"Purgatory" True or False?
by Ed Stevens
IS there a "midway state between heaven and hell", a "halfway house to heaven", a place in which "souls must suffer for a time" in a fire-cleansing punishment for sins, for which they "cannot in justice be doomed to hell" and are "unworthy to at once enter heaven"? Will prayers of the living avail to release souls from such a place called "Purgatory" by Roman Catholics? A brief Bible exposition on this topic is timely in answering a Knights of Columbus display ad entitled, "Catholics Thank God There IS a Purgatory". In this ad I Corinthians 3:13-15 is deceitfully handled (see II Cor. 4:2) as though after death the man himself is to be "tried by fire", not his work alone. Also, II Timothy 1:18 is used to support praying for the dead, as though Paul did so. In answering we shall use only the Roman Catholic Douay Bible version and their revised New Testament "Confraternity" version.
It is said of saved believers in I Cor. 3:13-15 that "the WORK of each will be made manifest, for the day of the Lord will declare it, since the day is to be revealed in fire. The fire will assay the quality of everyone's WORK: if his WORK abide which he has built thereon, he will receive reward; if his WORK burns he will lose his reward, but himself will be saved, yet so as through fire," This is a works-testing "fire", you see, and not a sin-punishing fire. That sort is reserved for all unbelievers (see Rev. 21:8) who will not believe that just punishment for man's sin was fully borne by God's Son on the cross, when He "for our sakes made Him to be sin who knew nothing of sin, so that in Him we might become the justice of God". II Cor. 5:21.
SIN MUST BE PUNISHED — ONCE!
Christ "Himself bore our sins in. His own body upon the tree, that we (believers), having died to sin might live to justice; and by His stripes you were healed", i.e., spiritually healed. I Pet. 2:24.
God does not punish sin twice! Bible-believing Christians know that all their punishment for sin occurred at "the place called Golgotha", outside of Jerusalem, over 1900 years ago, as fully experienced by their Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. No additional place, or time, is anywhere mentioned in God's Word for believers to suffer any punishment whatever for sin! Thank God! The Apostle Paul declared the gospel wherein believers "stand" and by which they are "saved" is, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures". I Cor. 15:1-5.
"Once for all at the end of the ages (Christ) hath appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed unto men to die once and after this comes the judgment, so also was Christ offered once to take away the sins of many." Believers "have been sanctified [made holy] through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL." "For by ONE OFFERING He has perfected for ever those who are sanctified" making them "free to enter the Holies in virtue of the blood of Christ"! Hebrews 9:28; 10:10, 14, 19.
The word "purgatory" comes from a Latin word, "purgo", "to cleanse". If "fire" purges away sin in "a place of satisfaction for sin" in which "souls must suffer for a time to be cleansed from certain sins", as Roman Catholicism teaches, then are the final reconciliationists wrong in teaching that all the lost in "the lake of fire" will finally be purged of their sins and be saved? That both are wrong is plainly taught in God's Word for only "the BLOOD of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from ALL sin" (I John 1:7) — this side the grave only!
"To the church of God at Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place" (I Cor. 1:2) Paul wrote: "But you have been WASHED, you have been sanctified, you have been justified in the name of our Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God." I Cor. 6:11.
That all believers are thus fit to go immediately to heaven after death is shown in II Cor. 5:8, "We even have the courage to prefer to be exiled from the body and to be at home with the Lord"— in heaven. Also in Philippians 1:23 we read of Paul "desiring to depart and to be with Christ".
PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD — VAIN REASONING?
Concerning Onesiphorus who may have died, nothing certain is deducible, Paul did not write as though he prayed for the dead. He simply wrote: "May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day." II Tim. 1:18. That he referred to "mercy" in obtaining rewards at the future judgment seat of Christ for rewards is made plain from the context and by reading II Cor. 5:10 and Rom. 14:10. The K.C. display ad asked, "Would Paul have prayed for Onesiphorus, then dead, if he believed the soul of his departed co-worker was beyond help?"
Since Paul knew that the soul's condition and destiny is eternally fixed at death and knowing the inspired Scriptures nowhere enjoins the living to implore "help" for the dead to gain entrance into heaven, Paul would not and did not in that sense pray for the dead.
Significantly, in none of Christ's recorded prayers is help implored for the dead! He unveiled Hades, the abode of the dead, as it was before He took the righteous therefrom at His ascension (Luke 16:19-31; Eph. 4:8, 9), but said nothing about this Rome-invented "Purgatory".
There is an intermediate state of the dead, a being "unclothed" as to a body (II Cor. 5:1-4), but there is to be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust in bodies. John 5:29.
In the so-called Apocryphal Books (rejected by Jerome who prepared the Latin Vulgate), one passage, II Maccabees 12:43-46, speaks of praying for the dead. It is the main reference used by Rome as a prop for "Purgatory". A Douay footnote reads: "A clear proof of the practice of praying for the dead under the old law . . . ". The human author of historic "Maccabees" recounts that Judas sent money to Jerusalem "for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead [soldiers], thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection". Further, that "it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins".
Plainly, here was an impromptu "thought" and no indication at all that a "practice of praying for the dead" existed then. No such practice is anywhere mentioned in the entire Douay Bible! God says: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways" (Isa. 55:8) and that we must war to "the destroying of reasoning, yes, of every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every mind into captivity to the obedience of Christ." II Cor. 10:4, 5.
Purgatory doctrine viciously attacks and denies the efficacy, power and completeness of the cross-work of Christ our Redeemer. Since it is not God's thought then, to pray for the dead "that they may be loosed from their sins", such thinking on man's part is not only unwholesome but evil and vain reasoning.
John A. O'Brien states in his book, "The Faith of Millions", p. 407, that "reason alone would suggest and even demand the existence of a midway state between heaven and hell"! He then quotes John L. Stoddard (p. 409) as follows: "There is hardly a religious system of antiquity [showing its pagan origin] in which some similar provision to purgatory is not found ... If the souls of the dead pass instantly into an eternally fixed state, beyond the efficacy of our intercessions, then all our requiems, prayers and similar practices are vain." Emphasis ours. And so they are, indeed!
BIBLE COMFORT AND WARNING
In addition to Scripture references already given about "an eternally fixed state" here are more:
"Amen, Amen, I say unto you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has life everlasting; and does not come to judgment, but has passed from death to life." John 5:24.
"When the wicked man is dead there shall be no hope any more; and the expectation of the solicitous shall perish." Proverbs 11:7.
"Why should I fear in evil days . . . those who trust in their wealth and glory in the abundance of their riches? For neither can anyone free himself, nor render to God the price of his redemption; the ransom of his soul is too great nor will it ever be enough so that he might live for ever and not see death." Psalm 48:6-9 (49 in K.J.V.). This certainly applies well to "the Mass" of Rome!
"Therefore, because children have blood and flesh in common so He [Christ) in like manner has shared in these; that through death He might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver them who throughout their life were kept in servitude by the fear of death." Hebrews 2:14, 15.
Reader, if you fear death we pray you in Christ's name, be convicted and assured of the TRUTH of God's precious Word, receive it and "stand fast, and do not be caught again under the yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1). Christ said, "If you abide in my word you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, mid the truth shall woke you FREE." John 8:31, 32.
We close with this question: Why should Roman Catholics say they "thank God there is a Purgatory"? Doubtless, this doctrine affords them a desired way of compensation for indulging in sin! And though there is penance in this life for them and purgation (supposedly) after death, they are told (falsely) as in the Knights of Columbus ads: "All are assuredly saved". May our merciful Heavenly Father help them to turn from such fatal deceptions of Satan and to trust alone in the all-sufficient "one sacrifice" of Christ for purging from sin and for present "eternal redemption, through Him", remembering His Word that "He lives always to make intercession" for living believers "at the right hand of God". Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:26, 2'7, 34.
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