According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory is “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” In other words, Catholics teach that Purgatory is a place that a Christian’s soul goes to after death to be cleansed of the sins that had not been fully satisfied during life. And they further teach that the living should pray for their dead, who are burning in Purgatory to speed up their deliverance from suffering.
Is This Teaching Biblical?
Nowhere is there any mention of purgatory in God’s Word. This teaching is based on salvation by works and not by faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. Humans can’t earn heaven by their works. The Bible clearly teaches that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Jesus died to save us from our sins (Romans 5:8). The prophet Isaiah declares, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus suffered for our sins so that we could be delivered from suffering.
To say that we must also suffer for our sins is to say that Jesus’ suffering was not sufficient. Jesus, who was God incarnate (John 1:1,14), paid an infinite price for the sins of all humanity. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Therefore, we can’t limit Jesus’ sacrifice to atoning for the original sin, or sins committed before salvation.
Further, the Bible teaches that Christ offered His sacrifice once for all. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins” (1 Peter 3:18). Catholics has wrongly substituted this “once for all sacrifice” with humans’ efforts and meritorious works to gain salvation.
The main Bible verse that Catholics use for evidence of Purgatory is found in 1 Corinthians 3:15. It says, “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” This passage is giving an example of things going through fire as a description of believers’ works being judged. If our works are good “gold, silver, costly stones,” they will pass through the fire unharmed, and we will be rewarded for them. If our works are evil “wood, hay, and straw,” they will be burned by the fire, and we will not be rewarded.
This passage does not say that believers go through the fire, but rather that a believer’s works go through the fire. In fact, 1 Corinthians 3:15 refers to the believer “escaping through the flames,” not “being cleansed by the flames.” Jesus suffered so we don’t have to suffer. What infinite love!
In His service,