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.