purgatory? Also, would you recommend using the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich man(found in Luke chapter 16) in a discussion about Purgatory and what happens after death?

      Thanks again,

  7. Russel said: "Ok, so what about the time of the Rapture / Resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15:50-52) Those who are still alive when the Resurrection happens will not have time to go to Purgatory because Paul says that when it happens, “So shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Wouldn’t it be unfair that those who rise on that day (still having imperfections in their life) won’t have to endure the pains of Purgatory, like all those who died before them?"

    A response to this objection from the Catholics is perhaps found in the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, in the discussion of the Final Conflagration. The Final Conflagration is the fiery apocalyptic transformation, accepted by the Fathers, of the Old Heaven and Old Earth into the New Heaven and New Earth on the Last Day, immediately preceding the General Resurrection and General Judgment. It is said that for those still living at the time of the Conflagration, it will transform their bodies; thus technically, in Catholic thought, those found living may also die for a brief moment (ie, the "twinkling of an eye" mentioned in 1 Corinthians).

    According to the Summa, the Final Conflagration will act as "purgatory" for those found living who still need cleansing/healing: "There are three reasons why those who will be found living will be able to be cleansed suddenly. One is because there will be few things in them to be cleansed, since they will be already cleansed by the previous fears and persecutions. The second is because they will suffer pain both while living and of their own will: and pain suffered in this life voluntarily cleanses much more than pain inflicted after death, as in the case of the martyrs, because "if anything needing to be cleansed be found in them, it is cut off by the sickle of suffering," as Augustine says (De Unic. Bap. xiii), although the pain of martyrdom is of short duration in comparison with the pain endured in purgatory. The third is because the heat will gain in intensity what it loses in shortness of time."

  8. Catholic are cult

  9. I am not a theologian or a 'Bible Scholar', but I AM a 'born again child of God and I am a member of the Catholic Church. I reject the 'theory' of Purgatory being an actual place somewhere between Heaven and Hell, because Jesus' life death and rising again paid the price I could never pay. Jeaua told His disciples that they were 'clean...except the one who betrayed Him',,,then he washed their feet. While this was a custom in those days, Jeses' actions spoke of a deeper truth: While we are in the flesh, we will never be perfect as he is. so every day we need our 'feet' washed and Jesus does this through our confession (to God through Him) of wrongful acts or thoughts and then being open to His love and forgiveness when we are truly repentant and by the washing of the Word' (Ephesians 5:26..since we ARE the Church...not a building or a denomination. To me, I Corinthians 3:15 explains the purging after death' better than any other scripture...for there and then, the useless, unclean things that might remain from our earthly life are destroyed...not by our efforts, but by Gods cleansing fire. Finally,on the subject

  10. Hello Anonymous,

    Thanks for your comment.

    You mention 1 Corinthians 3 as an explanation for Purgatory, but I addressed this in Part 2. Here is what I wrote:

    "1 Corinthians 3: (NASV used throughout, unless otherwise noted)

    10) According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.

    11) For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

    12) Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

    13) each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.

    14) If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.

    15) If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

    And Catholics will say, “See, this is Purgatory!” But this passage is not talking about purging sin from (or purifying) the believer himself; it is about revealing the quality of the believer’s WORK which will determine his rewards. In fact, it says nothing about “temporal punishments” or sins. It is not about any kind of punishment, but rather, eternal rewards (or lack thereof). Catholics read the concept of Purgatory back into this text, although it is just not there. Just because we see the word “fire,” does not mean that this is Purgatory.

    In this passage, Paul uses the phrase “suffer loss” in verse 15, and it is a specific Greek term, “zemioo,” meaning “to sustain damage, to receive injury, suffer loss.” The same term is used by Paul in Philippians 3:8, where he had “…suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”

    Matthew 16:26 also uses the same Greek term where Jesus said:

    For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits [suffers the loss of] his soul…

    So, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is about suffering the loss of certain eternal rewards, not suffering for sins in Purgatory.

    Furthermore, the Catholic New American Bible has the following footnote on this passage:

    “The text of v. 15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.” (World Publishing, Copyright 1987, Page 1233)

    By their own admission, there is no support for the doctrine of Purgatory from this passage."

    Furthermore, you seem to have a pretty much biblical concept of salvation apart from works. I applaud you for that. But you cannot call yourself a Catholic, since they believe that salvation is by faith plus works.