Listen:  97 Question 1

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1030, “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.”  As I understand it, the teaching of the Catholics is that Purgatory is not a place of judgment, but a place of purification.  The thought is that while someone may be truly saved, they are still in need of purification after death because of unconfessed sins.  This gives way to the teaching of praying for the dead and for giving offerings, or money, for the dead.  The nature of this purification process can range from an extreme awareness of loss to an intense, excruciatingly painful purifying fire.

While the word ‘Purgatory’ is not in the Catholic Bible, it is generally agreed that the teaching of Purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12:46 which says, “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”  It wasn’t until around 1180 A.D. that the term ‘Purgatory’ was given, giving rise to the idea of Purgatory as a specific place.

I have used the writings of Catholic authors to make sure I fairly represented their teachings concerning Purgatory.  Of course, non-Catholic Bibles do not include the books of the Maccabees or the other additional books, known as the Apocrypha.  They are widely rejected by Protestant groups because of their teachings and some historical inaccuracies.

Does the teaching about Purgatory agree with scripture?  No, it does not.  Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”  This teaches clearly that after death, there is judgment.  There is no interim where people who need atonement can receive it.  After death, there is judgment.  For the Christian, we know that death brings us immediately into the presence of our savior.  2 Corinthians 5:8 says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

We need to understand that when a person accepts Christ as his or her savior, that all sins are forgiven, not just the ones we have confessed.  1 John 1:7 teaches us that, “…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  We rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross that has completely paid our sin debt.  We have been cleansed from ALL sin.  As Christians, we need to constantly confess our sins to maintain our practical relationship with the Lord, but this does not affect the eternal life we received when we trusted Christ as our savior.

You are absolutely right in saying that no one can enter Heaven unholy.  Speaking of Heaven, Revelation 21:27 says, “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  Those who names are written in the Lamb’s book of life have been made holy.  Let’s read 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:   Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”  We have these words written to the believer in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  The word ‘sanctified’ is from the Greek word ‘hagiazo’, which means to be made holy.

The very thought of Purgatory is contrary to what the Bible teaches.  It is even contrary to what the Catholic Bible teaches.  Again, 2 Maccabees 12:46 says, “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”  How can anyone think this means that Christ made atonement for the physically dead?  It is clear that the Lord gave Himself to save those who are spiritually dead.  Let’s read Colossians 2:13, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”  We read a similar thought in  Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”  As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”  (97.1)