Monday July 24th 2017

Why Do Catholics Believe in Purgatory?

PURGATORY

Misconception: Catholic’s believe that Purgatory is a temporary hell where people are punished for their sins.

True Catholic Teaching: The Catholic Church believes that when a person dies his soul is judged. Heaven is reserved for those who are “perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). Souls in heaven rest in God’s presence for eternity. Hell is reserved for those who have rejected God. Souls in hell are completely cut off from God’s love for eternity. The majority of humans are in the middle of the road: not perfect, but not evil. The Catholic Church teaches that people who die with imperfections on their soul are rewarded with heaven, but first must undergo a time of purification before entering heaven. The time of purification is called Purgatory. Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:5-6: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.”
The Church’s teaching on Purgatory also creates much confusion among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Many view Purgatory as a type of temporary hell, or argue that there is no support in scripture for its existence. However, this mentality is not correct, and there is much proof in sacred scripture for the existence of Purgatory.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Purgatory as such:

“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. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” (Catechism 1030-1031)

There are two degrees of sin that affect the soul. Sin that kills the life of grace within a soul is labeled mortal sin. Sin that only injures or disfigures the soul is called venial sin. The Church professes that those who die without the least stain of sin or reparation due to sin, go directly to Heaven. Those who die with un-repented mortal sin on their soul, go directly to Hell. However, there are those who although in a state of grace, do have venial sin, or penance yet to be paid for forgiven sin on their soul. It is for those in the state of venial sin, or the “middle ground”, that Purgatory is intended.

Protestants often look at the doctrine of Purgatory as something cruel and unmerciful, that a loving God could not possibly impose. However, the very existence of Purgatory attests to God’s abounding mercy. God wants us to be with Him in Heaven in such a way that He would allow a time of purification and cleansing for the unperfected, so that we have the opportunity to be with Him.

There are many scriptural references that point to the existence of Purgatory. We see in scripture that God is perfect holiness. Isaiah 6:3 states “And one [seraphim] called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts”. In like manner, we are called to the same holiness. Matt. 5:48 – Jesus says, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Without perfect holiness, we cannot be in the presence of God. Revelation 21:27 says, “nothing unclean shall enter it [heaven]”. If we as God’s faithful are not in a state of perfect holiness we must undergo purification. In Luke 12:58-59 – Jesus teaches us, “If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

The tradition of praying for souls in Purgatory is a tradition that the Church has adopted, and is one that is revealed in scripture. 2 Maccabees 12: 42-45 says,

“And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the 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.”

We can see in this passage that praying for the deceased is beneficial because our prayers aid them in being delivered from their sins. Those in Heaven have no need for our prayers, and those in hell have no hope. Therefore, there must be a middle ground for those still seeking atonement for their earthly sins. We must all pray for the deceased, because our prayers expedite their time in Purgatory. When a soul is in Purgatory, he or she cannot pray for him or herself. Rather, the soul depends on the prayers of his or her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ still on earth, in order to quickly complete the purification process and fulfill their yearning for God.

Indulgences are also beneficial in eliminating one’s time in Purgatory. An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment of sin, whose guilt has already been forgiven. One gains indulgences under particular conditions, by prescription of the Church. There are two types of indulgences: plenary and partial. A plenary (complete) indulgence means the temporal punishment is totally cleansed. A partial indulgence means that some of the temporal punishment is cleansed. For example, both a plenary and partial indulgence is available for praying the rosary provided on completes the following:

• Be in a state of grace (free from mortal sin)
• Be free from attachment to venial sin.
• Go to confession several days before or after praying the Rosary.
• Receive Holy Communion on the day you pray the Rosary.
• Say a prayer for the Pope.
• Pray the rosary in a church or family group, or religious Community.
• Pray the five decades during one session
• Pray vocally, announcing the Mysteries of the Rosary and then meditating on them.
To gain a partial indulgence individuals may pray the rosary in whole or in part.

To understand Purgatory as a “temporary hell” is a serious error. Souls in hell have no hope of salvation. They suffer without an end in sight, or in other words, they suffer hopelessly. Purgatory on the other hand is full of hope. Those in Purgatory are assured of the reward of heaven. They suffer greatly, but they suffer with peace and joy because they know their purification is only bringing them closer to God, so they will soon be united with Him in heaven.

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12 Responses to “Why Do Catholics Believe in Purgatory?”

  1. CJ Savvy says:

    The doctrine of an eternally burning hell has caused more heartache, more confusion and led to more people rejecting Yahuwah than possibly any other single belief. Even sinful human beings recoil at the thought of a “justice” girl covering her face in despairthat demands a limitless eternity of anguish as punishment for the sins committed during a single lifetime.

    One Bible text that is widely used to support the idea of an eternally burning hell is found in Revelation:

    “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of [Elohim], which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:10, 11)

    The Old Testament uses the word “hell” thirty-one times. It is translated from the Hebrew word Sheol. Far from referring to a place of eternal fires, the word sheol simply referred to the place or condition of the dead:

    “Sheol is the abode of the dead, a place of degradation, the locality or condition of those who have died or have been destroyed. . . . It was not understood to be a place of punishment, but simply the ultimate resting place of all mankind (Gen 37:35). . . . . It is not used in one single passage for punishment after the resurrection.” (#7585, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words.)

    Overtones of eternal burning did not begin to influence the concept of “hell” until the New Testament was translated into Greek.

    “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29, 30)

    The word hell is translated ten times from the Greek word Hades which corresponds to Sheol as simply a place or condition of the lost.

    depiction of idol and child sacrificeEleven times, the word “hell” comes from gĕĕnna (gheh’-en-nah) , a reference to a Valley where the apostate Israelites offered child sacrifice. It is used figuratively “as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment.” (#1067, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words.)

    Scripture teaches that all who reject salvation and cling rebelliously to sin, will be punished by being burned. However, this must be understood in light of all that the Bible says about the punishment of the wicked.

    The accumulated weight of evidence in Scripture reveals that eternal death, not eternal life in torment, is the punishment awaiting all who reject salvation:

    “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of [Elohim] is eternal life through [Yahushua our Saviour].” (Romans 6:23)

    Thus, the “hell” referred to in Scripture has to do with the punishment received by the wicked which ends in their destruction.

    “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says Yahuwah of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out . . . You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” Says Yahuwah of hosts. (See Malachi 4:1-3.)

    Once the wicked have received just compensation for their sins, Yahuwah says they shall be burned up. When something is “burned up,” there is nothing left to burn.

    “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)

    Thus, the sentence of eternal death will be the ultimate punishment of the wicked who have spurned salvation.

    Evildoers shall be cut off; . . . For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more.

    . . . the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of [Yahuwah], Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away.

    Wait on [Yahuwah], And keep His way, And He shall exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, And spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found. (Psalm 37:9, 10, 20, 35-36, NKJV)

    In speaking of those who obstinately continue in their sins, Yahuwah states:

    “Behold they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame; it shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before! (Isaiah 47:14)

    After Yahushua’s Second Coming, Satan and his evil angels will be bound to this earth, in Revelation called “the bottomless pit”:

    “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.” (Revelation 20:1-3)

    For one thousand years, Satan and his angels are bound to this earth while the redeemed reign in Heaven with the Saviour:

    “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to [Yahushua] and for the word of [Elohim], who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with [Yahushua] a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of [Yah] and of [Yahushua], and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6)

    Hell Definitions in Hebrew and GreekAt the end of the millennium in Heaven, the wicked are raised to receive their punishment with Satan upon the earth. Satan will, once again for a short while, deceive the lost, leading them in battle against the New Jerusalem which Yah will bring down to earth:

    “Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth . . . to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from [Yah] out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone . . . and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:7-10)

    The English words “forever and ever” are translated from the Greek word aiōn. [ahee-ohn’] It means:

    “ ‘An age, era’ and signifies a period of indefinite duration, or time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period. The force attaching to the word is not so much that of the actual length of a period, but that of a period marked by spiritual or moral characteristics. . . . The phrases containing this word should not be rendered literally, but consistently with its sense of indefinite duration.” (#165, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words.)

    Simply because the phrase refers to an indefinite period of time, does not mean that the period of time extends forever without end. The Bible clearly reveals that the punishment of Satan and the lost WILL have an end, after which they shall be no more.

    “You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from you midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, and shall be no more forever.” (Ezekiel 28:18-19)

    Ashes do not burn. Rather, ashes are the by-product of something that has finished burning. It is this end, eternal death, to which Yahushua was referring when He stated:

    “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

    The Lake of Fire which at lasts destroys sin and sinners, destroys even death itself:

    “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before [Yah], and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12-15)

    The salvation of the human race from the power of death was the entire purpose behind the Saviour’s mission. Long before He was born as a babe, a prophetic voice declared of Him:

    “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!” (Hosea 12:14)

    The destruction of sin, Satan and even death itself has been the focus of faithful hearts ever since Adam and Eve first mourned over the death of Abel. The resurrected righteous will cry with joy:

    “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54, 55)

    The fires that destroy sin and sinners also purify the earth:

    “But the day of . . . [Yahuwah] will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

    The Creator will also be the re-Creator. Once the earth has been cleansed of every last trace of sin, Yahuwah will make a new Heavens and a new earth:

    “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and your years will have no end. (Psalm 102:25-27)

    “The fire that consumes the wicked purifies the earth. Every trace of the curse is swept away. No eternally burning hell will keep before the ransomed the fearful consequences of sin.

    One reminder alone remains: Our Redeemer will ever bear the marks of His crucifixion. Upon His wounded head, upon His side, His hands and feet, are the only traces of the cruel work that sin has wrought.” (E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 674.)

    This earth, the scene of so much misery, will pass away and a new earth will be the eternal abode of the redeemed.

    “We according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13)

    girl rejoicingThe joy of the saved will be the presence of Yahuwah Himself who, throughout the ceaseless cycles of eternity, will dwell with those who, through faith in the redeeming blood of the Lamb, have been saved from sin and eternal death.

    “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from [Yah], prepared as a bride for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of [Yah] is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. [Elohim] Himself will be with them and be their [Elohim]. And [Yahuwah] will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

    Yahwuah will never condemn any to an eternity of agony. His punishment of His enemies is just, not vindictive.

    For Yah so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For Yah sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. (See John 3:16-17.)

    Rest in the knowledge of the Heavenly Father’s love for you. He will save all who come to Him in faith.

  2. Roger says:

    I just don’t get it. No disrespect and everyone is entitled to their beliefs. I am a Christian and I have often wondered about the Catholic religion. Forgive me if I take anything out of context with my reply. Reading this it seems that anyone that is not “Perfect” will go to purgatory to be cleansed before going to Heaven. So wouldn’t that be all of us? Jesus died for us and forgave us of our sins. Jesus knew we are not perfect and we will sin. We are not perfect without His mercy, without His sacrifice we would be doomed. He did this for us, a free gift of eternal life. All we need to do is confess to God and acknowledge Jesus died for us and accept that faithfully and whole heartily. We will be welcomed to Heaven to be with our Father. We will always commit sin no matter how Godly we want to be. We will never be Perfect because there is only one that is perfect and that is our God. We strive to be like Him but we will fail, that is why He sent his Son to die for us. Another question I have is why confess to a man(priest)? I go to God and confess my sins, He knows what I have done and he knows if I am sincere in my heart when I go to Him and ask for forgiveness. For a priest to tell me to say Hail Marys and to do something in order to be forgiven???? Doesn’t it say that I am forgiven of all my sins when I go before God and ask for His mercy and forgiveness????

  3. Roger says:

    This is a good point on purgatory. This was taken from the website gotquestions

    Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins (Romans 5:8). Isaiah 53:5 declares, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Jesus suffered for our sins so that we could be delivered from suffering. To say that we must also suffer for our sins is to say that Jesus’ suffering was insufficient. To say that we must atone for our sins by cleansing in Purgatory is to deny the sufficiency of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus (1 John 2:2). The idea that we have to suffer for our sins after death is contrary to everything the Bible says about salvation.

  4. Roger says:

    For believers, after death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). Notice that this does not say “away from the body, in Purgatory with the cleansing fire.” No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord’s presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.

  5. Eric says:

    I struggle in trying to figure out why Catholics believe in purgatory. Heaven is paradise. Because there is a form of suffering in purgatory, it is not a place of paradise. On the cross, Jesus told the believing thief along side of Him, “surely, today I will see you in paradise.” In the Catholic’s view, what was Jesus saying here? All respect for my brothers and sisters in Christ is intended here…

  6. Daniel Joseph says:

    Eric, Purgatory is not Heaven, it is a another dimension separate from Hell and Heaven. If the Earth is unpure and Heaven is the purest state, than there must be a medium in which the unpure sinners who are saved by Jesus are “refined” into pure beings. Read Zachariah 13:9

  7. Evan Smith says:

    hi I am very interested in this teaching and trying to understand it. I was brought up in a Presbyterian family and at 14 I got confirmed in the Anglican Church and have been very interested in the tradition of the Catholic faith and want to know more.

    Is it right to understand Purgatory as resting place for the soul to be purified for the presence of God? This is to remove our unrepentant personal/moral sin!? Now within the teaching of Purgatory, where dose Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice come into it? What is the relationship to the salvation of Jesus and our Baptism and the need for purgatory/intermediate state?

    Would it be the case that the saving grace of Jesus has paid the dept of the first sin of Adam, our inherited sin, and that we are made righteous before God because of the blood of Christ in that instance but we still are sin full and fall short and need to confess and repent. Purgatory would be the cleansing of our personal sin and falling short. Kind of like a form of deep cleanse, repentance and confession of the soul.

    Your advice and answers would be greatly welcome. Thanks.

  8. Rosemarie says:

    Evan, as a very life-long Catholic, I think this article explains Purgatory very well. Yet it seems that some folks, including some Catholics, have difficulty understanding Purgatory. I can appreciate that, so I will try to explain in my different way.

    After reading the article’s explanation, at this point, I ask: even though we confess our sins with sincere sorrow and make some kind of retrubution, how many of us really believe that our souls are so thoroughly cleansed from every stain of sin at the moment of death, that we are totally WORTHY enough to enter Heaven immediately?

    A very MUNDANE example: when we wash dishes, we think that we did a thorough job. We put the items in the dish drainer. But sometimes when we are drying the dishes, we notice a stain on a glass or cup, etc.

    However, before we finally put the glass or cup in the cabinet, we wash the item again….because we do not want any totally unclean items in our cabinets.

    So we have Purgatory to cleanse any stain of sin on our souls before we can enter Heaven.

  9. Bianca says:

    And I agree with Roger. Wasn’t Christ’s work on the cross sufficient to wipe away all our sins? We all know that by believing in Christ we are made alive. We’re new creatures whose sins have been forgiven (past, present and future). By truly believing in Christ, our very nature changes; we, who loved wallowing in sin, now hate it! Of course, being in this flesh we do fall at times. It is because sin dwells in our bodies ( see Romans 6-8). This is why no one can enter heaven in their earthly bodies. Even Paul recognizes this fact: ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ But once our souls are saved, we will definitely go to heaven when we die. Jesus said “It is finished” at the cross, and that says it all; His saving work was done. All that is left is for people to believe in it. No one can add to this wonderful, amazing, blessed reality and say that it (by itself) was insufficient.

  10. Carl says:

    The Catholic Church’s belief in purgatory is based on tradition, NOT on the Bible. The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, Vol. XI, p. 1034) acknowledges: “In the final analysis, the Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture.”

  11. Emily Croft says:

    according to the Bible, “being saved” is not a one time event, but rather, an ongoing process. Think of your salvation journey as an airplane trip- “I have been on the airplane since I first got on (baptism), I am now traveling on the airplane (enduring the sufferings of life for Christ), and I will be on the airplane when it lands at my final destination (death and heaven)!”

    In the above analogy, keep in mind that the airplane can crash at any time, and you can lose your salvation. This “flies” in the face of what many protestant pastors preach – The doctrine of “once saved, always saved”. The Bible does not preach that doctrine; in fact, it even says in 2 Peter 2:20 :

    “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

    In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says the following about the possibility of even himself losing his salvation:

    “but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

    In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul warns us all about smug overconfidence regarding our salvation:

    “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

    If “once saved, always saved” was a true biblical doctrine, then why would the Bible say just the opposite? Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” in Philippians 2:12, which really implies that no one is truly saved until they die and are safely in God’s hands. (from catholicbible101.com)

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