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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why do Catholics believe in purgatory?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Why do Catholics believe in purgatory?  Where is it in the Bible?  Doesn't purgatory deny the finished work of Christ? 

It is indeed true that the word "purgatory" is not found in the Bible. 

(Here we can revisit a previous apologetics discussion in which we addressed the issue of Mary's Assumption, which is also not explicitly in the Bible.  That is, the question is often asked of Catholics: "where is _______ in the Bible?" (fill in the blank with "assumption" "purgatory" "the pope" etc.) This question can always be answered with, "Where does it say in the Bible that all we believe about God is contained in the Bible?" (Answer: nowhere.) In fact, the Bible explicitly says 2 things in regard to this:

-it states that it does NOT contain all that Jesus said and did: 
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. (John 20:30)
-that it is NOT the norm nor foundation by which Christians know the teachings of Christ; the Scriptures say the sure norm is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. 1Tim: 3:15

Thus, we must look to the teachings handed on from the Apostles, either by Tradition or by Scripture, in order to know the entire deposit of faith that has been left to us by God.)

So as for purgatory, here are some things it is not:

-It is not another chance to be saved.  Once you die you are either destined for heaven or hell.  (it's your choice, reminiscent of a previous apologetic discussion.  God doesn't send you to hell; it is we who reject Him and His Eternal Embrace.)  If you die choosing God but with the need for purification, then you go to Purgatory.  That is, everyone who is in Purgatory is assured that their final destination is heaven.

-It is not a place where we "earn" back God's love and forgiveness. That is, Purgatory does not deny that Christ paid the debt for our sin, as some fundamentalist Christians often claim. 
Stated in the affirmative, Catholics proclaim that Christ accomplished all of our salvation for us on Calvary. "Purgatory is the final stage of sanctification that some of us need to undergo before we enter heaven. Purgatory is the final phase of Christ’s applying to us the purifying redemption that he accomplished for us by his death on the cross." source
And I think that all non-Catholic Christians would agree that anyone who dies and will be experiencing the Beatific Vision--seeing God face to face--must have a soul that's cleansed of every imperfection and attachment to sin.  Revelation says, "Nothing unclean shall enter heaven". -Rev 21:27  Non-Catholics just don't have a name for this state of purification that occurs after death but before the Beatific Vision.  Catholics do--Purgatory. But, I think all Christians understand that we must get "cleaned up" before we can share in the Divine Life of heaven.
Pope JPII had this to say about Purgatory: Before we enter into full communion with God, every trace of sin within us must be eliminated and every imperfection in our soul must be corrected.Purgatory is a process of purgation (i.e. purification) before entering into perfect and complete communion with God. Makes sense to me to have  "a mud room before we enter the palace". 

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. Thank you for clearing this matter up for me. I stumbled upon your website after looking up whether or not Catholics believe in the rapture...another good article and your take on it enlightened me and relieved me. See, I'm Catholic. Born and raised and attended all the schools. Brought my children up in it as well and they are now attending the schools. A couple years ago I went into an extreme depression / post partum crazy stage and sought God, well Jesus to be more specific. I hungered and thirsted for Him. I knew he would save me, did on the cross > 2,000 years ago. The problem lies in my resources though as I listened to multiple preachers on TV and radio who were Protestant; Evangelicals, Baptists, Non-Denominational, Pentecostal...etc all while attending Catholic masses and going to confession and saying the Rosary. I became confused and started seriously questioning what I believe. This is good. I should know why I believe what I believe. I profess CHrists life, death and resurrection and that He is Lord and Savior. I just didn't know how to continue living under that knowledge. I was torn for awhile between 2 different ideas of "religion." You are helping me to turn about. I especially like that you do encourage your readers to read the Bible as this is something that I was not encouraged to do as a child but do now. I encourage my children to read it as well. My reason for commenting is merely for you to know that someone read your article on purgatory and that it helped me. I pray that you continue to offer your articles on the Catholic Church and I ask that you pray for me to receive clear understanding as I suppose you wish all your readers to receive.

    1. Thanks for sharing your faith journey. I pray that God leads you with a straight and clear path.

      Our Catholic faith is eminently reasonable, answerable, and able to withstand the deepest questions!

      I love the quote by Cardinal Newman about trusting in the Catholic faith. He said: "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, for a man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, without doubting that it admits an answer."

      We can be annoyed that we don't understand why the CC teaches what she does, without doubting that it's the correct teaching.

  2. So sad. Yashua has "made us righteous" therefore, there is no need to "clean us up". We who are " born again" are in Yashua and are as He is, pure. When I die I will go straight into His presence as scripture reads; "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

    1. Thanks for your comments. However, I believe that you have not actually read the Scripture. Please re-read what St. Paul says.

      You are simply quoting someone who said, "The Bible says 'to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord'. That's what it says in Corinthians".

      Except that's NOT what St. Paul says.

      2 Corinthians 5:8

    2. And to say that you will go "straight into His presence" is to be contrary to Scripture. For "nothing unclean can enter into heaven".

      And if you've ever, after your conversion to Christ, had an impure thought, neglected your prayers, ignored a need a bit o' cleaning up before you come before the Presence of the Eternal Godhead.

      Heck--you wouldn't even go see the Queen of England without bathing first...imagine coming before the Triune God with even a smear of an impure stain on your soul!

      No, you need to get cleaned up first.

  3. I was raised Catholic in the 1960s--sent to Catholic school, etc. Even as a child I never believed in the precept of Purgatory. Jesus doesnt speak about it either--and He came down from Heaven. If there was a purgatory, He would have told us. Think about the parable Jesus gave about Lazarus and the Rich Man. Theres only a heaven and hell, no in between. Im still Catholic, but I dont believe in purgatory. It never seemed right to me as a child nor as an adult. The Blood of Jesus is sufficient to forgive us of all sins and cleanse us. From there we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who helps us lead holy and righteous lives. We all continue to sin here and there, but we go back to the cross and ask for forgiveness. We are forgiven when we confess our sins as the bible says. We dont need to be purified, thats more like a Buddist belief.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Anonymous. Here's a few of my own: "If there was a purgatory He would have told us". Where does the Bible say that things only exist if Jesus tells us? Answer: no where.

      In fact, Jesus never speaks about the New Testament--do you not believe in it because Jesus never said "Believe in the Gospel of Mark! It's the inspired Word of God!" believe in the Gospel of Mark because the Catholic Church told you it's inspired.

      And the Catholic Church tells you that Purgatory exists, too.

    2. As far as the parable about Lazarus, where is heaven mentioned? Answer: no where. Using your standard, you should only believe in the existence of hell.

      And just because something doesn't feel right to you...that should NOT be the arbiter of how you determine whether something is true or not. Using your logic, a Catholic could say that "it never seemed right to me that Jesus was born of a virgin". Are you ok with a Catholic professing that based on the idea that "it never seemed right" to her?

  4. As far as the Blood of Jesus being sufficient to forgive us and cleanse us--AMEN! That is indeed very Catholic. Not sure how this refutes the existence of Purgatory?

    As far as "we don't need to be purified"--do you have a Bible verse for that, for that just sounds like something made up! A man made tradition, right