Problems with Purgatory: Part 1

11 05 2016

I would like to address the doctrine of purgatory. Millions of souls over the centuries have perished because they gave offerings hoping to buy less time in purgatory. Ornate cathedrals and churches were built with the money given by poor, often uneducated and trusting souls.

Purgatory is where people go who die in what Rome calls a “state of grace.” This is a state in which people are purged completely from sin and made ready for Heaven. This concept has no Biblical basis but relies heavily upon tradition and ancient pagan roots.

The concept of purgatory is seen in ancient Buddhist practices of making prayers and sacrifices for the dead. The term purgatory does not appear on the scene until around 1160 but the concept is applied long before that. Purgatory has been defined by several councils including the Council of Trent in 1545, the Council of Florence in 1438, and the first and Second Council of Lyon in 1245 and 1274.

Prior to these declarations the doctrine was developed and underwent changes over time. This happens when we try to hold firmly to doctrines not clearly stated in the Word of God. When we build our doctrine upon the sinking sand of human tradition and philosophy we will have to make changes to avoid contradiction and ensure compliance. When a doctrine is founded upon the solid rock of the oracles of God then we can be sure they can stand the test of time.

Catholics accept the Scriptural life after death destinations of mankind. In Heaven the souls of the righteous spend eternal bliss in the presence of God, and on the opposite end of the spectrum those who go on in sin rejecting salvation spend eternity in the fires of hell (although some Romanists make the Biblical description of fire as only symbolic). The Romanists have inserted a third state to which all must go in order to be ready to go to Heaven. They call this place purgatory.

Rome teaches that some souls are not yet purified enough to enter Heaven and must be purified in purgatory in order to prepare for being granted admission into Heaven. Peter opposes this idea.

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. (1 Peter 1:22)

Peter is not saying that purification comes in some limbo state after death. He is saying our souls are purified by obeying the truth. This means that when we are saved our souls are purified not at some later time and place.

Romanism teaches that holiness is achieved in purgatory and that without purgatory we would still bear the stain of sin and not be holy enough to enter the presence of God. Scripture in several places disagrees with this idea.

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…And (we) are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 1:4, 2:20-21)

“I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.” (1 Thessalonians 5:27)

To follow this teaching to its conclusion would make it impossible to explain the plight of the thief on the cross. Here is a criminal who has lived his whole life in sin and degradation. While being executed he comes to believe that Jesus is who He claims to be.

In a repentant heart he asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. What was the response of Jesus to this man’s faith?

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

I must say if anyone needed purification or was not holy enough to enter Heaven it would be a criminal who just repented. Surely with no good works, no baptism, nothing to show for his faith he would need further cleansing and yet we have a statement from Jesus that by his faith he is counted worthy to be with Him in Paradise. No limbo, no waiting, just an immediate pardon for sin and access to God.

To better understand this view we must understand the Romanist view of sin. They categorize sin in two ways, mortal sins, and venial sins. Mortal sins would be grave violations of God’s law and venial sins are forgivable sins that don’t necessarily separate us from God.

I guess you could call them minor infractions. The Scriptures give us no evidence of God viewing sin this way. Some sins are greater than others in terms of the punishment for sin which is why those at the Great White Throne are judged according to their works when their fate is already determined (Revelation 20:11-15).

We also see examples of some sins being called abominations and others are not. We receive no hint as to whether that means non abominations are more or less forgivable. According to Scripture all sin brings spiritual death and separation from God.

Ezekiel 18:4b says the “soul that sinneth it shall die.” What is sin?

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)

Who has sinned?

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What is the penalty for sin?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

How is sin forgiven?

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

While Rome teaches mortal vs. venial sins the Scriptures tell us that sin is the breaking of God’s law. It goes on to tell us that all have sinned. The Bible also teaches that our sin can be forgiven by the grace of God through faith. Let me ask faith in what? Faith in the finished work of Christ.

“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21)

This is where most Romanists miss salvation because they feel their works add to salvation and that the work of Christ must be repeated through the mass. Jesus said:

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4)

The Roman Church teaches her followers that Christ’s righteousness is not imputed to us. Rome teaches that we are infused with grace and each grace that we act upon makes us more righteous before God. They teach that our sin stains are still with us after salvation and that these must be purged in purgatory.

They can teach this because they do not see salvation as a possession but a state of being. In other words you cannot possess salvation as a gift and have it and hold onto it but rather you can be in a “state of grace” where you have done enough good to merit God’s favor. The bad news is that you can do enough bad to fall out of that favor.

Let me address each heresy with the Bible. Is Christ’s righteousness imputed?

“But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Romans 4:24)

“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” (Romans 4:6)

Can doing good make us more righteous?

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

Do our sin stains stay with us after salvation?

“And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Revelation 1:5)

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

Is salvation a state of being or a free gift possession?

“But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Can we lose the gift of salvation?

“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29)

“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37b)

These beliefs are at the heart of the doctrine of purgatory. The idea of fire in purgatory is common in Roman lore but separate from hell. Scripture speaks often, and definitely about hell but is silent on purgatory.

Some have agreed it’s a material fire, although some have used the term fire metaphorically. The Church has not condemned such use. It seems that even the Church in her supposed wisdom, and power cannot decide.

 

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