Explaining Purgatory To Protestants


#1

I have tried to explain Purgatory to Protestant friends and we always get to a point where they think that Catholic belief in Purgatory somehow is a belief that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross wasn’t good enough----they seem to think that Catholics are saying that what Jesus did wasn’t enough to wipe away our sins and that we have to do it on our own.

I realize that this isn’t the case but I’m not sure how to overcome that misconception. Can anyone help me out here or point me toward some good writing on this very type of misconception?


#2

Most of these people don’t want to hear about it unless you can provide scriptural references. Here are some good ones:

Mt 5:48 - be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect
Heb 12:14 - strive for that holiness without which cannot see God
Jam 3:2 - we all fall short in many respects
Rev 21:27 - nothing unclean shall enter heaven
1Jn 5:16-17 - degrees of sins distinguished
Jam 1:14-15 - when sin reaches maturity gives birth to death
2Sam 12:13-14 - David, though forgiven, still punished for his sin
Mt 5:26 - you will not be released until paid last penny
Mt 12:32 - sin against Holy Spirit unforgiven in this age or next
Mt 12:36 - account for every idle word on judgment day
2Macc 12:44-46 - atoned for dead to free them from sin
1Cor 3:15 - suffer loss, but saved as through fire
1Pet 3:18-20; 4:6 - Jesus preached to spirits in prison
2Tim 1:16-18 - Paul prays for dead friend Onesiphorus
1Cor 15:29-30 - Paul mentions people baptizing for the dead

Copied from The Bible Cheat Sheet
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#3

Here is the best reasoning plan I could give you.

Step 1-Ask them if the death of Christ saves anyone apart from faith. Then ask why? Because one must repent and turn to God from their sins.

Step 2-Ask them if they believe all their sins, past, present and future, are forgiven the moment they believe in Jesus. If they say yes, then ask them why in I John 1:7-9, St John urges Christians to confess their sins, if they already have been forgiven? You see, God only confesses future sins as we confess them. If God forgave us of all sins past, present and future, then there would be no need for us to confess our daily and future sins before God.

Step 3- Ask them if when a Christian dies, he dies in a perfect state of grace where he has no sin? If he does and we all will when we die, how does that sin become removed? Does God kind of overlook it? And what of our inward sinful desires that tug at at us? How are they removed? Get them to see that we don’t die as perfect angels fit for heaven. We must be purged from any remaining sins whether unconfessed or inbred.


#4

Urquhart provided some good Scriptural references: take a close look at one of them, Matthew 5:26. Prior to this verse, Jesus has just spoken of the need to be reconciled with our brother before we offer our gifts at the altar (notice: it is assumed that we are already part of the body of worshippers–believers–and that we are participating in offering gifts at a public worship…sounds kinda like Mass, eh?). He then goes on to emphasizes the need for reconciliation before coming before the judge (that is, at our death): “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; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.” Notice that the individual who has not reconciled with all those who may have some grievance against him is NOT sent into everlasting torment (hell), but is sent to a place where he must stay until his debts are paid. The implication is that after he pays the last penny, he will be released. When we pray for the souls in Purgatory, and offer penances for them, we are helping to pay off their debt. Now, some might respond that Jesus paid all of the debt, but that’s not consistent with what is going on here in the story that Jesus tells: if Jesus’ sacrifice had paid this guy’s debt, then why does the Judge (God) not let the guy off entirely?

Jesus describes a similar situation in Matthew 18:23-35. There the king (think God) forgives the debt of a servant who owes him a tremendous amount of money, but the servant then goes off and is unmerciful to a fellow servant who owes him a trifling amount. Look at verse 32: “‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me, and should not you had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in his anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, TILL HE SHOULD PAY ALL HIS DEBT.” Notice: God had already shown his mercy to the servant. The debt had been forgiven—God (Jesus) paid it. Yet because of the servant’s sins (committed AFTER the act of mercy), he is still going to be punished UNTIL he has paid the debt. Presumably, then, once he “pays”, he’s released.

Another useful (and often used) illustration of purgatory is the broken window analogy: say I break my neighbor’s window in a fit of anger. Then, when I come to my senses, I realize how sinful I was and ask my neighbor for forgiveness. Because he is merciful, my neighbor forgives me. But the window is still broken (the effects of sin), and I am expected to pay for it even though my neighbor has entirely forgiven me. Purgatory is how God has us “pay” for the effects of sin (the brokeness of the window). We can pay while we are on earth, but if we have not sufficiently paid for it by the time we die (meaning, that we have made sufficient reparation, including the purification of one’s desires towards breaking windows in the future), we will do so in Purgatory.If we die while still harboring a strong desire to break windows, we will need to “wash up” a bit and rid ourselves of that desire before we sit down to the banquet.

Also, ask your friends what they make of Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…”. Catholics see “what is lacking” is their participation.


#5

I have heard the analogy that purgatory is a place also to prepare to see Jesus Christ in His full glory. As such, we want to become clean and ready to see Him.

If we knew He was going to come to our house, would we not clean it up, prepare a nice meal, take a shower and put on nice clothes?

That’s what happens to our souls in purgatory – we see the mess of our souls through different eyes, knowing our Lord is coming to meet us. We want to be made clean before we are in His presence.


#6

I would try to explain it this way. Once they are saved (justified), Protestants usually believe that a process of sanctification then begins. They are declared holy (saved and justified), but then they begin the process of becoming holy (sanctified). Purgatory is merely the process of sanctification after death. If the process of sanctification after death shows Christ’s sacrifice to be somehow insufficient, the question becomes, how come the process of sanctification after justification also doesn’t demonstrate this insufficiency? It seems to say that one kind of sanctification is doesn’t make Christ look bad and another kind does. But there is really no difference.


#7

Ask them to name a country or a system that promotes a 50:50 system of justice between freedom and death where if you are found guilty of even the slightest crime (I hope we all do agree that there are different degrees of crime?) death is the only outcome and if you are found not guilty freedom is granted.

If they can you’ll probably find that it is in a country where there is a dictatorial regime. God is no dictator therefore this model would not be pleasing to Him.

If they can’t name one then ask them why they think God would have a justice system so different from the one operating in their midst.

Ask them to explain to you how the democratic justice system operates and why people get different sentences.

If you need a more theological outlook then see New Advent for the following:
**There are several passages in the New Testament that point to a process of purification after death. Thus, Jesus ChristSon of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come." According to St. Isidore of Seville (Deord. creatur., c. xiv, n. 6) these words prove that in the next life “some sins wil be forgiven and purged away by a certain purifying fire.” St. Augustine also argues “that some sinners are not forgiven either in this world or in the next would not be truly said unless there were other [sinners] who, though not forgiven in this world, are forgiven in the world to come” (De Civ. Dei, XXI, xxiv). The same interpretation is given by Gregory the Great (Dial., IV, xxxix); St. Bede (commentary on this text); St. Bernard (Sermo lxvi in Cantic., n. 11) and other eminent theological writers. declares (Matthew 12:32): "And whosoever shall speak a word against the **

**A further argument is supplied by St. Paul in I Cor., iii, 11-1,5: "For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble: Every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." While this passage presents considerable difficulty, it is regarded by many of the Fathers and theologians; and he cites to this eftect: and theologians as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved.

of course you can use the “How to explain Purgatory to Protestants” at cin.org/users/james/files/how2purg.htm**


#8

So I’ve been confused on this part for a while…do we stay in Purgatory until the second coming, or do we stay until we are clean and then enter Heaven? Is everyone who died since Christ open the gates of Heaven still in Purgatory waiting, or does does a person enter Heaven whenever their soul is ready?

In Him,
Britty


#9

“So I’ve been confused on this part for a while…do we stay in Purgatory until the second coming, or do we stay until we are clean and then enter Heaven?”

Until we are clean and enter heaven.

“Is everyone who died since Christ open the gates of Heaven still in Purgatory waiting”?

Of course not—canonized saints are in heaven, as well as the many saints whose lives we don’t know as well (the Church’s canonization simply declares that there are some, by virtue of documented miraculous intervention in our lives after their death, or by their martyrdom, that we can know about). I suspect John Paul II is now there praying for us…Only saints go to heaven. When we leave Purgatory (if we must go there first), we will be saints. The Church offers many means (the Sacraments, indulgences) to grow in holiness so that we may avoid Purgatory.


#10

[quote=Sherlock]“So I’ve been confused on this part for a while…do we stay in Purgatory until the second coming, or do we stay until we are clean and then enter Heaven?”

Until we are clean and enter heaven.

“Is everyone who died since Christ open the gates of Heaven still in Purgatory waiting”?

Of course not—canonized saints are in heaven, as well as the many saints whose lives we don’t know as well (the Church’s canonization simply declares that there are some, by virtue of documented miraculous intervention in our lives after their death, or by their martyrdom, that we can know about). I suspect John Paul II is now there praying for us…Only saints go to heaven. When we leave Purgatory (if we must go there first), we will be saints. The Church offers many means (the Sacraments, indulgences) to grow in holiness so that we may avoid Purgatory.
[/quote]

Ok, thanks! That’s what I thought, but I’d heard it both ways and was never really 100% sure:) Thanks


#11

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