THE SOULS IN PURGATORY

Below are the comments from a BA member who adamantly opposed that I victoriously defended our Doctrine of Purgatory from another BA member. She asked me to debate with her on the same topic and made her arguments below. After I read it and made my reply, she erased our thread. I added from my original replies some points for our Non-Catholic readers to ponder upon. Her words are in red while mine are in blue:

[Krisel: “What does the Bible say about Purgatory?”

Answer: According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory is “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” To summarize, in Catholic theology Purgatory is a place that a Christian’s soul goes to after death to be cleansed of the sins that had not been fully satisfied during life. Is this doctrine of Purgatory in agreement with the Bible? Absolutely not!

Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins (Romans 5:8). Isaiah 53:5 declares, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Jesus suffered for our sins so that we could be delivered from suffering. To say that we must also suffer for our sins is to say that Jesus’ suffering was insufficient. To say that we must atone for our sins by cleansing in Purgatory is to deny the sufficiency of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus (1 John 2:2). The idea that we have to suffer for our sins after death is contrary to everything the Bible says about salvation.

The primary Scriptural passage Catholics point to for evidence of Purgatory is 1 Corinthians 3:15, which says, “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” The passage (1 Corinthians 3:12-15) is using an illustration of things going through fire as a description of believers’ works being judged. If our works are of good quality “gold, sliver, costly stones,” they will pass through the fire unharmed, and we will be rewarded for them. If our works are of poor quality “wood, hay, and straw,” they will be consumed by the fire, and there will be no reward. The passage does not say that believers pass through the fire, but rather that a believer’s works pass through the fire. 1 Corinthians 3:15 refers to the believer “escaping through the flames,” not “being cleansed by the flames.”

Purgatory, like many other Catholic dogmas, is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Catholics view the Mass / Eucharist as a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice because they fail to understand that Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice was absolutely and perfectly sufficient (Hebrews 7:27). Catholics view meritorious works as contributing to salvation due to a failure to recognize that Jesus’ sacrificial payment has no need of additional “contribution” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Similarly, Purgatory is understood by Catholics as a place of cleansing in preparation for heaven because they do not recognize that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are already cleansed, declared righteous, forgiven, redeemed, reconciled, and sanctified.

The very idea of Purgatory and the doctrines that are often attached to it (prayer for the dead, indulgences, meritorious works on behalf of the dead, etc.) all fail to recognize that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay the penalty for ALL of our sins. Jesus, who was God incarnate (John 1:1,14), paid an infinite price for our sin. Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2). To limit Jesus’ sacrifice to atoning for original sin, or sins committed before salvation, is an attack on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. If we must in any sense pay for, atone for, or suffer because of our sins – that indicates Jesus’ death was not a perfect, complete, and sufficient sacrifice.

For believers, after death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). Notice that this does not say “away from the body, in Purgatory with the cleansing fire.” No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord’s presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.]

The verses you have shared, Krisel, have in no way contradict purgatory because it is through the sacrifice of Jesus that we are forgiven and will always receive forgiveness if we CONTINUE to ask for it. It is both objective and subjective in nature. Objective because He sacrifice himself for the sins of the world but in order that it will have an effect on us we need to repent and believe in Him – that is what we mean by subjective.

Besides, never could you find a single verse in the Bible that denies purgatory. It’s only in the minds of Protestants and their followers like you. Purgatory makes a lot of sense because it is God’s manifestation of love, mercy and JUSTICE through the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. You said, “The idea that we have to suffer for our sins after death is contrary to everything the Bible says about salvation.” But you are not reading your Bible well, the Bible is very clear that you have to pay for the works that are burned by fire on the day of judgment. What payment it would be? You disregard this part of the verse that is why instead of saying “…You will PAY for it”, you said, “there will be no reward.” Let me reiterate what you said, “If our works are of poor quality “wood, hay, and straw,” they will be consumed by the fire, and THERE WILL BE NO REWARD” (emphasis mine). This is absolutely a misrepresentation of the Bible and You will have to pay for it (pun intended). It is “you”, I mean a Christian, who will pay on the day of judgment, not the Lord Jesus. The Bible is very clear on that no matter how you try to twist it on your side. Let me again remind you of the verse, “…but if your work becomes ashes, YOU WILL PAY FOR IT. You will be saved, but it will be as if passing through fire” (1Cor 3:15 CCB). Your works, therefore, are determining factor whether you have to pay or be rewarded on the day of judgment. You have not negated the value of this verse hence my argument still stands.

Her use of Semantic proved my Point

Actually, you made a point that makes our case for purgatory. You said, “1Corinthians 3:15 refers to the believer “escaping through the flames,” not “being cleansed by the flames.” Escaping through the flames means that you are subjected to the flames. You won’t be subjected to flame in heaven, right? So this process by which you will be subjected to flame and escaping through it is what we call purgatory. The poor works that you have committed include venial sins represented by wood, hays, and straws (1Jn 5:17). These will be burned, but you have to pay for it. That payment is what we call reparation that is required to you by God if you are not completely perfect yet. But once payment is done then you will be saved (1Cor. 3:15; note the future tense).

The True Catholic Teaching

You said, “To limit Jesus’ sacrifice to atoning for original sin, or sins committed before salvation, is an attack on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.” This is another gross misrepresentation of the Church. We don’t teach it. You created your own catholic church and attack it. The Catholic Church however teaches, “Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the DEFINITIVE redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”, and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (CCC 613 emphasis mine). You see, it is very different than what you are suggesting the catholic church teaches. Don’t misrepresent us because this is against the commandment of God which says “you should not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

The One and Perfect Sacrifice of the LORD

With regards to the one sacrifice of the Lord, He didn’t intend that our sacrifice is not meritorious, otherwise he would not have asked us to carry our crosses. He said, “If you wish be a follower of mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Taking up your cross daily is a kind of purgatory or sacrifice here on earth. If the Lord’s sacrifice will absolutely exclude us from participating in it then why St. Paul said, “At present I rejoice when I suffer for you; I COMPLETE in my own flesh what is LACKING IN THE SUFFERINGS of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24)?
The church believes in the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins yet it must be completed in us by responding to the Lord positively and participate in his Perfect sacrifice (Lk 9:23). Purgatory is no different. The Lord perfects us through purgatory because it is a participation of his sacrifice in the cross and by his mercy and justice, we will be saved.

The Sacrifice of Christians

Sacrifice, as a kind of penance whether in this world and the world to come, is in no way contradictory to the Bible. Besides forgiveness of sins can also be made even in the world to come, namely life after death. Jesus alluded it by saying that the only sin that cannot be forgiven either in this world or the world to come is the sin against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:31-32). Hence other sins, which are venial, (1Jn 5:17), can be forgiven in the world to come. We therefore have to pray for those people who committed venial sins (1Jn 5:16) whether they are still living or have already passed away (2Mac. 12:42-44).

Furthermore, you said, “No, because of the perfection, completion, and sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are immediately in the Lord’s presence after death, fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified.”

Your interpretation falls short and does not fully represent the words of God as fully revealed in His Church. As I’ve said, understand St. Paul in all his writings. Cherry-picking verses doesn’t help. Let me reiterate St. Paul’s words, “I COMPLETE in my own flesh what is LACKING IN THE SUFFERINGS of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24). Therefore, completion of Jesus’ sacrifice can be completed in us. We can’t do this of course without the Lord hence it is still his perfect sacrifice working in us (Jn 15:5) as I’ve mentioned above.
St. Paul also said, “I do not believe I have already reached the goal, nor do I consider myself perfect, but I press on till I conquer Christ Jesus, as I have already been conquered by him” (Phil 3:12). That is why it’s our hope to be perfect. Perfection can only be attained fully in heaven hence we can read in the letter to the Hebrews, “…the assembly of the firstborn of God, whose names are written in HEAVEN. There is God, Judge of all, with the SPIRITS OF THE UPRIGHT BROUGHT TO PERFECTION” (Heb 12:23). Fully cleansed, free from sin, glorified, perfected, and ultimately sanctified after death, as you have said, are not in the mind of St. Paul when we read all his letters. We agreed, though, that there are some who were perfected by the grace of God in a very special way. One example is the mother of the Lord, Mary.

Holiness and Perfection as a Process

Additionally, Purgatory is a kind of completion of our sanctifying process and perfection, a kind of payment on the day of judgment for the works that are not pleasing to God (1Cor 3:13-15) and it’s a kind of perfecting our love for God which tainted with the love of the flesh. Catholics believe that unless you will be Christ-like, you are not fit for heaven. “to put on the new, which is being renewed and is to reach perfect knowledge and the likeness of its creator. There, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, between circumcised and uncircumcised. There are no strangers, barbarians, slave and free, but CHRIST IS ALL and IS IN ALL.” (Col 3:10-11; emphasis mine)

Jesus talks about the parable of the faithful servant and is a very good example of how we receive the punishment we deserve if we don’t do what we ought to do. “The servant who knew his master’s will, but did not prepare to do what his master wanted, will be punished with sound blows; but the one who did what deserved a punishment without knowing it shall receive fewer blows.” (Lk 12:47) This kind of lesser punishment is what we call purgatory.

Also, talking about on the day of judgment, Jesus said, “When you go with your accuser before the court, try to settle the case on the way, lest you he drag before the judge and the judge deliver you to the jailer, and the jailer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last penny”. (Lk 12:58-59) Surely this prison is not hell because after serving your sentence, you can get out from it. Since this is not hell, we call it Purgatory.

Lastly, why we should believe in purgatory? Because God is a just Judge (Psa 7:12) and He is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). He’s not a fire that annihilates but a fire that purifies so that when we die in God’s friendship yet still needs purification, we will be consumed by His fire so that our love will be totally and perfectly aligned with His.

God bless you!