PurgatoryThe Problem: Sola fide theology implies that no one is really ever cleansed of sin, rather, every person puts on the cloak of Christ's righteousness, and thus enters heaven. Since Christ's blood does not cleanse us, but merely covers us, it follows that no one need suffer or be purged from sin, since Christ accomplished all purging of sin upon the Cross.
The Truth: The smallest drop of Christ's blood is sufficient to obtain salvation for all the sins of all the people who ever have, do, or will live. However, sin entails for us a double consequence - not only does it deprive us from communion with God, but it also exhibits an unhealthy attachment to created things (this is called the "temporal punishment" of sin). Christ forgives our sins and, through His blood, restores our communion with God, but we must still be purified of our attachment to creatures. This purification can only be accomplished through a purging, either in this world or the next, from such attachments. This purging can be accomplished in this world, through a spirit of fervent charity, or in the next, through bathing in God's consuming fire.
Heb 9:27 And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment...
Mt 12:32 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.
Not forgiven in this age or the age to come - what could be forgiven in heaven? or hell? Yet Jesus is implying that some sort of post-death forgiveness can occur for some sins, because He takes care to point out that it won't happen for the sin of speaking against the Holy Spirit.
Rev 21:27 But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Phil 3:11-12 That if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
1 Cor 4:4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
Even Saint Paul had not attained perfection.
Mt 5:25-26 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
Lk 12:58-59 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. 59 I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper."
Lk 16:19-31 "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"
God is love. Hell is being completely cut off from God. Hell is being completely cut off from love. In Hell, one can feel no love for anyone, not even one's self - it is total exclusion from love, from God. The rich man is clearly not in heaven, but he just as clearly feels compassion for his brothers and is concerned about their well-being, so he is clearly not in hell. Where is he? Incidentally, this is the only parable in which Christ gives one of the persons in the story a name - Lazarus. For this reason, many Christian commentators think this is not a parable, but a description of an historical event known to Christ.
Is 6:6-7 Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven."
The word "seraphim" means "the burning ones" and these are traditionally said to be the angels closest to God. God's presence is often described as fire (the burning bush, tongues of fire, etc.). Think on what this means. Heaven is the burning fire of God's love. Hell is a burning fire. Purgatory is also a fire which burns away that which is unclean. The presence of God pervades the universe - how we respond to God's love determines where we will end. Total acceptance means we are ravished by it, total rejection means we are forever burned by it, limited, hesitant acceptance means we must be burnished by it, to burn off that which does not accept and leave only that which does. Isaiah's lips are cleansed by the holy fire, but not without pain, suffering, purgation.
Heb 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.
1 Jn 4:8 ...God is love.
Since we are part of the Body of Christ, we can pray for those being purified in Christ.
1 Cor 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Sir 7:32-33 Stretch forth your hand to the poor,
so that your blessing may be complete. 33 Give graciously to all the living,
and withhold not kindness from the dead.
Gal 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
1 Tim 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men,
2 Tim 1:16-18 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, 17 but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me 18 may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Dayand you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
Onesiphorus is almost certainly dead, else why would Paul ask the Lord to grant mercy to his family apart from him? Yet Paul also asks the Lord to grant Onesiphorus mercy. If there is no Purgatory, why does Paul ask this? Those in hell cannot be helped by prayers and those in heaven have no need of prayers.
1 Jn 5:16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.
Purgatory cleanses one from venial sin.
2 Mac 12:41-46 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 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. 43 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. 44 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. 45 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.
Job 1:5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually.
We can pray and offer up our personal sacrifices for one another, even for those in purgatory.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.
1 Cor 3:10-15 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. 11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw 13 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. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
1 Pet 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, 7 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.
Wis 3:1-8 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; 6 like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. 7 In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. 8 They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for eve
1 Pet 3:18-19 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
1 Pet 4:6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.
At the end of time, Purgatory (called Hades in the Greek, Sheol in Hebrew) will have completed its cleansing work, will be emptied and will pass away.
Rev 20:13-14 And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire...
Early Christians' comments on Purgatory