Purgatory: Does it exist?
There are logical issues that have not yet been addressed in Michael’s excellent post on the definition of Purgatory as taught by the Roman Catholic Church. I commend him on a well thought out and positive approach to this debate.
I must begin, however, to say that any reference or teaching of 1 Cor 3:12-15 that instructs a believer that he or she must be purified after death has lost the context of the passage. Let’s begin by reviewing what is transpiring immediately before it:
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Reading this first, then v.12-15, one can more easily surmise that the purification is done to the “works” added to the foundation, not the workers. What was modified or added to the original foundation will be purified and refined and “tried”.
”If some of our works were of unsatisfactory nature they will be burnt away and we will suffer because of that loss.”
This is only a half-truth as “the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” It is a given that men can and have added to the foundation, but it is this “work” of the leaders/planters that is tried. Not the men themselves. (We can see this in greater detail in point 3 below.)
It is the Protestant position that to be saved “as if by fire” is then the greater or lesser amount of rewards or crowns received and not actual penance or punishment.
Logical questions not easily answered by the RCC doctrine:
1) How is the punishment phase of purgatory to be carried out? And when?
If our bodies are not yet re-materialized (as Jesus’ body was, so ours is will be), what punishment is there to be dealt in purgatory as we are but mere souls or spirits? What is the penance during this time of body-less-ness?
And considering 1Thess 4:16-17, “… and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them …” What of purgatory for those included here? Are they exempt? What “spatial” time event would have to occur for them to be “tried” and “cleansed” if they will “always be with the Lord” when this transpires?
There seems little or time for this to occur. And if it does occur, it would have to be somewhere “in the blink of an eye.” Certainly, it couldn’t transpire “after” the resurrection of the Saints since we would then be whole and there is no Scripture or even RCC doctrine that puts Purgatory “after” the resurrection.
Time and place just don’t allow for Purgatory if Scripture is to be warranted.
2) What of redemption? This word is not found in the teachings of Purgatory.
Gal. 4:5 “[God sent forth His Son] … to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Redemption is defined as like being “purchased out of the marketplace.” Christ paid the ransom and therefore we have been redeemed. (Amen!)
Purgatory, however, teaches that punishment is marked for those whom Christ has already paid the ransom for. The Protestant, correctly argues, that any “punishment” or “penance” due after death was paid for (redeemed) on the Cross of Calvary. And any “discipline” due while alive is from a loving Father wanting to teach His child to be better. “Why then,” the Protestant would ask, “would there be a need for discipline after death?”
Rom 8:1 “For there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus …”
Gal. 5:24 “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Heb. 10:12-14 “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, … For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified? How damaging to the RCC doctrine. Doesn’t the idea of Purgatory teach that we are “offering additional sacrifices or penance” before we are perfected? A clear contradiction to these verses.
3) Did we not already die with Christ on the cross? And what of His blood?
Rom 6:4 “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, …”
Rom 6:6 “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”
Rom 6:7 “For he who has died has been freed from sin.”
The Protestant sees this as a strong refutation of the doctrine of Purgatory, since we are united with Christ in his crucifixion and baptism, and ultimately His resurrection. He/she believes that being “freed from sin” means also freed from the “punishment” or “penance” of it as well as “our old man was [already] crucified with Him.”
Heb 9:14 “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
1John 1:7 “… and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Purgatory (including penance) does not seem to address the cleansing power of the blood of Christ given just these two verses. Even a cursory glance at “cleansing” reveals a freeing us from, or covering, or washing them away, etc. If so, then there is no room in the Christian’s doctrine for a time (however short or long) to be in a state of purgatory since there is no reason for it due to the “cleansing” power of the “blood of the Lamb.”
4) What of Christ’s intercessory work on our behalf?
Rom 8:34 “[It is Christ] … who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Jesus is our Mediator and High Priest making intercession for us to God. This, by the way, nullifies and moots the positions of priests, bishops, and popes here on earth as they might serve as mediators between us and God.
That aside, the Protestant sees the combination of the Intercessor and the Blood cleansing power a strong argument against the “need” for penance and Purgatory after death.
5) Why does Paul think to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord? Is this for Paul only?
2 Cor 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
Phil 1:23 “I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
The Protestant position is that there is no middle location for the soul to go between physical death and our being in the presence of Jesus. Our doctrine teaches it is “immediate.” There is, of course, a separation of time between that moment and when “the dead in Christ shall rise.” But, again our souls are with Christ and not separated from Him until some amount of penance is complete.
I will put this forth to the masses as my beginning rebuttal and not yet deal with the RCC teachings of offering penance for the dead and praying to the dead Saints … though they are closely related to the subject. I feel there will be time in the future to deal more directly with these RCC doctrines.
However, one cannot continue to uphold the teachings of the Maccabees if Purgatory cannot scripturally hold its ground.
Lastly, do not mistake my post to teach we are not bound to confess our sins. This is clear and agreed upon doctrine. Yet, these confessions are working toward our earthly sanctification being “set apart” from the world as children of God who know we are in error and in need of forgiveness.
Grace and peace to all,
Grace and peace to all,