Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of
Antioch, 1st c. A.D
First, a definition is in order: what is Purgatory?
Purgatory is not Hell minus a few torments and degrees Fahrenheit; it's
not Heaven minus joy. It's not a "Third Final Destination" of souls.
Purgatory is simply the place where already saved souls are
cleansed of the temporal effects of sin before they are
allowed to see the holy face of Almighty God. Revelation 21:27 tells us
that "...nothing unclean will enter [Heaven]."
That there are temporal effects of sin is obvious when one considers
that even those who have been baptized, who have a deep and intimate
relationshp with Jesus, who are the "elect" or "the saved/being saved,"
or what have you, are subject to pain, work, death and sickness.
The best way to understand the idea of already being forgiven but still
having to be cleansed of the temporal effects of sin is by analogy:
imagine you are the parent of a 7-year old child who steals a candy bar
from the local grocery. The child is repentant, in tears, sobbing his
apologies. You, being the good parent (as God, our Father is!) forgive
that child and love him and show him your mercy. But being a good
parent means that you are also just and will expect that child to pay
back the store. Purgatory is God's way of forgiving us, loving us,
showing us His mercy and justice -- and making us "pay back the store."
Can you imagine what would happen to the child of a parent who never
expected that child to "pay back the store" (especially when that same
parent believed also that there was nothing that child could do
to become "disinherited," as in the "once saved, always saved"
doctrine)? As always, the best way to understand Catholic doctrine is
to think of God as the wisest, most loving, most merciful, and
most just Father that we can possibly envision.
Nota bene: Purgatory is His way of ensuring that Revelation 21:27 is
true and that nothing unclean will see Heaven. It is only through
Christ's sacrifice that we are shown this mercy! It is Christ and
Christ alone Who allows us access to the Father.
OK, so where's the word "Purgatory" in the Bible? It's isn't in
the Bible, but neither are the words "Trinity," "abortion,"
"lesbianism," and "cloning" (or "Rapture," for that matter), and it
doesn't matter whether you call the process of purgation "purgatory" or
the "Final Theosis": the concept of a "final cleansing" or "purgation"
for those who require it is very evident in the Bible, in the writings
of the early Church Fathers, and in the Old Testament religion whence
Daniel 12:2, Matthew 12:32, 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, 2 Timothy 1:16-18,
Hebrews 12:14, Hebrews 12:22-23, 1 Peter 4:6 and Revelation 21:10, 27
all speak of Purgatory in their telling of the need for purification,
prayers for the dead, Christ's preaching to the dead, or how nothing
unclean will see God.
Tertullian comes right out and says in The Crown 3:3, dated
A.D. 211, "We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday
anniversaries". Cyprian of Carthage writes in A.D. 253:
It is one thing
to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing,
when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the
uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith
and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to
be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by
suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the
sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned
by the Lord.
From St. John
Chrysostom in his Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:5, A.D. 392:
Let us not
hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.
St. Augustine's A.D. 419. City of God:
punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after
death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that
last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal
punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to
follow after that judgment"
Fathers speak of purgation.
Archaeology also indicates the antiquity of the Christian belief in
Purgatory/the Final Theosis: the tombs of the ancient Christians were
inscribed with words of petition for peace and for rest, and at the
anniversaries of deaths, the faithful gathered at the graves of the
departed to make intercession for those who'd gone before.
Orthodox Jewish practices, which branched off from the Old Testament
religion, to this day reflect belief in this "place" of final
purification which they call Gehenom: when an Orthodox Jewish
person dies, a ritual called the taharah is performed by the "Chevra
kaddisha -- gmilat khessed shel emet," the "Holy Society" or
"Burial Society" of Jews knowledgeable in these traditional duties.
They cleanse and prepare the physical body and recite the required
prayers (Chevra Kadisha) which ask God for forgiveness for any
sins the departed may have committed, and beg Him to guard and grant
eternal peace to the departed. For eleven months after the death of a
loved one certain members of the family pray a prayer called the
Mourner's Qaddish (or Kaddish) for their loved one's
"The judgment of the wicked in purgatory is twelve months."
"It has been taught that the school of Shammai says: "There will be
three groups on Judgment Day (yom haDin):
(1) one that is completely righteous,
(2) one that is completely wicked,
(3) and one that is in between."
The completely righteous will be recorded and sealed at once for
eternal life. The completely wicked will be recorded and doomed at once
to Gehinnom, as it says: "And many who sleep in the dust of the earth
shall rise up, some to eternal life and some to shame and eternal
rejection" [Daniel 12:2]. Those in between will go down to Gehinnom and
cry out and rise up, as it says: "And I will bring the third part
through the fire and refine them as silver is refined and test them as
gold is tested. They will call on my name and I will answer them"
(50 BC - AD 30), one of the two main teachers of early rabbinical
Judaism, also is on record as having interpreted Zechariah 13:9 as
referring to a state of purification after death. Isaiah 66:15-16 and
Malachi 3:2-3 were also interpreted in rabbinic literature as referring
to the purgatorial process, and the same theme is reflected in Wisdom
3:1-7 and II Maccabees 12:43-45, both contained in the Deuterocanonical
books that Protestants refer to as "The Apocrypha."
Jews, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox have always proclaimed the
reality of the final purification for those who need it. It was not
until the Protestant Reformers came in the 1500s that any Christians
denied the idea of a final purgation before seeing the face of God.
Footnotes 1 The Talmud, consisting of the
writings of rabbis who came to believe they'd replaced the authority of
Jewish priesthood after the destruction of the Temple, has some
extremely vile, racist and anti-Christian statements in it. My purpose
in quoting it here is not to condone it, but to demonstrate that the
Jews most definitely believed in a purgatorial process after death. For
more information on how Jesus and non-Jewish people ("goyim")
are written about in the Talmud, do a simple web search for those terms
-- but be warned that among search returns carrying sincere information
and quests for Truth, you will get a lot of racist sites whose creators
revel in this sort of information and see it as somehow "proving" that
there is something evil about those who were simply born Jewish.
Cultural criticism is one thing, but who one's parents are never
matters to our Lord!
David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said
to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD,
the child that is born to you shall die." Then Nathan went to his
house. And the LORD struck the child that Uri'ah's wife bore to David,
and it became sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and
David fasted, and went in and lay all night upon the ground. [Note that
God has "put away" David's sins, but David still fasts. This is the
same as in Numbers, when Moses was still excluded from the Promised
Land even after he was forgiven for his sin of striking the rock twice
with his rod.]
2 Maccabees 12:43-46
He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand
drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin
offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking
account of the resurrection. For 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.
But the souls of the just are in God's hand; no torment will touch
them. in the eyes of the foolish they seemed to be dead; their
departure was reckoned as defeat, and their going from us a disaster.
But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may suffer
punishment, they have a sure hope of immortality, and after a little
chastisement they will receive great blessings, because God has tested
them and found them worthy to be His. He put them to the proof like
gold in a crucible, and found them acceptable like an offering burnt
whole on the altar. In the hour of their judgement they will shine in
glory and will sweep over the world like sparks through stubble.
For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a
whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of
fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh:
and the slain of the LORD shall be many.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some
to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
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
I will lead that third into the fire, and refine them as silver is
refined, test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name and I
shall listen; and I shall say: These are my people; and each will say,
"Yahweh is my God!"
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he
appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And
he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify
the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may
offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till
thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. [Note He didn't say, "until I
pay the last farthing for you." He JUSTIFIES us -- without Him we can
NEVER justify ourselves! Nothing we do can EVER get us into Heaven
without His Blood. But we are expected to grow up, too. Our Father is
And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but
whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in
this age or in the age to come
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself,
neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be
beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him
shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him
they will ask the more.
When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in
the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he
hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and
the officer cast thee into prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart
thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite. [RSV: "As you go with
your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him
on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over
to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will
never get out till you have paid the very last copper."]
1 Corinthians 3:13-15
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,
because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every
man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath
built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be
burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as
2 Timothy 1:16-18
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus [who just died]; for
he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was
in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant
unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how
many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the
judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto
them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem, ... and to the spirits of just men made perfect
I Peter 3:16-19
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of
evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good
conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so,
that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also
hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might
bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the
Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
1 Peter 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. [Comment: These dead could not have
been in Hell; there's no escaping Hell. They couldn't have been in
Heaven. So where were they?]
Revelation 21:10, 27
And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and
shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven
from God... 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.