Is the fire of purgatory Jesus Christ himself? [Akin] Catholic Church associates the image of fire with the final purification known as purgatory.

Why does it do this?

Is there a scriptural basis for this image?

Also, what kind of fire is this?

In past centuries, many theologians have speculated that it might be a form of material fire.

Although that has been a common opinion historically, there’s a difficult question that the idea raises: How could material fire affect the holy souls in purgatory? They don’t have their bodies, so how could material fire affect them? And why would it accomplish a spiritual effect on them?

More recently, some theologians have suggested that the fire is something else entirely.

In fact, they have suggested that the fire of purgatory is an intense, transforming encounter with Jesus Christ.

You might be surprised to find out just who has been proposing this idea.

Here’s a video in which we explore the idea . . .


You can also listen to or download it as an MP3:


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This has merit worthy of discussion.

It was reading the visions of Ezekiel and John, (and also the Hebrews 12:29 passage “our God is a consuming fire”) that led me to think purgatory might be Our Lord Himself.
Ezekiel 1:26-28 And above the firmament over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness as it were of a human form. And upward from what had the appearance of his loins I saw as it were gleaming bronze, like the appearance of fire enclosed round about; and ** downward from what had the appearance of his loins I saw as it were the appearance of fire**, and there was brightness round about him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel 8:2 Then I beheld, and, lo, a form that had the appearance of a man; below what appeared to be his loins it was fire, and above his loins it was like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming bronze.

Revelation 1:14 his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow;** his eyes were like a flame of fire,**

Revelation 2:18 "And to the angel of the church in Thyati’ra write: The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 19:12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems;

Haven’t had a chance to listen to Jimmy’s audio yet, but wanted to share this which I have handy:
The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of ‘short’ or ‘long’ duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The ‘temporal measure’ of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. To measure such Existenzzeit, such an ‘existential time,’ in terms of the time of this world would be to ignore the specificity of the human spirit in its simultaneous relationship with, and differentation from, the world. … [Purgatory] is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. … Encounter with the Lord is this transformation.
Joseph Ratzinger, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, p. 230-231

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also wrote in his Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, right after commenting on 1 Corinthians 3:15:

  1. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart’s time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ[39]. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).


I listened to Jimmy and he does quote this paragraph. :thumbsup: It seems he retained that theological view of an “encounter” with Christ when Spe Salvi was released in 2007 from the book Eschatology I quoted above which is from 1988. :o

Cool! I don’t have that book so I appreciate your quote.:thumbsup: I first heard part of that excerpt from Spe Salvi when Tim Staples quoted it in his debate on 1 Corinthians 3:15 with James White.

Edit: That’s quite a gap too; 1988-2007. There are definitely similarities between the two quotes.

Y’know I really like this idea.

I’m wondering if the earlier practice of associating a certain number of days to indulgenced prayers/acts led to the mistake of people thinking of Purgatory in terms of earthly time, For example, I think many (myself included when I was young) understood an indulgence of 50 days to mean one’s stay in Purgatory would be shortened by 50 days!

(For any who do not know the proper meaning, the Catholic Enc. explains it well:
“To say that an indulgence of so many days or years is granted means that it cancels an amount of purgatorial punishment equivalent to that which would have been remitted, in the sight of God, by the performance of so many days or years of the ancient canonical penance.” )

Hopefully no longer specifying a number of days for indulgences will help correct the tendency to apply earthly time to Purgatory. At least I think that practice has ceased.

I think this is correct. One thing about imagining “days/years” in purgatory did have a theological basis of sorts, however. The idea was that the more “time” one needed corresponded to the measure of purification necessary. Whether or not there is such a measurement in purgatory, the point in Catholic history did admit to varying magnitudes of purification necessary from soul to soul. We use analogies that are inadequate, like time, to describe theological mysteries, but I think there is some theology to it. That being said, it’s probably good to nix the idea of “time” to Purgatory if it has caused too much confusion to people rigidly imposing that “measurement” onto the idea of Purgatory when that’s not the point of the whole thing. :o

For those interested, I suppose I could refer to the long blog post I did a while back on What is Purgatory? that quotes more from Pope Benedict/Ratzinger on the subject, etc… including, Nita - your pointing out that God is a consuming fire. :o

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