Monday, October 20, 2008

Purgatory...Yes, One More Time

Jeaux has left a new comment on your post "Scripture Dealing With Purgatory.": Deb:While I respect your use of scripture in your argument, I ask that you go and read the latter part of Hebrews 9 again. Christ suffered once for all of our sins and man will face judgment following his death. It is Christ's blood that makes us holy, not any works that we do lest any man should boast.

It is quite possible that my writing lacked some clarity. So, I apologize for any confusion I have caused. Catholics agree with Jeaux. Christ did suffer once for all our sins and works alone do not save a person.

Purgatory is not a means to work one's way into heaven. It is not a giant second chance to get into heaven. My younger son once jokingly referred to Purgatory as a spiritual washing machine and, humor aside, that is a good description. Most Protestants also believe in Purgatory, although they don't realize that they do. Very few Protestants-if any- believe that they will enter heaven with even small faults like envy or anger.

When I became a Christian, I had the uncomfortable feeling that God was shining spotlights on certain aspects of myself that needed changing. Let me say, that it is painful to change. But our Lord wants us our best. He doesn't half cleanse us and then say, "Ah, not perfect, but good enough." He wants us to be worthy of paradise, to be completely clean. Even those little, minuscule sins are supposed to be cleansed off of us before we enter heaven.

Christians believe that in heaven, the blind will see and the lame walk. God will heal all matter of physical infirmities before we enter heaven. Yet, some Christians apparently don't understand that a being powerful enough to make a wheel chair bound man walk is also powerful enough to cleanse you of small sins, for example feeling that pang of envy when your neighbor gets a raise after you've lost your job. In heaven none of us will want to pout when we don't get our way, nag anyone, feel envy or jealousy, listen to gossip, have doubt or get annoyed at our parents.

Let me use an invented example. Imagine that there is a man who was severely abused as a child. He never knew anyone that he could trust. As a young man, he robbed a bank and killed the bank teller. In prison he meets someone who manages to explain Christ's love in a manner that the young man can understand. The prisoner makes a sincere commitment to Jesus and becomes a Christian.

Of course, he hasn't become a perfect person. God's grace will help the young man to have the power and the desire to change his life. But the process of sanctification can take time. In order to become the Christian man that he was meant to be, this man has a whole history of pain and turmoil that he must overcome. God does work miracles and it is possible for even the worst criminal to change their lives with the power of Christ.

But what if, at the very moment that he has committed his life to Christ, another prisoner attacks and kills him? Remember the bible says in Revelation 21:27 that nothing unclean will enter heaven. Does that mean that our young prisoner is doomed to spend eternity in Hell because he is a very new Christian? After all, he probably has some residual anger to work through. Will this man be in the presence of God still furious at his mom for abandoning him and a foster care giver for abusing him? Catholics and most Protestants will say that no, this man will not be angry in heaven. He will no longer resent anyone and he will not be burdened with the mental scars from past abuse.

Catholics call the entire change that occurs after death, before Christians have entered heaven, Purgatory. Protestants simply haven't named it but most Protestants that I talk to do believe that some sort of change does occur.

I don't know if this article clears up any misconception about Purgatory. If any of you are still confused, please don't hesitate to ask questions. If I don't know the answer to your questions then I will either research and find the answer or direct you onto better sites. I don't mind questions, so please don't be afraid to ask. I just hope that I can provide good answers that don't confuse anyone.


Anonymous said...

How long does a soul remain in purgatory? Is it real fire in purgatory?

deb said...

Good question, Anonymous. No one knows how long anyone is in purgatory. It could be years or it could be instantaneous.

As far as fire,I think that is a metaphor. Purgatory might involve some good pain. I know that in my life, the changes that I have gone through to become a better human have often involved inner turmoil and that is emotionally painful. I would imagine that the getting rid of all faults and baggage before we enter the eternal presence of God will involve some pain but we know that we will be who God truly meant us to be. All our good qualities will remain-that means no jealousy, prejudice or those tiny faults we all have. Plus, I think that we will understand that we are about to enter heaven, so we will understand the entire process.

Let me say also. Most Protestants unknowingly believe in Purgatory, but they just haven't named it that. No Christian, that I know, believes that anyone will be jealous or angry or bitter in heaven. Yet Christians on earth do occasionally have these faults. After death, the process that you undergo to be rid of these faults is Purgatory.

I hoped that helped. :)

Anonymous said...

Deb, thank you for the answer to, "how long will the soul remain in purgatory. Also, if it is real fire." There must be sometype of purging because they say to enter heaven the soul must be in a perfect state.

journey11 said...

Hi Deb, I have been reading several of your articles. But on this matter of purgatory, I think it is pretty misleading to keep asserting that Protestants in some form also believe in purgatory.

Of course, there are SO many denominations, so I speak only from my own knowledge base on the matter, which is founded on an ernest desire to study and understand scripture through the help of the Holy Spirit.

If you want to put it into analogy, I would tell you that if heading for Heaven were like embarking on a travel by jet, I do not believe that we make any "layovers", but that Jesus has given us a one-way direct ticket.

I believe that the change or cleansing you talk about (getting rid of baggage) begins while we are still alive on this earth the moment we accept Him as our Saviour. He "begins a good work" in us" (Phl 1:6), gradually transforming us to be more like Him. Sometimes this occurs through pain or trials that we go through on this earth that refine us like gold (Job 23:10, 2 Cr 4:17).

We believe that upon death, leaving this mortal coil and the sin sickness of this world behind, we immediately recieve a glorified body, without sin, and are absent from the body, present with our Lord (2 Cr 5:8). In effect, HE does the transforming, instantly.

I have enjoyed reading your articles and trying to understand your point of view. They are thoughtfully put together. But I just wanted to clear that up, as to my point of view. As I said, bear in mind that there are so many denominations within all religions and not everybody looks at things the same way, but I do try my best to take my perspective straight from God's word, as many folks do.

It will be interesting when we do get to heaven and God makes all things known to us. Thankfully no one will desire to gloat! On that we can agree. ;)

Kristina said...

Deb -I appreciate your attempt to explain purgatory. However, I ask you, does it not bother you that the Bible itself does not refer to purgatory one single time? Do you realize that purgatory never came to existence until approximately 435 years AFTER the Bible was written, when the Catholic church was founded. Don't you think, of all the things our gracious Lord included in His Word, He would have at least mentioned it? No where in the old or new testament can you find a single reference to purgatory. The closest you came to providing a glimpse of it is a single verse, out of thousands of verses in the Bible, that states nothing unclean will enter heaven and even this does not hint at a place called purgatory. It simply states nothing unclean can enter heaven. How does one dream up a place that a human will go to, in order to be cleansed, out of those five words? Is not the blood of Jesus enough? Do you believe the blood of Jesus is not powerful or sacrificial enough? While you seem to have a good and devoted heart I fear you have been deceived. Because, by saying we have to go to a place to be cleansed of our sins you are saying Jesus' death on the cross, and the blood He shed for us, is not enough. You cannot say one without meaning the other. Jesus' blood is enough. Period. For it is by GRACE you have been saved, THROUGH FAITH- and this is NOT FROM YOURSELVES, it is the GIFT of God - NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast. I praise God that He delivered me from a religion that taught that He was not enough. With all my love, and not a single mean spirited intention, I pray the same for you.