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November 22, 2007 / vivator

No Scriptural reference for purgatory?

Catholic teaching on purgatory is one of the stumbling blocks for Protestants and “Bible only” Christians.   Where does the Bible say there is purgatory and does it nullify Christ’ last word on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30)?  The word “purgatory” itself is not in the Bible – but neither is Trinity, Original Sin and many other terms created by both Catholics and Protestants to describe certain teaching: Unconditional or Conditional Election, Irresistible Grace, Dispensational etc.

The standard reference to purgatory is 2 Maccabees 12:46 where prayer for the dead is mentioned but since Protestants and “Bible only” Christians do not accept 2 Maccabees as inspired let us look at other verses.   We know from Scripture (Malachi 3:2-3) that God is like refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap who purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver (RSV) – and that’s what purgatory is meant for, i.e. we are being cleansed and purified from any stains of venial sins we have.   When prophet Isaiah saw the glory of God, he expressed his sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5). One of seraphim then flew to him with a burning coal in his hand, with which he touched his lips and said:

Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven

Isaiah 6:7

This verse shows that sins can be forgiven and guilt can be taken away through fire. We also have allusion of purgatory in the prophecy given through the prophet Zechariah:

In the whole land, says the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, `They are my people’; and they will say, `The LORD is my God.'”

Zechariah 13:8-9

The fire does not refer to hell because they are refined, not eternally condemned through it.  Another allusion to the fire of purgatory is found in 1 Corinthians 3:15 that say that a man whose works is burned up will be saved as through fire.  In Matthew 12:32 Jesus says those who sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come.  Catholics understand this verse to imply that there are sins that can be forgiven in the age to come.  He who commits sin is of the devil (1 John 3:8) and nothing unclean shall enter heaven (Revelation 21:27) – then one with (venial) sins upon dying cannot enter heaven unless they are purged first.


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  1. vivator / Jul 5 2008 1:57 pm

    The irony is when you disagree with what other’s interpretation of Scripture you simply claim they misinterpret it – you and those who agree with you are the ones who interpret Scripture without error. You are entitled to believe so but the your authority is no longer Scripture but your interpretation of Scripture.
    The teaching of purgatory is related to Justification – you can read my post on salvation in Catholciism. Scripture nowhere says we are justified by faith alone – there is no such thing as one-time only justification. Abraham was justified by faith (Romans 4) before his circumcision and by his obedience to sacrifice his son (James 2:21), after his circumcision.

  2. mark / Jul 2 2008 10:49 pm


    Can’t you see the obvious fallacy in the argument?

    Yes, God is a refining fire.

    Yes, God took Isaiah’s sin away by a burning coal.

    Yes, God will refine a third of his people by fire

    Yes, Jesus said the Holy Spirit blasphemers will not be forgiven now, or then.

    Yes, Sins can be forgiven now.

    But none of these are an argument for purgatory! None of them are proof texts. I’m walking away from this fairly convinced the bible is silent on half-way houses to heaven. Because you’re relying on an assumption, a HUGE assumption that purgatory exists.

    I could use all these texts as proof that there is no purgatory, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    It all comes down to when believe justification occurs. This whole article is an assumption that it happens now AND then. If full justification occurs in this life, then there is no need for a half-way house. But since your theological viewpoint says that justification is a long man-won process, and since men suck, then there must be further refining by God alone later.

    Therefore, argue the existence of Purgatory to me on the theological foundation – justification. The real proof of Purgatory is not in these biblical texts, it can only be found in the engine room of justification.

    Therefore, prove to me, biblically, that justification is a life-long process, partially man-wrought, and incomplete on earth, that God does not forgive all sins now, that Christ did not soak up to the full measure the penatly and punishment for sins once for all on the cross, and then I will lay my faith at your feet and await Purgatory with you.

    Please reply.

  3. Joe / Mar 7 2008 2:47 pm

    This is nice. Purgatory is something to actually look forward to. Of course, purgation in this life, is preferable to purgation afterward. Still, I take consolation in the fact that God promises to eventually help us fulfill our goal of holiness. In this vein, I think one can interpret the parable of the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13.:24-30 This parable certainly speaks of judgement, and wheat and weeds refer to people and heaven and hell. In that sense, it is a promise of justice. But the wheat and weeds can also refer to the good and bad in our own soul. In this sense, God assures us that although he may leave the weeds their for a while, in the end he will perfect us. In this sense, it is a promise of holiness and perfection.

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