At Cross Culture Church we have a new segment of the service we call, Q&A. Each week I take one question that someone has turned in and I spend about 5 minutes answering that question based on scripture. As a result, I will, from time to time, post my answers to the Q&A here on my blog. My desire is to deal with issues that people are facing and give them biblical answers that they can apply to their lives.
I was just thinking about an old joke that says that “even when you die and go to heaven you’ll have to go through Atlanta.” The joke is a reference to how busy Hartsfield International is. A recent Q&A card asked, “What does the Bible say about Purgatory?” The simple answer is, nothing, but a little more in-depth answer might help clear some things up for someone. The word “Purgatory” is from the Latin purgatorius, and means, “Purging.” It is defined as:
1 : an intermediate state after death for expiatory purification; specifically : a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God’s grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven (Merriam–Webster online dictionary)
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory is “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”
To summarize, in Catholic theology Purgatory is a place that a Christian’s soul goes to after death to be cleansed of the sins that had not been fully satisfied during life. The chief problem with this doctrine is that it completely contradicts the clear scriptural teaching of the sufficiency of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Below are just two of many passages that point to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the only means of our forgiveness.
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9 NIV)
If there is a place where a person can “pay” for their sins then Christ’s death was insufficient or worse yet, needless. As the old song says, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a guilty stain He washed it white as snow.” The idea of an intermediate place where the dead go to work off their sins or wait for a loved one to pray or pay them out is completely unsupported by the Bible. Followers of Jesus can rest assured that upon our departure from this world we have a direct flight to our Heavenly home with no layovers. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
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