Catholic view of Purgatory ... Is it real?

PastorDaveSallee's picture
PastorDaveSallee's picture

Purgatory not yet convincing

Michael wrote –
I think you misunderstand the process of purification. When you purify something, like gold you apply heat and the dross (the impurities are burnt away) the dross is not purified, the stuff that remains is purified. The works that are dross are burnt away, that which remains is what was purified.

I have no problem with your definition of purification. Yet, my point still stands, it is the “works” that goes into the pot for purification and what is “not the foundation” is the dross. This verse does not say the Man is purified, it says the man’s “works” are.

So too in verse 15 of your original quote: “If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

Michael wrote –
No the verse does not say that it is the leaders planters work which is tried, it says every man's work is tried. Nice try! :) (do you like the pun?) But the verse just does not say that.

(I like the pun.) However, it IS the leaders/planters to whom Paul is referring to when he speaks of ‘adding to the foundation’ and ‘be careful’, so my interpretation is sound. Every man who adds to the foundation of what has been taught.

v.10 “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.”

Who then is Paul talking about if not the men who “build” upon the foundation? The widow? The nursery worker? No. He’s talking to “foundation builders” and last time I checked that meant the leaders/planters.

Again, my point still stands on this verse. It is not the “man” being purified, it’s the “man’s works” upon the foundation. So again, the foundation plus the building upon it is what is purified.

Michael wrote –
So to receive crowns we will suffer loss? That makes no sense. The verse says we SUFFER loss, sounds like punishment to me.

The Protestant position, to which I agree, is that SUFFER LOSS here means we lose a crown. You are implying (I think) that the Protestant position has no room for judgment after death. This is inaccurate for we are fully aware of the Great White Throne Judgment for the lost, and the Judgment Seat of Christ for the believers. I think it might be difficult to rule out the word “punishment” accept to say that we view it as God’s righteousness to not give us something we could have had.

However, there is still no penance involved here. This verse does not say there is room to make up the loss in Purgatory … or even in the Refiner’s fire. So to continue to use this section of verses seems to me to hurt the RCC position rather than help it.

Michael wrote –
Those who suffer in hell are also mere souls or spirits, but we know they suffer. So just because we cannot imagine how that happens does not mean that it does not.

So now your eschatology is failing you. Those in hell will have resurrected bodies too so they will not be mere souls:

John 5:28-29 [Jesus said] “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

Furthermore, Hell, as a lake of fire, will not be opened until the Great White Throne Judgment.

The point you were refuting, then, still stands. If Hell is “the lake of fire” and that is after the Great White Throne Judgment, which is after the Resurrection, then the lost are more than spirit and can feel punishment (wailing and gnashing of teeth), but what of us in our spirit before the resurrection? I don’t think you answered that one completely.

Michael wrote –
The dead who rise first, are the first to receive their glorified bodies, they have already been through purgatory and have spiritually been with God while their bodies remained in the earth.

I know, I was asking about those “who are alive and remain.” I understand the RCC position to be that those who “are dead in Christ” will have already gone through Purgatory. Answer the question for those “who are alive and remain” please.

Michael wrote –
No it occurs after the individuals death and it occurs outside of time, since that is where God exists.

So, we are agreed then that Purgatory (if a timeline could be used) would happen after physical death, and before the resurrection. And yet, you say purgatory would happen “where God exists” and that is “outside of time.” Thinking about your general argument, wouldn’t then Purgatory have to happen “within time” as the point of it is to become perfected before we enter the presence of God?

You might want to bolster that answer up a bit.

Michael wrote-
Purgatory is not a time or place, it is a state of existence, just like hell. God and the spiritual realm are outside our puny notions of time and space.

I’ve already mentioned that Hell, as an existence, doesn’t exist until the Great White Throne Judgment, and that is after the 2nd Coming. So, “time” has to be a factor here. Those who are dead and lost are not yet in Hell. So puny or not, God will work within the laws of nature He created and wrote about. Nice try for you. :)

Michael wrote –
That is because Purgatory does not have anything to do with redemption. Only those who are already redeemed and have accepted Christ go through Purgatory. But redemption only means we will not suffer death of the soul by condemnation to hell. Those who face purgatory are going to heaven, because they built upon the foundation of Christ.

No. Redemption means that we were “bought at a price.” What price? The Sacrifice of the sinless Son of God. Redemption means that whatever price was necessary to be paid for us to enter the kingdom of heaven has already been paid.

I understand the RCC doctrine that only “believers” will go through it. But, stating that does not prove any point you might be trying to make about redemption.

Michael wrote –
We have been redeemed from death, the punishment of damnation. This has nothing to do with purgatory. We were not redeemed from the obligation to make it up to people or God when we sin against them. We are forgiven but we still have to make restitution.

Yes it does! Redemption has virtually everything to do with countering the idea of purgatory. If Christ already paid the ransom price, the price necessary to “Justify” (we’ll get to that word later) the believer, then yes, we have been “declared righteous” and are not under any spiritual obligation to make restitution. (we will, of course, experience guilt and prodding by the Holy Spirit to ask forgiveness and offer something of penance to the afflicted if He indeed dwells within us)

Rom 8:30 “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

We are then glorified because we were justified. When? At conversion. And it remains a constant state of existence.

Additionally, the Protestant defines “death” as “separated from God.” We do this because of the reference in Revelation that calls the action of those who are lost being thrown into the lake of fire “the 2nd death.” (Rev 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8). The 1st death is the physical death caused by the Fall of Adam. The believer will only experience that one.

So, when you equate death with the punishment of damnation, you are in error. Death is caused by the Fall of Adam, the second death is the punishment of damnation. The believer is then “redeemed” from the second death.

My point then stands firm that redemption has everything to do with whether or not Purgatory is real.

Michael wrote –
A metaphor that is used in many Catholic books is the idea of a son who breaks a window with a baseball. If he comes and says he is sorry the father will forgive him, but will still make him pay for the window. That is what is meant by temporal punishment. Punishment that is unrelated to eternal death of the soul.

A better version of the story of the son who broke the window would be to apply today’s law … where the Father must pay restitution for the broken window. And our Heavenly Father has by His offered sacrifice of His only Son. This is a poor example, for yes, I would want to teach my son a lesson, and thereby discipline him; but, ultimately I am responsible for paying the cost of anything he may break. What if he broke my car window? I might make him work it off somehow, but I’m taking it to the dealer to get it fixed. I can’t sue him, or even put him to work because he’s not old enough to work.

Redemption doesn’t mean it’s God responsibility to pay for my sins, it means that through Christ’s death on the cross, that debt has already been paid.

Michael wrote –
You are confusing the price paid by Christ for our eternal punishment, the loss of spiritual life, with the idea of temporal punishment, which is a making right with our fellow man as part of a true repentance. Christ's sacrifice did not make it so that as we sin in our lives that we never have to worry about making restitution after we have injured another. So we indeed to face punishment and if we do not pay it here we will be asked to pay it in the next life.

I believe the RCC position is confused here. I am not confusing what Christ’s FULL work on the cross was with “eternal punishment.” For Christ’s work was FULL, not PARTIAL. He either paid the price for all of my sins, or he only made the way for my sins to be paid for … and makes me do it. I trust the Protestant position is more Scripturally supported.

Michael wrote –
Not damaging at all because once again you miss the point of purgatory. Purgatory is not about avoiding condemnation, remember those being discussed have built upon the foundation of Christ, they are saved. It is about the completion of the act of sanctification. All through our lives, with the help of the grace of God we more and more become sanctified, making ourselves more and more a vessel of honor for the Lord's use. But most (if any) never become perfect vessels, and so we have our works tested by fire and those which were not satisfactory are burnt away, sanctifying us further.

And once again you come close to breaking the rules of this post. You just argued the “point of purgatory” against Heb 10:14 “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” Where is your Scripture counterpoint? I’m hoping to see, in Scripture, how you can defend against “He has perfected forever” with a verse like “but you must be tried first.” Something, anything beyond rhetoric would be accepted.

Also, “completing the act of sanctification” is not the work of man. It is the work and will of God using both the Redemption of our souls due to the cross, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like God did with Israel in Num 8:17 “"For every firstborn among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the men and among the animals; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself.” So too, He does for us as in 1Cor 6:11 “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

And, I don’t know if I should mention your words, and so we have our works tested by fire (but I will). Seems to me you’re getting on board with the “works” being tested, not the “man.” I could be wrong.

Michael wrote –
Note one must be careful not to take the last verse here too literally as we are clearly not perfect, as then there would be no need for being in the process of being sanctified as the very same verse refers to us as.

Agreed. We are not perfect in body. And even my proclamations thus far might lead one to think I’m professing perfection. I am not. And I appreciate your taking time to mention it here.

Michael wrote –
Rom 8:1 is talking about there being no chance of eternal punishment (spiritual death/condemnation) for those who accept Christ. Purgatory is not about eternal punishment it is about temporal punishment – making restitution as part of a true repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Understood. Your point is clear, however, I think “no condemnation” means “no condemnation at all.” Not just in death, but also in a required penance. If I’m right, there is no need for Purgatory then.

Michael wrote –
Gal 5:24 is about how our sinful nature is gone once we accept Christ and that through the assistance of God's grace we can resist sin so that we are not its slave. It does not mean we will never sin again, only that it will not be a central part of our lives and that if we repent of it we can be forgiven.

Agreed. It does not mean we will never sin again and it is no longer a central part of our lives. However, it does not mean that “our sinful nature is gone” as you said at first. It means that our flesh was crucified with Christ. Our “old man” and all the sins that he has done or will do, otherwise “crucified” should have been written as “only once crucified upon conversion, the rest is not crucified”.

Michael wrote –
Heb 10:12-14 is about Christ's sacrifice making us son's of God when we are Baptized (washed with the blood) and receive the grace of God to purify us. But we, in most cases go on to lead our lives after Baptism and we sin and reduce that purity and that is why we must repent and seek forgiveness, which is all part of the process of sanctification.

What? Where do you get baptism out of this verse? And let’s pull in verse 10 of the same passage, shall we? V.10 “By this will we have been (S)sanctified through (T)the offering of (U)the body of Jesus Christ (V)once for all.” Does the RCC wish to add to the offering of the body … trial by fire in Purgatory? This verse clearly says only “the body of Jesus” and it says “once for all.” Nothing about baptism in this or verses 10-14.

And again, sanctification is God’s work in us, not our works toward Him.

Michael wrote –
I agree we are "freed from sin" in the sense that we are freed from the punishment of sin – but this refers to a specific form of punishment - the eternal punishment of sin (meaning spiritual death). But purgatory does not address that issue, remember purgatory is addressing those who are saved.

Purgatory addresses the issue of temporal punishment, which is what Catholics call the need to provide restitution to those we have sinned against. The Bible clearly tells us that in order to be truly repentant we must make amends. I mean we cannot repent for stealing something and then keep what we have stolen. We cannot truly repent of lying to someone and not tell the truth keeping up the charade so as to not be found out. This is the temporal punishment at issue with regards to the dead works being purged away in 1 Cor.

I’m fine with this as a retelling of your doctrine, yet you are offering no additional support via Scripture beyond a reusing of 1 Cor, which I dealt with before. I also agree with the most of it, besides the need for a temporal punishment in purgatory.

Michael wrote –
Sure it does, the cleansing discussed in both of these verses occurs at Baptism and at that time we are made righteous by the blood of the lamb, infused with His grace and righteousness. The graces we receive at Baptism (and through the other sacraments) also assist us in leading a life of service to the Lord abandoning dead works as a way of life, but it does not mean we never fail. After Baptism we go on to lead our lives and we fail and we sin and we must repent and seek forgiveness. Repentance includes the willingness to make things right with those we have wronged.

Aha! I am saying that the blood “cleanses” us and meaning also “purifies” us. You are not seeing that point, and I’m just now realizing I have not spelled it out.

Additionally, you are mentioning the Sacraments, namely Baptism, as a point in time where we are saved. (here is the “soteriology” statement above by jroberts.) Saying they “assist” us?! Christ’s work on the cross is more than just “assistance” … it is FULL and COMPLETE. He Himself said, “It is complete.” What did he mean? That the pathway to His “assistance” is now complete. Certainly not!

But, I am at risk of proclaiming my own soteriology here (which, for those interested is Calvanistic), so I will refrain from that – if possible.

And, I agree with your statement of Repentance at the end.

Michael wrote –
Mat 5:23-26 23 … The scripture plainly tell us if we have wronged another we are to make it right before we come before God seeking forgiveness. It also says if we do not do this then we risk them crying out to Him and He will make sure we have made restitution.

This making restitution is what Catholics refer to as the temporal punishment for the sin. The eternal punishment (which is spiritual death) is paid for by Christ's sacrifice, but we must still be ready to pay the temporal punishment.

Who is Jesus talking to here? Believers? Or the masses? I will not make a mockery of His words in the least, but I don’t think there is a good argument made here for believers who are sanctified, justified, and redeemed to go through Purgatory. Especially, since His work on the cross had yet to occur.

I agree with the message, however. And I think it is very true that even the believer, while still in this life, must do accordingly. But, there is no foundation for Purgatory or an afterlife temporal punishment. Any discipline would all occur during our lifetime.

Michael wrote –
That is to gain access to forgiveness for our sins. It is meaningless if we do not seek that forgiveness after first repenting of those sins, which of course includes a willingness to make restitution and pay the temporal punishment for those sins.

To “gain access”? No. To receive. Everything else is greatly worded as long as the temporal punishment is done while we are still alive.

Michael wrote –
No, hardly. The fact that He is our High Priest points specifically to there being other lower Priests. The establishment of the sacraments in the New Testament point to the need for those to administer them, as liturgical priesthood (as in the elder specifically being called to anoint the sick). So your one statement hardly nullifies the position of Deacons, Presbters, Elders and Bishops (all of which are clearly laid out in a specific hierarchy in the New Testament).

I would not nullify deacons, Presbyters, Elders, and so on. My point for nullification, is the RCC version of priests, bishops and popes. For if we are “one with Christ” are we not also “priests according to the order of Melchizedek?” (Heb 7).

Yes we need overseers. Yes, we need pastors. Yes we need elders to fight heresy and minister and teach. The statement I made was meant to show that we do not need to “confess” to a Catholic priest, who then confesses to a Bishop, then Cardinal, then pope (or however it works). We have Christ, who is the head of the church making intersession for us.

Michael wrote –
Elsewhere you do admit to the need to repent and seek forgiveness in this life, and I assume this means making restitution to those whom you have injured (else you have not truly repented). Why do you see a need for that but not for those sins we missed during it? Does God just give us a free pass on these? It does not seem consistent. Can we enter heaven in this defiled state?

You assume correctly. The “need” then is to be in “fellowship” with God. As we would need to be with our own earthly father, or wife, or best-friend. It is a “coming clean” of sorts and is prompted by the Holy Spirit. If we don’t know remember, or forget, there is no need in that forgiveness has already been applied. God does not give a “free pass” beyond the Sacrifice of His Son Jesus, who paid the ransom price for ALL of my sins.

Even the Old Testament teaches the concept of a guilt offering, and even Yom Kippur … the annual sacrifice for the atonement of sins. This is NOT NEW. Study up on the Law of Moses.

We enter heaven after being “declared righteous” which is the definition of “to justify.” When a judge here on earth declares someone innocent, it’s because the prosecution did not have a strong enough case to convict. So too, our defense counsel is Christ Jesus. God justifies us (verses have already been quoted above) by declaring us righteous. Not because we are guilt-free, but because we are chosen to be. John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (But, again I am at risk of furthering my soteriology beyond purgatory.)

Michael wrote –
Catholics do see ourselves as being washed at Baptism, but it is not just a mere covering up of sins (like Luther's analogy of a snow fall covering a mound of dung) it is a real changing of us internally so that by God's continued graces we can be not just declared righteous, but that we can by cooperating with the guidance of the Holy Spirit actually be righteous. (Note: this gets into the whole imputed or infused righteousness debate which may be too broad for this topic, but we may have to tackle anyway). This righteousness is in our opinion entirely necessary to enter into heaven where nothing that is defiled can enter and thus be with God.

No. You will need Scripture to say we are not declared righteous. For I have already quoted many that say we are justified by God … which means “declared righteous.” Not after we do something, not after we are purged or purified, we just are. That is God’s own choosing, and His work entirely.

You are right about imputation vs infusion, so I will leave my statement above alone for the time being. However, consider John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Can there then be a possibility that because we are born again, spiritually, that we are already spiritual, righteous, sanctified, and justified? For it is God’s work to do all those things, not man’s.

Michael wrote –
No it is for all. How long do you think it takes God to purge someone of dead works, if He is in a hurry? No time at all; is the right answer, because God is outside of time and so will we be. I assume you accept the idea that we are judged by Christ before we go to be with God (I mean the Bible talks about it) so I ask you - How long does the judgment take? I think you see it takes no time at all, because time has no meaning.

Are you implying that purgatory could be instantaneous? Or that we could be immediately with Jesus when we die? What’s the penance in that? I agree with your logic, but this does not sound like the Purgatory I’ve heard about. Especially praying for the dead (which we agreed to not make too much mention of yet). But, come on … why would you pray for the dead, even perform penance, when they’re already out of Purgatory due to its being instantaneous?

Time does have meaning as I mentioned before. We’ve agreed that if a Purgatory existence were real, it would have to be after our physical death and before the 2nd Coming of Jesus. So, between now and then something is happening, or has already happened in the blink of an eye.

Michael wrote –
You offer this verse without offering an interpretation, so I will assume that you want this verse to mean that this presence with the Lord is instantaneous, even though the verses does not actually say so. I would prefer not to have to make these assumptions in the future and so ask you to provide an interpretation for every verse you offer, as I will try to do. I will also try to offer an alternative interpretation to each and every verse you offer to show I am not ignoring one of them and thus make it appear I do not have an answer to one of your points and I ask you to do the same.

Really? They were verses backing up the question #5. “Why does Paul think to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord? Is this for Paul only?” I simply supported why I said what “Paul thought.”

Your assumption is correct, but again, no need for further interpretation.

At least I am giving you Scriptures to interpret. So far you’ve given me Catholic dogma and 1Cor. Please support at least a few of your comments with Scripture rather than opinion. I don’t mind either, but tell me why Scripture has led you to these conclusions … not the RCC.

You’ll obviously note that I approve and agree to a verse-by-verse counterpoint.

Michael wrote –
Regardless, the verse does not make a point of expressing a time separation between the two events because it is meaningless. The simple constructs we, as men, have developed in our human languages to express what we see in the world around us, simply fail to be applicable to the spiritual realm. God and all His hosts, of which we hope to become one, are outside of time and space, so these "logical" difficulties you think to find, are just not applicable.

You are trying to place man made concepts of time and space on an existence where these ideas do not fit. The suffering in hell and in purgatory as well are states of existence more than periods of time and they do not occur in specific locations in space – hell is not down.

What constructs did we create or invent for time? The calendar? So? Did not God create the Sun and the Moon and separate them? Did then, not God create the 24 hour day? Where were we when this was taking place? All we did was jot down how often things occurred and saw the pattern.

It was God also who told Moses when the new year would start (which for us is April). This idea of yours (or the RCC’s) to eliminate time as a debate topic needs to remember who created it in the first place. God is NOT (I also said this early) in the business of breaking the laws of nature to which He established to begin with. And don’t go saying “what about the miracles, and virgin birth”. They were not outside of time, they were within God’s own plan.

Michael wrote –
I agree, but what of the sins we have not confessed or even repented of during our life or just before our death? If they were not sins unto death, (what Catholics refer to as a mortal sin) and thus have not separated us from God (and so not threatened our salvation) do they not have to be purged?

I’ve already mentioned my answer to this in my rebuttal of redemption. They do NOT have to be purged by way of a Purgatory existence, for they have already been dealt with on the cross. We agree that these sins (as you name mortal) are not sins unto damnation and so keep our salvation secure.

Grace and peace to all,

Grace and peace to all,