Catholic view of Purgatory ... Is it real?

PastorDaveSallee's picture
DanFugett's picture

Reply to site and ML

I am not ignoring a reply and look forward to continuing this debate. The day after Thanksgiving I had an intense coughing spell followed by shortness of breath and tightening in the chest. Sunday night I figured out something not quite right was going on other than my lungs just reacting to the cold. So a quick trip to the ER led to an EKG hook up and two stints. The right coronary artery was blocked 2 places 98% and might have been a massive coronary had they not caught it. Then yesterday, probably as a result of the intense and continued coughing I ruptured some blood vessels in my eye, and detached part of the vitrious sac from the retina. Today, I am partly unable to see from my right eye.

Having said that, and in keeping with my understanding of the rules of this debate, I am not limiting myself to prior postings of the debate answered and counter-answered by the participants for and against the existence of purgatory. I respectfully offer my points of debate and welcome comments and clarification. Admitedly much of my purpose in being here is to understand how a group so different to my way of thinking can gain comfort in what seems to me, to be such ambiguity. I take comfort in knowing my soul rests ENTIRELY on Jesus finished work and wonder how the RCC system of theology creates any comfort when you dont know when you will get to see Him. That doesnt make the argument for or against purgatory right or wrong. I offer this insight as an explantion why I am here. I realize we wont change each other's opinion in a 1000 years, and that isnt my goal. I offer these points as a place to meet in discussion that may bring some conflict but that is worth it if we gain understanding of each other. In this respectful offering of my opinion, I realize it is impossible to discuss purgatory without touching on the large differences between what salvation and the authority of scripture mean between our respective systems; and offer this post in keeping with what I think are the rules of posting here.

First, I have looked at the scriptures used to support purgatory, apart from the extra-Biblical interpretation which builds on the interpretation of yet others. The pope and Catholic catechism quote from Aquinas who comments from Augustine, etc. But when all is said and done, there is nothing that demonstrates the existence of purgatory from the plain exegesis of scripture.

Here are some of the scriptures used.

Psalm 66:12 (NIV)
12 You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.

To use this scripture to support the notion of purgatory goes against all principles of proper hermeneutics. This passage talks about the nation of Israel suffering the consequences of their rebellion on this earth, and that afterwards they will return to the temple. Are there natural consequences for rebellion, particularly in a theocracy? Yes. This has nothing to do with having to suffer upon death while impurities are burned out to make us worthy of heaven. When we die, we go to Heaven or Hell on the basis of a right relationship with Christ based on grace through faith alone (Eph 2:8). Those are the two options. This is difficult to debate because the absurdity is added that purgatory is not a place and not tied to time. Yet, the scripture is plain: when a believe dies, he/she goes to heaven, period 2 Cor 5:6-8, believers are either in the body or with the Lord. This passage goes on to discuss the judgement the believer goes through: the Judgement Seat of Christ, where rewards are given or lost but salvation is already secured by God's grace through faith alone. What RCC calls satisfaction or purgation is just another work to please God Who is entirely already pleased with the work of Christ, and whose work we cant and dont need to add anything to from extrabiblical category of sin.

Isaiah 4:4 (NIV)
4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire.

And the Branch of the Lord did, ultimately, when the suffering Servant suffered in their place. In the OT, faith looked forward to Jesus to take all sins away, along with any and all spiritual consquences associated therewith. In Isa 53, Jesus cleanses the bloodstains with His own blood. All people, who havent accepted that sacrifice by faith (Jn 3:16-17) are still going to have to pay for the blood they have shed. Those who shed blood may still face human concequences. BUT Jesus paid all that needs done for God's satisfaction. Whether it is stealing a candy bar or being a mass murderer, Jesus blood covered it all. Resitution is something I morally owe my neighbor but the efficacy of Christ's atonement isnt impacted if I cant perform that restitution now. There is no justification from scriptures like this that I will have to pay that restitution at some point.

Isaiah 6:5-7 (NIV)
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Atonement was declared by God in this passage. Why? Because Isaiah looked forward by faith to the cross of Christ of whom the Law and the Prophets prophesy (Romans 3:21). Faith in Christ's work at calvary brought salvation to the OT believer, and brings it to us as well. He was not made any more or less acceptable by obedience to the law because entire justification is based on faith and always has been. What RCC teaches in the concept of some actions that require we pay for them ourselves, driving a wedge between sins Jesus paid for and those He didnt, and thus a wedge between us and God which we must atone for. Thus making His sacrifice partially dependent on our suffering to the finish the work of satisfaction. This concept is totally foreign to scripture.

Malachi 3:1-4 (NIV)
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

John the Baptist is referred to in the first part of this. The other part of this is eschatological and future oriented. OT prophetic passages often do not mention the time of the Gentiles or the Church age. John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ. In the future, Jesus will come again and Isreal will have its rightful place. For now, there is no other name under Heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. Jesus is the only way, for the Jew and for the Gentile.

Matthew 5:25-26 (NIV)
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. says
The word “opponent” (antidiko) is likely a reference to the devil (see the same word for devil in 1 Pet. 5:8) who is an accuser against man (c.f. Job 1.6-12; Zech. 3.1; Rev. 12.10), and God is the judge. If we have not adequately dealt with satan and sin in this life, we will be held in a temporary state called a prison, and we won’t get out until we have satisfied our entire debt to God. This “prison” is purgatory where we will not get out until the last penny is paid.

dan says: The entire portion of Matt 5:21-26 is Jesus Sermon on the Mount dealing with His version of Do not Murder. The opponent is someone who could win in a lawsuit against me, and the judge is just that. We shouldnt expect any mercy from the legal system because we are Christians even though that does sometimes happen. People get out of jail early all the time. There is no reason to read more into this than what is here face value. Christ considers our obligation to each other to be such that we need to clear matters up with each other before offering gifts to God and way before the law gets involved.

Jesus says nothing that implies the believer will or will not be immediately present with the Lord upon leaving this body on the basis of whether the person is in debtor's prison or not. Romans 12:12ff says essentially the same thing: as much as it depends on you, live peacably with all men, etc. Dont read too much into this. It is a far stretch of imagination to get what scripturecatholic gets from this passage.

Luke 12:58-59 (NIV)
58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Same as above

Matthew 12:32 (NIV)
32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Catholicscipture says The phrase “in the next” (from the Greek “en to mellonti”) generally refers to the afterlife (see, for example, Mark 10.30; Luke 18.30; 20.34-35; Eph. 1.21 for similar language). Forgiveness is not necessary in heaven, and there is no forgiveness in hell. This proves that there is another state after death, and the Church for 2,000 years has called this state purgatory.

Dan says - actually I dont see the term purgatory until late in the game. Please demonstrate this term in the first 5 centuries of the church. The burden of proof is on those professing the existence of purgatory so demonstrate its 2000 year existence. Also, the fact Jesus says the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in the age to come: now or in eternity. It takes a considerable leap of imagination to get purgatory from this scripture.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NIV)
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Any sin (sin is sin) that is done in the light that it is sin needs to be confessed to God Who forgives (1 John 1:7, 9) because the blood of Christ washes it away. No other purgation or satisfaction is needed or required by God. My final purification happens when I see Him as He is face to face (1 Cor 13), when I breathe my last breath on earth. I simply don’t worry about sins I commit that I am unaware of at that time, and there is no additional step I need to perform to satisfy God in the matter. It is covered, entirely, by the sacrifice of Christ. I see no scriptural basis for accountability to God for actions I dont realize are sin at that time which doesnt say that wont be brought to cognition later in this life calling for repentance. We don’t need to lay awake at night, racking our heads and hearts to remember everything and repent, or to confess to some human being and gain absolution. Unknown sin is covered. Further, restitution is between the believer and his/her fellow man, not a person and His God. Resitution isnt something we owe God. All that I owe God is faith in response to His offered Gift. Obedience comes as a result of true faith, and that obedience is a fruit that salvation exists. It does not coexist as a requirement to being right with God which is absolute. That is, I am either right with Him or I am not.

"Expiation by purgatory" makes it a work and Eph 2:8 clearly establishes salvation by grace through faith alone. The entire book of Romans establishes the idea of salvation by grace through faith alone apart from works and apart from law. Law is not just the 10 commandments or OT law. We are not under law that says, for example, one type of gluttony is a mortal sin and another type is a venial sin ... Aquinas has a list of laws which following wouldnt make us righteous in any sense. That is Aquinas but it isnt scripture. Sin, is purged from the believer the moment confession is made to God from a contrite heart which of course implies that individual wont be making a life time of performing that particular sin intentionally. Unknown sin is adressed because my perfection isnt the measure, and neither is my cleanness. I am still behaviorally a sinner (1 Jn The difference is continued willful and habitual sin causes the soul to lose right standing with God rather than create some scenario where the individual goes to Heaven via a cleansing. It’s Heaven or Hell, and that is it: Door A or Christ (the Door - Door C). A person in right standing with God is in the Hand of God now and into eternity, nothing can separate us from that Love, even for a moment. If I am right enough to live with God in eternity then I will not leave His Hand from not unto eternity either.

In short, none of these scriptures or the others contained in scripturecatholic, provide a reasonable simple explanaiton supporting purgatory. Further, taking each of these scriptures in their grammatic and historical context, each carries a meaning that has nothing to do with the idea of purgatorial fires, or purgatory or the need to satisfy God before we see Him face to face, apart from the satisfaction by faith alone in the finsihed work of Christ. If they dont add up singly to support purgatory, and I dont think the RCC proves its argument, then they dont add up to something else collectively, with respect. Essentially, I dont think the debate thusfar has supported the existence of purgatory from the standpoint of our rules of debate. USing scripture as proof and others as witness has not clearly and simply demonstrated the existence of purgatory in any sense.

Additionally, a truly repentant heart will want to make restitution to those hurt by sin, which is a responsibility between that believer and the person he/she hurt. In no way does scripture speak to temporatl punishment, or any suffering, for restitution not performed here on earth. Restitution is a civic responsibility that is a natural outgrowth of true repentance but has no impact on living forever in God’s presence when we die. The presence of unfinished work doesnt slow down when we see Him upon leaving this life because the basis to life with God for eternity is the same as the basis to see Him face to face upon death: faith in Christ's saving grace. The believer is not under God’s wrath or punishment for failure to perform restitution of each act that morally requires it. God’s justice is not the same as moral demands. Morality demands punishment and so does God’s justice. Jesus took the punishment from God for all my sins, and that is distinct from earthly consequences morality demands. I will meet God face to face, because of faith in Jesus finished work, whether all restitution to people has been performed here on earth or not. The test of true repentance is turning from sin to God, and an honest desire to pay back to the person I hurt isnt an indicator of whether my repentance is sincere or whether God forgave me. This is just a subtle attempt to make people moral, which doesnt make one right with God. That just amounts to earning one's salvation.

Second, simply put, the doctrine of purgatory drives a wedge between the believer and the completed saving work of Christ. No matter how one chooses the wording, the result is the same. Jesus work is either sufficient for all my sins or it isnt sufficient at all. Jesus blood cleanses from ALL sin or it cleanses from None.

Of course, the extra-biblical idea of purgatory is futher built on the extra-biblical idea of sins being split into two kind: mortal and venial. Further, it seems totally illogical to argue the existence of purgatory from the standpoint of a "thing" that doesnt exist in time and space, and make the argument heaven doesnt exist in time and space. If Paul is present with the Lord when absent from the body, that IS time and space. A God who says I AM is here in time and space.

Catholic catechism online says
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. 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:

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.

Dan says, the Bible speaks of philosophy of the world. I wonder whether teaching there are degrees of sins falls into that category, and is related to the notion of purgatory. Also, the statement that something wont happen in eternity does not support the notion that it could happen in eternity or the age to come. Fire, apart from God, is Hell and the believer wont see that in any sense.

Catholic catechismn online says
1498 Through indulgences the faithful can obtain the remission of temporal punishment resulting from sin for themselves and also for the souls in Purgatory

Dan says, No proof offered demonstrating existence of temporal punishment by God vs eartly consquences of sis. RCC claims this has nothing to do with or to obscure the work of Christ. Actually, the doctrine of purgatory is consistent with a philosophical system that teaches the extra-biblical notion of venial vs mortal sins coupled with the extra biblical notion of salvation by grace through faith and works. However, both are foreign to Eph 2:8 and pretty much the whole book of Romans. Further, the concept that anyone can impact the soul of another in the afterlife, apart from Jesus work, diminishes Jesus by putting the spotlight on the person doing the work or paying all the money. The problem with indulgence, another extrabiblical concept built on tradition and works, is people paying to get someone into heaven sooner by reducing the punishment from sin ... by works not by the completed work of Christ.

Catholic catechism online says
1475 In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.

Jesus is the propitiation and expiation for ANY and ALL our sins.

ἱλασμός, οῦ m; ἱλαστήριονa, ου n: the means by which sins are forgiven—‘the means of forgiveness, expiation.’
ἱλασμός: αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ‘(Christ) himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven’ 1 Jn 2.2.
ἱλαστήριονa : ὃν προέθετο ὁ θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ τῆς πίστεως ‘God offered him as a means by which sins are forgiven through faith (in him)’ Ro 3.25
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996, c1989). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (1:503). New York: United Bible societies.

Again, what the RCC doctrine of degrees of sins does coupled with faith + works coupled with Bible + extra-biblical authority leads to a theological system that confuses people about God's requirements (salvation by grace through faith alone Eph 2:8) and where we stand with God (believer separated from God while purgatorial works accomplished - believer not in God's hand and is the object of cleansing wrath at same time so believer is separated from love of God by death contra to Ro 8:38). Thr result (not motive ... I am not accusing anyone's motive) is to make the believer dependant on the hierarchy of the RCC where Christ intended Himself to be the the object and source of that belief.

In Christ,

Dan Fugett, Sr Moderator