Why do Catholics believe in Purgatory?

The Bible proclaims there is only Heaven and Hell.
Thank you all for your answers. :thumbsup:

This tract provides the most comprehensive answer.

I am unaware of any part of the Bible that says there is only Heaven and Hell. Can you provide a citation?


Hope this helps!

Catholics believe in Purgatory because it is part of our teachings. It makes sense that nothing totally clean and free from sin can enter Heaven. Revelations Chapter 21 Verse 27 proves this. Catholics believe that in order to be cleansed of our smaller sins and wrongdoings, we have to go through a purification process. Once we are totally free from all attachments of sin, we can then enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That is why Catholics believe in Purgatory.

You can find more information about Purgatory in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Hope I helped! :slight_smile:

Like the song goes-"…because the bible tells me so…". 2 Sam 12:13-18, “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. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.’ And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became sick…On the seventh day the child died.” Catholic Scriptural Principle #1 – there is punishment for sin even after one has received forgiveness.
Rev 21:27, “But nothing unclean shall enter it…” The New Jerusalem – Heaven. Catholic Scriptural Principle #2 – nothing unclean, nothing with the stain of sin, will enter Heaven.

Mt 5:48, “You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s because of Principle #2 – nothing unclean will get into Heaven.

Heb 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living god, the heavenly Jerusalem…and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect…” The spirits of just men, made perfect. Catholic Scriptural Principle #3 – there is a way, a process, through which the spirits of the “just” are “made perfect.”

1 Cor 3:13-15, “…each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day [judgment day] will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Where is this place that a man, after he dies, suffers loss, as through fire, but is still saved. Hell? No, once you’re in Hell, you don’t get out. Heaven? No, you don’t suffer loss in Heaven.

Mt 12:32, “And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Implies forgiveness in the age to come. Where can you go to be forgiven in the age to come? Heaven? You don’t need forgiveness. Hell? There is no forgiveness. Catholic Scriptural Principle #4 – there is a place, or state of being, other than Heaven or Hell.

Now, let’s summarize these four scriptural principles: There is punishment for sin even after one has received forgiveness. We have to be perfect as the Father is perfect, because nothing unclean will enter Heaven. There is some way, or process, by which the spirits of the just are made perfect. There is a place besides Heaven or Hell where you can suffer loss, yet be saved, but only as through fire; and where you can be forgiven of sins from a previous age. It all adds up to one inevitable conclusion —*the Catholic teaching on Purgatory is indeed scriptural.

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This is pretty good, except I would say instead of “punishment of sin” that there are “effects of sin” that stick with us after forgiveness.

For example, if a son is playing baseball in the backyard and hits the ball through a window (when he was told in the past not to hit towards the house), there will be broken glass to clean up and a window to replace. Even after his parents forgive him, the window must be repaired and the glass cleaned up.

When we sin, we damage/hurt our souls. So even after God forgives us, the stain of sin our souls is still there. But unlike the broken glass and missing window, we can’t clean up this mess ourselves. We need God to clean us from the stain of sin via the Fire of His Love.

That is purgatory. It is the process of cleaning our souls before entering Heaven. The more stains we have, the longer it takes to cleanse us of the effects of sin.

God Bless

From the Medjugorje Visionaries:

Vicka says it is a joy to suffer for these souls in Purgatory.

“Purgatory is an endless space of ashy color. It was quite dark. I could feel people strangling and suffering there. The Blessed Mother told us we should be praying for souls stranded in Purgatory. She said only our prayers and sacrifices can release them from that place…The people there are helpless. They are really suffering. We can be like Jesus a little bit if we just do some voluntary penance for the souls on Purgatory, especially for the ones who are abandoned by their families on earth…I am aware of their suffering. I know some of their torment. I know how desperately they need our prayers. They are so lonely that it is almost sickening to remember those moments I was there. It is really a great joy to do penance for the poor souls because I know how much it helps them…And many of our family members who have died desperately need our prayers. The Blessed Mother says we must pray courageously for them so that they might go to Heaven. They are powerless to help themselves.”

Mirjana’s description of Purgatory:

“There are several levels in Purgatory. The more you pray on earth, the higher your level in Purgatory will be…The lowest level is the closest to hell, where the suffering is the most intense. The highest level is closest to Heaven, and there the suffering is the least. What level you are on depends on the state of purity of your soul. The lower the level the people are on in Purgatory, the less they are able to pray and the more they suffer. The higher the level a person is in Purgatory, the easier it is for him to pray, the more he enjoys praying and the less he suffers…The Blessed Mother has asked us to pray for the souls in Purgatory. They are helpless to pray for themselves. Through prayer, we on earth can do much to help them. The Blessed Mother told me that when souls leave Purgatory and go to Heaven most go on Christmas Day.”

“Many people were there. They were suffering immensely…They were normal people, all kinds. There was much physical suffering…I could see the people shivering, thrashing, and writhing in pain…I saw this place for a short time…The Blessed Mother was with me (during the vision). She explained to me that She wanted me to see Purgatory. She said so many people on earth today do not even know about Purgatory…I could not hear them. I only saw them. The Blessed Mother said so many people who die are quite abandoned by their loved ones. They cannot help themselves in Purgatory. They are totally dependent on the prayers and sacrifices of the generous people on earth who remember them. Our Blessed Mother hopes Her own children will help the souls in Purgatory by prayer and fasting and various penance for the poor souls to make restitution for them…Those who have died no longer have free will as they had on earth. They no longer have a body. It is no longer possible for them to make up for the things that they did when they had their body that hurt and harmed themselves and others. On July 24, 1982, the Blessed Mother said:‘We go to Heaven in full conscious of the separation of the body and soul. It is false to teach people that we are reborn many times and that we pass to different bodies. One is born only once. The body, drawn from the earth, decomposes after death. It never comes back to life again. Man receives a transfigured body. Whoever has done very much evil during his life can go straight to Heaven if he confesses, is truly sorry for what he has done, and receives Communion at the end of his life.’ Our Lady said that the souls in Purgatory can see their loved ones during those moments when we pray for them by name.”

Ivanka was asked why did the Blessed Mother show her Heaven and Purgatory:

Ivanka: “She wants to remind Her children of the results of their choices here on earth.”

Marija, through several interviews, describes Purgatory:

“Purgatory is a large place… It is foggy. It is ash gray. It is misty. You cannot see people there. It is as if they are immersed in deep clouds. You can feel that the people in the mist are traveling, hitting each other. They can pray for us but not for themselves. They are desperately in need of our prayers. The Blessed Mother asks us to pray for the poor souls in Purgatory, because during their life here, one moment they thought there was no God, then they recognized Him, then they went to Purgatory where they saw there is a God, and now they need our prayers. With our prayers we can send them to Heaven. The biggest suffering that souls in Purgatory have is that they see there is a God, but they did not accept Him here on earth. Now they long so much to come close to God. Now they suffer so intensely, because they recognize how much they have hurt God, how many chances they had on earth, and how many times they disregarded God.”

Ivan speaks very little about his experiences in seeing Heaven, hell, and Purgatory. When asked about Purgatory, he shared the following:

“The Blessed Mother told me that those who go to Purgatory are those who prayed and believed only occasionally – that they were filled with doubt, that they were not certain that God exists. They did not know how to pray while on earth, or if they did know how, they did not pray…Souls in Purgatory suffer. If no one prays for them, they suffer even more.”

In addition to the great resources here at Catholic Answers, this is one of the best explanations I’ve found. It’s written by a Protestant who’s married to a Catholic and was genuinely seeking answers to questions about the Catholic faith. She shows no bias, and just focuses on presenting the evidence as the Church sees it.


The Bible may not explicitly mention purgatory, but as Catholics we are not bound to only what is explicit in Scripture. Our Word of God is the Word Made Flesh, a.k.a. Jesus Christ. We follow what he revealed to us through both Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition (oral teachings) that were handed down from Christ to the Apostles to their successors. =

I’d be very interested in that myself. I’ve read the Bible four times, and I don’t recall any such verse.

That’s unapproved private revelation, I’d personally steer very clear of it.


“As you know the Church takes great time and care before declaring that an apparition is worthy of belief, and even then it never says that a Catholic must accept the apparition as a matter of faith. We must avoid giving the impression that alleged apparitions about which the Church has not made a judgment are somehow already approved."


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Purgatory makes sense if you believe in the difference between mortal and venial sin. For example, suppose your boss tells you that the Xerox machine is to be used only for business purposes and it is not allowed to use it to make personal copies. One day, you are in a hurry and must have a copy of a document right away. You are in a rush, so you make one Xerox copy of that document without permission and you do not pay for it. Since the cost to the company is seven cents, I would say that you have committed a sin of stealing, but not a mortal sin. I don’t see a person going to eternal fire in hell, for such a crime. But, you did steal, so you won’t be going directly to heaven right away either. This is where Purgatory comes in. The Eastern Orthodox, generally do not make the clearcut distinction between venial and mortal sin, and generally, they do not believe in Purgatory. I don’t know how this would work out in the even of a reunion of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.


Excerpt : An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory

I can tell you about the different degrees of Purgatory because I have passed through them. In the great Purgatory there are several stages. In the lowest and most painful, like a temporary hell, are the sinners who have committed terrible crimes during life and whose death surprised them in that state. It was almost a miracle that they were saved, and often by the prayers of holy parents or other pious persons. Sometimes they did not even have time to confess their sins and the world thought them lost, but God, whose mercy is infinite, gave them at the moment of death the contrition necessary for their salvation on account of one or more good actions which they performed during life. For such souls, Purgatory is terrible. It is a real hell with this difference, that in hell they curse God, whereas we bless Him and thank Him for having saved us.

From the answers in this thread so far, you see where purgatory comes from (not the name but the reality) …It’s scripture.

Now you have to ask yourself, what other views do you hold or that you have been taught, that are wrong… agreed?

Sorry bad link: New link…
Excerpt : An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory

One document that has helped me reconcile, at least partially, the Catholic teaching of Purgatory, is The Hope of Eternal Life.
Starting at Para. 157, through this:

211. Today, Lutheran and Catholic teaching integrates purgation with death, judgment, and the encounter with Christ. Recent Catholic and Lutheran understandings of purgation sound remarkably similar. While the word “purgatory” remains an ecumenically charged term, and for many Catholics and Lutherans signals a sharp division, our work in this round has shown that our churches’ understandings of how the justified enter eternal glory are closer than expected.
212.** In light of the analysis given above, this dialogue believes that the topic of purgation, in and of itself, need not divide our communions.**

Something to ponder.


Interesting, thanks for the link.


It’s my understanding that the Catholics and Orthodox actually both do believe in Purgatory (from the Catholic understanding). I believe the difference is that (1) Orthodox do not call it Purgatory and (2) Orthodox do not try to understand it or describe it like Catholics have for all these centuries.

The issue is that Purgatory isn’t really a place, it’s a process. Many of the Catholic descriptions make it seem like a place, but it’s a process. It’s the process God uses to purify our souls before entering Heaven.

For those Anglicans who accept the concept, that explanation is what is commonly believed.

It never hurts to have a safety net! :smiley:

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