In Part 1 of this series we looked at the doctrine of Purgatory, and saw that, at its core, it is a corrupt teaching because it is based on the false notions that 1) Jesus’ work on the cross is not enough to forgive all our sins, and 2) mere humans can atone for sin. See here:
This month we will look at the Scripture verses that Catholics and others will use to try to prove the teaching. The concept of Purgatory is not consistent with the principles of Scripture, and our intent here is to show the weakness of these Catholic arguments.
What Does the Catholic Church Say?
The Council of Trent assures us that Purgatory is a biblical doctrine when it says that this teaching has come both “…from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers…” (Session XXV, “Decree Concerning Purgatory”)
The online New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia agrees with Trent and speaks of the “proofs” of the Catholic position “both in Scripture and in Tradition.” (Purgatory, under subheading “Proofs”)
But on the other hand, the New Catholic Encyclopedia implies that the doctrine has some support from Scripture, but admits:
"In the final analysis, the Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture." (Vol. XI, pg. 1034, Copyright 1967, Catholic University of America)
So, which is it? Why is there a contradiction in these official Catholic sources? Interestingly, both these Catholic encyclopedias have the same official Catholic seals of approval, i.e., the “nihil obstat” and the “imprimatur,” yet they don’t agree on whether Purgatory is actually biblical or not.
So, Is Purgatory Really in the Bible?
Here are some common Scripture passages (in no particular order) that Catholics will use to try and support the doctrine of Purgatory:
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.
Another passage Catholics use is Matthew 12:
31) Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.
32) And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.
Catholics will say that this passage is telling us that some sins can be forgiven in “the age to come.” But we know that there is no forgiveness in Hell, therefore, this must mean they are forgiven in Purgatory, right?
No, this simply means that this specific sin (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit) is a sin that will never be forgiven. The parallel passage in Mark makes this clear:
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:29)
That’s all it’s saying. It is not suggesting that any sin can be forgiven in the afterlife. Besides, Purgatory is NOT depicted by the Catholic Church as a place or state of forgiveness, anyway, but of punishment. So neither does this passage support the concept of Purgatory.
25) Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
26) Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent.
Catholics will say that this must be speaking of Purgatory. Jesus appears to be saying that there is a possibility of getting out of this particular place. And since no one gets out of Hell, this must be Purgatory.
First of all, no one can say that it is NOT speaking of Hell, since Hell is mentioned in this very same context (verse 22). And the person in Hell would indeed be there “until he had paid up the last cent,” meaning that his stay there would be forever, since he could never pay for it. For the person in Hell, there is no end to his payment for his sins.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-27), Jesus tells us of the man who was forgiven of a very great (actually, an impossible) debt. But he was forgiven of his debt simply because he humbled himself and begged for mercy from the king. The king felt compassion for him and released him of his obligation. This is clearly a picture of God dealing with us in salvation. Notice here that the servant was not given the means to repay the debt, but he was altogether forgiven. That is, he had to pay nothing because of his master’s great mercy. In the same way, we Christians do not have to atone for our sins. Jesus Christ did all the necessary atoning. This clearly demonstrates the error in the concept of Purgatory. So, once again, the Catholic attempt to use Matthew 5:25-26 also fails the test.
And it came about, when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions Job offering sacrifices for his sons (CCC #1032), as though this somehow supports the idea of Purgatory. First of all, his sons were living at the time, so this has nothing whatsoever to do with praying for souls in Purgatory.
Secondly, ALL biblical sacrifices (in the 66-book Protestant Bible) were offered for the living, without a single mention of Purgatory. So, Job 1:5 does not point to Purgatory, either.
2 Maccabees 12:39-46
39) On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs.
40) But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen.
41) They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden.
42) Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. 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.
43) 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 in mind;
44) for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
45) But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.
46) Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin. (Catholic New American Bible, Revised Edition, online)
Catholics will say that because of this need to pray for the dead, there MUST be an intermediate state like Purgatory.
No, these dead soldiers, according to the text, were very plainly struck down by God for their idolatry. And according to Catholic teaching, idolatry is a “mortal” sin (CCC 1857; 1858), and mortal sin sends one to Hell, not Purgatory. Purgatory is supposedly for “venial” (lesser) sins. So, the concept of Purgatory does not follow here.
Since the teaching of Purgatory contradicts this passage, then either:
1) This book of 2 Maccabees is wrong (and therefore uninspired) or
2) Catholic teaching about venial and mortal sin is wrong, or
3) both of the above.
The evidence points to number 3.
There IS no Purgatory. Like the children’s story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” Catholic apologists are seeing something in Scripture that’s simply not there. But this story (Purgatory) won’t just end in embarrassment like the children’s story does. Rather, it will end in eternal souls being lost, because of their warped view of an “insufficient” Savior.
It is absolutely critical to remember that Jesus Christ CANCELED our record of sin debt:
Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
… When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3)
Once again, there is no punishment or suffering in the afterlife for the Christian. Sin has been completely atoned for. Jesus Christ does the purifying and the atoning… not us. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)