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What is Purgatory in the Catholic Church?

What is Purgatory?

Today we are going to be looking at the topic of purgatory. This topic is one that is usually misunderstood right from the beginning. Usually, the first argument to be given against purgatory is about the finished work of Jesus Christ; that he accomplished our redemption on the cross. This by far is one of the most confusing tail-chasing arguments that takes place, because as Catholics, this too is also believed. Purgatory does not take away from this understanding. Through Christ’s work, our redemption is accomplished, it is finished, but the application is another story. The redemptive work of Christ that takes place by the Holy Spirit through either suffering in this life or suffering afterwards to expiate or provide restitution for the effects of sin is a different matter altogether. This I will explain later in detail of course but for now lets look at what purgatory is not.

Purgatory is not a second chance

Purgatory is not a second chance. Should you die, and by God’s mercy and grace, you are allowed to enter purgatory, then you are someone who has died in a state of grace, with a supernatural faith, hope, and charity, that was encompassed in your heart, and evident in your life. You are not able to enter purgatory if you are in a state of mortal sin. There are no get-out-of-jail-free-cards, sorry! You cannot have separated yourself from, become hostile to, or valued your life and/or worldly things more than God and still enter purgatory, much less heaven. Purgatory is only for those who die in a state of grace and are destined for heaven. 

So, we said if you were in a state of mortal sin, then even purgatory was not for you. Here we come to the first conflict in Catholic teaching to the outsider. That is of the distinction of mortal and venial sins. One may say, “I thought sin is a sin is a sin?” Yes, a sin is a sin, however there are different levels and degrees of sin. Do they all displease God – Yes, they do. However, they hold different penalties. To fully grasp this let us look at 1 John 5:16-17:

“If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one – to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.”

This is quite the statement, in fact it is very clear and straightforward. You cannot even begin to try to make this into something it is not. It states that all sin is wrong but that there are sins that lead to death and sins that do not. So please keep this in mind as we continue forward.

The difference between mortal and venial sins

Let us present these two scenario’s before we go farther. First imagine your six year old child gets into your purse/wallet and takes out a hundred dollars that you don’t have to spare. They then take it (without your knowledge) to your neighbor’s house and gives it to them. The child says it is from you and it is to help them get some food because their friend (the neighbors child) had shared with them how hungry they were, and that they had no money for food. Next, we want you to think again about that same six year old child, who goes to the neighbors house and kills their dog because they don’t like it. No other reason, they just didn’t like it. What would you do?

Both are wrong – right? Both are against the rules you have established. Your child has been told not to harm others, including animals or even belongings. Your child has also been told not to take what is not theirs. Would you treat this child the same for both instances? Now we are not talking about forgiveness here, we all as parents know that we would forgive our child for both instances, no, I am talking about penalties for their actions. Would you punish them the same for both scenarios? Would you show the same level of mercy for both? Our thoughts are that for most parents, no, would be the answer to both questions. As a parent you would have mercy on the first action. It may cause you undue financial grief, but the heart of your child in their action far outweighs the crime. Yes, they will need to be talked to. Yes, a punishment more than likely will be laid out, but it would be one that was merciful, because of the child’s intent of heart. The second scenario though would not allow for mercy of the same nature. There is no remorse, no sorrow, no care for the neighbor or their animals life that they have taken. How can the same mercy be granted in such a case? It would not, punishment would be laid out without exception, to do anything else who actually show that you did not love your child. 

God is the same with us. Throughout Scripture we are presented with God as Father. He is our Father, made possible because of his Son, who allows us to become a part of the family of God. We are able to become his Sons and Daughters. This is what Christ died for, this is why our redemption can be said to be paid once and for all. We have been forgiven for our sins, just as we as parents would forgive our own children for their wrongdoings. So what does this look like? Does this mean we can be sons and daughters that do whatever we please? By all means no, when we come into the family of God, we are like children, infants more like it. The Holy Spirit through Baptism, enters into us, and through the Holy Spirit working in us we begin to grow. Over time we go from infants to toddlers, toddlers to children, children to youth, youth to adults, and then even for some of us, adults into wise elders. However at any stage of this spiritual growth, we are still God’s sons and daughters thanks to Jesus Christ. Should he be any different as our heavenly Father than an earthly father would be? No, in fact he would be so much more of a Father because our love as parents are but a shadow of his love for us as his children. Should we not receive a just punishment for sin that there is no remorse, sorrow, or care for? Absolutely we should, no matter how merciful God is. Ask yourself, is this the kind of person that will inherit the kingdom of God? Now, how about if we did something wrong, but with the right intent of heart? If we, for example, use a credit card to loan money that we do not have the ability to repay, to someone who in turn deceives us and uses it for evil purposes and never repays the money, does this deserve the same penalty as murder? We took what is not ours and gave it away, God is clear about not taking on debt, or going beyond our means, it will cost us dearly to pay back all that is owed since the money to repay is not there, but should God dish out the same penalty? We think that if one honestly looks at this, the only answer to both questions, again, is no. We want to state once again that we are not talking about forgiveness of sins here, which Christ paid the price for, we are talking about the penalty of sin. The punishment that results because of sin.

God is a just and righteous God, and it is because of this that these penalties would not be the same. If we as mere humans, can look at this and see that both scenarios deserve different penalties, then how much more is God going to see this in light of his mercy and righteousness. Here is where we see in true form the difference between mortal and venial sins. One brings death because it was done in pure rebellion to God, in a consensual act against that which the person already knows to be a sin. The other is done without full knowledge or complete consent regarding the act of disobedience. Venial sin weakens us, and while it merits punishment, it does not lead to death. 

Purgatory is for purification

Now that we have established the difference in mortal and venial sin, it is easier to understand that which we mentioned earlier. That purgatory is not for the person who has committed and remains in mortal sin. When we die, our destiny is set. We are either set for heaven or hell. If we are set for hell, then we would not be entering purgatory. Purgatory is for the purification, or purging if you will, of the individual who dies in a state of grace. The Bible is clear that we may not enter into God’s kingdom, or into his presence, unless we are completely pure.(We will discuss this more later) Nothing unholy can be a part of who we are. We must be refined as through a fire and made clean. We do not want to set a blanket statement here though. The Church acknowledges that there are those who die in such a perfect state, those that need no purification and are ready to enter immediately into the Father’s presence. However, we think it would be accurate to say that there are many who will die in a state of grace, but will not be perfectly pure. We are sure that anyone reading this could easily list off a handful of people that they have known that would fit this description. This is what purgatory is for. It is for those who need that refining process. It is for those who need to be made ready to stand before the Great I Am. There is another thing to take note of our reading in 1 John. John does not see the need to argue the point of there being different degrees of sin. In fact, he takes it for granted, he assumes a prior understanding of the reader regarding the difference between mortal and venial sin. 

So this may sound reasonable, but is reason enough? We are talking about the Church, the doctrine that we as Christians are to live by. So where does the Catholic Church find proof for such claims? Where is the biblical and even historical evidence to show why we should believe in such a place as purgatory?

What are the origins of the word Purgatory?

First lets discuss where the idea of purgatory comes from. Purgatory comes from the Latin word “Purgatorio.” It signifies the place where we are purified. The Greek word “hades” and the Hebrew word “Sheol” are of same reality, signifying the same thing. The evidence of this is a blog all of its own so we will have to save that for a future post. Let us look at hades, this word is not normally associated with what we would call “hell fire” or the place of those that are damned. Jesus uses the word “Gehenna” to talk of “hell fire.” We think of this as described in the Bible as an unquenchable fire, where the worm does not die. This description that we are given of Gehenna comes from “Gehinnom,” that was a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem in the valley of “the son of Hinnom.” This is where King Manasseh sacrificed to Molech, a demon god, Israelite children numbering in the thousands. After this took place, it became a place of defilement where none would live, thus it became a garbage dump where fires continually burned and was considered a haunt of demons. This was the image Christ used of hell when he used the word Gehenna. much different than what one would see when looking at the word Sheol, which is hades, which is purgatory. 

The Biblical case for Purgatory

Lets now look into where and how the word Sheol is used in order to understand better the meaning of this word, or place if you will. There are many, many places in the Bible where Sheol is talked about, however for the sake of keeping this blog reasonable, we will be limiting our selection that we will look into. 

In Psalm 86:13 it says: “For great is your steadfast love towards me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” This one is referenced in Acts 2:27 when referring to Christ: “For you will not abandon my soul in to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.

Then 2 Samuel 22:6: “The chords of Sheol entangled me, the snares of death confronted me.”

Then Sirach 7:33: “Give graciously to all the living; do not withhold kindness even from the dead.”

Then Psalm 116:3 “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I suffered stress and aguish.”

So now as we have read, there is a definite understanding throughout these passages, that through Old Testament times there was an understanding that God’s kindness extends to the realm of the dead, and that we see a distinction made between the righteous and the unrighteous. I do want to make quick mention though for our non-Catholic readers since we quoted Sirach and will in a moment be looking at 2 Maccabees. While these books may not be held by Protestants as inspired writings, they are quoted, cited, and eluded to by the New Testament writers. They also give us an understanding of historical religious beliefs of their day. However, even if these books were not a part of the canon in Jesus’ day, they were not rejected for teaching some new innovation. In fact as we look into 2 Maccabees it must be noted that the prayers of Jews in the Synagogue and Temple, on behalf of the dead, are traceable back so far that there is no point of origin that can be made. So this is a prevalent custom that is not questioned by anyone willing to look into the matter historically. 

2 Maccabees 12:39-45:

On the next day, as had now become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kindred in the sepulchers of their ancestors. Then under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord; the righteous judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting those who had fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin. 

Now since this was written prior to Christ we see and understand what the Israelites truly believed in regards to praying for the dead. Not only that they believed in praying for the atonement of these “venial” sins of the dead, but also that there is a third realm in discussion here. Logically this cannot be denied. For if they are in hell, no expiatory sacrifice will help, and if they are in heaven, no expiatory sacrifice is needed. So logically the dead must be residing in another place. 

Lets look at 1 Peter 3:19-20: “In which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.”

 So here we have Christ going to a place that is neither heaven or hell,(Gehenna) he goes into hades.(Sheol) So here it is specifically showing us another place that is neither heaven or hell. We do however want to pull up one more part of Scripture though that clearly depicts a place that is neither heaven nor hell as we understand it. 

Revelation 20:4-6 : “Then I saw the thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.”

Revelation 20:11-15: “Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. And also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

The verse that one should notice here is verse 5 “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.” So who does this passage says will take part in the first resurrection? It says the martyrs will be the ones who are of the first resurrection. So here we see two different classes regarding righteousness. Those that were martyred and were received into heaven, reigning with Christ, and those that while not reigning with Christ, had their names written in the book of life. It says that at this time of judgement for those who were not martyrs, but had their names written in the book of life, the dead are raised from Hades and delivered before God for the time of judgement. So where is this Hades that John is referring to? It cannot be the final lake of fire, as these are those saints whose names are written in the book of life. It cannot be heaven because this is where the Martyrs reside that were a part of the first resurrection, not to mention that for those not part of the first resurrection have not been judged yet, so how can they be residing in heaven? No, this passage is clear that no matter how you want to try to discount Hades and Gehenna being different meanings, the Hades here that John is referring to in this passage is clearly described as a separate place. Again this is another passage like the one we looked at previously in 1 John, where John discusses, but does not argue his point. He does not argue it because again, as a Jew, it would be assumed that the reader would know and believe in this already. 

Now that we have touched on Sheol/Hades/Purgatory, and can see that the Old and New Testament affirm to this third place outside of heaven and hell, let us now go back to that beginning statement.  That was when we said that through Christ’s work, our redemption is accomplished, it is finished, but the application is another story. The redemptive work of Christ that takes place by the Holy Spirit through either suffering in this life or suffering afterwards to expiate or provide restitution for the effects of sin is a different matter altogether.

We are called to share in Christ’s suffering

This is quite the statement for the non-Catholic. One reason this is such a harsh statement for many is because they do not want to truly take up their cross. This is understood most fully in the acceptance of suffering, no, we should not say acceptance, but requirement. Suffering is a requirement, either in this age or in the age to come. We are called to share in Christ’s suffering, that we may share in his glory. This completely knocks down anyone who wants to embrace the idea of health and prosperity as a sign of ones faith, those who would say that life in Christ is void of suffering. Scripture teaches us that if we are suffering a great deal, sort of like a purgatory on earth, then we should be grateful and rejoice for this blessing of suffering that has been bestowed upon us. Beware to those who have a good life, who have become fat and lazy and void of suffering and charity. The more suffering that a person endures in faith, hope, love, and charity, the more God is revealed to that person. Think of the story of Lazarus and the rich man that Christ gives us in Luke 16. It does not say the rich man was a bad person. He was not mean to his servants and was not cruel to others. His crime was that he dressed well and ate sumptuously. How many of those who call themselves Christian today fit this description. In fact the reason given for his suffering in death was that he did not suffer during his life. This is why purgatory is difficult to believe for those who do not want to take up their cross. Because it embraces the “requirement” of suffering. 

It says in Romans 8:12-13: “So then brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” 

Notice here we still have a debt to pay. Not because Christ has not paid it, but because he has paid it and through his mystical body, through the Holy Spirit, he applies that. Human nature is weak, we cannot do anything that is ultimately pleasing to God. No amount of works will earn us a state of grace from God. It is through the union of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can put to death the deeds of the body, and that we may live. As a Catholic might say “if you mortify it” This is what penance is about, in fact Scripture shows us throughout that we are to do penance. For instance:

John the Baptist: Matthew 3:2, 7-8 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” “But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”

Paul: Colossians 3:5 – “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).”

Paul: 1 Corinthians 9:27 – “but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself shall not be disqualified.”

Peter: 1 Peter 4:1-2 – “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.”

Jeremiah: Jeremiah 31:19 – “Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, even confounded, because I did not bear the reproach of my youth.”

This list can continue on an on, however the point is made that penance is not an emotion, decision, attitude or experience, it is something we must do every day, we must mortify our bodies. We must suffer, it is not an idea, but a requirement. Let us go back to Romans 8:16-17 – “ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” Again, notice it says “if” we suffer with him we will be glorified in him. As we continue on, we see that Paul anticipates the peoples rejection to such a statement. He knows that people are not going to want to embrace the idea of there being a requirement to suffer. 

So he says in verse 18 “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Well okay then, so he gives us a reason to suffer. Notice he does not let us out of this suffering, but shares with us the greater reward that will be received by suffering with Christ. Paul goes on in verses 35-37 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are encountered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” 

The idea here to grasp is that suffering sanctifies us. Paul does not say that we are conquerors over sinful actions, or ungodly lifestyles. No, he is talking about different types of suffering, and that none of them shall separate us from the love of Christ. So you see, we must suffer as Paul puts it, to be glorified, because the essence of Christianity is that through us, Christ reproduces his life, suffering, death and resurrection and ultimately – his glory in us. 

So as is shown to be untied to Christ means to embrace suffering. This is the significance of Baptism. When we have been baptized we have died to sin. Jesus said “I have come to baptize with fire.” Fire burns, it purifies, and there is suffering that comes with it. Does this sound like the gospel that is frequently preached today? That life will be full of peace, happiness, and luxury? No, it does not, it sounds like Jesus is equating fire with baptism, another words he is equating suffering as a part of the purification process. This is the problem many have with purgatory, they do not want to consider that to follow Christ, very literally means, to embrace suffering. Remember though that God always wants what is best for us. He does not require suffering for some sort of masochist reasoning, he does it so that we, his children, grow and develop to be mature and strong in faith, hope, love, and charity. That we would love, as his Son loved us, that we would sacrifice ourselves for others. Not just when circumstances occasionally allow, but each and every day. This is the implication that purgatory holds for the Christian. 

How does suffering relate to Purgatory?

Now that we have explained the idea of suffering being not just an idea or a suggestion, but a requirement in our walk with Christ. Let us see how that plays out in the purpose of purgatory. Let us look at 1 Corinthians 3:9-15:

“For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – the work of each builder will become visible for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.”

So here there is much to be said. First, the foundation is Christ, lets not mistake that. Next we see that we are talking about our works here, what we have done with the life that God has given us through his Son Jesus Christ. We also see that in addition to salvation, there is a reward here to be understood in regards to our lives lived out in Christ. Not just a reward but a suffering as well. And not just a loss or a reward, but different degrees of both. Gold and silver and precious stones helps us to see there are different values to what we do that God holds to as righteous. Wood, hay, and straw also shows different degrees of venial sins. Jesus himself shares this idea in Luke 12:47-48 when he says: “That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a sever beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

So we see that this passage ends with the understanding that if a person has lived a life for Christ that is made of straw, wood, or hay that they will suffer loss, that they themselves will be saved, but only as through fire. Again we are talking about suffering here. A suffering act of restitution. Just because we have a penalty to pay for the sins that we have committed does not take away from the work of Christ. Remember, there are three parts of the Trinity, there are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is through the sanctifying, and fiery work of the Holy Spirit that manifests Christ’s work and brings it to pass. It is through the Holy Spirit and this purification process, that cleanses us from any self love that is still a part of us when we die. 

Only the pure will enter heaven

Earlier we said that we would go further into how we must be pure to enter into God’s presence. Well to do this we would like you to think of what God is like. What do we know about God’s presence. Throughout Scripture he is described in many ways, yet one attribute continues to show itself, and that is God is a consuming fire. He is love that is so powerful that he is literally the hottest thing you could think of, even hotter than hell. The Seraphim are the angels that are closest to God. The name Seraphim literally means “the burning ones.” They are burning because of the consuming fiery presence that God is. This is the importance of purgatory, that we be made holy and pure, that we may be able to stand in the presence of God. Now this is the purpose that we refine our love through self-mortification, penance, charity, and self-sacrifice. That we would be made pure and ready to come into the presence of God. We all hope to be in this position when we die, but the truth is, many of us who serve God have taken the easy roads in some circumstances. Many of us will have some sort of guilt or venial sin on our conscience when we die. For those who do, this is why there is purgatory. It is not a suffering that is an eternal consequence, but a suffering that is a purging and purification so that we can embrace the gift that Christ has offered us through his sacrifice. 

What did Paul mean in Colossians 1:24?

Colossians 1 :24 – “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” 

This passage was always one we struggled with, what is it really that Paul was trying to say here? We knew he was  not saying that Christ had not suffered enough, so what then? He is talking about bearing one another’s burdens. This coincides with an earlier passage we read, where we are told that there is a sin that is mortal and one that is not. How we have the ability to pray for those who have committed those venial sins, that they would be released from them. So we see here that not only can we suffer in our own lives for Christ, we can suffer on the behalf of others. This statement of Paul makes no sense unless we understand the essential role that suffering plays in our walk with Christ. We are to pick up the cross and follow Jesus. We do not suffer because he did not suffer enough. we suffer because his life must be reproduced in us, and this happens when the Holy Spirit applies in us the restitution that is required, as we suffer alongside Christ like we are commanded to do. How can we honestly say to ourselves that we believe that we must imitate Christ in our lives if we don’t embrace this most fundamental idea that he spent his life teaching us. He was and still is the best example of what it means to suffer out of love. If therefore we are to imitate Christ then we must do so in the very way he did, through a life of purity. What is purity? What is pure love? 

Christ answered that question in John 15:13 “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for ones friends.” 

Okay, so the point is made, we must suffer, we must repent, we must be pure in order to come into God’s presence. What type’s of things are we talking here? What is it that could be weighing us down when we die that we need to be purified of? How about for the people we have hurt. How about for the missed opportunities because we were too proud, or too arrogant in some way. How about those areas that didn’t happen because of laziness, or distraction. What of those people who we have refused to bless, or did not give of ourselves to, for one reason or another. We are not talking about missed opportunities because of imperfections of ourselves, these are opportunities that we willfully refused, while this may not be a mortal sin, it is damaging to our soul, as well as the person we failed to sacrifice ourselves for. When we go into that place we are calling purgatory, these are some of the works that we will need to be purified from. Can you imagine the suffering that will be? A physical fire is nothing compared to the spiritual burning that we will endure as these parts of our temple are burned up. 

Forgiveness vs. purification

This again has nothing to do with forgiveness, but it is how we are purified for those things which were a part of our being when we died, so that once purged, we will be ready to enter into heaven. Jesus himself learned obedience through suffering. Just as we learn obedience through the same way, through suffering. If you suffer in the flesh you are free from sin, but what happens if we do not suffer in the flesh? Then we are illegitimate children. Let us look at Hebrews 12:1-8 to gain a firm understanding of this.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children – “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the lord, or lose heart when you are pushed by him; For the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts;” Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; For what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.”

The mercy of Purgatory

We are disciplined because we are loved, when it hurts, when it burns, it is out of love that we go through such suffering. Christ is God, God is love, pure love, the ultimate show of his love for us was what? His sacrifice. If his sacrifice was this ultimate show of God’s pure love for us, then as people who are to imitate Christ, we must also self-sacrifice, and to do it daily. Sacrifice hurts and is painful, however, there can be no true love where this is no sacrifice. So like we said earlier to truly grasp the idea of purgatory, one must truly grasp the requirement for us to embrace suffering.

Again, purgatory and the suffering that happens by burning up our insufficient “works” through the purification process is necessary if we are to enter into God’s presence. Daniel 7 says this:

“As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames and its wheels where burning fire. A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. “

Now I would think that it would be a merciful thing that a place such as purgatory existed so that we can be made pure before coming into such a presence, lest we be consumed because of our imperfections. So I challenge anyone reading this to really consider if such a place as purgatory truly is unscriptural or unnecessary, as for us though, we are grateful that such a place, upon our death, is accessible should we be found lacking in any way. 

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