The Case for Purgatory

Non-Catholic Christians are often skeptical about certain teachings of the Catholic Church.  One teaching commonly under scrutiny is Purgatory.  Non-Catholic Christians argue that since Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of death on the cross and conquered our eternal death, making it possible for us to join God in eternal life, therefore Purgatory is unnecessary.  Jesus vanquished Death once and for all, but does that really mean that we are left without the stain of sin and perfectly prepared to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus’s death made it possible for us to go to Heaven, but it did not make us perfect.  It is obvious that although Jesus welcomes us to join him at the Eternal Feast, we are still sinners.  Most every Christian would agree to that; we are not perfect.  And yet, there are still many Christians who believe that Purgatory is unnecessary.  It is argued that Purgatory is just another human sacrifice that is inadequate compared to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus has already made for us.  But the purpose of Purgatory is not to open the Gates of Heaven to man, for the Gates have already been opened to us by Jesus.  Rather, the purpose of Purgatory is to cleanse us of our sinful state, so that we are made perfect, and ready to enter into the perfection of Eternal Life with God.  Once a soul has entered the state of Purgatory, it is inevitable that the soul will eventually reach Heaven.

All those who are baptized and who believe in the Word of God are cleansed of original sin — the sin passed down to us from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  However, even the baptized are left with tendencies toward actual sin.  When we sin, it taints us; a stain is left on our souls.  Sin distances us from God, who is perfect and sinless; the more we sin, the less holy and Christ-like we become.  Our souls are like a white dress or shirt that we put on to go to a nice dinner, which is like Heaven.  Every sin we commit is a stain that appears on the dress.  Of course, before we attend the dinner we will wash our clothes with detergent to make them white and stainless again — Purgatory is like detergent for our souls.  In order to enter into God’s presence, we are cleansed in Purgatory to make our souls as stainless and holy as they can possibly be.  Why would God allow us to enter His Kingdom with the stain of sin?

Many Christians believe that Purgatory is unbiblical, however there is abundant proof for the existence and necessity of Purgatory throughout the Bible.  Chapter 7 of Micah speaks of corruption, repentance, and God’s compassion and love.    Verse 9 reads, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgement for me.  He will bring me forth to the light; I shall behold his deliverance.” This verse clearly speaks of the distancing from God that we face when we sin.  God “pleading our cause” and “bringing us forth to the light” references the spiritual cleansing that we go through in Purgatory in order to be brought to a state of holiness so that we may enter Heaven.

Malachi 3:3 speaks of the Lord as purifying us before our offerings are acceptable to him: “he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord.”

One of the most obvious references to Purgatory is 2 Maccabees 12:44-45: “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.” These verses speak about the practice of praying for those faithful who have already died and are on the path to Heaven that they might be cleansed quickly of their sin and enter into Heaven.  Why would we pray for souls to be cleansed quickly of their sin and “be delivered” if they were already in Heaven?

Purgatory is not another imperfect human sacrifice made to gain salvation.  Salvation is already won for us through Jesus Christ.  Rather, Purgatory exists to cleanse us of our impurities, making us ready us to join our Father in perfection.




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