Best verse defending Purgatory! Matthew 5:21-26


In my quest to fully understand Purgatory, I’ve found this passage that illustrates the best argument of this intermediary state after death.

Now Protestants will take the end of the passage out of context, not embrace the concept of what happens after you die. It must be taken into full context. Don’t let them fool you.

Lets look at the whole passage as Jesus taught it to us.

Matthew 5:21-26 (NRSV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

The judge here is God the Father. The guard could be Jesus or the Angels. Prison is purgatory. Its not hell, because after you’ve paid the last penny or purging and purifying of your sins, your released, and can enter into heaven. In hell, there’s no release, but eternal damnation in the inferno.

Father Mitch Pacwa who has a Doctor of Philosophy uses this verse also. After watching his debate, I was convinced myself now of purgatory.

Watch “Debate: Purgatory (Walter Martin vs Mitch Pacwa)” on YouTube

What’s your thoughts on this verse?


I use these when I teach

Use them with my blessing

…the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; the rich man also died. He was buried in hell. [this was pre Jesus’ crucifixion] [Luke 16:22]

2/3 of the people will be cut off and perish and 1/3 will be tested in the fire. They will call on my name, and I will call them my people, and they will call me their God [Zechariah 13:8-9]

He is like a refiner’s fire - he will purify the sons of Levi till they present right offerings to the Lord [Malachi 3:2-3]

Good works will be counted, and bad works burned away. Those will be saved …but only as through fire. [1 Corinthians 3:12-15]

Nothing unclean can enter heaven [Rev 21:27]

We must all be cleansed and purified of non deadly sin, either now, or after death, in the flames. We believe in Purgatory from scripture and tradition. "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” [2 Thessalonians 2:15]

“The church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of the truth.” [Timothy 3:15 ]

Caritate non ficta


I think you are reaching on this passage. The first part of the passage is confronting the mishandling of the law by the Pharisees who were teaching that one was righteous under the law so long as they did not act out violence against their neighbor. However, Jesus is returning people to the full intention of the law, which is shown in Leviticus 19: 17-18. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Essentially he is saying that if you hate your brother in your heart, you have already sinned by plotting vengeance against him in your heart and are guilty of sin. He then uses the examples of being held guilty on earth by judicial trial, and also in Gehenna which is the place of final judgment reserved for Satan. No intermediary place of punishment here. He then encourages people who are headed to the temple to be reconciled or provide a freewill offering to God to first be reconciled to one another. This is our true offering. The example of the temporal authorities is just a repetitive reinforcement of what he has already said. You will find that repetition is a frequently used tool to emphasize a point in Jewish culture. The point of the passage is to forgive your brother, or if he has something against you, be reconciled to him.


Very protestant argument you give. Father Mitch Pacwa who has a Doctor of Philosophy uses this verse also. After watching his debate, I was convinced myself now of purgatory.

Watch “Debate: Purgatory (Walter Martin vs Mitch Pacwa)” on YouTube


It’s a good indication of the concept of purgatory, but we don’t need one verse to prove it. Here are various reasons to accept the doctrine of purgatory:

  • Prayers for the dead were a Jewish custom and continued on in the Christian tradition: Jews to this day prayer for their deceased. 2 Maccabees, even if not accepted as Scripture (as Protestants don’t), clearly indicates the Jewish practice just prior to the coming of Christ.
  • As expected, early Christians continued the custom. The Christians of the earliest centuries remembered the dead during the Eucharist. Christians would gather around the relics of martyrs on the anniversary of their deaths, example.
  • The concept of Purgatory – even if not the name (which is a Western description) – is maintained in other Apostolic churches besides the Catholic Church: Eastern Orthodox Christians believe in an intermediate state, at least to the extent that prayers can be said for the dead.
  • Scriptural principles suggest Purgatory, as we must be sinless and pure before entering into the full perfection of Heaven. But none of us die perfectly pure. All of us are attached to sin, and all of us have residue effects of sin.
  • All Christians acknowledge – or rather, they must so, to be consistent and logical – that there is some transition between this life and the next; for we are sinners now, but we are free from sin in Heaven. Catholicism just posits to know more about the nature of this transition.
  • Purgatory is not just Catholic (or Orthodox). You can be Protestant and accept it, like the great C.S. Lewis did.
  • And, perhaps most importantly, the Catholic Church teaches it to be true. Christ founded a church in part to continue and maintain his teachings. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church is the “pillar of truth” and can declare what is of Christian faith, just as the first bishops and elders did at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Just like the Church did in deciding the canon of the Bible, in the first place.


1 Corinthians 3:10-14 (IIRC) is also fairly clear, and perhaps more specific. And 2 Maccabees 12:45 or so. - which they do not have - thus faulty theology has lead them astray.

I tend to stress that the purgation process - or state - is a how and not so much a what. It is how you get to heaven. We are invited to the Lord’s banquet, but our souls are dirty with sin. Purgatory is God’s “mud room” where we are cleaned up and made presentable at the table.

The faith alone believers see no need as “Jesus did it all” Really? So, Hitler will be in heaven at the table with the millions he ordered to be slaughtered?

That sounds to me like an irrational religion with an unjust God - Who might send them to hell just for kicks.



It is a tough sell, since private interpretation of scripture has lead to such abominations as the prosperity gospel, “word of faith” etc. Bible alone, faith alone, grace alone and all of the “alones” lead them to believe that they alone are correct and everyone else is simply wrong. Many 19th and 20th century inventions see no need for purification because, as they say…

“Jesus did it all! It’s ME and Jesus!”


Yea, its the original sin of pride brought by the father of lies, Lucifer. As that brought about his downfall with his “I” attitude wanting to be like God.

Sadly many others have followed this destructive path unknowingly.


For me it is all about common sense.

First the Bible clearly states that there will be neither sin nor an attachment to sin in heaven. Revelation 21: 27

Second, we (at least most of us) are still presently sinning and will most likely still be attached to some sin at the end of this life. 1 John 1: 8

The above 2 statements lead me to conclude that there must be a period between death and heavenly glory in which we, the saved brothers and sisters of Christ, are cleansed of sin and our attachments to sin. The only way to dispute this logical conclusion is if one of the above 2 statements were untrue. However, I have found both statements, 1 and 2, are Biblical and have yet to find evidence that contradicts these passages in the Bible.

I do not always want to get into the minute details about what Purgatory is or isn’t. Bible verses tend to cause nothing but arguments. I like the logical approach first. The only thing I am trying to get at here, which I think most will agree on, is that we must be clean (pure) before we enter into heaven.

I don’t think belief alone can make us perfect. I think most would agree that only God can make us perfect. So common sense to me would say it is highly unlikely that God doesn’t always complete this total transformation before death. If He did then we would not sin here on earth, and as I mentioned above 1 John 8 states “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves”, therefore this purification has to occur after we die.

As far as I’m concerned unless you can prove (to yourself of course) that you are perfected in this life then you have to believe that Jesus will complete the purification process after you die. If not you are either saying you are going into heaven unclean or that you are damned.

As for me I don’t want to be damned. On top of that I can’t even go to bed at night without a shower, so I am pretty sure there is no way I will be happy in heaven without final purification.

For us Catholics we call that final purification Purgatory. If someone doesn’t like the word that is fine. they can make up their own word for it. Either way to deny that you are in need of further purification to enter heaven is both illogical and self centered.

God Bless


If you yourself are saying that Jesus was providing a metaphor to demonstrate the need for forgiveness, why are you then attempting to enforce a literal interpretation speaking of purgatory. Is it a parable to describe the need for forgiveness or a description of purgatory? There’s just nothing in the passage that remotely intimates purgatory. Here is the other issue. You are putting the holy spirit at war with the holy spirit. Why do I say this? What does Paul say regarding the completed work of Christ and our destination?

He has delivered us (past tense) from the domain of darkness and transferred (past tense) us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The whole concept of purgatory insinuates that we actually don’t have forgiveness of sin, and that our sin ha not been atoned for by Christ, but must be atoned for by a purgation of suffering.

Or how about an even clearer passage:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (our state before salvation). But God, being rich in mercy (purgation is not mercy, it is sweating off your penalty), because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (past tense, not awaiting the completion of purgatory) - by grace you have been saved (purgation isn’t grace, it is the absence of God’s favor) – and raised up with him (past tense) in the heavenly places (notice no mention of an intervening place of punishment) in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

The fact of the matter is that Christ did atone for our sins and the actual gospel is so much better than the teaching you are espousing.


This teaching has been taught for the past 2000 years by the Church Fathers, and the Catholic Church.

I was once like you also, rejecting Purgatory. I even got my Masters Degree in Theology from what many Protestants consider the best Seminary in the world, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Purgatory was very hard for me to swallow and accept. All other verses used by the Catholic Church did not have enough meat for me to fully accept Purgatory. This verse in Matthew finally made sense to me.

You have understand a bit of Catholic teachings on Mortal vs Venial sins to fully grasp the concept of purgatory. I took me about 3 months to grasp this.


We do have forgiveness of sin by the blood of Jesus. Not everybody has to pass through purgatory. As Paul said, to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord. 2 Cor. 5:8

As long as we are not living in a state of mortal sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), we are guaranteed eternal life in heaven if we endure till the end of our lives.

Matthew 24:13 (NRSV)
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

But if we have sin in our lives that is not a mortal sin leading to the eternal fires of hell, it must be purified in purgatory. You’ll suffer loss, but your soul will be saved.

1 Corinthians 3:15 (NRSV)
15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. <------------


I think you might be reading more into this verse than it actually says.

If you back up to verse 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ in Colossae:

We can see that this letter is being written to Baptized Christians in Colossae.

4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you.

Here St. Paul is thankful that the Colossians received the gospel. I agree that Christ’s work was complete , but that work still has to be applied to our lives. Notice in verse 5 St. Paul agrees, he gives them no guarantees, he says they have a HOPE laid up for them in heaven.

Finally before we get to the verse you quoted, St. Paul says…12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Being qualified for the finals is no guarantee you will win the race. God can just as easily disqualify us because of our deeds.

Now in this light we can read the verse you quote. It’s pretty easy to see that the “past tense” delivered here is Baptism. Baptism is what delivers us from the fallen family of Adam (domain of darkness) to the glorious family of God (kingdom of His beloved Son).

Finally note that St. Paul ends by saying…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is no longer speaking in past tense he switches to the word have. This is the present perfect tense. It denotes an action that happened at a time in the past, continues to occur in the present and may continue in the future. So he is saying the completed work of Christ is sufficient to have forgiven our sins in the past, to forgive our present sins and MAY FORGIVE any sins we commit in the future.

It’s pretty simple to see. Sure it is complete but it still has to be applied. If you still have an inclination to sin when you die (an nothing unclean can enter heaven) either Christ’s completed work has to be applied to you after you die or you go to Hell, the choice is yours.




That’s because you don’t understand the concept of Purgatory. Your trying to go to deep when it really is pretty simple.

God is the author of life. Why would the author set up our entire lives one way and then turn around and say that wasn’t necessary I just wanted to see you squirm?

When a teenager throws a ball in the house (which the parents said not to) and breaks a window, do you think God is more pleased when the teenager says, to their parents, oops sorry and the parents say I forgive you then THEY clean up the glass or do you think God is more pleased when the parents say I forgive you here is a broom please clean up the glass and help me replace the window?

I sure hope you say number two, because we all know you let that teenager continually disobey their parents, with no consequences, and you will have an unruly teenager on your hands.

If God expects us to atone to one another when we sin against one another in this life, why wouldn’t we, EVEN MORE SO, believe God is deserving of atonement when we sin against Him?

This ties right into what you say here…

Mercy doesn’t always mean not punishing someone who deserves punishment. Quite often it means punishment or a long imprisonment instead of the death penalty.

God isn’t just a merciful God he is also a just God. What kind of justice would a father show his children if he never made them learn from their mistakes?

Personally, I prefer a Father who helps me learn from my mistakes, even if it is painful. If he gives me everything and expects nothing from me, I know, when I go against him, it will make me nothing more than a spoiled ungrateful child who takes him for granted.

God Bless


Again, you are quoting scripture out of context. The context for the verse that you posted is that Jesus has warned the disciples that they will undergo tribulation and persecution for their faith and for proclaiming the gospel. In the context of the passage, Jesus is not making a statement about commission of mortal or venial sins, but telling the disciples they must persevere in their faith and proclaim the gospel to all the world.

This is also another “prooftext” taken completely out of context. The context for this verse is that Paul is speaking to the Corinthians who are arguing about which apostle provided their baptism, or which apostle’s teaching they follow. Paul is saying to the Corinthians that they are not to make such distinctions, as the apostles did not do so amongst themselves. In Chapter 2, he is proclaiming the centrality of preaching Christ crucified and that it is this gospel that provides the unifying factor within the church. Therefore, the work of the apostles will be tested (the work itself) to see which built properly upon the foundation of Christ. And the work of each one will be manifest (the nature of the Church itself being their witness). Those whose work shows itself to be authentic will receive a reward, whereas those who were not faithful in their instruction of their flocks will lose out on the reward as if it had been destroyed by fire.


Again, the context of the mercy that Paul is speaking of is within the passage of Ephesians 2 itself. If you are bringing an outside definition of mercy, you are reading into the text something that Paul is not communicating. Going back to the text, Paul is saying that we have already been raised to life with Christ and seated in the heavenly places with Christ…and to your comment that God is a just God, he absolutely is a just God which is the reason Christ bore the penalty for our sin in his flesh. The last comment you make about justice is irrelevant. You are speaking of discipline in the temporal realm, not judgment after death.

I can’t agree with you more, but again, you are making a category error between suffering the ill effects of our sin in the temporal realm, and resurrection of the body.

And thank you for your blessing. Peace be with you also.


Question for you! Did you know there us around 40,0000 different Christian sects world wide. Many with conflicting views and interpretation of the scriptures. Most claim to be “Born Again” and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Is Gods Holy Spirit so confused that he leads everybody into different interpretations?

Thankfully as Catholics, we have been guided by Apostolic Succession on our Bishops, Priests, Popes. passed on from the laying of hands of the actual 12 Apostles. They’ve been entrusted by Christ to be the guardians of final interpretation of scripture. Now you can argue this all day and night, not believing it. But if you ever get a chance to study the history of the church, you’ll know how it all began and is today.

Jesus said the truth will set you free!!


Yeah, I have heard that. And if you read that same study that claims there are 40,000 different Christian sects, you would see that the Roman Catholic Church accounts for 900 of them.

I have and do study church history.

I would challenge the validity that succession has maintained the purity of doctrine. Many of the great heresies within the Church came from the clerical ranks or monks of the Church itself (examples include Origen, Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Nestorius, Honorius, the anti-popes of the middle ages, etc.). A supposed Apostolic succession is not a guarantee of orthodoxy.

Completely agree. That is what the gospel has taught us. The issue is that the doctrine of purgatory turns that statement on its head.


Then, why does anyone suffer, especially Christians?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit