Is the doctrine of Purgatory Biblical?
The Bible does not mention the exact word “purgatory,” but instead it makes reference to a state which can be understood as what is referred to as purgatory. To claim that purgatory does not exist because the exact word does not appear in Scripture is a failure to understand Scripture.
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (CCC 1030)
The Bible contains references to many Christian doctrines, but fails to call them out by name. One might as well even deny the “Trinity”, Incarnation, and so forth because these exact words are not found in the Bible.
The name does not make the place; the place must exist first, then we give it a name. We call this place “purgatory” because it means “a cleansing place.” Therein souls are purged from the small stains of sin, which prevent their immediate entrance into Heaven.
The first mention of Purgatory in the Bible is in 2 Maccabees 12:46: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”
Some people do not accept Maccabees as book of the Bible. This is unfortunate since it is that their Bibles have been edited and are missing books.
In Chapter 12 of Second Maccabees we read Scriptural proof for Purgatory and evidence that the Jews had sacrifices offered for those of their brothers who had lost their lives in battle. That the Jews prayed for the dead shows that they believed in a place where they could be helped (which we now call purgatory) and that the prayers of their living brothers and sisters could help them in that place. This is closely related to the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints.
Matthew 12:32 says, “And whoever speaks 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.” Here Jesus speaks of sin against the Holy Spirit. The implication is that some sins can be forgiven in the world to come. We know that in Hell there is no liberation and in Heaven nothing imperfect can enter it as we see in the next part. Sin is not forgiven when a soul reaches its final destination because in heaven there is no need for forgiveness of sin and in hell the choice to go there is already made.
Revelation 21:27: “…but nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies.” The place that is to be entered (the place to which this passage refers) is heaven (read the text around it for context).
The Bible clearly implies a place for an intermediate state of purification after we die in the many passages which tell that God will reward or punish according to a person’s life. (Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7)
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