Purgatory - Brief Lines on Catholic Beliefs, Advice Requested

A family member said they would be interested in the Catholic’s Biblical basis for Purgatory but not II Maccabees as it wasn’t Scripture, just historical. The person is a devote protestant Evangelical and I very much doubt that they are wanting to come Home. The person was okay with my request for time to look up the references and we agreed that I would email them (a conversation would end badly for both of us). They asked that it was not single verses, within context and very short. All I want to do is simply put down what we Catholics believe. Any contributions would be welcome. Please see below. As it is late in the UK, I will be off to bed, but will check back tomorrow. Thank you

Dear X

As discussed. As you know there are many mentions of Sheol in the Old Testament where both the righteous and unrighteous went after death e.g. Genesis 35:37, Job 14: 13, Isaiah 38: 9-12 (or to the end), Psalm 9:17 etc. Just thought it made sense to establish that there was heaven, earth and somewhere else mentioned in the Old Testament. And that the Jews hadn’t been set straight or punished by God on this subject.

Some of the key Bible teachings for Catholics are:

If II Maccabees 12:39-46 is simply taken as historic, it shows that the Jews believed in praying and making atonement for the dead shortly before the birth of Jesus. This is the faith in which Jesus and the apostles were raised and if it was not the case, then it seems odd that He did not correct them.

Matthew 5:24-25 & 43-6.1 (in the context of the Sermon on the Mount)
Matthew 12:32
I Corinthians 3:11-15
Peter 3:19
Revelations 21:27

For us Catholics, that isn’t all of it on the subject (everything always links and leads into other aspects of the faith), but that is the shortest I could put together. I’m simply presenting, no more and no less, which is why I left out commentary on the New Testament (except the reminder on Matthew 5). If this is something that you are not comfortable with, that’s okay. I am going to have to leave it at that, as I have to catch up on my studying for the Bible course and …

As a hospice volunteer, Eucharistic minister to long-term care facilities/nursing homes, and now a hospital chaplain I have my personal perspective on purgatory that might be of interest to your family member.

I don’t believe that purgatory is limited to a specific “place” after death. I believe it is a purification of our hearts. I believe that heaven is a place where we can peacefully sit beside those who have wounded us the most in life, and love them unconditionally. I think a lot of the suffering that takes place in long-term care facilities/nursing homes is a form of purgatory. I suspect that many people die before they have been able to forgive those who have hurt them deeply in life. I believe that our hearts need this purification before we can be completely one with God in heaven. We need to be able to love others, including all our enemies, with the same spirit in which Christ loves.

Altho not specifically about purgatory, I find the OT passages that depict God as a refining fire as showing what He requires of those who would be united to Him.
Zechariah 13:9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, They are my people’; and they will say, The LORD is my God.’"

Malachi 3:2 But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord,

Isaiah 48:10-11 Behold, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

Jeremiah 9:7 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: "Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people?If God required such purification here on earth if His people were to be on good terms with Him, how can we possibly imagine that we could enter into full union with Him in eternity without first being completely purified?


I am on an ipad…so i have not figured it out yet.

For an extensive biblical defense of purgatory…look for purgatory holy fire by scott hahn.

Here’s a link to it. catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0091.html

The doctrine of Purgatory was not spelled out in the early Church because Jesus did not want too many Christians that would have been lazy. Yet Purgatory is in the Bible. You just have to look for it. Our God is very generous. He is very generous even when we are not. This generosity of God is contained in Purgatory. For instance in the parable of a man who owed a tremendous amount but was forgiven all of it when he begged for mercy decided to put into prison someone who owed him quite a bit less even when that person begged for mercy. When the man who had previously forgiven this man of a great debt heard about this he decided to take this man back into prison until he pays to the last penny. This is purgatory plain and simple. The paying the last penny means he did not deserve hell but of Purgatory. The man who would not show mercy to another even though he was given great mercy will be in Purgtory. Jesus said be merciful as your Father in Heaven is merciful. Well if you don’t show mercy when you have experienced mercy God is not going to treat you to heaven right away. Back to Purgatory until you learn again the long way what you should have done.

Explaining purgatory is very simple.

Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Revelation 21:27 says that “nothing impure shall enter Heaven.”

Therefore, we are all impure, sinful beings all the way up to the moment of death. And when I say all, I mean ALL. Not everyone except those who were “saved” because they said the Sinner’s Prayer 20 years ago.

If the only two places after dying are Heaven and Hell, well, none of us are pure enough for Heaven so we are ALL going to Hell. Fortunately, there is purgatory, where those who die in a state of grace through believing in Jesus will have their impure souls cleansed and made worthy of Heaven.

Explain it in simple terms. “You don’t believe that purgatory exists. Fine! I hope you enjoy forever in hell!”

Understand that the biggest problem that Protestants have with purgatory is the way it was presented by the Church in the time just before the Reformation. The Church was offering people the opportunity to shorten their time (or another’s time) in purgatory through the purchase of indulgences. Luther saw this as nothing more than a money grab. Of course, to protest the sale of indulgences, it was required to totally disavow the existence of this purgatory concept.

I would stress 1 Corinthians 3, as they may not pay much attention to anyone other than Saint Paul.

Ask them to explain just how:

  1. After death,
  2. On the day of judgment
  3. Before the seat of Christ,
  4. One’s work (NOT faith!) is tested.
  5. During that test, one’s work may burn up, not being of gold or even silver.
  6. Yet, even if it does burn up, that person is still saved!
  7. But saved only as though passing through fire.

Ask them to explain just what Paul was speaking of.

It is not the fires of hell, from which there is no escape. It is the refiner’s fire and the fuller’s soap (Malachi 3:2), the fire of purification (1 Peter 1:7). We are invited to the banquet in the Father’s house (Matthew 8:11, Luke 13:29). Yet, nothing impure will enter that house (2 Chronicles 23:19, Revelation 21:27). Purgatory is God’s mud room, where we are cleaned up and made spiritually perfect and presentable to Him.

I would also stress that purgatory is not a place, but a state of our soul on our way to heaven.

Thank you for your answers, especially picking up the massive hole in my draft e.g. Holy fire. The link to Scott Hahn is great, I will go through it more slowly as when I read through it quickly, I remembered the person in question saying Jesus died once and for all for sin and once saved always saved. It is going to be awkward because the evangelical church the person attends seems to have changed and now teaches that Jesus did not come with rules or restrictions. Even their partnership church has left the Assemblies of God, now says they are all saints and embraces “the biblical government of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers”. It is so confusing as their doctrine seems to change like the desert sands every time the wind blows.

I will just have to put my other work on hold yet again. It is difficult to follow a discernment plan to see whether one has the charism of knowledge (to be explored and tested in a Bible course verbally) when it seems that one ends up having to divert to so many other subjects which mainly boil down to trying to counter unsubstantiated sedivaticanist preachings and general policing. All of which is like skimming stones across many different ponds instead of getting in and learning to swim. Never mind, I have my plans but God’s are always better.:slight_smile:



Thanks hazcompat. And thanks everyone, I’ve amended my email to include purification and added a couple more Bible references, but decided not to put every reference in, otherwise it gets too long. I ended by saying if he had more questions, I could send some links from people who can explain it better and have studied more than I have. I think over 5 hours work on this is more than enough.

Yes and a “state” in which Protestants also believe, but only think of it in terms of the end of days.

" in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?”

Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (1 Co 15:52–56). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

Protestants will agree that we cannot enter heaven unclean, and that God will purify us before we do, but they only think of this happening in a “moment, in the twinkling of an eye”. Catholics understand that the state of Purgatory exists outside of our space/time continuum,and that purification happens from the time we cleave to Christ in this life, until we are made perfectly clean to enter heaven.

Such isolation of verses has lead to the innumerable and endemic errors of bible Christianity. True that the dead will be raised to life suddenly - but what were their souls doing in the meantime? We see from 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 1 Peter 4:6 that the souls of the just in the OT had been in a spiritual prison for thousands of human years. Yet, Peter also reveals that 1,000 years are like a day to the Lord, and vice versa. The bottom line is that God does not have to wait for anything, while we, currently trapped in time, do.


I think you are missing my point. I am trying to say that Protestants, in principle, accept that 1) transformation is needed for human beings to be able to enter heaven and 2) On the last day, those who are alive and remain on earth will be transformed “in the twinkling of an eye”.

It is a bit harder for them to see the point made in 1 Peter but it does help to draw from Scripture that they can readily accept.

Most Protestants will also accept that we are in the process of being sanctified throughout this life, and that none of us are “perfect” when we die.

27 But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Re 21:27).

I probably flew right past that. I would add that only certain protestants may hold this view. Evangelicals, I’m not so sure of. Due to the private interpretation free-for-all of the past 497 years, the term “protestant” is rendered almost meaningless.

Thanks. I thought I knew where the person was coming from but their church has changed its doctrine. language and some of their activities. As for the person concerned, I am not sure that they always know what they are saying, I think they just parrot off phrases without thinking. For example, everyone who was saved (even if they subsequently turn from God and are totally unrepentant of their mortal sins) will go to heaven (whether they want to or not) and the virtuous will get loads of jewels, the best houses etc. They couldn’t tell me who would protect the souls from the unrepentant sinners, why God would force people who hate Him to live with Him or tell me why we needed stuff in heaven. Hopefully I will have a break while that person consults with others to come back with a reply or just takes the easy road out and says “interesting, must go” or words to that effect.

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