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Catholic view of Purgatory ... Is it real?

michael_legna's picture

Purgatory long defense

This will be lengthy so remember JStaller you asked me for it in your last post. :)

I will begin by stating the official Catholic position on purgatory from an official source so there can be no confusion as to what is meant or what the Church sees going on in this state.

The following is from the Official Catholic Catechism

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. [Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820; (1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000] 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: [Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7] [954, 1472]

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. [St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396; cf. Mt 12:31]

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." [2 Macc 12:46] From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. [Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 856] The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: [958, 1371, 1479]

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them. [St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41, 5: PG 61, 361; cf. Job 1:5]

I will develop my argument slowly to express the basis of it and the support for each of these points.

Purgatory is based on several premises

1. That we need to sanctify our lives
2. That sanctification comes from good works and repenting of poor works
3. That poor works and sins are the same thing
4. That repentance must be complete for one to be truly repentant
5. That true repentances includes the reconciliation with those offended and restitution
6. That nothing which is defiled or defiles can enter into the kingdom of heaven

From these premise together it is concluded that if one dies without having properly repented of sins in this life (but was a true believer in Christ and the Gospel) these sins must be purged from us to make us holy enough to be in the presence of God.

The following is a list of scriptures a brief interpretation of each which support the above premises.

The Old Testament has several archtypes of purgatory or analogies for its process which we should be aware of - they are as follows:
Psa 66:12 Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
The Psalmist speaks of going through fire and being brought to a much better place. Certainly a judgment seat where we are simply declared righteous with no additional purification process involved does not match such a description.

Pro 17:3 The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.

The proverb makes the point of comparing the trying of men's hearts with the refining of precious metals which is analogous to the discussion of 1 Cor 3:10-16 where men's works, the products of their hearts are tried by fire in order to separate the dross or stubble from the gold and precious stones.

Ecc 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

This makes it clear that God will judge all our works, not the just the good works, this is completely independent of whether we are saved or not. The unsaved will have their works judge and will not be saved by their good works and will be condemned by their bad ones, because they did not build on the foundation of Christ. The saved will have built on the foundation of Christ and so will suffer loss as their bad works are burnt away, and will receive rewards for the good works which survive.

Wis 3:5-6 5 And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. 6 As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering.

This verse tells us that the dead are disciplined and tested by fire to receive their heavenly reward

Isa 4:4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.
This is a reference to the burning away offenses by the spirit of judgment. Where does this occur if not during the purging after death?

Bar 3:4 O Lord Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites, and of their children, which have sinned before thee, and not hearkened unto the voice of thee their God: for the which cause these plagues cleave unto us.

Baruch asks the Lord to hear the prayers of the dead of Israel. Prayers for the dead are unnecessary in heaven and unnecessary in hell. These dead are in purgatory.

Dan 12:10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

Daniel refers to this refining by saying many shall purify themselves, make themselves white and be refined.

Mic 7:8-9 8 Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me. 9 I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.

We see that we will have to sit in darkness and bear the indignation of the Lord when He executes judgment against us and our sins, but we will eventually be brought forth into His light and we shall behold His righteousness – but only after first going through this process. This is such a good description of the spiritual darkness and suffering in purgatory it can hardly be anything else.

Zec 9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.

God, through the blood of His covenant, will set those free from the waterless pit, a spiritual abode of suffering which the Church calls purgatory.

Zec 13:8-9 8 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. 9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

God says 2/3 shall perish, and 1/3 shall be left alive, put into the fire, and refined like silver and tested like gold. Where else can we expect to have those who are living put into a fire and refined like silver unless we are speaking of those who are physically dead, but spiritually alive because they built on the foundation of Christ?

Mal 3:2-3 2 And who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire, and like thc fuller's herb: 3 And he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold, and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice.
This refers to God's purification of the righteous at their death.

Of course there are references to purgatory in the Deuterocanonicals as well, which is one of the reasons the reformers made such a determined attempt to remove them from the Scriptures.

Sir 2:5 For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.

This comparison of refining of precious metals and the testing of men and their humility is a clear parallel analogy to the doctrine of purgatory.

Sir 7:37 A gift hath grace in the sight of all the living, and restrain not grace from the dead.

Certainly there is no need for grace in heaven, and there is none offered to those in hell. This grace is being prayed for, for those in purgatory.

2 Macc 12:39-46 39 And the day following Judas came with his company, to take away the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the sepulchres of their fathers. 40 And they found under the coats of the slain, some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain. 41 Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. 42 And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. 43 And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. 44 (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,)
45 And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. 46 It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

The prayers for the dead help free them from sin and help them to the reward of heaven. Those in heaven have no sin, and those in hell can no longer be freed from sin. They are in purgatory. The reformers were particularly troubled with these verses because he rejected the age-old teaching of purgatory. As a result, they removed Maccabees from the canon of the Bible.

In the New Testament we see even more support:

Matt 5:25-26
25Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

These verses allude to a temporary state of purgation called a "prison." There is no exit until we are perfect, and the last penny is paid.

Mat 5:48 Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus says, "be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." We are only made perfect through purification, and in Catholic teaching, this purification, if not completed on earth, is continued in a state we call purgatory.

Matthew 12:32 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.

Jesus clearly provides that there is forgiveness after death. 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 more than 2,000 years has called this state purgatory.

Mat 5:25-26 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

This verse is telling us that we must make restitution and be reconciled to those whom we offend as part of a true repentance, because if we do not we will find ourselves having to suffer a loss as this lack of restitution is purged from us in a place of judgment until we are in a state of true repentance.

Matt 18:21-35
21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 23Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses

These verses allude to a temporary state of purgation called a "prison." There is no exit until we are perfect, and the last penny is paid.

Luke 12:47 And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.

When the Master comes (when we face Jesus at the judgment seat), some will receive light or heavy beatings but will live. This state is not heaven or hell, because in heaven there are no beatings, and in hell we will will no longer live with the Master.

Luk 12:58-59 58 And when thou goest with thy adversary to the prince, whilst thou art in the way, endeavour to be delivered from him: lest perhaps he draw thee to he judge, and the judge deliver thee to the exacter, and the exacter cast thee into prison. 59 I say to thee, thou shalt not go out thence until thou pay the very last mite.

These verses allude to a temporary state of purgation called a "prison." There is no exit until we are perfect, and the last penny is paid.

Luk 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

In this story, two temporary places of the dead were mentioned, one was Hades and another Abraham's bosom, one was damned and other blessed. What are they? In most modern translations both Protestant and Catholic, the word " Hades" was replaced with hell. Hades is a Greek word meaning the abode of the dead which did not imply a condemnation as the word Gehenna or hell itself. How about Abraham's bosom? When the Lord told this story, no one was entered into Heaven. Thus the deceased faithful and patriaches of the Old Testament had to stay at another place of " the dead " which was referred here as Abraham's bosom.

Remember in hell the condemned souls are incapable of love. In hell one condemns and blasphemes God, there would be no reverence for the Divinity and no compassion for others.

I do not believe that Hades where the rich man was confined was eternal hell for the following reasons:

1. Hades is simply defined as the abode of the dead, therefore, it does not necessarily mean eternal damnation.

2. In hell all souls are not capable of love and here the rich man was still concerned for his brothers' salvation's.

3. In hell all souls constantly curse God and here the rich man still revered Abraham who represented holiness.

4. In hell the evil souls would not discuss or be concerned with such matters as salvation or repentance.

5. In Purgatory, we have to carry out expiation for our past sins and the temporal punishments are very closely associated with our offenses. Here the offenses of the rich man were eating sumptuously and lack of compassion. Thus his torment involved with his mouth burning in flame.

6. If such offenses as eating sumptuously and lack of compassion actually brought about an eternal damnation for the rich man, none of us would be saved!

In summary, we see that the dead rich man is suffering but still feels compassion for his brothers and wants to warn them of his place of suffering. But there is no suffering in heaven or compassion in hell. So where is the rich man? He is in purgatory.

1Co 3:10-16 10 According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation: and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus. 12 Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: 13 Every man's work shall be manifest. For the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire. And the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any mans work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. 16 Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Of course I have already offered a detailed analysis of this section of verse early on in this thread so will not repeat it here.

In summary I will point out that in verse 13 Paul writes about God revealing the quality of each man's work by fire and purifying him, this purification relates to his sins (not just his good works). Protestants, in attempting to disprove the reality of purgatory, argue that Paul was only writing about rewarding good works, and not punishing sins (because punishing and purifying a man from sins would be admitting that there is a purgatory).

Verse 14 explains that purgatory thus reveals the state of righteousness

Verse 15 explains that those in purgatory are in a state of venial sin, they have not mortally wounded their relationship with Christ. Paul says though he will be saved, "but only" through fire. The phrase "but only" in the Greek is "houtos" which means "in the same manner." This means that man is both rewarded and saved by fire. When Paul teaches that those whose work is burned up will suffer loss, the phrase for "suffer loss" in the Greek is "zemiothesetai." The root word is "zemioo" which also refers to punishment. This means that there is an expiation of temporal punishment after our death, which cannot mean either heaven (no need for it) or hell (expiation no longer exists).

In verse 17 we see the destruction of those who defile the Temple of God with back works (not building on the foundation of Christ) occurring at this same judgment that the suffering loss and rewarding for good works occurs. The only place final condemnation occurs is at the judgment seat after death so we can conclude the loss and rewards also occur after death.

In summary works are judged after death and tested by fire. Some works are lost, but the person is still saved. Paul is referring to the state of purgation called purgatory. The venial sins (bad works) that were committed are burned up after death, but the person is still brought to salvation. This state after death cannot be heaven (no one with venial sins is present) or hell (there is no forgiveness and salvation).

1Co 15:29-30 29 Otherwise, what shall they do that are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not again at all? Why are they then baptized for them? 30 Why also are we in danger every hour?

Paul mentions people being baptized on behalf of the dead, to atone for their sins. These people cannot be in heaven because they are still with sin, but they also cannot be in hell because their sins can no longer be atoned for. They are in purgatory.

2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Php 2:10-11 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every knee bends to Jesus, in heaven, on earth, and "under the earth" which is the realm of the righteous dead, or purgatory.

1 Th 3:13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

This condition of being completely unblameable in holiness is only accomplished after complete sanctification which of course requires full repentance of all sins we commit. Thus if we commit sins in this life which we do not fully repent (including those we do not make the necessary restitution for) we must have them purged in purgatory.

2 Tim 1:16-17 16 The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus: because he hath often refreshed me and hath not been ashamed of my chain: 17 But when he was come to Rome, he carefully sought me and found me.

Onesiphorus is dead but Paul asks for mercy on him. But there is no need for mercy in heaven, and there is no mercy given in hell. Where is Onesiphorus? He is in purgatory.

Heb 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Without holiness no one will see the Lord. We need final sanctification to attain true holiness before God, and this process occurs during our lives and, if not completed, in the state of purgatory.

Heb 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

The spirits of just men who died in godliness are "made" perfect. They do not necessarily arrive perfect. They are made perfect after their death. But those in heaven are already perfect, and those in hell can no longer be made perfect. These spirits referred to in this verse were in purgatory.

Heb 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.

God is a consuming fire (of love in heaven, of purgation in purgatory, or of suffering and damnation in hell).

1 Pt 1:6-7 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Peter refers to this purgatorial fire to test the fruits of our faith.

1 Pt 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Jesus preached to the spirits in the "prison." These are the righteous souls being purified for the beatific vision.

1 Pt 4:6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Jesus preached to the spirits in the "prison." These are the righteous souls being purified for the beatific vision.

Jud 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

The people who are saved are being snatched out of the fire. People are already saved if in heaven, and there is no possibility of salvation if in hell. These people are being led to heaven from purgatory.

Rev 3:18-19 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Jesus refers to this fire as what refines into gold those He loves if they repent of their sins.

Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

God shall wipe away their tears, and there will be no mourning or pain, but only after the coming of the new heaven and the passing away of the current heaven and earth. But remember there is no morning or pain in heaven, and God will not wipe away their tears in hell. These who are crying are the souls experiencing purgatory.

Rev 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Nothing unclean shall enter heaven. Even the propensity to sin is uncleanliness. It is amazing how many Protestants do not want to believe in purgatory. Purgatory exists because of the mercy of God. If there were no purgatory, this would also likely mean no salvation for most people. God is merciful indeed.

Scripture also supports the idea of purgatory through the indirect concept of praying for those who are physically dead. These prayers are unneeded for those in heaven and are not effective for those already condemned to hell.

Here are some examples of ritual prayer and penitent mourning for the dead for specific periods of time. The Jewish understanding of these practices was that the prayers freed the souls from their painful state of purificatioin, and expedited their journey to God.

Gen 50:10 And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days.

Num 20:29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

Deu 34:8 And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.