Where is the Biblical Evidence for Purgatory?



Q. I also don’t see any biblical evidence for purgatory.

A. Well, the word purgatory does not appear anywhere is Sacred Scripture. However, the words trinity and incarnation also do not appear anywhere in Sacred Scripture. So, the fact that a word does not appear in scripture does not categorically exclude the truthfulness of the doctrine it conveys. If it did we would all need to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, the Doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation are clearly found in scripture. And so is the Doctrine of Purgatory.

Matthew 12:32 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.

Here Jesus implies that some sins will be forgiven in the “age to come.” We know that sin cannot be forgiven in Hell and there is no need for any sin to be forgiven once you are in Heaven. So, there must be some other state/age/place where sin CAN be forgiven after this age or this life. We call this Purgatory. This word comes from the Latin word for pure–> purigare. It is an intermediate state between life in this world and Heaven in which the soul is purified.

1 Corinthians 3:15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

You might want to look at this whole passage in context. Again, we know that once someone is in Hell, there is no escaping. And we also know that in Heaven there is no suffering, so this passage must be talking about a purification before Heaven is attained.

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

1 Peter 4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Luke 16:22-26 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23″In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.24″And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’25″But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.26′And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.

From these passages Sacred Scripture speaks of a “place” that is neither Heaven nor Hell. As a Protestant I was taught that until Jesus died and rose again Heaven was closed to everyone. So, the souls of the godly people of the OT went to Sheol or Hades, a kind of holding tank until the work of Christ was completed and these souls could enter Heaven. So, even many Protestants believe in some sort of place/state that was neither Heaven nor Hell.

Jesus went to this place to preach the gospel to Old Testament spirits who were disobedient so they might live. In the Luke passage we see that the Jews of Jesus’ time must have been familiar with the idea of Abraham’s Bosom, as opposed to the “prison” of the I Peter passages or the flames of the rich man, where the just were comforted while awaiting Heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

From this verse we see that something happens to change us, presumably before we reach our final destination. And finally,

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

Christ did His part, perfectly. And we must do our part. We must be holy as He is holy in order to be in the presence of God. We can seek this holiness diligently in this life and what ever is still impure at our death will be purified by Christ until we are completely HOLY. We say this purification takes place in Purgatory.

II Maccabees 12:44-45 …if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

This passage shows that the Jews before Christ practiced prayer for the dead so that they might be purified of their sin

Q. 1 John 1:7, and Rev. 1:5 tells us Jesus’ blood cleanses us from all sin.

A. What you are not understanding because you have never been taught, is that there are two consequences for sin. Eternal and Temporal. Jesus died for the Eternal consequences of sin but we must suffer and be purified of the temporal consequences of sin

CCC 1472 To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

The non Catholic view of salvation says that Jesus died for our sins and if we repent and believe:

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins …

End of story. However, we see in Sacred Scripture that there is more to the story. For instance, in this very verse it goes on to say:

.…and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This is the Catholic Doctrine of Purgatory in a nutshell. We see in scripture and in our everyday life two aspects or dimensions of sin. By offending the eternal God we commit a sin that has eternal consequences. We being finite are completely unable to make reparation for the eternal consequences of sin. Only an eternal being is able to do this. So, God incarnate, suffered and died on the cross to save us from the eternal consequences of sin. And we appropriate this gift by baptism, faith, repentance of sin in general and particular etc.

However, there remains the temporal consequences of sin. All sin, large and small, has consequences. These consequences are more obvious at times than others. If I speed and suddenly notice red lights flashing in my rear view mirror, confessing and repenting of my sin of speeding does not make the police car disappear. I still get the ticket. I still suffer the consequences of my sin. If I have sex outside of marriage and get an STD, going to confession does not make the STD disappear. The consequences of other sins may not be as obvious. But they all need to be suffered by us either in this life or the next. This is how we are purified of the temporal consequences of sin.

As with all the stories of God dealing with His children, He does His part and His children do their part.

  • God warned Noah about the Flood but Noah had to build the ark.
  • God promised to make a nation out of the seed of Abraham but Abraham had to go.
  • God told Moses He would set Israel free but Moses had to lead them out.
  • God promised Israel the land of Canaan but Israel had to conquer it.

We clearly get a glimpse of the eternal and temporal consequences of sin in 2 Sam 12:13-14:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD ” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD has taken away your sin; you shall not die.14″However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”

In this passage David is confronted by the Prophet Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. David, repents. And Nathan announces that God has forgiven him for this sin. But, his child would die and many other evils would be visited on David, as a consequence of his sin. So God’s forgiveness did not negate a temporal punishment for his sin.
Martin Luther taught that we are covered over with the righteousness of Christ as a blanket of snow on a pile of dung and that is how we enter Heaven–still impure inside. However, the Catholic Faith teaches that we are completely purified of all sin, both temporal and eternal before we can enter into the presence of God in Heaven. So, using Luther’s analogy, when we enter the presence of God we are pure and white through and through not just a disguised pile of poop.

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3 Responses

  1. Hello Bfhu, I have never researched the teachings of Martin Luther, but of this I am convinced – it is often prevalent today in Evangelical circles to believe that “God does not see our sin” once we have trusted in the blood of His Son Jesus Christ for salvation. But He does! I like your analogy – “a blanket of snow on a pile of dung.” I would agree that this pile of dung must be dealt with BEFORE entering heaven, because the Bible tells us that “there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth…” (Rev. 21v27)
    We would disagree, however, on WHEN this pile of dung must be dealt with. I believe that it must be dealt with in this life because “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.” (Heb. 9v27)
    When the dying thief on the cross reached out in faith to Jesus, He said to him: “To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23v43) Even though he was dying for a crime, He was cleansed there and then in THIS life, by trusting in the blood of Jesus for salvation. Of course the dying thief had no opportunity to commit further sin – while we who continue live here have temptations thrown at us every day – but the Lord is able to deliver us from temptations – and from sin itself. “There remaineth therefore a rest unto the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)
    God is able to save – and to sanctify in an instant in this life. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8v1)
    In my A.V. Bible (which does not, however, contain the book of Maccabbees) I see no mention of destinations other than Heaven or Hell.
    The Trinity, on the other hand, is merely a term to describe Father, Son & Holy Spirit – a clear doctrine in scriptures.
    From the verses you quote I can see no evidence of any other place. Jesus descended into Hell to preach to the “spirits in prison” – to tell them why they were there.
    Horrific as it sounds, Hell is the holding place for those who are destined for the lake of fire. (Rev. 20v14)
    But it is not God’s will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2Pet. 3v9) which is why He still stands knocking on the doors of men’s hearts in this, the day of Grace. (Rev. 3v20)

    • In Matthew 5 25-26 there is evidence of purgatory when Jesus says: “Lose no time; settle with your opponent while on your way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the guard, who will throw you into prison. I warn you, YOU WILL NOT BE RELEASED UNTIL YOU HAVE PAID THE LAST PENNY.

  2. Ready: We disagree, however, on WHEN this “pile of dung” (as Luther referred our sins) to must be dealt with. I believe that it must be dealt with in this life (rather than Purgatory) because “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.” (Heb. 9v27)

    BFHU: And much of the purification can be accomplished in this life. We agree that the Judgement comes immediately after death. The soul is consigned to Heaven or Hell. Purgatory is merely the place of final purification before entering Heaven when necessary.

    Ready: When the dying thief on the cross reached out in faith to Jesus, He said to him: “To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23v43) Even though he was dying for a crime, He was cleansed there and then in THIS life, by trusting in the blood of Jesus for salvation. Of course the dying thief had no opportunity to commit further sin – while we who continue live here have temptations thrown at us every day – but the Lord is able to deliver us from temptations – and from sin itself. “There remaineth therefore a rest unto the people of God.” (Hebrews 4v9)

    BFHU: Of course God/Jesus can purify instantaeously but I have read that perhaps the Thief’s suffering of crucifixion was the purification necessary for his soul coupled with his Faith, of course

    Ready: God is able to save – and to sanctify in an instant in this life. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8v1)
    In my A.V. Bible (which does not, however, contain the book of Maccabbees) I see no mention of destinations other than Heaven or Hell.

    BFHU:Purgatory is not a type of condemnation it is a place of cleansing. So, there is no conflict with Rom 8. Purgatory is not a destination. It is a layover on the way to our destination.

    Ready: The Trinity, on the other hand, is merely a term to describe Father, Son & Holy Spirit – a clear doctrine in scriptures.

    BFHU: It is not very clear. That is why the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are able to reject it. Have you ever tried to show a JW the Trinity in Scripture? There are evidences and the Doctrine makes sense of many otherwise inexplicable passages. But it is not so clear to the unconvinced.

    Ready: From the verses you quote I can see no evidence of any other place. Jesus descended into Hell to preach to the “spirits in prison” – to tell them why they were there.

    BFHU: No, Jesus did not go to tell the damned why they were there. As a Protestant I was taught that Sheol was the place of the dead awaiting the opening of Heaven by Jesus. (There is definitely another ‘place’ of the dead other than Heaven and Hell->the place of the damned.) Jesus led these captives free and brought them to Heaven. This I was taught as a Protestant and the Catholic teaching is similar:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:“It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483

    So the abode of the dead had a Hell side and a paradise/Abraham’s bosom side separated by a chasm, as in the parable.

    Ready: Horrific as it sounds, Hell is the holding place for those who are destined for the lake of fire. (Rev. 20v14)

    BFHU: Agreed. And no one escapes Hell. The Catholic Church sees two Judgments. One at death and one at the end of time. The passage below would be the latter since death is ended by being thrown into the Lake of Fire (Hell) This does not mean that one’s final destination changes at the final judgment. We believe that it is at this time all things are explained and God is glorified for His justice and mercy.

    REV 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire This is the second death, the lake of fire.15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    You might find this Protestant site of interest to further explain: Berean Bible Society

    Ready: But it is not God’s will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2Pet. 3v9) which is why He still stands knocking on the doors of men’s hearts in this, the day of Grace. (Rev. 3v20)

    BFHU: Amen.

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