Forgiveness of sin and final judgement

If sins are forgiven in confession and absolution granted, then at the final judgement, how is it that we are judged? What then is the purpose of purgatory if we are already forgiven and all penalties paid by Christ?

Forgiveness and mercy are for now. Judgment is for after we die.

Judgement has to do with passing sentence. Heaven or Hell are the only two sentences we can get.

Purgatory is for those who have been sentenced to heaven but are not yet ready to enter. You have to be perfect to enter heaven. Few of us are perfect at the time of death.


In confession your eternal punishment is taken away but you still have temporal punishment. You are forgiven, but you still have some punishment.

For example if a boy does something wrong, his father forgives him but gives him a short term punishment to discipline him.

The final judgement God reveals how he judged every individual soul to show his mercy and justice.

What Purgatory is not

Purgatory is not a second chance.
Purgatory is not a place where the soul can do anything to cleans himself; all cleansing is done by God alone.
Purgatory is not a “third option” for people who are “too good” for heaven but “too bad” for heaven; there are only two destinations for those who have died: heaven or hell.

What is Purgatory?

Catechism of the Catholic Church
1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

[INDENT]Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611[/INDENT]

Temporal effects of sin illustrated from scripture.

The temporal effects of sin are best illustrated in Genesis 3:14-20, where God pronounces a series of maledictions against Adam and Eve, the serpent, and even the physical creation itself, all as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience: the original sin. The eternal penalty of their sin—hell—was something Christ atoned for on the cross, and Adam and Eve’s salvation and avoidance of that penalty was due to their faith in God’s promises and their subsequent obedience to His laws, but the temporal effects of sin remained. Enmity with the rest of nature, having to work to eat, labor pains for women, sickness, and eventually death, were all part of the punishments God permitted to fall upon Adam and Eve and all of us, their descendants. So when you, a born-again Christian, receive Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you correctly believe that He will forgive you of your sins and remit the eternal punishment they deserve. But you still are going to have to get up and go to work tomorrow, right? Your wife will still experience pain in childbirth; you may even someday be afflicted with cancer, or some other life-threatening disease. You might have a heart attack. And in the end you, like me and everybody else, will eventually suffer the greatest of the temporal punishments outlined in Genesis 3: You are going to die someday. Christ’s atoning sacrifice paid for your sins, but it didn’t wipe out the temporal effects, including the punishments I just mentioned of your sins.

There are other examples of the principle of temporal punishments due to sin that God does not even eliminate even when we repent and are forgiven of our sins.

For example, in 2 Samuel 12:14-14, we see the tragic case of King David. He had sinned by committing adultery and murder, and though the Lord forgave him when he repented, there were repercussions that followed which god did not alleviate. A form of restitution was still owed:

2 Samuel 12:13-14
13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.”

Now, how does all this fit into the doctrine of purgatory? Purgatory is the place or state (however you’d like to think of it) in which the fire of God’s love purifies us from the temporal effects due to sin, which include any temporal punishments due to our sins.

Here is the way it was explained to me, using an analogy.

A small child goes to the kitchen to get a glass of juice but ends up spilling the juice all over the kitchen floor. The mother comes in and immediately the child says, “I’m sorry mommy” and the mother replies, “thats okay, I forgive you”. The mother forgave the child for spilling the juice but the mess still has to be cleaned up. As imperfect humans, we have a natural attachment to sin and that is where purgatory comes in. Although God will forgive us our sins in this lifetime but we still have to be purged of our attachment before we can enter Heaven. As the Bible states, nothing unclean shall enter Heaven. How long a person remains in purgatory is not known to us, only God can determine the amount of time we spend there but once our attachment to sin has been completely purged God will allow our entrance into Heaven to see the Beatific Vision.


Did purgatory exist before it occurred to the Church 1500 years after Christ?

Of course.

The Doctrine of Purgatory Proved from Scripture

2 Maccabees 12:42-46
Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; or if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.

Even those Christians who deny that Maccabees 1 & 2 belong are inspired and belong in the canon of the Old Testament must admit that this passage reveals that the Jews believed that that the living may pray for the dead and make sacrifices for them in order that they might be freed from the sins they had committed. It was with this cultural understanding as a backdrop that the following New Testament verses come into focus.

Matthew 12:32
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son 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.

Does this not imply that some sins can be forgiven in the age to come? Obviously, there is no sin to forgive in heaven, and sin is not forgiven in hell because it’s too late and judgment is permanent. Therefore, the “world to come” where sin can still be forgiven must be a third, distinct place.

Luke 12:42-48
The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. "That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Notice that there are not two but three categories of servants in this parable: 1) the “wise and faithful manager” who is rewarded (heaven); 2) the unfaithful servant who knows his master’s will but does not do it and who is “cut to pieces and assigned a place with the unbelievers (hell)l; and 3) the one “who does not know and does things deserving punishment.” This final servant is beaten with “few blows” (purgatory).

1 Corinthians 3:10-15
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

1 Peter 1:7
These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Then why did it take 1500 years before the church discovered it?

2 Maccabees 12
44 (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,)
45 And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them.
46 It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

Why would you pray for someone who is either in hell or heaven?

“And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: ‘Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous’” (Acts of Paul and Thecla [A.D. 160]).

The Church did not “discover” it; it has always been there. The Protestant reformation removed it from their teachings and non-Catholics now don’t understand about it. :slight_smile:

The Church didn’t ‘discover’ purgatory in the decrees of Trent (which is what, I believe, you’re alluding to). That’s not how the Church does things. Rather, it makes doctrinal pronouncements in a reactionary, rather than in a pre-emptive manner: when a teaching of the Church is doubted or there is the need to formally declare it, then the Church makes a formal declaration. So, what you’re seeing in Trent is the end of the process, not its inception.

There’s a tract on purgatory here at CAF; take a look at it and see the various quotes of the Early Church Fathers and ask yourself whether they aren’t talking about purgatory (even if they don’t ‘call it by name’).

(Edited to add: I see that Cena has cited this tract as well. ‘Great minds’ and all that… :wink: )

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? After all, it would seem that, if we all already know whether we’re forgiven or not – or if we believe or not – then there’s no need for either of the judgments, right? It would seem that the judgments are mere formalities. Yet, does that really make sense? Is Christ just ‘going through the motions’ – twice! – just for the sake of doing it?

There are many threads here at CAF in which people ask whether we can just pray to Jesus for forgiveness, rather than going to confession. One answer that is often floated is “how can you know that you are forgiven?”; that’s not the tack I’d take with that question – and I’m not even sure that it’s a productive answer to that question. But… how would we know?

I’m just floating a suggestion here: what if there is the notion of the ‘unknown’ at the particular judgment? That is, what if we are mistaken about some facet of the faith (e.g., “Jesus forgives me, even if I don’t go to confession” or “pre-marital sex isn’t a sin, because I love him!” or “I don’t have to go to church… but just pray at home and be a nice person!”), and the particular judgment is about Jesus saying, “I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken; I meant what I said…”?

What then is the purpose of purgatory if we are already forgiven and all penalties paid by Christ?

That’s a question that appears to be coming from the perspective of Reformation theology, not Catholic theology, right?

When you say what if “we” are mistaken about some facet of the faith do you mean the Catholic Church or individuals who believe other than Catholic Church teaching. The Catholic Church teaches that it cannot be mistaken on any facet of faith so I don’t understand your point.

Individuals, whether they call themselves ‘Catholic’ or not.

The Catholic Church teaches that it cannot be mistaken on any facet of faith so I don’t understand your point.

You asked what the purpose of the (particular) judgment is, since we all know our status (forgiven, etc). I suggested that, perhaps, some of us may not accurately know – for example, those who suggest that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is unnecessary (this would be Catholics) – and the particular judgment would be quite a ‘judgment’ and not just a formality, indeed!

Here are some ancient Christian writings dating back as early as AD 160.

The Acts of Paul and Thecla

“And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: ‘Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous’” (Acts of Paul and Thecla [A.D. 160]).


“The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste Shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed: Truly, I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius” (Epitaph of Abercius [A.D. 190]).

The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity

“[T]hat very night, this was shown to me in a vision: I [Perpetua] saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age, who died miserably with disease. . . . For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other . . . and * knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then . . . I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me. Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me: I saw that the place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. . . . [And] he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment” (The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity 2:3–4 [A.D. 202]).


“We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries [the date of death—birth into eternal life]” (The Crown 3:3 [A.D. 211]).

“A woman, after the death of her husband . . . prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice” (Monogamy 10:1–2 [A.D. 216]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“The strength of the truly believing remains unshaken; and with those who fear and love God with their whole heart, their integrity continues steady and strong. For to adulterers even a time of repentance is granted by us, and peace * is given. Yet virginity is not therefore deficient in the Church, nor does the glorious design of continence languish through the sins of others. The Church, crowned with so many virgins, flourishes; and chastity and modesty preserve the tenor of their glory. Nor is the vigor of continence broken down because repentance and pardon are facilitated to the adulterer. It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord” (Letters 51[55]:20 [A.D. 253]).

Cyril of Jerusalem*

“Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out” (Catechetical Lectures 23:5:9 [A.D. 350]).*

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