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William H. Sanford wrote:

Hi, guys —

My name is William H. Sanford; I am a devout Messianic Christian and truth seeker.
I have a question for the team:

  • Why does the Church teach doctrines like Purgatory or Limbo when the Bible makes absolutely no mention of either word, at all?
When God says:
    "And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us,
    that would come from thence."

    Luke 16:26
The Bible says plainly, that there is a great gulf fixed between Heaven and Hell. Those in Heaven cannot visit, nor even see, those in Hell; and those in Hell can, in no way, leave their eternal punishment of death.

William

  { Why does the Church teach doctrines like Purgatory or Limbo when they are not in the Bible? }

Mike replied:

Hi William,

Thanks for the question.

It's true that the word Purgatory doesn't appear in the Bible (neither do the words Trinity, Incarnation or even Bible). Purgatory is a Latin word and, up until the beginning of the fifth century, Greek was the spoken language among the people. That said, Greeks weren't going to give us a Latin word. Nevertheless, you'll see the sentiments of the teachings on Purgatory from the Early Church Fathers and the Scriptures. What's important is not the word, but the doctrine.

That said, the doctrine of the final purification of the elect, apart from Heaven or Hell, is clearly taught in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

2 Samuel 12:13-14
David, though forgiven, is still punished for sin.
Job 1:5
Job prayed for the Holy Souls or Faithful Departed regularly.
2 Maccabees 12:39-45

"Next day, they came to find Judas (since the necessity was by now urgent) to have the bodies of the fallen taken up and laid to rest among their relatives in their ancestral tombs. But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, objects dedicated to the idols of Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives. All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light, and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. Next, the valiant Judas urged the soldiers to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen; after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection. For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin."

Note: Though this book was rejected by the Protestant reformers and therefore is not in Protestant Bibles, one can not ignore the historical reality of this event and the reality of the words which were said.

Matthew 5:25-26
"You will be thrown into prison and not be released until you have paid the last penny."
Matthew 5:48
Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. (Perfection is to be strived for on earth.)
Matthew 12:32
Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, in this age, or the next.
Matthew 12:36
You will have to account for every idle word on judgment day.
1 Corinthians 3:10-16
"If someone's work is burned ... the person will be saved, but only as through fire."
1 Corinthians 15:29-30
Paul mentions people baptizing for the dead.
2 Timothy 1:16-18
St. Paul prays - asks that God have mercy on his dead friend, Onesiphorus.
Hebrews 12:14
Strive for that holiness without which one cannot see God.
Hebrews 12:29
For our God is a consuming fire.
James 1:14-15
When sin reaches maturity it reaches death.
James 3:2
We all fall short in many respects.
1 Peter 3:18-20 to 1 Peter 4:6
Jesus preached to the spirits in prison.
1 John 5:16-17
Distinction made between deadly sins and one that are not deadly.
Revelation 21:27
Nothing unclean will be allowed to enter into Heaven.
See also:
Leviticus 26:41-43, Isaiah 4:4, Isaiah 6:5-7, Isaiah 33:11-14, Micah 7:8-9, Zechariah 9:11, Malachi 3:2-4, Matthew 18:34ff, Luke 12:58ff, Luke 16:19-31, 2 Corinthians 5:10,
2 Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 4:8-10, Philippians 2:10-11, 1 Peter 4:6, Revelation 5:3, 13

Interested in what the very first Christians thought, taught, and died for?
Check out what they said on this topic.
If one makes the argument that the word has to be in the Scriptures in order to be believed, then our separated brethren would have to deny the following Protestant words and teachings which are not in the Bible:
  • Bible
  • Sola Scriptura
  • Sola Fide
  • Altar Call
  • Accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior

Our Blessed Lord tells us in Luke's Gospel:

He who hears you, hears Me.

Because Our Lord's Church believes in both the Written and Oral Tradition passed down to us,
we know that, although the word Purgatory is not in the Bible, it does exist.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 tells us:

15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

This word of mouth has been transmitted through the teaching authority or Magisterium of the Church, part of which, can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Catechism tells us:

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. (Matthew 12:32) From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

Purgatory can also been easily understood based on basic Christian doctrines and common sense.

Purgatory exist because:

  1. of original sin which all men and women inherited from Adam at our birth, and because
  2. God created men and women with free will to make:
    • holy choices, or
    • unholy choices
    Note: This is the problem with the eternal security view of salvation. It assumes man doesn't have any free will to make sinful choices.

The important thing to remember about Purgatory is it has nothing to do with ones salvation,
but has to do with ones personal holiness. Those in Purgatory have been saved by the Blood of
the Lamb, Jesus! and the Church has always believed in Purgatory from Apostolic times.

Think of sin as a self-inflicted wound in your life.

When we physically hurt ourselves, many times we have to be brought to the hospital and the doctor or nurse will put an alcoholic disinfectant in our cut or wound. It will hurt ... a lot!!! but it's a good hurt; it's a holy hurt, that is needed to make us physically better.

We also have to distinguish between less severe physical injures where we cut ourselves and require stitches and more severe injures, like a NASCAR racing driver who gets into a major collision and ends up with third or fourth-degree burns over 90 percent of their body. There are varying degrees of damage that we do to our bodies, not only physically, but spiritually too!

Because Revelation tells us that nothing impure can enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27) and because God Himself is all Holy, we too, have to be all Holy to enter Heaven. To achieve this, any remaining self-inflicted spiritual wounds (meaning self-love) from our pilgrimage on earth has to be burned off, healed, and purified.

  • If our spiritual injures are along the line of just needing stitches, that healing period where our self-love has to be burned off will be short;
  • but if our self-inflicted injuries are along the line of third or fourth-degree burns, the healing process will take longer.

Saints in the past have had private revelations from the souls in Purgatory. They [the Holy Souls in Purgatory] have shared that, while the [healing|burning] fires of God’s Love in Purgatory are painful (Hebrews 12:29, Exodus 3:1-6), at the same time they had an internal, burning joy because they knew they were being conformed to the image of God and their final destiny would be total union with Him.

Instead of the good healing pain that the alcoholic disinfectant gave us under a doctor’s care to prepare us to re-enter the earthly world again, in Purgatory, we experience a holy, healing pain under Jesus’ Care which purifies our souls and prepares us to enter eternal life with God who is all Holy.


This is in contrast to Limbo which was never an official teaching of the Church but a theological speculation when saints and theologians discussed the topic of the salvation of unbaptized babies.

The Church teaches:

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

I hope this answers your question.

Mike Humphrey

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