Nadine says: I don't understand why people believe in Purgatory, and where the idea comes from. Do you have any insight in this area? Please and thanks. Sebastian says: With due respect Mr. Leonard, may I ask you one thing? Do you believe in Purgatory? If so, will you show me where it is written?
Thank you, Nadine and Sebastian for your very excellent questions. It is not unusual for non-Catholics too not know where Purgatory is in the Bible. This is because they are taught in their tradition that there is no Purgatory. They are aware of only the Bible verses that have to do with the fires of Hell. And they seem to be unaware of those verses that refer to fire and salvation. The problem with this scenario is that there are verses having to do with fire that do not relate to Hell and this is where the concept of Purgatory comes from.
Easy Christianity says we do nothing and there is no accounting, because Jesus did it all. In fact if you do anything the claim is that we are taking away from Christ's redeeming us on the cross. However, Jesus said; “I tell you on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mt 12:36-37). Please note that this accounting doesn't just take place today, in this moment, but also "on the day of judgment." Jesus asks us also to be "be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:47-48). God doesn't just declare us righteous; He demands an accounting.
There are non-Catholics, who really do get it totally, such as the great scholar CS Lewis, who was widely accepted among Protestants and Catholics. He believed in Purgatory and wrote about it. And other Protestants, although they don't call it Purgatory, understand the concept at least in part. Many years ago, I was in a conversation with a pastor of a Four Square Church on the subject of Purgatory. He didn't disagree with me, but said "isn't that what happens on this side." I thought his answer was very good because there are some people, who in their last suffering, have accounted totally for their sin and thus never experience Purgatory on the other side. Their Purgatory was totally on this side. He was missing only one thing. Jesus says there is an accounting, and that accounting takes place not just today, but "on the day of judgment." And so, if they are not fully perfected prior to this point, they will account for every careless word on this day.
"On the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak" (Mt 12:36)
Do we really need to suffer loss and be saved as through fire? Didn't Jesus do it all for us and we do nothing for salvation? This same God who "is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:28), in his mercy, He cleanses our imperfection "and the fire will test what sort of work each has done" (1 Cor 13). Although our works may or may not be consumed, we survive. "If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire [Purgatory] (1 Cor 3:15). Notice there is fire, testing and loss, and yet the person is saved. We usually associate fire with Hell; however, the person is saved and so it cannot be Hell. This salvation as through fire is what the Church has historically referred to as Purgatory.
God "is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:28)
Easy Christianity says we go to Heaven with our sins covered over. In other words, the sins are still there and God chooses not to see them. They then cite Romans to prove that our sins or imperfections are still there. After all, if the sins are "covered " (Rm 4:7), how can God possibly see them? However, they fail to include other verses that show that our sins are completely eliminated; "our sins our like scarlet they shall be like snow" (Is 1:18) and are "blotted out" (Is 6:7). God has never allowed us to go to Heaven with any blemish. What happens when we die and we are not absolutely clean in every way? Without Purgatory, for the final cleansing, we cannot go to Heaven because "nothing unclean will enter it [Heaven]" (Rev 21:27). Purgatory is a place of mercy where this final cleansing takes place. People who reject Purgatory are followers of Fr. Martin Luther, who wrongly did not see Purgatory as a place of mercy and therefor he rejected it.
"Nothing unclean will enter it [Heaven]" (Rev 21:27)
It is possible for a person's sin to be forgiven in this age or in the age to come because Jesus says so. "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Mt 12:32). The implication here is that it is possible for sin (except for the sin against the Holy Spirit) to be forgiven in the age to come. Notice that the verse doesn't end with just, "this age;" the verse includes "the age to come."
Easy Christianity rejects Purgatory because their claim is that Jesus did it once and for all, therefor there is nothing for us to do. Purgatory is even seen as another Gospel that takes away from the Cross of Jesus. To them, suffering and Purgatory takes away from Jesus' Cross. However, Biblical Christianity in 1 Corinthians says that suffering and loss through fire is necessary and it is tied into being saved.
Easy Christianity says Jesus did it all and we do nothing. However, Biblical Christianity in 1 Corinthians says that suffering and loss through fire is necessary and it is tied into being saved.
- Why people reject Purgatory
- Although the word purgatory is not in the Bible
- People in the Bible praying for the dead (2 Macc 12:44-45)?
- Are dead Saints truly dead or was Jesus right when He said they are alive?
- Accountability is in the New Testament
- Peter & Jesus speak about prison in the New Testament
- Saved but only as through fire
- Why is this purging or testing by fire necessary?
- When did people stop believing in Purgatory?
- Early Church Fathers believed in Purgatory
- C.S Lewis believed in Purgatory and wrote about it
- What happens to non-Catholics who end up in Purgatory?
- Non-Catholics in Purgatory are prayed for at every Mass
Why people reject Purgatory: Some reject Purgatory because they see it as a place of misery and despair, not mercy. However, without this purging we would all end up in Hell because Revelations says, nothing unclean will enter it. Purgatory is not the final place of despair; it is the final place of mercy prior to Heaven.
Others reject Purgatory because the language Purgatory is not in the Bible. Of course they are being inconsistent because they believe in other language not specifically in the Bible. For example they believe in the Holy Trinity (three persons on one God), and the two natures of Christ fully God and fully man. This language is not in the Bible and yet they believe it. They will come back and say that even though the language is not in the Bible, you can get these concepts from the Bible. And they are right, you can get these concepts like Trinity, two natures of Christ and Purgatory from the Bible, and from the Church that Jesus founded.
- In fairness to my non-Catholic friends, there are many Protestants as well as Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Jews who do believe in Purgatory.
Although the word purgatory is not in the Bible, the concept is both in the Old and the New Testament. The Jews have always believed in Purgatory. The Jews have always believed in purification in the next world and the tradition of praying for the dead has always been passed on from generation to generation. A child is required to pray for his deceased parents for one year, a prayer that is called “Kadis” [Pronounced Kadesch] So important was this considered that if there are no surviving children, a person is hired to pray for the deceased for one year. (Page 53 Visions of Heaven Hell and Purgatory; Bob and Penny Lord).
People in the Bible praying for the dead (2 Macc 12:44-45): In 2 Maccabees people are praying for the dead.
- "(It was a Holy, and good thought) whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be deliuered from sinne" (2 Mach 12:45 KJV).
Evidently we can be of help to people on the other side who still have the ill effects of sin. This is not Hell because people there cannot be helped. And it cannot be Heaven because people there have no need of prayer. This means there is another place and the Church has historically called this place Purgatory.
It says in 2 Maccabees that the dead can be deliuered from sin. However, there will always be those who will claim that 2 Maccabees is invalid because it is not in the Protestant Bible. And they further claim that it was added to the Catholic Bible at the council of Trent. There is one little problem with this understanding;
- This particular quote from 2 Maccabees comes from the original Protestant Bible, 1611 King James edition (2 Mach 12:45).
And so non-Catholics who claim that 2 Maccabees is not in the bible, do not know either their Bible or the history of their Bible. 2 Maccabees and other books were located in between the Old and New Testament in the KJV. In Fr Luther's Bible these were located at the end of his Bible. In 2 Maccabees there is also an admission that the Israelites interceded on behalf of their loved ones who had passed on. In the original 1611 edition of the King James Bible, the language is archaic and so let's see how a modern edition of the Bible quotes it.
For if he was not expecting that those who had fallen would 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 (2 Macc 12:44-45).
The Church didn't add books to the Bible and Protestants didn't remove books at that time. In fact these same books were in all Bibles up until 1823 when Protestant Biblical societies began to remove them. And even after that time, those same books were in the Protestant pulpit Bibles. I had someone say to me, I have a 1611 KJB and those books are not in there. I explained to him that he may very well have a 1611 KJB, but he doesn't have the earliest edition but a later edition that came after 1823. And so I would suggest that everyone go down to their local Protestant bookstore and order your copy of the earliest 1611 King James edition with all the books. The Publisher is Thomas Nelson publishers from Nashville, Tennessee.
Are dead Saints truly dead or was Jesus right when He said they are alive? There is this belief among many Evangelicals and others that when people are on the other side, it is all over. There is no more deliverance from sin and there evil effects. They believe there is no way that we can be of help to them because they are just "dead saints," who can do nothing. They do not realize they are drawing from their human tradition rather than the Bible. You will not find the words "dead saints" anywhere in the Bible. According to Jesus, the Saints who have physically died are not actually dead. In fact He claims that they are very much alive.
- Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this" (Jn 11:23-26)?
Accountability is in the New Testament: There are those who will say that there is no Purgatory because Christ's Grace is a free gift; "his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6). They believe that you do absolutely nothing. Jesus did it all and if we do anything, we are taking away from Jesus redemptive work on the cross. For them there is no accounting on the Day of Judgment. They are correct in that Christs Grace is a free gift. He freely gave His life for us without charging admission. However, they are violating Scripture when they say there is no accounting.
In fact it was Jesus who said there is an accounting on judgment day. “I tell you on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mt 12:36-37).
- Should I believe those who say because of Jesus free gift, there is no accounting? Or should I believe Jesus who says, "people will render an account?"
People quote the words of Jesus at the cross "It is finished," and will conclude we do nothing Jesus did it all. And if we do anything, we will be at odds with Jesus finished work on the cross. For them there is no accounting on the Day of Judgment. And yet, both Jesus and Paul says each of us have an accounting. Man-made tradition says there is no accounting. The Bible says there is.
- "So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12).
Some will only say these verses have to do only with those who are condemned. However; this accounting doesn't say for the condemned only. It says "EACH OF US" will give an account.
Peter and Jesus speak about prison in the New Testament: Peter also talks about a third place. The righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead you to God, put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the spirit. In it He also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had at once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water (1 Pt 3:18-20). Prison is not Heaven and Jesus would not be preaching to people in Hell.
We have a debt of love and Jesus in this parable shows us some of things that we might have done to be indebted to our brother of sister. These have great significance so much so that we need to reconcile before offering our gift at the altar. Note that when we end up in prison this is not Hell because we have the potential to be released after we have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,[e] you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister[i] has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny" (Mt 5:21-26).
Saved, but only as through fire: The reason that some traditions do not believe in purgatory is because they are ignoring the Biblical references having to do with purgatory. Their human traditions simply negate those parts of the Bible that they don’t agree with. For example, I was listening to an Evangelical minister on television who was reading 1 Corinthians and explaining each verse as he went along. When he got to 1 Corinthians chapter 3 verses 11 through 15, he went on without making reference to any of these verses. Why did he explain all of the other verses and not 11 through 15. Could it have been because these references make reference to a third place and it didn't fit with his tradition?
“For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage."
- But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor 3:11-15).
Please note what happens when the fire tests the work. If the work stands the person will receive a wage. Even though the person experiences loss through the fire and the works are burned up, the person is not in Hell. "The person will be saved".
For indeed our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29).
Why is this purging or testing by fire necessary? The answer is found in the book of Revelations. “But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies” (Rev 21:27-28). Once we realize that nothing unclean can enter Heaven, this final purging is necessary and merciful.
When did people stop believing in Purgatory?” Nadine asked, “Why do people believe in Purgatory?” Actually you are asking the wrong question. The question should be “When did people stop believing in the Biblical concept of purgatory?” This happened in the 16th century with an Augustinian Catholic priest by the name of Fr. Martin Luther. At the time of Fr. Luther's composition of 95 theses 1517, he believed in Purgatory and defended it. Many years later he vehemently rejected the concept of Purgatory.
Early Church Fathers believed in Purgatory: Purgatory was always believed in the Church and spoken of by the early Church Fathers. For Example Augustine in the in the 4th century said in part:
- "Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator [Mass] is offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church."
If you wish a comprehensive listing of quotes on Purgatory from the early Church Fathers, go to this address. http://www.churchfathers.org/category/salvation/purgatory/
With so much evidence of Purgatory in both the Old and New Testament, and the Early Church Fathers, this begs the question. Why do people today choose not to believe in Purgatory? They basically are unaware of, or ignore the verses in the Bible that have to do with Purgatory and they are unaware of what has been taught by the Early Fathers of the Church. People who reject Purgatory today are following Fr. Luther's rejection of it. His rejection of it was in effect a new man-made tradition.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, The final Purification or Purgatory 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.
C.S Lewis believed in Purgatory and wrote about it: Some non-Catholics, such as C.S. Lewis, also believed in purgatory. Walter Hooper was C.S Lewis secretary. Before that he was a member of Inter-varsity Christian fellowship. In 1963 Lewis asked Walter Hooper to stay in Oxford, move into his house and become his personal secretary. In 1974 he accepted it.
Hooper had this to say; “Lewis believed in purgatory. Many of his Protestant admirers preferred to keep this quiet, but Lewis couldn’t keep it quiet. And in his last book Letters to Malcolm, he brings it up.” "I believe in Purgatory. . . . Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not beak the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, "with submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleansed first.' "It may hurt, you know.'" Lewis seemed to understand that ultimately we must "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:47-48) and "nothing unclean will enter it [Heaven]" (Rev 21:27).
C.S Lewis had many admirers both Catholic and Protestant. Lewis is also responsible in part, for many Protestants coming into the Catholic Church. This is because Protestants in general are taught to mistrust Catholic sources. Lewis was not Catholic and extremely well respected among Catholics and non-Catholics alike and therefore considered safe by people who were not Catholic. He taught specifically Catholic notions such as Purgatory. Even though he never became Catholic, his writings were a helpful bridge to the Catholic faith for many.
What happens to non-Catholics who end up in Purgatory, but don't believe in the existence of Purgatory? The fact that someone chooses not to believe in something does not make it nonexistent. Padre Pio, the very famous Italian stigmatic was once challenged by an atheist. The atheist said, "I don't believe in Hell." Padre Pio responded, "you will when you get there?" Some of the people, who don't believe in Purgatory, are very condescending towards those people who do. Some of these same people who reject Purgatory will find themselves in the very place they didn't believe existed.
There is some bad news here. When people who do not believe in Purgatory end up there, the members of their families, who have not died, are not going to pray and make atonement for them because they were taught, in their tradition, that there is no atonement for sin even though the Bible says there is. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin (2 Macc 12:45).
Non-Catholics in Purgatory are prayed for at every Mass: And now for the good news, there will be people praying and making atonement for them in Purgatory. These people praying for them are called Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans and Catholics. These are Christian groups that do believe in Purgatory. This happens in a Catholic context at every daily and weekly Mass. "Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the Resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy; welcome them into the light of your face." Non-Catholics are prayed for every day; they are not left out.
The concept of purgatory is Biblical; there is evidence in both the Old and New Testaments and early Church Fathers. People who do not believe in Purgatory are unwittingly not following the Bible they profess to believe. They are in fact following an Augustinian Catholic priest by the name of Fr. Martin Luther who originally believed in Purgatory and later in life totally rejected it.
There are some who say that they follow the Bible alone and yet are following ONLY the parts of the Bible that seemingly fit with their tradition. If you talk to them about accountability or purging, they will claim that this is at odds with the Grace of Jesus on Calvary. They are simply not made aware of the verses that show there is an accounting, there is a purging and there is a fire that is in fact not Hell. We call it Purgatory! "But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor 3:11-15).
Easy Christianity rejects Purgatory; however, Biblical Christianity in 1 Corinthians says that suffering and loss through fire is necessary and it is tied into being saved.
Here is an interesting side note. A priest wrote and asked him [Hooper] to come and chat with the Pope (John Paul 2nd) about C.S. Lewis. According to Hooper, one of Lewis’s greatest fans is our present Pope. In a conversation, the Pope made reference to The Four Loves written by Lewis. And at the end of the conversation the Pope said, “C.S. Lewis knew what his apostolate was and did it.” Hooper came into the Church in 1988.
Purgatory Catechism of the Catholic Church:
III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY
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.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608
1032 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."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends alms giving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them. 611 Purgatory Catechism of the Catholic Church: III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY 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. 1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607 As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.6081032 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."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends alms giving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611