09 June, 2009

What should we understand about purgatory?

There is a common Protestant misunderstanding of purgatory. At least one protestant minister, John Wesley, spoke of perfectionism in this life, possible but rare. He is one of the few to proclaim that one can be sanctified in this life and he left the Moravian Church over this issue after a rebuke by Count Zinzendorf for this teaching.

People in purgatory are already justified by receiving the supernatural eternal life into our souls through Baptism making us a part of the Body of Christ. Those in purgatory have accepted Christ by faith and have not rejected Him by unrepentant mortal sin. It is a place where one is purified by fire (Mal 3:2). Imagine the joy of being in purgatory and knowing that you are there because you have passed judgment and are assured of being in the presence of God in heaven. Purgatory is not an eternal destination, there are only two, heaven or hell.

We should not think of purgatory as some kind of legal punishment for past sins as it would be under the old law. Those in purgatory are already new creatures changed by Christ’s grace, they are the adopted children and part of God’s family in purgatory one receives final discipline and cleansing preparing one for the perfection of heaven. Catholics believe that sanctification is a process and is not completed when one comes to belief. So purgatory is not a suggestion that Christ’s atonement is insufficient but that we have not yet completed our sanctification through the grace of Christ.

Cleansing or sanctification is a gradual process and we must endure to the end to be saved.

(Mat 10:22 DRB) And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.

(Mat 24:13 DRB) But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.

(Mar 13:13 DRB) And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake. But he that shall endure unto the end, he shall be saved.

Catholic soteriology recognizes that for some of us the process was not completed at death or that we died with unrepentant sin.

(Heb 9:27 DRB) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment:

The judgment is our eternal destiny and for those whose name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life, heaven is assured. But we know that one must be free of sin to be in God’s presence.

(1Ti 6:14 DRB) That thou keep the commandment without spot, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,

It may be that one is not prepared to be in our Lord’s presence as we may still be with spiritual shortcomings or temporal effects of forgiven sins on our soul making it necessary for some form of purification to enter heaven in God’s presence. Since this is a process of purgation it is called purgatory and it is in keeping with prophecy of the prophet Habakkuk who said that only that which is holy may enter heaven.

(Hab 1:13 DRB) Thy eyes are too pure to behold evil, and thou canst not look on iniquity. Why lookest thou upon them that do unjust things, and holdest thy peace when the wicked devoureth the man that is more just than himself?

St. Paul also taught of a process of purgation which may involve suffering on the soul of Christians and in his first letter to the Corinthian Church he describes the process of purgation after death.

(1Co 3:10 DRB) According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation: and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

(1Co 3:11 DRB) For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus.

(1Co 3:12 DRB) Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble:

(1Co 3:13 DRB) Every man's work shall be manifest. For the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire. And the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.

(1Co 3:14 DRB) If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

(1Co 3:15 DRB) If any mans work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.

St. Paul speaks metaphorically that the results of sin that remain on one’s soul is like “wood, hay and straw” and are burned away in the process of final purification to be received in the presence of the Lord. St. Paul also speaks of one’s works as “gold, silver and precious stones” which are refined and retained.

This passage reminds me of what Christ said in the following indicating that some sins may be forgiven after death.

(Mat 12:32 DRB) And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, nor in the world to come.

Purgatory is also related to the parable of the unforgiving servant which is as follows…

(Mat 18:32 DRB) Then his lord called him: and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me:

(Mat 18:33 DRB) Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee?

(Mat 18:34 DRB) And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt.

After telling the parable Christ emphasizes His message lest it be misunderstood with this warning……..

(Mat 18:35 DRB) So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

Christ was warning us of the danger of a hard heart or anger making us unwilling to forgive others. We should acknowledge that these are the signs and example of a defective soul in need of purgation so that he that is imperfect may be in the presence of God and dwell in glory. (See CCC 1030-1032)

In Christ
Fr. Joseph


  1. Purgatory is a fictitious place created by the Catholic Church. there is no distinction between sins - all sin is equal in the eyes of the Lord.

    By the Blood of Christ we are all washed clean and pure and after Christ's Judgment we are cleansed to enter into Heaven. Faith alone is all that is needed. You preach that no matter what anyone does they're burning in Hell for some arbitrary amount of time. this is not true. God is perfect in His wisdom and design. If there was a need for further "purification" Christ would not have had to die for our sins. By alleging purgatory as fact you are alleging that Christ's sacrifice fir us was insufficient which is a lie! Jesus died on the cross in excruciating circumstances so that we would be cleansed and thus able to enter into heaven. Through His death and resurrection He took all of our sins onto Himself for us so that we would not need to endure any punishment as long as we had faith.

    Your teaching purgatory makes a mockery of this sacrifice of Jesus Christ and is pure rubbish. Jesus' death = final payment for all sin. Faith in Jesus Christ = purified and able to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven

  2. The Bible does not support your supposition that all sins are equal. They are equal only in the fact that theyharden one's heart to God and lead to rejection of God's grace.

    I see that you agree with Purgatory in the sense that you are aware that our sanctification is possibly not completed at death and we are in need of purgation before entering heaven. The Church calls this process Purgatory.

    Of course, "faith alone" is a heresy condemned in the Bible by St. James. Purgatory has nothing to do with hell which you would have understood had you really read my commentary where is is stated. Your assumption that Purgatory has something to do with hell is wrong. Those going through purgation have already been judged and found worthy just as you said. We call that Purgatory. You then contradict your own statements by saying that there is no need for purgation or cleansing. You need to get this right in your thinking. Either we need cleansing or we do not. The Bible teaches that we do.

    You make the unsupported comment that Purgatory in some way makes Jesus' atonement insufficient. Nowhere is such a suggestion made or commentary that would lead one to infer such a conclusion.

    Jesus' atoning sacrifice provides forgivness for our sins but there is no biblical teaching that says that we will not be punished or have to pay for our sins. God bless!

    In Christ
    Fr. Joseph

  3. Really enjoyed this :) Thank you for your work; God will surely reward you

  4. Purgatory is a false teaching. We are save by faith in Christ alone. The Gospels clearly teach this. John 3.16. Romans 5 says, Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is 'another gospel' (Galatians) to teach that something MORE is needed to gain Salvation (Heaven). There is only faith or non-faith, heaven or hell, life or death. There is not an extra option for those who did not want to live for Christ now. Purgatory is false, and is one of the great reasons for the Protestant Reformation. Purgatory is good for money and fear.

  5. Obviously you have a very skewed understanding of the process of purgation as it is taught in the Bible and by the Church. John 3:16 in the original Koine Greek teaches that belief includes obedience as the evidence of true belief. Jesus goes on to teach that true faith includes obedience and unity in His own Church. Without this unity as a part of belief their is no true faith where salvific grace can find fertile soil for spiritual growth to bring one to final salvation at judgement.

    You speak of an extra option and call that "Purgatory" but this is not at all what the Catholic Church teaches about Purgatory. Those going through purgation have already been judged full of true faith and free of sin. A Christian in purgatory suffers from being separated from the beatific vision but finds joy in knowing that their final destination of heaven is assured. The Bible describes this process as being similar to purifying precious metal by fire until even the smallest dross of sin is removed so that the beatific vision of God can be enjoyed for all eternity. I have no idea what you mean when you say it is good for money as this process simply allows one to be totally devoid of even the smallest dross of sin and worthy as a result of being in God's divine presence. The only thing you got right about the Doctrine of Purgatory is that there are only 2 final destinations of either heaven or hell. Those in Purgatory are destined only to heaven. God bless!

    In Christ
    Fr. Joseph