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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Scriptural proof that there is no purgatory?

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

Doesn't the Bible state that the Good Thief went to heaven without Purgatory? Isn't this Scriptural proof that there is no Purgatory? So why do Catholics believe in Purgatory? 

This Sunday's Gospel from Luke proclaims that, indeed, Jesus told the Good Thief (known by Catholic tradition (small "t") as St. Dismas) that he would be in heaven with Him.

Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."

So is the above verse proof that Purgatory doesn't exist?  It would appear that the Good Thief didn't have to go to Purgatory.

What's the Catholic response?

Firstly, it may be that St. Dismas did not need Purgatory.  He was already pure and cleansed of any attachment to sin.  But that doesn't mean, therefore, that no one needs a final purification (or "purging"--hence the word, purgatory).

As CS Lewis (who was, curiously, not a Catholic) states:   "Our souls demand purgatory, don't they? Even if God doesn't mind people entering heaven dripping with mud and slime, should we not reply, I'd rather be cleansed first,' even if it may hurt?"

Secondly, it may be that Jesus did not mean St. Dismas would be with Him in paradise today.  In Biblical Greek, which is the language the New Testament was written in, there was no punctuation.  The commas were inserted by the translators.  As such, the text could be rendered,  "Amen, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise".   In other words, Jesus may have said that  it is today that I tell you that (someday) you will be with me in Paradise.

Thirdly, Revelation is not clear about time in the afterlife.  As such, since Purgatory is simply a purification, it may be done "in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor 15:2) or it may take years.  Thus, St. Dismas could indeed have undergone purification/Purgatory but this cleansing occurred immediately.  Incidentally, as there is no longer day and night in eternity, a time reference for "today" may not necessarily be referring to a 24 hour time period.  All we know about "today" is that St. Dismas would be with Christ "at some point".  Not necessarily within 24 hours.

Fourthly, when Jesus says that the Good Thief would be with Him in Paradise, "paradise" prior to the advent of Jesus, referenced the bosom of Abraham, not heaven.  Paradise was the place of peace, or the "holding area", for souls who died before Christ's atonement and were unable to enjoy the Beatific Vision.

Thus, the Good Thief being told by Jesus that he would be in Paradise is in no way a proof that Purgatory doesn't exist.

Also, this verse in Scripture is also used by folks to refute the Catholic belief that baptism is necessary for salvation.  They will state, "See!  The Bible states that the Good Thief was told he would be in heaven and he was never baptized!  So baptism is NOT necessary for salvation!"

Catholics respond:  where does the Bible state that the Good Thief was never baptized?  (Answer:  nowhere).

Another response is that there is baptism of desire, which St. Dismas may have received through his union with Christ and His suffering.
From the Catechism:  The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. 1258

"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   

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