Purgatory is one of those teachings that has risen to the “yeah but…” status. When someone asks about a teaching within Catholicism and find that our logic and biblical background is correct, many say “yeah but purgatory, that’s obviously wrong” Other classic “yeah but…”s are the Eucharist, the papacy, and pretty much anything about Mary.
So it’s important to address these topics then, right? Purgatory, or “to purge” is a spiritual reality (not a “place” per se) where souls are cleansed before they enter heaven. It’s a place where souls go when they aren’t perfect, and therefore don’t deserve heaven, but aren’t condemned to hell either. For more info on what Purgatory is, check out this post.
Most non-Catholics believe there’re only two place to go after death: heaven or hell. Those who are “saved” go to heaven, the rest go to the other place. There’s a problem with this theory though; the Bible doesn’t support it.
Please, flip to 2 Samuel 12:13-18 (that’s in the Old Testament for any Catholics reading this) and give it a read. I’ve got a lot of references here so I can’t quote them verbatim or this post will be enormous. Sorry.
Here we see David’s sins being forgiven (“saved?”) but then what? David’s son will be killed for David’s sin. So there’s punishment for sins even after their forgiven? How does that mesh with the “saved” mentality? When does the repercussion for sins take place?
Next, let’s jump to the back of the Bible at Revelation 21:27. Nothing unclean will enter the new Jerusalem. The “new Jerusalem” is used often throughout Revelation as a name for heaven. The passage doesn’t say that only forgiven people, or sinless people may enter, but “clean”. Catholics believe that means that not only must the sin be forgiven, but as in 2 Sam 12 any repercussions must be paid as well.
In Hebrews 12:22-23 we see talk about “just men made perfect”. This is interesting because a “just man” is “justified” or has salvation. Why would a “just man” need to be made perfect? The “saved” mentality says all just men are perfect, while purgatory makes just men perfect (or clean for the above paragraph).
Finally, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. Each man’s work will be tested and even though he’s saved (again, “justified”) if it’s burned up he’ll suffer loss. How can a saved man suffer loss? That’s impossible with the “saved” mentality; there is no gain or loss, just heaven or hell. Purgatory is a place where our works are judged and tested, and they can make us more, or less, clean, or more, or less, perfect to refer above.
We’ve looked at a few passages that seem to show that purgatory is biblical, in fact more biblical than the idea that a person is “saved” and that’s it. As a final point, why does the Bible talk about judging works so often? If all we have to do is be “saved”, then why are our works so important? See Mt 24, Jn 15, Romans 2, and Rev 20. If we’re “saved” and that’s it, who cares about works? We either made it to heaven or we didn’t. But if purgatory is true, then works matter a great deal because they can influence how much perfecting a soul needs before it may enter the new Jerusalem.
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.