As you may or may not know, one of the verses of the Bible used to describe Purgatory is I Cor 3:11 quoted below:
For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- 13 each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
Protestants may object to this being anything other than the judgement; however, the word judgement is a very simple word and it’s simply not used here. There is also more going on here than just judgement… Let’s add up 5 facts - this is not Heaven, it’s not Hell and it’s after death and it’s not judgement and there appears to be a purification/test based upon a person’s works… Sounds like Purgatory to me.
The “through fire” part of this verse is reference several times by various Fathers of the Church. I just happen to have my Fathers of the Church Apologetic cards in front of me and I see the following quote:
Lactanius, born 250 AD: But when He shall have judged the righteious, He will also try them with fire. Then they whose sins shall exceed either in weight or in number ,shall be scorched by the fire and burnt; but they whom full justice and maturity of virtue has imbued will not perceive that fire; for they have something of God in themselves which repels and rejects the violence of the flame.
I also have a 6 tape set on Purgatory that has many, many other very early quotes on Purgatory. The tape set isn’t very good, but I might give it another listen. Prayers for the dead date back very, very, early and even first century tomb inscriptions also verify prayers for the dead.