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Jennifer wrote:

Hi, guys —

One specific teaching I am struggling with is Purgatory. Coming from a background with a strong knowledge in the King James Version of the Bible, I am not convinced that Purgatory exists. I have been able to only find a couple references in the New American Bible to learn from.

Perhaps I need to read more Scripture. There is so much about the Catholic faith that I believe to be true ... even more than my Pentecostal past, however I am having a very difficult time with all the particulars.

  • Can you share with me one moment in your past that helped define your transition from Protestant to Catholic?

Jennifer

  { As a convert coming into the Church, can you help me understand Purgatory better? }

and in a similar question:

Annabella Fowler wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have just heard a talk on EWTN about Purgatory. It amazes me that this is still taught as truth.

  • Jesus died on the Cross.
  • He paid the ultimate penalty for our sins.
  • He was our advocate and gave us new life.
  • If we follow him he promises again and again to forgive us our sins and give us eternal life.

The Catholic Church is teaching that the Cross wasn't enough and we still have to be bound in Purgatory, where no evidence this concept exists in the Bible. I have seen your site and the places in th Scriptures you use to validate this teaching but each of those Scriptures Jesus used to show us we need a Saviour or we will go to Hell.

  • What about the thief on the Cross?

Jesus said today you will be in paradise with me. He didn't need to go to Purgatory. The problem with this teaching is it confuses people and doesn't allow them the peace that our Saviour has given us.

Having listened to EWTN the presenter, a Catholic priest also said that the people in Purgatory could pray powerful prayers for the living but apparently they cannot pray for themselves — only those alive can pray and have Masses said for them.

  • Isn't that odd, why would their prayers be answered for others, if they cannot be answered on their own behalf?

Yours,

Annabella Fowler

  { If Jesus died on the Cross and paid the ultimate penalty for our sins why do we need Purgatory? }

Mike replied:

Hi Jenn,

You said:

  • Can you share with me one moment in your past that helped define your transition from Protestant to Catholic?

Well, I'm a cradle Catholic, and would say I went from an uncatechized Catholic to a more knowledgeable one over time. If you are looking for new friendships and people who understand where you are coming from I highly recommend you check out our Wannabe page.

On Purgatory, let me tell you some of the misconceptions first.

Purgatory is not a second chance and Purgatory is not a third place.

Purgatory refers to a temporary state of purification for those who have died in a state of grace but die with lingering imperfections. (venial sins, earthly attachments, self-love, self-will, etc.)

Purgatory has nothing to do with ones justification or salvation. Those in Purgatory are justified; they are saved. Think of Purgatory as the Holy Hospital of Heaven.

Purgatory has to do with ones personal holiness and the burning away of any remaining
self-love. Read Revelation 21:27.

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.

You can look them up on BibleGateway.com

I hope this helps,

Mike

Mike replied:

Dear Annabella,

You said:

  • Jesus died on the Cross.
  • He paid the ultimate penalty for our sins.
  • He was Our Advocate and gave us new life.
  • if we follow Him, He promises again and again to forgive us our sins and give us eternal life.

Amen brother preach it! We totally agree with you on this. Purgatory is not a third place, nor is Purgatory a second chance.

Those in Purgatory have been saved by the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus. Think of Purgatory as the Holy Hospital of Heaven. When people hurt and injure themselves, many times they are brought to the hospital and, in order to be healed, the nurse will have to disinfect the wound, by putting alcohol on the injury.

Yes, this will hurt but it's for their own good, so they can be made whole again.

Yes, Jesus did die on the Cross and paid the ultimate penalty for our sins. Purgatory is the application of that saving work of Jesus on the life of the sinner and saint. You may say:

  • Why do we have to suffer if Jesus did it for us already?

Because our choices and our personal holiness, are not necessarily His! The answer to this question has it's basis in the gift of free will that God gave all men and women. Jesus' Will has not always been our will in what we have said and done while on earth.

You said:
The Catholic Church is teaching that the Cross wasn't enough and we still have to be bound in Purgatory, where no evidence of this exists in the Bible. I have seen your site and the places in Scripture you use to validate this teaching but in each of those Scriptures Jesus used them to show us we need a Saviour or we will go to Hell.

  • What about the thief on the Cross?

Jesus said today you will be in paradise with me. He didn't need to go to Purgatory.

No, this is incorrect.

  1. You are not reading those Scriptures within their proper context.
  2. The Church does not teach that everyone has to go to Purgatory. I have no idea where you got this nutty idea. The Church has never taught it. If a person dies in a pure state of grace with no remnants of self-love, they will go from their particular judgment straight to Heaven.
  3. As for the thief on the Cross, that is a unique case. The posting should clarify the issue:

    The thief on the Cross, Purgatory and: Why must I suffer in Purgatory if I am too truly sorry?

You said:
The problem with this teaching is it confuses people and doesn't allow them the peace that our Saviour has given us.

  • Who said Jesus came to bring peace?

Read Matthew 10:34. I'm not saying Christians can't have peace. The can have a sense of calm and peace being a Catholic Christian because Catholics know that their Church was the only one Jesus founded on St. Peter and his successors and that it, alone, is guided by the Holy Spirit on issues of faith and morals. This cannot be said for other churches that men founded latter and which St Paul warns us about.

You said:
Having listened to EWTN the presenter, a Catholic priest also said that the people in Purgatory could pray powerful prayers for the living but apparently they cannot pray for themselves — only those alive can pray and have Masses said for them.

  • Isn't that odd, why would their prayers be answered for others, if they cannot be answered on their own behalf?

When one passes from this life to their particular judgment, they can no longer gain merit.
The Catechism says:

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator. 2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace.

Within the context of the work of grace mentioned above, we can only merit while being part of the Church on earth or the Church Militant but the Souls in Purgatory can still pray for the Church Militant on earth, in the same way the Church Militant on earth can also pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, so the priest was 100 percent correct.

If there are any remaining questions just ask us.

Mike

John replied:

Hi Annabella,

Let me just comment, in particular, on one of Mike's replies.

You said:
The problem with this teaching is it confuses people and doesn't allow them the peace that our Savior has given us.

and Mike Answered:

  • "Who said Jesus came to bring peace?"

Read Matthew 10:34

Matthew 10:34, is not talking about peace (the inner peace) which God gives us about salvation. Jesus, instead, is talking about the division that the Gospel would bring, between father and son, brother and brother, and so forth. As St. Paul writes, the Cross became a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Greeks (meaning Gentiles).

So my colleague Mike, is lifting this text out of context. We are indeed to be at peace, with a moral assurance that He who began a good work in you (us) will be faithful to complete it in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Purgatory is nothing more that the Lord completing the work He began is us the moment we were first justified by His Blood.

I can understand how someone that doesn't understand the teaching can come away with this conclusion, but the first issue boils down to understanding exactly how salvation, justification and sanctification work.

Protestants believe in a static justification and forensic justification, whereby the righteousness of Christ is in imputed. We are simply legally declared righteous and that's it.

Catholics understand justification to be dynamic and intrinsic, whereby the righteousness of Christ is infused. So not only are we legally declared righteous, we are made righteous by grace. This grace empowers us to overcome our sin nature. As Paul writes in Romans 8:

If by the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the flesh, then we are sons of God.

Romans 8:13

So once someone gets that, they can begin to understand that Purgatory is simply a work of grace, whereby the Love of God purges our flesh of every vestige of self love.

The notion that Christians are not to suffer, is simply not biblical. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Philippians 1:29

Well, what does that mean. We are to become selfless, like Him. We suffer for the sake of Gospel. That means suffering for the sake of saving others. That requires that we become like Jesus, who while suffering on the Cross, wasn't concerned with His own suffering, but asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him. That transformation must be real and manifested.

Returning to my original point, if one doesn't look at Purgatory in the proper light of God's saving work in us, it is very easy to misunderstand the doctrine. While the Catholic Church holds the truth with respect the doctrine, Her members have not always transmitted that doctrine in best way.

In the Middle Ages, it was twisted and used to manipulate people. The fear of Purgatory was used to try and force people to behave in certain ways but that was the way everything was approached in the Middle Ages and even still today. Any time we over emphasize the juridical model for salvation, be it Catholics or Protestants, particularly in the West, we run in to problems.

Evangelicals often use the fear of Hell, to persuade people to come to Christ. Well, that isn't always the best idea either. Our job is to bring people to Christ. It's as we approach Christ and are confronted by his Holiness, that we realize how much we need Him and His Mercy.

This relates to Purgatory as well. When Isaiah found himself before God, he fell and said he was a man of unclean lips and the angel took a coal from the altar placed it on Isaiah's lips and purified them. Well, there is a principle behind this metaphor. God needs to purify our hearts. The image that the Scriptures often gives us is fire. Elsewhere, say in Hebrews, we are told that God chastises His sons. (Hebrews 12:6) This isn't wrath or judgment. It's the love of the Father disciplining His children so they become mature heirs, ready to inherit the Kingdom.

The official Church teaching on Purgatory is actually very brief. It's few lines in Catechism.
It simply says after death, believers who die without having been completely divorced from
self love, are purified. This involves suffering in some way. I choose to describe this as healing or growing pains, not punishment, though the punishment metaphor can work, if it's properly understood. The soul being purified experiences great joy as well. "It hurts so good!" The teaching includes the notion that we can pray for the souls in Purgatory and they can pray for us. Interestingly enough they can't pray for themselves.

  • Why is that?

Because Christ didn't pray for Himself from the Cross, but he prayed for us and since they are being transformed into the image of Christ, they also pray for us in their suffering. In so doing, they actually cooperate with the process but it is entirely a work of grace.

Now from that short teaching, many models have been developed to explain this Mystery and they are exactly that, models, not doctrine. Like any model or metaphor, none of them are complete or perfect. They are an attempt to grasp a great Mystery and put it in human terms.

The bottom line is Purgatory, indeed the very nature of salvation, is nothing but the Love of God working in and through us, to perfect us and draw us closer to Him.

I hope this helps.

John

Landon replied:

Hi guys,

I was reading your responses to this question and am really confused.

Isaiah 53:5-6 says,

"But he was pierced for our transgressions. he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

  • Doesn't that mean that every one of our sins were forgiven and in His eyes we are completely healed?
  • Doesn't that contradict your comparison of Purgatory to a hospital?
  • If we believe that Jesus died on the Cross, not because we have earned or deserved it, then what more do we need to do?
  • What more do we need to pay for?
  • Jesus took it all away, right?

Please clarify this issue for me.

Landon

Mike replied:

Dear Landon,

You said:

  • Doesn't that mean that every one of our sins were forgiven and in His eyes we are completely healed?
  • Doesn't that contradict your comparison of Purgatory to a hospital?
  • If we believe that Jesus died on the Cross, not because we have earned or deserved it, then what more do we need to do?
  • What more do we need to pay for?
  • Jesus took it all away, right?

Yes, those being purified in Purgatory have been saved. Their sins have been forgiven.

My Bible Commentary for Isaiah 53:5 says the word salom means peace but also states that soundness or well-being is a better parallel to healed. I would be interested in what Jerome’s Biblical Commentary has to say on this verse.

No Catholic on earth earns Heaven on their own. No, we partake in the Eucharist and work In Christ performing His works through us.

  • We make good choices and gain merit In Christ or
    We make bad choices, which even when forgiven, have to be purified.

  • Why?

Because Purgatory has nothing to do with being justified or saved. It has to do with being purified or made holy as Jesus is all holy.

What was the purpose of Jesus’s statement before he ascended into Heaven:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

If He will be with us, even to the end of the age, where is He today?

He is working in us, His Broken Body. . . the Church performing His works through the faithful.

Mike

John replied:

Landon,

After Justification, comes the process of Sanctification. This is also a work of God's grace and, just as justification requires our cooperation, so does sanctification.

As Catholics, we believe that justification is not static but dynamic but even using the Protestant model of static Justification, we all agree that sanctification is progressive.

Now at issue here is the various paradigms that have been used to describe Purgatory and I can understand how one can easily be confused.

So let me give an sort crazy example:

Let's say I steal a dozen donuts and I eat them all in one sitting out of gluttony. Soon after I have stuffed my face, I realize I've committed at least two sins.

  1. One I stole, and
  2. two I was a glutton.

So I repent and Lord forgives me but now my gluttony has an effect on both my soul and my body. As I feed my gluttony, I tend to be more gluttonous. That is damage I have done my soul. I've also damaged my body and probably put on couple extra pounds not to mention damaging my blood sugar and cholesterol levels. So that's what we call the effects of sin on the soul and body.

Purification and sanctification are the process through which our attachment or desire to sin is purged and damage we do to our body and soul is healed.

For the purposes of explaining it, we have called Purgatory a place, but it is just as much a condition where we get cleaned up. We use metaphors like we are paying for our sins but that's again a metaphor. Put it this way. If you eat a dozen donuts in one sitting you might be paying for it with an upset stomach, followed by a work out at the gym.

So Purgatory in reality is the Fire of God's Love burning away all the garbage we ate, healing the wounds we've inflicted on our soul. The Book of Hebrews tells us that God chastises his children, like a good father, for their own good. (Hebrews 12:6) Now again, the author of Hebrews is using punishment as model to explain how God treats us as Sons to help us grow.

So when we talk about Purgatory in terms of temporal punishment or paying for sins, it's comparable to the punishment given by a good father, who might take a away a child's play time because he or she hasn't been studying and getting good grades. The punishment is for the child's own good and growth. It's not about imposing justice.

Like I said the punishment model can be confusing. I prefer the healing or the [growth/learning] model to explain the same Mystery. Think of it this way, say you injure yourself while doing an act of vandalism to my property. You ask my forgiveness and I forgive you. I also pay for the damage you've done, because you can't afford it then I notice you're injured. You might have open wounds, a broken bone, or what not. So I take you the hospital and I pay for the doctor's bills but in the process of healing the doctors may do things to you that may be painful.

  • They put disinfectant on the wounds
  • they may need to reset a joint you pulled, or
  • bone you've broken.

These actions will all cause you pain but they aren't punishment, they are necessary for you to heal. As you continue to heal, you will feel healing pains and the doctors will give you medicine and so forth.

Well that's what happens when we sin and then go through the process of healing and restoration. As we sin, we increase our desire and tendency to commit that same sin. So the anecdote is replace the vice with a virtue. This could be called penance. We might be told to pray or to do acts of charity, or fast — all of this is to strengthen our faith but always remember that it is God working in us, and the work is His by Grace.

St. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

"He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

So it is always God's work, in us. It is a work of grace where we cooperate by faith and our free will.

I hope this helps.

John

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