What is Purgatory?

Another image of souls being purified by flame...

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Question: What is Purgatory and isn’t it contradictory to the Gospel?

Answer: Purgatory is found in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a doctrine of the existence of an intermediate state, sometimes confused with Sheol in the Apocrypha (II Maccabees 12:39-45, “Judas…sent …two thousand silver drachmas to Jerusalem for a sin-offering…expecting the fallen to rise again…and …offered an atoning sacrifice to free the dead from their sin.”).

This place is punishment, though temporal. Believers who have died in grace, defined by the Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox as being in ecclesiastical favor and fellowship with the Church, spend a period of being purified to make them perfect before God. Then one is translated to Heaven. Purgatory is a place of suffering. It is a place of undefined extent, but monetary and other gifts to the Church, prayers, and acts of devotion are believed to shorten the stay of a loved one who has died and is now in Purgatory.

This view not only contradicts the Gospel, but also has no Old Testament or New Testament support. Where is the doctrine of grace and forgiveness provided by the only death of the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ? Where is the teaching on final judgment that we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ? There is even a flat contradiction by a passage which the Roman Catholics regard as Scripture in the Apocrypha in Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4 (“But the souls of the just are in God’s hand, and torment shall not touch them…they are at peace.”).

The true intermediate state is found in II Corinthians 5:1-11. When we die as believers, we are immediately present with the Lord and absent from the body. Our spirits, thus unclothed or naked, are awaiting resurrection when the Lord Jesus Christ returns with His saints at the Rapture of the Church (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). The intermediate state is that temporal state when the soul consciously exists between the death and resurrection of the body. It is a conscious state. Proof: Matthew 22:32; Luke 20:37,38; Luke 23:42,43; II Corinthians 5:6-10; Philippians 1:21-24, and I Thessalonians 5:10.

We are personally in the presence of Jesus Christ in a conscious state. It is a local state of place and condition. We are with Christ (Philippians 21-24 and II Corinthians 5:6-10). We are disembodied, incorporeal, pure spirits (II Corinthians 5:3 and I Thessalonians 4:16,17).

It is a state of perfect holiness, perfectly purified at death (Revelation 21:27, II Corinthians 5:1-8, and I John 3:1-3). We are also in a state of blessing, joy, and bliss. Read Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:21-23; Revelation 6:9-11, and Revelation 13:14.

We are also in a state of progress, being incomplete. This is not our final state. We are in the “naked” stage. Finally, we see that we will be full of activity, work, worship, and service. See Revelation 7:15, Matthew 25:21, and Revelation 4:4,5.

Terry Burnside


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