"In every system...except that of the Bible, the doctrine of a purgatory after death, and prayers for the dead, has always been found to occupy a place. Go wherever we may, in ancient or modern times, we shall find that paganism leaves hope after death for sinners..." Alexander Hislop
WHAT IS PURGATORY?
Purgatory! The word itself comes from the old French purgatoire, from medieval Latin purgatorium, literally: place of cleansing. According to the Roman Catholic Catechism, issued with episcopal authority on the occasion of the 4th Plenary Council in 1937, purgatory is "...a place or state of punishment in the next life where some souls have to suffer for a time, because they are not yet fit to go to heaven."1
Purgatory is sometimes referred to as God’s hospital for souls, a place where people are healed of their sin before being able to go ‘home’ to heaven.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that purgatorial sufferings vary greatly in intensity according to the degree of sinfulness on the part of the sinner. For some the torment will be light and mild, lasting perhaps a few hours. For others, however, the pain is no less than that of hell and can last for several thousand years.
Bellarmine, a noted Roman Catholic theologian, once stated that "The pains of Purgatory are very severe, surpassing anything endured in this life."
The Manual of the Purgatorial Society, with the imprimatur of Cardinal Hayes—the imprimatur, along with the ‘nihil obstat,’ is an official declaration that a book or pamphlet is free, according to the Roman Catholic Church, of doctrinal or moral error—says: "According to the Holy Fathers of the Church, the fire of Purgatory does not differ from the fire of hell, except in point of duration." "It is the same fire" says St. Thomas Aquinas, "that torments the reprobate in hell, and the just in Purgatory. The least pain in Purgatory" he says, "surpasses the greatest suffering in this life. Nothing but the eternal duration makes the fire of hell more terrible than that of Purgatory."2
Romanism teaches that although eternal punishment may be cancelled through the sacrament of baptism—which the Roman Catholic Church wrongly teaches cleanses a person from original sin—The Catholic Encyclopedia points out that, "...there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come, i.e., in Purgatory. An indulgence offers the penitent sinner the means of discharging this debt during this life on earth."3 The Council of Trent has decreed: "If you dare to say that a repentant sinner who has been justified by grace is forgiven to such an extent that that person is no longer under an obligation to suffer for his or her sins either here and/or in Purgatory anathema to you!" (Appen. A, note 2, A Woman Rides The Beast).
Roman Catholicism teaches that temporal punishment in Purgatory may be reduced and eventually cancelled by works of penance, by almsgiving, by indulgences and by paying the priest to say a mass.
A statement which appears in ‘Vatican II – The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents’ reads, "The (Roman) Church offers the Paschal Sacrifice (the Mass), for the dead so that the dead may be helped by the prayers..."
Loraine Boettner, author of the classic book Roman Catholicism, concludes: "The doctrine of Purgatory rests on the assumption that while God forgives sin, His justice nevertheless demands that the sinner must suffer the full punishment due to him for his sin before he will be allowed to enter heaven. But such a distinction is illogical...isn’t it?...For it manifestly would be unjust to forgive a criminal the guilt of his crime and yet still send him to prison to suffer for it."4
How can a sinner whose sins have been fully atoned for by Christ through His death on the cross, thereby satisfying God’s Justice, be required to undergo any punishment for said sins, be it permanently or even temporarily, when it is Christ Himself Who, as their Substitute, has had their sins charged to Him and has fully paid the price that those sins incurred? Such teaching, along with the lies of every cult concerning the cross of Christ, is a denial of the all sufficiency of Christ’s precious atoning blood to fully wash away the sins of all the people God chose before the foundation of the world. By His death, Jesus Christ has appeased the wrath of God towards all those people God gave to Him, thus "...making peace by the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20). The apostle Paul continues his letter to the saved people at Colossae, saying that they are "...now reconciled in His fleshly Body through His death, to present you (the saved and justified sinner) HOLY, WITHOUT BLEMISH, and IRREPROACHABLE before Him" (Colossians 1:22). How can it be thought for one moment that people who are presented to God as holy, without blemish and completely irreproachable, must suffer for their sin before entering heaven. Isn’t it obvious from the above verses and the following verse that the man for whom Christ has died has had the punishment due unto his sins paid for IN FULL by Jesus Christ! The people for whom Christ died "...have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). By the blood of His cross, through His death and through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ peace is established between God and a man, and that man is presented holy, without blemish and irreproachable before God and is consecrated. What could possibly be required for the justification of a man that Christ Jesus has not obtained? It is clear from these three verses of Scripture that there is ABSOLUTELY NO PUNISHMENT WHATSOEVER awaiting any for whom Christ shed His blood!!
As we have just learned, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that people in Purgatory may be helped by having their time there shortened through the prayers and good works of those on earth. This is done by gaining what is called ‘Indulgences’ for them, especially through the ‘Holy sacrifice of the Mass’. These Masses are not freely performed but must be paid for by those who request them.
The Roman Catholic Catechism teaches that an Indulgence "...is a remission, through the power of the (Roman Catholic) Church, of the temporal punishment due to sin, after the sin itself has been forgiven."5
In contrast to this the Scriptures state clearly that "...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22).
The buying of indulgences is encouraged as a way to free souls from Purgatory. In 16th century Germany, one Roman Catholic Church-appointed ‘indulgence seller’, John Tetzel, had a statement written on his collection box, ‘As soon as the money in the casket rings, the troubled soul from Purgatory springs.’ I would ask one question of Mr Tetzel: ‘How did he know?’ It would appear, according to Mr. Tetzel and the Roman Catholic Church, that Christ need not have died to save a sinner from the punishment due unto his sin, but that a mere few coins given into the hand of Rome is all that is required!
In contrast to this nonsense, the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:18,19 states clearly that those whom God has given unto His Son to save were "...ransomed... NOT with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb." We see from this statement that a person CANNOT be ransomed (redeemed) by silver or gold—this includes money payed to the Roman Catholic Church or to anyone else for that matter—but ONLY by the precious blood of Jesus Christ can any man be redeemed. This Scripture quoted directly from the Roman Catholic Bible effectively cancels out the whole concept or need for indulgences! The Old Testament has this to say on the matter of self-redemption by payment of money: "One cannot redeem oneself, pay to God a ransom. Too high the price to redeem a life; one would never have enough to stay alive forever and never see the pit...But GOD will redeem my life..." (Psalm 49:8-10,16).
"Those who die without anyone to pay for Masses on their behalf are called the ‘forgotten souls in Purgatory.’ However, these ‘forgotten souls’ are remembered in special prayers on November 2, known as ‘All Soul’s Day.’ If a Roman Catholic fears he might become one of the forgotten souls, he may join the Purgatorian Society which was established in 1856. A contribution each year to the society will assure him that, upon his death, prayers will be said for his soul."6 In line with the ways of this world, it appears that even escaping the fires of punishment for sin, according to Romanism, requires our hard-earned cash!
Even Popes who died up to 500 years ago left vast amounts of riches in order that Masses might be said for them, thus ensuring, to their minds, their eventual release from Purgatory!
It is taught that the Roman Catholic Church herself has power to grant indulgences, which are gained "...by saying the prayers or by doing the works prescribed by the Church."7 Vatican II states: "The Church...teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences—a usage most beneficial to Christians and approved by the authority of the sacred councils—should be kept in the church, and it condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the church does not have the power to grant them." (ch. 13, note 1, A Woman Rides the Beast).
Romanism also teaches that it is the prerogative of the Pope, as Christ’s representative on earth, to grant this relief from suffering AS HE SEES FIT! This ‘power’ to release those in Purgatory became part of the priest’s ordination during the 11th century. The fact is, however, that Roman Catholic priests admit that they do not have ANY WAY OF KNOWING when a soul is actually ‘released’ from Purgatory.
Dr. Charles Hodge reports that the "Franciscans claimed that the head of their order descended annually into Purgatory, and delivered all the brotherhood that were detained there."8
Ralph Woodrow concludes: "It is indeed sad that multitudes of people have been deceived into believing that ...the payment of large sums of money, or human works, can pay for their sins." The good news is that the price of sin for all God’s chosen people has ALREADY BEEN PAID—BY JESUS CHRIST! "Salvation is by grace—by favor that could never be merited by money, human works or sacrifices."9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; IT IS NOT FROM WORKS, so no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).
WHO GOES TO PURGATORY?
Almost all Roman Catholics, according to the Roman Catholic Church, can expect to go to Purgatory after death in order that they might eventually become pure enough to enter heaven. The Church of Rome teaches that there is no salvation AT ALL for those outside of the Roman Catholic Church, for those who are not members.
Romanism teaches that if a man dies in mortal sin (so called because it is said to kill the soul), he is lost "...forever in hell". However those who die in what is called ‘venial’ sin, which according to the Roman Catholic Catechism is "...breaking God’s law in a less serious way than by mortal sin"10 , go to Purgatory for a time.
Article 98 of the Roman Catechism states that "...those who die in venial sin, and those who have not done sufficient penance for sin forgiven, are sent to Purgatory."11 It is truly astonishing to note that Romanism says that some degree of punishment remains for the Roman Catholic, even for sins forgiven!! This teaching is in such contradiction with the Scriptures as to beggar belief that anyone in their right mind could actually believe it!!
Exalted saints and others such as Mary and Roman Catholic martyrs, whose deaths ‘brought honour upon the Roman Catholic Church’, are said to have escaped Purgatory. Their deaths are considered ‘adequate substitutes’ for the sufferings of Purgatory, though even in these rare cases no one can be certain that a soul has gone directly to heaven. Purgatory is a mystery; a mystery which causes many to live in a state of constant and hopeless fear, a needless fear which dreads the approaching and inevitable, though fictional, fires of Purgatory. Though the fires of Purgatory are purely fiction, the fire of Hell is not and it is this eternal fire which awaits all those who do not obey the Gospel of God (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF PURGATORY
The doctrine of Purgatory evolved from an ancient teaching prevalent among the people of India and Persia, who believed in the concept of a purification by fire after death.
This teaching was also prominent amongst the Egyptians, as well as the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks’ influence reached as far as Palestine, where gradually the Rabbis began to teach that sin offerings made by children could relieve their deceased parents of great suffering.
Even the ancient philosopher Plato (427-347 B.C.), accepted the concept that a perfect happiness was unattainable after one’s death until one had atoned for one’s sins through suffering the pains of a purifying fire. Such teaching does away with any thought of an atoning death of a Savior for His people. Notably, the worst of sinners, according to Plato, would suffer eternally. This totally anti-christian and unbiblical view to which Plato subscribed is fully supported and maintained by the Roman Catholic Church and presented to YOU, the Roman Catholic, as Christian teaching!
Also of interest is the fact that Plato spoke of the Orphic teachers of his day, who belonged to a mystery religion of ancient Greece, "Who flock to the rich man’s doors and try to persuade him that they have a power at their command, which they procure from heaven, and which enables them by sacrifices and incantation...to make amends for any crime committed by the individual himself, or his ancestors....Their mysteries deliver us of the other world, while the neglect of them is punished by an awful doom."12 It really should come as no surprise that the claims made by Roman Catholicism are identical to those of Plato and the pagan priests of Orphism.
Devotees of Zoroastrianism, a pagan religion which can be traced as far back as 3,000 B.C., did not believe in an eternal hell, but in a temporary place of suffering for the purposes of correction. It was taught that these souls proceeded through twelve different stages of punishment before being sufficiently purified to enter heaven.
The Stoics, believers in an ancient form of Greek philosophy, held the idea of a ‘middle place’ of enlightenment which they named ‘Empurosis’, meaning ‘a place of fire’.
It is abundantly clear from all the evidence presented thus far, that the concept of a purgatorial fire, a fire said to purify and cleanse a man of his sins, has existed for centuries in the natural, unregenerate mind of pagan man throughout the world and has merely been incorporated into the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Oddly, in light of Roman Catholicism’s insistence that Purgatory is a biblical teaching, the whole concept of temporal punishment for the purposes of purification was not introduced into the Roman Catholic Church until the end of the 6th century, when Pope Gregory the Great proclaimed that as well as heaven and hell, there existed a third state, a place where souls could be purified before being admitted into heaven. Even more peculiar is the fact that this papal ruling was not sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church as official dogma until the Council of Florence in 1439 and was later confirmed by the Council of Trent in 1548.
Loraine Boettner poses the following question, "...Does any intelligent person really believe in their heart of hearts that if such a place as purgatory were included in the pages of the Bible it would have taken the church fathers 600 years to discover it, and another 1000 years to confirm it?"13
It is reported that the theologian St. Augustine once positively stated that nobody was obliged to believe in Purgatory. Charles Chiniquy, former Roman Catholic priest and author of the revealing book 50 Years in the ‘Church’ of Rome, has commented, "Several of the fathers consider purgatory as of pagan origin. Tertullian spoke of it only after he had joined the sect of the Montanists (a heretical cult of the 2nd century), and he confesses that it is not through the Holy Scriptures, but through the inspiration of the Paraclete of Montanus that he knows anything about purgatory. Augustine, the most learned and pious of the holy fathers, does not find purgatory in the Bible, and positively says that its existence is dubious."14
In his assessment of the doctrine of Purgatory and its effects on the Roman Catholic, Dr. Laird R. Harris states: "It is well to remember that the doctrine of Purgatory which rests like a heavy burden upon the heart of every Roman Catholic was not taught by any of the early church fathers and had a very slow growth until the fifth century. Its beginnings in prayers for the dead and a difference in status between the martyred dead and the ordinary Christian departed may be found as early as 200 A.D. in the writings of Tertullian. Mention of the penal fires comes much later, and the masses for the poor souls in purgatory still later. The doctrine of Purgatory is another one of those foreign growths that has fastened itself like a malignant tumor upon the theology of the Roman Catholic Church."15
ROMAN CATHOLIC ‘EVIDENCE’ OF PURGATORY
Four Scripture passages are commonly referred to by the Roman Catholic Church in support of their doctrine of Purgatory: Matthew 3:11; 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 Peter 3:18-20; and Jude 22,23. Despite their being implemented by Rome, none of these Scriptures mention Purgatory at all.
The only other writings which the Roman Catholic Church has appealed to concerning Purgatory and prayers for the dead, are to be found in the Apocrypha, a set of 15 books considered by the Roman Church as Holy Scripture, and which must be accepted by all Roman Catholics as Holy Scripture under penalty of mortal sin!
The Apocrypha has, to this day, NEVER been received by the Jews as being divinely inspired of God, and has always been rejected as such. Oddly, the Council of Trent in 1546, pronounced, "We receive as Old Testament books only those books which have always been held to be divinely inspired, by the Jews." The Council of Trent then, inexplicably and in complete contradiction to the above statement, promptly added the Apocrypha to the list of Old Testament books almost 2,000 years after the completion of the Old Testament, with several members of the Council opposing the move. Even today opinion is divided within the Roman Catholic Church as to whether the Apocrypha is inspired.
The New Testament includes about 260 direct quotations and approximately 320 allusions to the Old Testament, yet not once is mention made of a single verse found in the Apocrypha!
One of these apocryphal books is called 2 Maccabees, a Jewish book written after the closure of the Old Testament, which has for centuries been used by the Roman Catholic Church to confirm her teachings on Purgatory and prayers for the dead. The passage in question is 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, a flimsy passage, to say the least, on which to base a doctrine that plays such an integral part in Roman Catholic theology.
The dependability of the passage has diminished significantly, as we see in the official Roman Catholic Church approved footnotes to verses 42-46 from the Roman Catholic Bible, that what is spoken of in the passage is "...similar to, but not quite the same as, the (Roman) Catholic doctrine of Purgatory."
No mention is made in the passage of Purgatory or fire or even of tormented souls. All that is spoken of is prayers for the dead, which Roman Catholic theologians mistakenly believe can be effective for the salvation of the dead. Yet Bible believing Christians know that the Bible says, "It is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the JUDGEMENT" (Hebrews 9:27). Praying for the dead, according to the Roman Catholic Bible, is not only heretical but a complete waste of time, for a man lives once and is then judged according to that life and not upon any prayers for the deceased person.
Loraine Boettner points out that "...from the Roman Catholic viewpoint, these verses prove too much, for they teach the possible salvation of soldiers who had died in mortal sin, that of idolatry. And that contradicts Roman Catholic doctrine, which is that those dying in mortal sin go straight to hell and are PERMANENTLY LOST. They do not go to purgatory where they can be aided by the prayers of people still on earth."16
What may come as quite a surprise to Roman Catholics is the fact that many Roman Catholic theologians now reject the 2 Maccabees passage as proof of the existence of Purgatory. For most, the mere fact that the Pope has said it exists is proof enough! The question every Roman Catholic must ask themselves is: ‘How reliable can this teaching of Purgatory be, when the principle passage used for centuries as proof of its existence is now rejected?’
WHAT DOES THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BIBLE SAY?
Nowhere in the Roman Catholic Bible is there ANY reference made WHATSOEVER to a temporary place of punishment such as purgatory, where sin is atoned for. What may startle many Roman Catholics is the fact that the Roman Catholic Church readily admits to this!
The Roman Catholic Dictionary of 1928, p.704, says, "We would appeal to those general principles of Scripture, rather than to particular texts often alleged in proof of Purgatory. WE DOUBT IF THEY CONTAIN ANY EXPLICIT AND DIRECT REFERENCE TO IT." It is a fact that can be stated with the utmost confidence: Purgatory does not exist, either in reality or in the pages of the Roman Catholic Bible!
The Roman Catholic teaching of Purgatory flies directly in the face of sound Bible doctrine which assures the true believer of salvation; of being immediately with the Lord when absent from the body. 1 John 5:13 says, "I write these things to you so that you may KNOW that you HAVE eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God." Scripture also states emphatically that "...now there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). How then can anyone even conceive the possibility that any form of punishment now awaits those whom not even God has any condemnation towards? "Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God Who acquits us" (Romans 8:33).
We shall now present several other Scriptures from the Roman Catholic Bible which clearly demonstrate that the true Christian does not suffer in any ‘Purgatory’, because punishment due unto their sin has been PAID IN FULL BY THE LORD JESUS CHRIST:
* John 5:24 - "...whoever hears My Word and believes in the One who sent Me HAS ETERNAL LIFE AND WILL NOT COME TO CONDEMNATION BUT HAS PASSED FROM DEATH TO LIFE."
* Hebrews 10:10 - "...WE HAVE BEEN CONSECRATED through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL."
* 1 John 1:7- "...and the BLOOD of His Son Jesus Christ CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN."
Many other Bible texts also shatter the myth of Purgatory. Firstly, Jesus Christ said plainly to the penitent thief, "...TODAY you will be with Me in PARADISE" (Luke 23:43). These words of Jesus show clearly that both He and the thief went THAT DAY to Paradise, and not to the tormenting fires of a fabled Purgatory.
Luke 16:19-31 is the passage where Jesus tells of the destiny of two men after they had suffered death. Verse 22 says: "When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels TO THE BOSOM OF ABRAHAM. The rich man also died and was buried." Later in verse 23, the rich man spoke "...from the netherworld where he was in torment..." The Greek word in the original text for netherworld is hades, which is a place of torment and detention for lost souls until the Judgement Day when, according to Revelation 20, hades and its inhabitants will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, the eternal place of torment.
Moreover Abraham, speaking to the rich man in hades in v.26 of Luke 16 states: "...between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours." It is patently obvious from these Scriptures that people who are in hades are there PERMANENTLY until they are judged and thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:12-15). This precludes any possibility that hades may be the Purgatory which Roman Catholics have been taught. For hades is a place of punishment, not purification and none who are in it will ever escape God’s Wrath but will eventually be thrown into the Lake of Fire, the place of everlasting fire and torment.
1 Corinthians 11:32 sees the apostle Paul speaking of the Lord lovingly disciplining His people on earth "...so that we may not be condemned along with the world." Again, Paul also mentions in Romans 8:1 that "...NOW THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS." If, then, there is no condemnation for the true believer, it stands to biblical reason that there cannot be a Purgatory awaiting him! If there is no condemnation, then it is biblically logical to conclude that there is no punishment awaiting the justified believer when he departs this life.
The words of Jesus uttered upon the cursed tree, "It is finished" (John 19:30), speak of the completion of the work of redemption. Sin has been paid for IN FULL by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus took all the pain of the cross so that His people would not have to endure one moment of punishment for their sins, eternal or temporary!!
Speaking of the Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote of God’s people: "...it was our infirmities that He bore, our sufferings that He endured....He was pierced for our offences, crushed for our sins, upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed....the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of us all....smitten for the sin of His people". God states that "...through His suffering, My Servant shall justify many, and their guilt He shall bear....He shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offences" (Isaiah 53:4-6,8,11,12). I defy anyone, in the face of such convincing Scriptural evidence as this, to say that there remains the slightest condemnation or punishment for sin of any of those for whom Christ Jesus the Lord died! What possible punishment remains for those whose very guilt was borne, and whose sins have been taken away, by the Savior and for whom a FULL PARDON HAS BEEN WON!!
The apostle Paul, in the following verses, confirms the truth that the true Christian goes directly to heaven to be with God when he dies: Paul says, "...and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8) and in Philippians 1:23, "...I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better." Paul, as well as every other writer of the New Testament, and Old, never once spoke of Purgatory. They spoke many times about heaven and hell but NEVER Purgatory.
And so it becomes perfectly clear, that upon investigation of the Roman Catholic Church’s claims of Purgatory, particularly when one engages in a search of the Word of God, that there is no punishment, no need to be purged of sin in the fires of a mythical Purgatory, for the true Christian’s sins HAVE BEEN FULLY PURGED by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:3 states that it is by Christ’s death for His people that He has "...accomplished purification from sins..." Again, how can there be any punishment awaiting those who have been purified, having had their sins purged forever by the Savior Jesus? Revelation 1:5 states: "...To Him who loves us and HAS FREED US from our sins BY HIS BLOOD...", meaning His physical death. The work of salvation is done; the work of purification HAS BEEN accomplished!
One of the reasons for the Church of Rome having kept the Bible from the people for centuries, and even burning them (a period fitly known as the Dark Ages), is the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is well aware that many of its teachings are just not in the Bible!, one of these being Purgatory. Another reason is the fact that the Bible, the perfect Word of Almighty God, totally exposes and condemns the unbiblical teachings and pagan practices of Roman Catholicism. Although the Roman Catholic Church now advocates the reading of the Bible, one must receive the interpretation solely from her. In other words, like any cult she says, ‘Read the Scriptures as much as you like but believe only what WE teach the Bible says.’