Skip to comments.Purgatory: Feel the Burn
Posted on 01/14/2011 4:15:44 PM PST by Alex Murphy
"The Pope reflected on the saint's writings, saying that "in her mystical experiences, Catherine never received specific revelations on Purgatory or on the souls being purified there." St. Catherine, he underscored, did not see Purgatory "as a place of transit in the depths of the earth" or as "an exterior fire."Rather, she saw it as "an interior fire."Her insights do not "recount the torments of Purgatory and then show the way to purification and conversion," he added. Instead, "she began from the interior experience of man on his journey towards eternity."For St. Catherine, the soul in Purgatory "is aware of God's immense love and perfect justice; as a consequence, it suffers for not having responded to that love perfectly, and it is precisely the love of God Himself which purifies the soul from the ravages of sin," he said."
Purgatory has had an odd history, with many Catholics today no longer having a clear sense of what it is. And while many Protestants have long rejected purgatory as a non-biblical Catholic "thing," many of the Reformers of the 16th century, while they may have had troubles, to put it mildly, with indulgences or ecclesiastical organization did not initially struggle with the reality of purgatory. The basic reason, I think, is that it makes theological sense. In order to be in the presence of God one must be prepared; since God’s being is holy, one must be made ready to be in the presence of holiness. This is the process of purgation, or purification, in which the remnants and effects of our imperfections and sins are burned away. The other reason, I believe, that some early Reformers continued to teach and accept the notion of purgatory, though Protestants do not do so today to my knowledge, is that a process of purgation is noted in a number of New Testament passages. (For an interesting Protestant perspective on purgatory, see the article by Jerry L. Walls, "Purgatory for Everyone" in First Things April 2002.)
One of the key "Catholic" passages supporting a notion of purgatory is found in 2 Maccabees 12, a text which is accepted as Sacred Scripture by Catholics but not by Protestants or Jews. (Some Orthodox Christians do accept the reality of purgatory as a process.) I will cite a large piece of this passage to give it some context:
"On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchres of their fathers. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. 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." (12:39-45)
In this passage, the fact that Judah Maccabee prays on behalf of the dead and makes atonement for the fallen soldiers, who had died at least due to their sins, so that they would rise again spoke directly to the ability of the living to aid those who had died. This could not be hell, where no aid is possible for the dead, and it could not be heaven, where those who live in perfection do not need our aid, so it must be some other "place." The passage, obviously, not having the weight of Scripture for Protestants did not convince them. This is why I think the New Testament passages are significant and need to be understood more clearly.
Paul, in describing the divisions in the Corinthian community, warns them to come together, right now, over Christ, and not to be lost in identification with Christian leaders. Each teacher lauded by the Corinthian community has something to offer, but, Paul writes, each is answerable to God for their behavior:
"According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
This seems like an eschatological "process" in this case, but not one which leads to damnation. The "fire" which burns is a purifying, refining fire, which might lead to "loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." This, to my mind, is purgation (cf. CCC 1031). 1 Peter 1:6-7 also speaks of being purified by fire, but in the case of Peter, it seems that the trials are taking place presently: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." It is of this, too, that the Pope spoke yesterday, when he spoke of the "interior fire" that St. Catherine felt as a purification for her previous sins. These pangs of torment are familiar to many people, not as a means of "beating oneself up," but as a means of genuine repentance for actions done poorly.
It is this kind of experience of conversion that Paul may be speaking in Romans 12:17-21:
"Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
The Church fathers and scholars today have debated what Paul means by saying that when we forego vengeance "burning coals" are heaped upon someone’s head. Some ancient writers opted for "burning coals" as a sign of God’s punishment, while others suggested they were the burning pangs of conversion. Is it possible that what we have here is the process of purgation, in which the "enemy" is confronted by their own deeds and must make account of them, whether the coals would lead to immediate conversion or later repentance? I see the coals of fire not as eschatological punishment, but as the process of purgation, either now or at the end of time.
Romans 12:17-21 does not appear in the CCC in the discussion of purgatory and neither does this next passage, The Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor, in Matthew 18:21-35. In this passage a King forgives his slave a massive debt, but the same forgiven slave refuses to forgive the much smaller debt of a fellow slave. The unforgiving slave is taken to task: "You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart" (Matthew 18:32-35). This passage is significant with respect to a process of purgation. The unforgiving slave is not cast aside eternally, but paying off a debt in torment, which, though it is huge, has an end. This cannot be hell. When Matthew speaks of hell, he uses particular language, in which a person is thrown "into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew uses this language on six occasions in his Gospel; it appears on one occasion in Luke 13:28.
The process of purgation is necessary. Why? For one, because it appears in the scriptural record, and so it is necessary to accept and understand the concept; but more than that because it is necessary for us in our preparation to achieve the goal for which we are all called: to see God face to face. Those of us far from perfection might as well start the process of purification now. I know, I know, it burns, doesn’t it?
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Did Jesus, my Redeemer and sole necessary and sufficient High Priest and Advocate before the throne of God, teach that I must earn my way to heavenly bliss on the basis of my personal behavior? If why was it necessary that he be crucified, to drive home that lesson? If that is the Way, the Truth and the Life, then I may as well throw away my Bible.
Purgatory is the intermediate state between heaven and hell where those of the dead who have not sinned greatly enough to warrant hell, but have not yet purified themselves enough in goodness to enter into heaven, go to prepare and purify themselves of sin.
So yeah, basically you have to work your way into Heaven. Jesus it seems isn't enough.
You may wish to reread the article (although it is not as clear as it might be). Purgatory is not earning; it is not for the damned; and neither is it random. It is specific to the individual. Nothing impure can possibly enter the Kingdom. Purgatory is the process of purification from the sinful state when we die, if we are Judged to salvation, to the pure state able to enter the Kingdom.
More is found in the Revelation of John than in Maccabees.
So yeah, basically you have to work your way into Heaven. Jesus it seems isn't enough.
Are you of those that believe in a free ride to Heaven?
I believe it is by Grace that I am saved not by my works so when I do get to Heaven I can’t boast that I worked my way there.
Purgatory is a sick fantasy. A lie straight from satan’s mouth. The chief error is it presents another path to salvation apart from Christ. Purgatory diminishes the need for the shed blood of Christ.
People who trust in Purgatory wind up in hell. for eternity!
How many millions have fallen for this doctrine of demons?
Reason #101 why I left the Catholic church.
The purpose of Purgatory has nothing to do with earning. It is the purification process by which which we sinful men who are Judged to salvation are made pure so that we can enter the Kingdom. The Revelation of John is explicit.
Ping to post 9.
A little information, for the uninformed. From Fisheaters.com.
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 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:
Temporal 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”
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 Purgatory:
“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 “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.
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!
2 Samuel 12:13-16
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 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 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 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 Lord
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.
Excellent post; you have both the Scripture and the historical relevance (Tradition) expressed very well.
Jesus’ death is hardly a free ride. Just because we can’t earn our way to heaven doesn’t mean our life is easy. As you well know it is still hard to be good despite the fact we know how God wants us to act.
And, as you also know, if you think it’s so easy to just believe that “Jesus is the Son of God and He loves you and He’s paid your sin debt, a debt you can’t pay no matter how good you act, what you need to do is believe in His atoning sacrifice for your sins”,
you don’t believe that. Everyone else who isn’t Christian doesn’t believe that, they are all in works-based religions. For these people it’s impossible to believe that. You say “that’s all they have to do?” and I say look at all the people in the world that cannot do it for one reason or another, it’s impossible for them to believe it. But it’s true.
congrats on getting out of one of the biggest cults on the planet. It saddens me to see so many mislead. Revelations talks about it though, I’d have to look up the actual quote, but referring to the religion of the city built on seven hills, she will decieve many with her power and wealth. Wonder what that refers to. God bless you all.
Could you elaborate on this please?
Secret Agent Man, respectfully, we don’t believe we “earn our way to heaven.” We believe in what St. Paul termed, “faith working through love.” We’re justified by faith, but not faith alone. Perhaps this will help:
Why don’t you look up the quote? I’m sure that any number of hysterical websites with multiple colours and multisized and blinking fonts will support any sort of fantasies that you may post on FR. Careful when you handle the snakes, though...
I’ll go get my bible then heh, I’m not handling any snakes, the truth shall set you free, according to Christ himself. I don’t hope to change anyone’s minds because people become vain in their beliefs and refuse to believe the truth, and set in their ways, but if one person chooses to explore life, then the heavens will rejoice.
So, Jesus lied when he told the thief on the cross that he would be in Heaven that day with Him. The thief went to Purgatory first, right, to work his way out?
PS - so Jesus doesn’t purify us when we believe on Him.
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