Passing Through Purgatory on the Way to Heaven
Purgatory is a sign of God’s mercy on those who have honestly sought to know God and to do His will in this life and yet die with the effects of sin or some bondage to sin. Jesus redeemed us and overcame our sins, but He did not remove the results of our sins; He has the power to make us perfect, but He did not make us perfect. Can you imagine what Heaven would be like if those who are saved went there with all of their defects and bad habits?
The Bible, Sacred Tradition, and long-held doctrines of the Catholic Church affirm that Heaven and Hell exist; they also teach that there is a temporary place or condition, called “Purgatory,” which some or many souls must pass through prior to entering Heaven. The term “Purgatory” is not found in the Bible; but neither are other such important Christian beliefs such as “Trinity” and “Incarnation” or even the word “Bible” or the mandate to produce a Bible. Those who go through Purgatory know they are on their way to Heaven. They experience the great joy of knowing God exists and they must be perfected before entering into the presence of the Divine Majesty, the awesome and eternal vision of God.
– Mt 5:25-26 – “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge…. you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.” COMMENTARY: The meaning of this text is obscure unless it is applied to Purgatory. This text does not apply to Hell since Hell is permanent and never-ending. If we do not become purified in this life, we will become purified in Purgatory if we still need to be purified.
– Mt 12:32 – “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.” COMMENTARY: Jesus implies that some sins can be forgiven in the next life. In Hell, no one can be saved; in Heaven, all souls are already saved. Only in Purgatory will the souls needing purification be purified. This text is unclear unless it is applied to Purgatory.
– Lk. 16:22-25 – “The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades [place of the dead, retribution, or repayment], being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son… between us and you a great chasm has been fixed…” COMMENTARY: The rich man is probably NOT in Hell because he would be cut off completely from God and His holy ones. People in Hell do not beg for mercy because they are already condemned; they only want to destroy souls, not save them. They would not call Abraham “Father”, because their only father is Satan; Abraham would not call him “son.”
– 1 Cor 3:11-15 – “For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire. COMMENTARY: In Hell, no one can be saved; in Heaven, all souls are already saved. In Purgatory, the souls there are saved but will be purified “only as through fire.” Our destiny will be revealed on the Day of our Judgment.
– Col 1:24 – “Even now I find joy in the suffering I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the church.” COMMENTARY: If souls have not learned on earth that they can and should unite their suffering with the sufferings of Jesus, they will learn this in Purgatory.
– Heb 11:39-40 – “Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised. God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.”COMMENTARY: St. Paul mentions many of the holy leaders who lived before him, then he said the Messiah did not come to them but he came in the divine person of Jesus. He also said they would be made perfect because they had to wait for the Messiah. For some of them, this waiting time may have involved Purgatory where they would have been made perfect.
– Heb 12:6,10,29 – “For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges…. but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness…. For our God is a consuming fire.”COMMENTARY: The fire of God’s love burns away all impurity.
– 1 Pet 1:7 – “The genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” COMMENTARY: Fire suggests suffering, and suffering brings us into union with Jesus Christ. We must imitate Him, as St. Paul says: “…if we are children, we are heirs as well: heirs of God, heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so as to be glorified with Him.” (Rom 8:17)
– 1Pet. 4: 12-13 – “Do not be surprised, beloved, that a trial by fire is occurring in your midst. It is a test for you, but it should not catch you off guard. Rejoice instead, in the measure that you share Christ’s sufferings. When his glory is revealed, you will rejoice exultantly…” COMMENTARY: If we do not become purified in this life, we will become purified in Purgatory if we have been saved. The meaning of this text can be applied not only to this life, but also to Purgatory.
– 1Jn 5:17 – “There is sin that is not deadly.” COMMENTARY: Therefore, it is possible to die with non-deadly sin, especially in the case of sudden death. Purgatory purifies this non-deadly sin in those who have been saved.
– Rev 21:27 – “…nothing unclean will enter it (City of God)…”COMMENTARY: The gift of Purgatory is for the souls needing it and anything unclean will be burned away by the fire of God’s love.
BOOK OF MACCABEES: From the Catholic Bible which has 7 more books (plus parts of Daniel and Esther) than other Christian Bibles because Jesus used these books in the Greek language. The Greek translation was the most popular at the time of Jesus who spoke Greek and Aramaic. (Hebrew was a dying language at the time.) Also the Early Church Fathers quoted from these 7 books. 2 MAC 12:42-46 SAYS: “Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers… which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way… for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death…. it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore, HE [JUDAS MACCABEUS] MADE ATONEMENT FOR THE DEAD, THAT THEY MIGHT BE DELIVERED FROM THEIR SIN.” [See also: Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 50-51]
How do we become perfect? For many people, the answer is Purgatory – The grace of God saves us but we MUST still be purified –
Lv 19:2 – “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: ‘Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.’” – HOW DO WE APPROACH THE HOLINESS OF GOD?
Mt 5:48 – “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – WHO ON EARTH IS PERFECT?
Mt 19:21 – Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” – WHO ON EARTH IS ABLE TO BE DETACHED FROM EVERYTHING IN ORDER TO TRUST JESUS COMPLETELY?
Rom 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – HOW DO WE CONFORM OUR WILL TO GOD’S PERFECT WILL?
1 Cor 1:10 – “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” – HOW DO WE ALL BECOME PERFECTLY UNITED IN MIND AND THOUGHT?
1 Pet 1:15-16 – “As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I (am) holy.’” – HOW DO WE BECOME HOLY IN ALL THINGS?
Eph 5:3 – Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones…” – HOW DO WE ELIMINATE ALL IMMORALITY, IMPURITY, AND GREED?
Phil 2:5, 8 – “Your attitude must be that of Christ . . . it was thus that He humbled Himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross!” – HOW DO WE BECOME AS HUMBLE AS JESUS?
1 Jn 4 – “There is no fear in love. But love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – HOW DO WE DRIVE OUT ALL FEAR AND BECOME PERFECT IN LOVE?
The Constant Faith of the Church Affirms the Belief in Purgatory.
From the earliest days, specific prayers have always been said at every Mass for those who have died.
From the earliest of times, the Fathers of the Church taught the existence of Purgatory: Tertullian (Rome, 160 – 220?), Origen (Alexandria, 185 – 254?), Cyprian (Carthage, 200 – 258), Ambrose (Tier, 340 – 397), Augustine (Numidia, 354 – 430), Basil (Caesarea, 329 – 379), Gregory of Nazianzus (in Cappadocia, 329 – 389), John Chrysostom (Antioch, 349 – 407), Gregory the Great (Rome, 540 – 604), and others.
The first Christians made inscriptions in the Catacombs under Rome where thousands of early Christian martyrs were buried. They knew the dead benefitted from prayers and this was a tradition as fully valid as the other Christian traditions that St. Paul referred to when he said in 1 Cor. 11:2: “I praise you because you always remember me and are holding to the traditions just as I handed them on to you.” St. Paul also wrote in 2 Thes. 2:15: “Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by letter…” Even the Bible comes to us from tradition: In the 300s and 400s, Catholic bishops approved the list or Canon of books to be included in the Bible, choosing from the many, holy manuscripts that were preserved and copied by the monks in Catholic monasteries for many generations. Since the Canon of books was approved, the Bible has remained constant until today, except for minor changes made by other Christian Churches starting in the 1500s.
Why was Jesus not more clear about the existence of Purgatory? St. John says that not everything from Jesus is recorded in Scripture (Jn. 21:25). The people in His time may have taken for granted that Purgatory existed. Or Jesus may have thought they could not bear to hear about it yet, because He said at the last supper: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now” (Jn. 16:12). They could not bear to hear about His true presence in the Eucharist for “many of His disciples returned to their former way of life” (Jn. 6:66). Purgatory is a gift to those who need it: Everyone should believe in it and/or pray for the dead so their time in Purgatory will be shortened. We have nothing to lose but much to gain.
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