The question of purgatory is fairly common among inquiring non-Catholics and Catholic Christians alike. It can also be one of the most misunderstood. Some of the more common questions centered around the topic go like this:
“All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).
“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned ” (CCC 1031).
“This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: 'Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.'[2Macc 12:46]” (CCC 1032).
1) So, now that you know what Purgatory is *not*, and what it *is*, where is it in the Bible? The word "purgatory" isn't in the Bible, at least not that I know of, or without trying to translate back to the original languages. But the principle for it is there, quite clearly.
First of all, there is the explicit mention in 2Macc 12:46 of making atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin. "But wait!", you might say. "My Bible doesn't have the books of Maccabees, so they aren't Scripture!" Well, if your Bible doesn't have it, you have an incomplete Old Testament adopted by a 16th century Augustinian monk who decided to follow the same OT Canon as the people who rejected Christ as Savior...and still do. But, the Jews who converted to Christianity, as well as the first Christians from then on, all the way up to the 16th century, and to today, adopted the OT of the Greek speaking Jews, and it has the books of Maccabees (and some others, collectively known as the Deuterocanon). But I digress. Regardless of whether you accept 2Macc as the Word of God, it is explicit proof that the Jews believed in what Purgatory *is* (some place or process where the just are purged from some effect of sin prior to entering into glory). So, Purgatory is *not* a new invention, even if the word for it was not established at that time. (No one is going to argue that the Holy Trinity didn't exist until we established that name for the Trinity, right? Except non-Trinitarians?)
But, let's pretend you don't want to look at that, and you are only interested in some of the protestant translations that omit the Deuterocanon. "Where *else* is Purgatory, or it's 'principle' [I see you rolling your eyes], in the Bible?"
I'm glad you asked!
Look at 2Samuel 12:13-14, where David is punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven. Then go to Heb 12:22-23, where Paul tells us that there is a place or process by which the *spirits* of just men are made perfect. We also see in 1Cor 3:13-15 that there is a place where a saved man, *after he has died*, can suffer loss as through fire; and we know that, according to Rev 21:27, nothing unclean shall enter into Heaven.
Straight from the Bible, then, we see the Catholic principles for Purgatory: 1) Scripture shows us, explicitly, that a man can be punished for his sin AFTER he has been forgiven (2Sam 12:13-18). 2) Scripture tells us, explicitly, that there is a place where a man, after he has died, and is saved, can suffer loss as through fire (1Cor 3:13-15). 3) There is a place, or process, where the SPIRITS of *just* men are made perfect (Heb 12:22-23). 4) Nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).
Where is this place that Scripture tells us about, where the SPIRITS of JUST men are made perfect; where a man, though he is saved, can suffer loss as through fire? Is it Heaven? No…we don’t suffer loss in Heaven. Is it hell? No….no one gets out of hell. The Church has given the name “Purgatory” to this place, or process, where our souls are made clean…because nothing unclean shall enter Heaven (Rev 21:27).
And let's not forget the Sermon on the Mount. In Mt 5:25-26 Jesus talks about making peace with your enemies, lest you be thrown in jail until you've paid the last penny.
Is this talking about temporal prison? I don't think so. Is it talking about Hell? Not unless you think you can pay your way out of it. No, Hell is eternal. Still, regardless of whether you agree with my interpretation of Christ's Sermon at this point, the other passages above are clear as day.
2) We already looked at what Purgatory is *not*, and what it *is*, and the fact that it is clearly laid out for us in Scripture. So, no, it's not a man-made doctrine. It's a Christian reality. And it isn't for making a way for sinful people to get to Heaven. People get to Heaven by God's grace. Purgatory is just a final purification for those who are already going to Heaven, yet are still imperfectly purified. Purgatory doesn't bypass the Cross. That final cleansing is possible only through the Cross!
4) This goes back to what Purgatory *isn't*. We don't "pay" for sins in Purgatory. We are cleansed, or "purged", there as through fire; we are made perfect, just like Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians and in his letter to the Hebrews. You don't earn your way out of Purgatory. You go there to take a bath so you can be perfectly cleansed for Heaven, because nothing unclean can enter there (Rev 21:27).
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