Purgatory: Is it Biblical?

A popular misconception is that purgatory is a place where people go if they are not good enough for Heaven or bad enough to go to Hell. It is also not a second chance for those who reject Christ unto death.

Pope Benedict described purgatory as a process (not necessarily a place) of purification after death for those who are saved (CCC 1054; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

The Latin word for purgatory, purgate, means to make clean or purify.

We read in the decrees of the Council of Florence (1439 A.D.) and the Council of Trent that both Sacred Scripture and the Early Church Fathers teach that there is a purgatory, and that the souls in purgatory are helped by our Prayers (2 Maccabees 12:45) and suffrages, “but principally by [Christ’s sacrifice, which we celebrate at every Sacred Liturgy]” (Heinrich Joseph Dominicus Denzinger, Enchiridon, p. 983).

Matthew Pinto highlights, “Purgatory does not add to or take away from the work of Jesus. It is the work of Jesus.” Holiness is Christ working in us. (I think there is a line in Matt Maher’s song, Lord, I Need You, that says something similar to this.)

Revelation 21:27 says that nothing unclean shall enter into Heaven, “nor any[one] who does abominable things.”

Michael Francis Pennock said it like this, “When we die, in order to embrace our all-loving God, we must let go of all imperfections and hesitations to love God perfectly. Purgatory is our passover from [a state of] death to life. We pass through the fire of God’s love (Hebrews 12:29) which enables us to embrace completely the all-holy God with open hearts.”

What things hinder us and are we holding onto when we die? Is it selfishness, bitterness, shame, pride, lust, attachments to worldly things, etc.?

Al Kresta once said, “The soul in purgatory knows he is saved and destined for Heaven.” There will be joy and pain in purgatory, but once we enter into Heaven, there will be no more suffering (Revelation 21:4).

There is another verse in the New Testament that I would like to expand upon when I have more time.

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[Cade_One]…I agree with you. Good explanation of Purgatory, thanks.

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There will be no suffering in purgatory. Jesus took the pain for us. He told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him today. Jesus also said “It is finished”. He paid the price for us. Our sins aren’t forgiven because of our suffering. They’re forgiven because God’s Son took it for us. Purgatory is wishful thinking for the unsaved. We are made new when we give our life to Jesus and follow His Spiritual leading. If you have turned away from your sins and trusted in Jesus’s death on the cross, you are holy as a saint. Hebrew 12:14. My faith and trust is in Biblical truth.

I will address each of your beliefs independently:

This belief is what is called Penal Substitution, which is reformed theology. Catholic Christians do not believe that God looked at His obedient son on the cross and saw wrath, but rather ultimate love.

There was no punctuation in the original text. Jesus could have said, “Today I tell you, that you will be with me in Paradise.”

The next problem with your belief is that after Jesus died, He went to the land of the abode (1 Pet. 3:19, Luke 16:22-26).

The Apostle’s Creed says Jesus "was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell and rose again.” The word hell here does not mean Hell as we think of Hell. It was a place or realm where holy souls were waiting for their Savior (CCC 633).

So the question I have is, did the thief got to Heaven without Jesus that day? Jesus says “with me,” so a literal interpretation would conclude that no, the thief did not go to Heaven without Jesus. Did the thief got with Jesus to Heaven prior to Jesus going to “the Bosom of Abraham”? Perhaps. Did Jesus take the thief with him to the land of the abode? Since God is outside of time, this could also be the case. When did Jesus go to Heaven? Before Jesus rose, after Jesus rose and appears to the Apostles? Both? Where was the thief during this time? With Jesus? Without Jesus? Things to ponder.

Thirdly, the Church teaches a martyr’s death. Some debate if the thief counts as martyrdom, since he was not being put to death for his faith in Christ. Pope Benedict said that the individual has had to have “freely and consciously, in a supreme act of love, witness[ed] to their faithfulness to Christ, to the gospel, and to the Church.” He further defines it as a voluntary enduring or tolerating of death on account of the Faith in Christ or another act of virtue in reference to God."

Amen! Catholics believe this. Christ indeed paid the price that we could not pay. Thank you Jesus! This is what Easter is all about. This is what every Mass is about. This is what we ought to be about.

When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), we can look at it as Christ saying that His work on earth (fulfilling the earthly portion of His mission is done), but it was not the entire mission. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:14-20 that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” and salvation has not been fulfilled.

Dr. Scott Hahn wrote about “The Fourth Cup”. Jesus started His Passion with the Last Supper (celebrating the Passover). In short, Jesus only drinks from three cups (the third cup being the cup of blessing) and we know this because in Mark 14:26 it says “And when they had sung a hymn (referring to the Great Hallel, which follows the third cup) they went out to the Mount of Olives.” In verse 25, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” Traditionally, fourth cup is the climactic finish of the Passover meal. In the agony in the garden, Jesus Prays to the Father three times to “let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26). In Mark 15:23 it says, “And they offered Him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it.” This was right before they nailed Jesus to the cross. But, later, as Jesus’ Passion nears its height, John 19:30 tells us, “When Jesus had received the sour wine (on a hyssop, which also points to Passover), he said, ‘It is finished;’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Dr. Hahn says, “It was the Passover that was now finished. More precisely, it was Jesus’ transformation of the Passover sacrifice of the Old Covenant into the Eucharistic sacrifice of the New Covenant.”

Jesus tells us in John 6, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” It talks about this sacrifice (which Jesus offered once and for all, and is re-presented to us at every Sacred Liturgy) is “true food and true drink.”

Jesus is King, Priest, and paschal victim (the Lamb of God).

Protestants & Catholic Christians often talk past one another and strawman each other’s understanding when talking about topics like salvation & justification. Part of the confusion is because Christians (Protestant & Catholics) use different terminology to describe different aspects of salvation. What is “justification”? What is “salvation”? Is justification part of salvation? These are terms that mean different things to different Christian believers.

St. Paul says, in Romans 4:25, that Jesus “was raised for our justification.”

I have to go get my car repaired, but I will address the other points you maid tomorrow. God bless.

I didn’t say God saw wrath. Of course He loved his son. Jesus bore our sins in his painful death because He loved us with unimaginable Love. We can believe that His Love and mercy was enough and follow Him or believe it wasn’t enough to forgive us when we repent and therefore live in purgatory till who knows when.
The thing about purgatory that bothers me the most is that people think they can pray for the dead to get out. What about the ones who have no one to pray for them? How do you know when to stop praying for them and why can’t they pray for themselves?
Jesus took my place, that’s the answer. I’ve been born-again.

We agree on some of what you have said here and disagree on other. Also, you have a lack of understanding of what Catholic Christians actually believe. I do not believe you are purposely being disingenuous.

Fake news. Purgatory is not wishful thinking. Salvation is hope. Not sure if you read my original post? (Scroll back to the top).

“[H]e [God] saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

We are made new in Baptism. This is Biblical (John 3:5, 22; Acts 2:38-39; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-6; Col. 2:11-13; ). It is what the early Christians taught. It is what the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, still believes today. In Baptism, we believe that Christ is doing the work in us. As Christians we are called to follow Him and give our lives to Him. It is in our Baptismal vows. And we cannot do it on our own. Christ infuses us with the Holy Spirit and gifts us sanctifying grace (CCC 2023).

Some Christians wrongly believe that Christ covers our sins from God’s eyes. They believe we are simply declared holy, even if we are not living holy lives. This is not what Catholic Christians believe.

Catholic Christians believe that holiness is Christ working in us. We are not simply declared holy, but rather, in cooperating with God’s grace, we actually become more holy.

I find it interesting that you would reference Hebrews 12:14. It says to "strive for this holiness. If you are simply declared holy, then there would be no need to strive (verse 14) nor to persevere (James 1:12).

James 1:14 says "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. This desire is what is being purged prior to entering into Heaven.

It goes on to say, “Then [this] desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.”

Verses 19-27 instructs us to be doers of the Word. This is what Catholics mean by good works. Works do not get us into Heaven. Christ’s work on the Cross and Christ’s work in us get us to Heaven.

I hope this helps you better understand what Catholic Christians believe. If you need any clarification or need me to expand on anything I have said here, just ask.

May I ask which Christian tradition you belong to? Does your Church view Baptism as being important? The reason that I ask is because the non-Denominational Church that I used to attend did not believe in Baptism. The further you get from the ancient, apostolic Christian Faith, the less neo-Churches tend to believe as the early Christians believed and taught.

I go to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church.
We are made new (born-again) when we decide Jesus is our Savior and to follow and live for Him. The Holy Spirit then convicts and guides us in life and thru reading the Scriptures. The more we know Jesus the more we love Him and want to do his will.
Baptism is the outward sign that you have chosen to be a follower of Christ. I was baptized a catholic but when I got saved I got baptized to prove I’m a follower and I will live for Him. Baby baptism is not for the baby. I believe it’s for the parents to raise their child a catholic.

Your error is in believing that you are made new when you decide that Jesus is your savior. There is nothing magical about that, you have no power to save yourself by lifting your arm, nodding your head, or believing that Jesus is God. If you do truly believe that Jesus is God, then that itself was already a gift from God, a good sign that more is to come. Keep your heart open, my friend.

Jaytea, You don’t understand what being born-again means. Asking Jesus into your heart is a spiritual birth. He changes us as we grow in our knowledge of him. It’s not magic, it’s the Holy Spirit leading us if we let him. My heart is open to more of Christ, my friend.

Cath, what I do and don’t understand isn’t commanded by you. It’s the same problem you have when you ask Jesus into your heart. Just because you say it, doesn’t mean it’s true.

My faith is a gift from God. So my faith tells me it’s true. I hope you can say it’s true for you.

If you define faith as whatever reinforces what you say, then all you must do is say that you have faith, right? The problem with that reasoning is that it is self-dependent. I can tell you that only God exists in a self-dependent way. Your salvation is not necessary the way that God’s existence is necessary. To assert your own salvation, or to assert your own faith, is not adequate. Your faith must truly be a gift from God for it to be faith, and also faith must be in that which is true, but your faith is only in your own statements which cannot make themselves true and so have not been made true.

Let me illustrate my point: why should your statement that you have faith be any better than my statement that you do not have faith? (To be fair, I do think that you have some faith, but that which you think is faith is not.)

God dwells within me to make me more like Him.

My son is the smartest and best looking child in the country.

As a convert to Catholicism from a Protestant background similar to that of Cath’s, I find the schism very frustrating, and it boils down to a couple of key points to ponder. First, someone of Cath’s religious affiliation is going to cite the Bible for their beliefs whether or not they have a correct understanding.
The Bible itself is a Catholic document with the New Testament being written by Catholics for Catholics. Sorry Protestants, find your own source material.
Second, the Bible says that Jesus only started ONE Church. The first Protestant communities didn’t arrive on the scene of history until 1,500 years after Jesus. So, obviously, none of them can be the Church of the New Testament started by Jesus.
When you ponder these 2 things it really does decide things rather quickly.

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My parents are Southern Baptists and we cannot have a civil discussion about religion. When attempts were made in the past, they would always appeal to the Bible, but when you try to use reason they would get angry and say things like “that’s above our heads”. I’ve provided them with a book about the history of the Baptist denomination written by a Baptist professor at a Baptist university that admits that the first Baptist community was created by an Englishman named John Smith in the early 1600s. So, the Baptist “church” cannot be the church established by Christ. Simple logic. Sadly people are blinded by their hatred of the truth.

I would push-back a little here. I think Jesus meets us where we are. There are many examples of unbaptized encounters with Christ in Sacred Scripture. It is where conversion begins. The Magi left a different way after encountering the infant Savior of the World. The woman at the well and the lady caught in adultery also come to mind. The thief on the cross even. And many more.

We Pray that all those who encounter Jesus will continue on this journey with Him and in Him, recognizing the gifts He instituted and passed on to us through the apostles and their successors.

There is nothing more personal than receiving His grace in the sacraments. The covenantal relationship with the bride-groom is like that of a Husband and a Wife. Prayer is communication. Baptism is like the Wedding day and all that it entales. The Eucharist is intimacy. Reconciliation is forgiveness. Confirmation is affirmation and so-on. There are the other Sacraments of Healing which is being there for our loved ones when they are sick or nearing death and allowing our loved ones to do the same for us. And the Sacraments of Vocation, which is providing and sacrificing for our families.

The Sacramental life is not a bunch of empty rituals (as some Protestants like to portray). We encounter Jesus in these very personal moments. One thing that every Saint has in common is a personal relationship with Jesus. In the sacramental life we are called to deeper relationship with Him. One that moves beyond asking a friend for help only when we need something. Or expecting a Birthday card with money in it from Grandma, when we have not visited in months or, for some, years. Sacred Scripture is God’s love letter to His bride (the church). Read it. Know that you are loved.

Lord, there will be those who mock that which they do not understand. You have gifted us Your very self. May we give to You of ourselves (our strengths & weaknesses), so that we might grow in our relationship with You. Amen

@Cade_One I feel a little confused by your reply, I think that you might need to work on your thoughts more, and I do mean that in the kindest way possible–I could be saying that to myself at other times. You do seem more comfortable than you should be speaking for Christ when you say “I think Jesus meets us where we are.” I’m sure he has plenty of times, but don’t you think He reserves His right to do as he please?
As for the sacraments, their purpose is to make it knowable that we have received certain graces. When I received baptism, I know that it was then and there that I received sanctifying grace. It wasn’t because of anything subjective, it is an objectively knowable fact that I received sanctifying grace. This is what sacraments do, this is what they are.