I have a few questions about purgatory. What is it? What is its purpose? Do Catholics have to go through purgatory? Does everyone go through purgatory before going to heaven or hell? Does it have any biblical basis?
In Catholic thinking purgatory is a state of purification for those who present themselves at their final judgment free of sin that would necessitate their being permanently separated from God due to their willful and perfectly understood violation of divine law. (e.g. willing adultery, murder, theft, libel, etc.) Something we call “mortal” sin.
Those who die in a state whereby minor sins are unconfessed prior to death are not permanently separated, but undergo a “cleansing” much like the Jewish rites of purification. I believe it is revelations that the statement is made, “nothing unclean may enter heaven.”
The exact nature of purgatory is unknown. Some believe like the late George Carlin once said, “purgatory is temporary hell, but you know you’re going home.” Much private revelation does point to a “cleansing by fire” but the CC takes no official position on the nature of purgatory except to say it is a cleansing process that allows the soul to enter glory perfectly clean. Some say it is a perfection of the soul’s capacity to love, some say it takes much time, others think it might be instantaneous. I guess everyone will just have to wait and see.
The justification the CC point to is in the book of Maccabees in the Old Testament. And for a better and more complete understanding of purgatory, I suggest you obtain a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other ancillary writings by theologians and look into it further. One thing is for sure, purgatory is a gift of God, extending His mercy to all who desire it.
Nothing unclean gets into heaven. Martin Luther once likened men to piles of dung and the grace of Christ to snowfall covering us up and hiding our filth. That’s not how Catholics see it. The path of grace is a transformative journey, conforming us to Christ in totality. If we are piles of dung, then the end product is a transformation into a fruitful flower bed. Ideally we end our life as such, but if we die still attached to sin, God completes that work for us after death, so long as we have faith in Christ. Note that this is still only possible through the merits of Christ. Catholics also belief there are two types of punishment due to sin (1) eternal consequences which is due for mortal sin and (2) temporal comsequemces which is due for all sin. Confession and God’s graces absolves us of eternal punishment, but to satisfy justice, help us change our ways and for our benefit/transformation, and to break our attachment to sin, temporal consequences is still due, even for the saved. Again, this is for our betterment. If we don’t satisfy temporal punishment (or corrective discipline) in this life, there is purgatory after. And this helps conform us to Christ.
Purgatory is a place of betterment. Everyone who is saved and who dies with any remaining attachment to sin goes through purgatory so that they can enter heaven clean. Those who are damned do not go to purgatory.
Yes, though perhaps implicit and not explicit for those unfamiliar with the doctrine. A few quick points.
(1) Many Jews today also believe in Purgatory. Maybe with a slightly different understanding than the Catholic notion, but still similar.
(2) First century Jews would also have generally believed in a purgatory of some sort, and would have at least a hundred to two hundred years before Christ, as is evidenced in Maccabees II (which Catholics consider canon, but even for those who do not consider it canon, it’s still a work from the 2nd century BC that gives evidence to Jewish beliefs of the time). This context can be applied to some passages from the NT.
I was going to search quotes myself, but I’m on my phone, and this Catholic Answers article contains them:
The early Church writings also don’t suggest that people went to Heaven immediately, excepting the martyrs, and as Church teaching developed, those who gave great witness to the faith in other ways that didn’t lead to their martyrdom (because those persecutions had largely ended). And certainly the early Church, without any doubts, offered prayers for the dead.
Purgatory is a place (or state) where people who are in the friendship of God (or “saved” as some would call it) but still have the stain of sin on their souls go when they die, to be cleansed from that stain before they go to Heaven, since nothing unclean can enter Heaven. (Note: by “stain of sin”, I mean attachments people may have gotten to their sin. The temporal consequences, rather than the eternal consequences. Christ’s death paid our eternal consequences - Hell - in full, but we still must repay the temporal consequences.)
To cleanse people’s souls before they get to Heaven.
If we have attachment to any sin upon our death, yes. It’s possible to “bypass” Purgatory I think, but not very easy or common.
Only those who will go to Heaven go through Purgatory. In other words, if you go to Purgatory, you know you’re going to Heaven when it’s done. The damned will go straight to Hell.
“If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.”
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NABRE
it is to purify us to be ready for the beatific Vision - God.
Catholics not completely purified, and I would imagine anyone who God has elected to be saved, and who has accepted that salvation, go for a bit of time in purgatory.
no one in purgatory ever goes to hell
its always straight to heaven after purgatory.
Biblical basis in maccabees
This is probably an over-simplification ….
There are two kinds of sin, namely, mortal sin and sin that is not mortal which Catholics call venial sin. See 1 John 5:16-17. So, at death there are three kinds of people, namely, those who die with no unforgiven sin, those who die with unforgiven mortal sin, and those who die with only unforgiven venial sin. Those who die with no unforgiven sin go directly to heaven, those who die with unforgiven mortal sin go directly to hell, and those who die with only unforgiven venial sin first go to purgatory where their venial sin is forgiven and they are “made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23) and then they go to heaven.
From what I understand - it’s like hell -
you suffer - big time -
I have read numerous accounts of this - over the centuries.
But you do get out - after being purged - of whatever it is.
Like I say, it’s close to hell.
Prayer for the diseased person - by the living - can lessen the time spent there.
‘He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.’ - 2 Maccabees 12:43-45
No Pain, No Gain
That’s what the doctors say - at the hospitals !
“Particular judgment”, not “final judgment”.
It took me a couple reads through what you wrote to make sense of it. It might be more clear to just say:
"At the time of death, if a person is in a state of unrepented mortal sin (i.e., serious sin that was entered into with full knowledge that it was a sin and was committed fully intentionally), then that person will not enter heaven.
However, if the person is in a state of grace, but is not perfectly pure (and face it, who is?), then before he enters heaven, he undergoes a process in which his venial (i.e., ‘minor’) sins are forgiven, and he is cleansed from any of the lingering effects of having committed sin in his life. This process is known as ‘purgation’ or ‘purgatory’.
The Book of Revelation, chapter 21, verse 27.
I’m not certain that it’s helpful to call it “hell”, even if one calls it “temporary”. Hell is about punishment; purgation is about cleansing.
Your description was really good, up until this part. A person who has ‘no unforgiven sin’ might still have ‘temporal punishment due to sin’ to resolve (or, as it were, “to be cleansed”).
Those who go through ‘purgation’ are those with unforgiven venial sin and/or unresolved temporal punishment due to sin.
It’s a lot unlike hell:
- hell is about punishment; purgatory is about cleansing
- hell is eternal; purgatory is transitory
- hell is about hopelessness; purgatory is filled with hope
- hell’s punishments cannot be lessened; purgatory’s cleansing can be aided by others’ prayers
So unless you’re at a level of padre pio or mother Teresa is one destined for purgatory?
I really couldn’t judge whether someone had any remaining attachment to sin at death and such. Who but God knows what a person’s last moments will bring or what changes they’ll effect?
Purgatory is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. I imagine getting out of purgatory is like feeling filthy and then feeling clean after a bath, except a millions times better.
Here’s a quote from C.S. Lewis
“Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.” “It may hurt, you know”—even so, sir.”
This thought attributed to Luther does not express his or the Lutheran view of entry into heaven. It is an expression of his view of the regenerate on Earth: at once saint and sinner.
Lutherans recognize that all who enter into heaven go through a cleansing, purgation if you will, at the moment of death.
I think Pope Benedict would dispute that Purgatory is close to hell.
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.
From Spe Salvi
Wow. Was where Abraham was in the story of Lazarus purgatory? If it was Sheol, than Sheol is different than purgatory? I can’t imagine Abraham being sent to suffer. Thanks
The late George Carlin was a very funny comedian. The quote I cited was from a bit he did on his first album called “I Used to be and Irish Catholic” I consider it a very funny reflective bit if you grew up Catholic in the NYC area in the 50’s and 60’s. In it he tells of the four places you go after you die; heaven, hell, purgatory, and limbo. He cites the humorous connection people made between hell and purgatory by the line cited.
I’m learning that there really are very few CAF members who have any sense of humor and understand when something is said in jest. Maybe I just have to remember to use emojis for all the sour faced saints that frequent this forum???
Yes. Abraham was in purgatory - from what someone told me at church -
He said because Abraham wanted to warn his next of kin -
And people in hell - wouldn’t be so concerned for anyone - he said - thus purgatory.