EXPLAINING PURGATORY FROM THE SCRIPTURES AND THE CHURCH’S TEACHINGS: KNOW AND DEFEND YOUR CATHOLIC FAITH

EXPLAINING PURGATORY FROM
THE SCRIPTURES AND THE CHURCH’S TEACHINGS: KNOW AND DEFEND YOUR CATHOLIC FAITH
INBOX QUESTION:
“Good day bro Justin Chinaka. I have met many Protestants who asked me to
explain the doctrine of purgatory with Biblical justification. Please, I need
your help on this. I need you to please clarify me on the doctrine of Purgatory
and also Limbo. Thanks”
RESPONSE: PART 1 – PURGATORY
Purgatory
is a doctrine greatly misunderstood, ranging from non- Catholics and some Catholics.
A proper understanding of its meaning is absolutely imperative for a proper
analysis of the doctrine.
Let me
begin by saying WHAT PURGATORY IS NOT: it is NOT the belief that we can pray
people into heaven from hell. Hell, like heaven, is eternal; neither will ever
pass away and those souls therein are consigned eternally.
Purgatory,
on the other hand, is temporary. Any soul in purgatory is destined for heaven
inevitably. The popular misunderstanding of purgatory, i.e., praying people
into heaven from hell, is therefore INCORRECT.
WHAT THEN IS PURGATORY? 
Purgatory
is the state, after death, where souls who are not yet perfected in their love
for God, are purified before admittance to the ALL HOLY GOD.
What gets
purified? If I have any unrepented venial sins, that is, sins that do not lead
to “death” cf. 1John 5:16-17; According to this first letter of St.
John, There are sins that lead to death, and there are sins that do not lead to
death. It is important to note that this kind of death is the eternal death in
hell. Hence, if there are sins that do not lead to hell, where would it lead
to? It would not lead to heaven either because God and sin, even the minutest sin
cannot coexist. Hence, it must lead to an intermediary state which necessarily
needs purification to achieve heaven.
Purgatory
is a doctrine of DIVINE MERCY. It portrays the abundant mercy of God, a just
God who’s slow to anger and rich in mercy. Little wonder the psalmist says:
“if you O Lord should mark our guilt, who will survive? But with you is
found forgiveness, for this we revere you (PS.130:3-4). It is a recognition that most
Christians are not so evil as to warrant hell and most are not yet perfected as
to warrant immediate entrance into heaven. Purgatory makes perfect sense.
According
to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 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. In CCC 1031, The Church
gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is
entirely different from the punishment of the damned. In CCC 606, 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 (1Peter 1:7; 1Cor.3:15). Thus, as for
certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there
is a purifying fire.
SCRIPTURAL BACKUP
It is true
that the term “purgatory” never appears in the Scripture. But such an
observation is in itself insufficient as grounds for its rejection. If we also
take the fundamentalist approach to questions of doctrine and the Scripture,
then we ought to reject the “Trinity,” the “Incarnation,”
“Original sin” and the word “BIBLE” itself, because nowhere in
Scripture are these terms used, yet you and I agree on all of them. The
Scripture teaches each, not by name, but by meaning. I suggest purgatory is no
different. The name “purgatory” is absent in the Scripture, but the
teaching is most assuredly present.
What does Scripture say about entering heaven? 
In
Revelation we read that “nothing impure will ever enter it” (Rv.
21.27). In 2 Corinthians 5.10, we read: “For we all must appear before the
judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive what is his due for the things
done while in the body, whether good or bad. What will happen to a Christian
who appears before the judgment seat of Christ with bad deeds? Paul gives us
the answer in his first letter to the Corinthians: “His work will be shown
for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed
with fire, and the fire will test each man’s work. If what he has built
survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss;
he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames” (1Co
3.15).
Paul
plainly tells us that Christians with bad deeds who approach Christ the Judge
will find themselves in a fire, burning away those deeds. Such a place is not
hell for Paul is speaking of saved Christians: “he himself will be
saved.” It cannot be heaven for there is suffering: “he will suffer
loss…as one escaping through flames.” Could it be earth during this
life? For Paul “the Day” always refers to the day we are judged.
Where is this place where Christians suffer loss as if by fire? It must be
Purgatory.
In Matthew
12:32 we read: ” . . . but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will
not be forgiven either in this age or the age to come.” Such a statement
clearly implies that there is a “state” or “age to come” in which
sins are forgiven. This cannot be heaven or hell for reasons already given.
Purgatory alone renders this verse intelligible. It should be added that
Matthew 5.25-26 has been used, not as a proof text for purgatory, but that
Jesus’ words can be used in an analogous sense for purgatory. I do not say that
this passage is a direct reference to purgatory, but that purgatory is like
what is illustrated in this passage: “I tell you the truth; you will not
get out until you have paid the last penny.”
My last
Scripture reference to purgatory is the clearest, but it in 2 Maccabees, a book
rejected by the Protestants. Let me quote the pertinent section:
“The
next day they came to Judas to have the bodies of the fallen taken and laid to
rest among the relatives in their ancestral tombs. But when they found on each
of the dead men, under their tunics, amulets of the idols taken from Jamnia,
which under the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this
was why these men had lost their lives. All then blessed the ways of the Lord,
the just judge who brings hidden things to light, and gave themselves to
prayer, begging that the sin committed might be fully blotted out. Next, the
valiant Judas urged the people to keep themselves free from all sin, having
seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen; after
this he took up a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two
thousand drachmae, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin
offered, an altogether fine and noble action, in which he took full account of
the resurrection. . .” This was why he had this atonement sacrifice
offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin. Whether or
not one accepts this book as canonical, it nonetheless is an historical presentation
of Jewish belief of making atonements for the dead around 124BC, that is,
before Christ. We see that the sin offering was offered not only for the living
but for the dead.
CONCLUSION
Purgatory is not an anti-biblical doctrine; it is not unreasonable. It is a
doctrine of comfort and mercy. Nor is Purgatory a late invention of the Church,
as many Protestants claim. Evidence for belief is purgatory goes back to
Judaism herself with the Maccabees. The earliest Christians believed in this
state. As stated earlier, it is not till the Reformation that we find the first
denial of purgatory. Scripture commands us to “keep the traditions”
that has been handed down to us (2 Th 2:15). If we are to be faithful to the
Scripture, then acceptance of purgatory follows since, as St. Augustine shows,
purgatory is part of that “tradition.”
Above all, we come to believe and get strengthened of this doctrine of
Purgatory by some private revelations within the church, that is, revelations
granted by the Blessed Virgin Mary and some saints to the faithful on earth
about the existence of purgation, and the need to offer Mass and prayers for
the departed.

PART 2: LIMBO (TOPIC FOR TOMORROW)

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