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
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 Christianity sprang.
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.
to St. Augustine's
A.D. 419. City of God:
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"
the Church 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 purification.
Even the The Talmud1 speaks of
"The judgment of the wicked in purgatory is twelve months."
Rosh HaShanah 16b-17a:
"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" [Zechariah 13:9]
Rabbi Shammai (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
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.
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
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 shall understand.
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
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
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 wise.]
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 by fire.
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 salvation.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the
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.
Burning Truth about Purgatory
Explain Purgatory to Protestants (James Akin)