by Shawn Brasseaux
*Based on an article written 18 November 2007
NOTE: My dear Roman Catholic readers, I love you because the Lord Jesus Christ loved you enough to die for your sins and was raised again for your justification. Friend, I write this study in a humble and sincere spirit, but I will not compromise Scriptural truth for the sake of pleasing the masses and upholding church tradition. I would rather be frank with you and provide you with the knowledge to go to heaven, than give you a “sugar-coated message” and let you go to hell.
On 9 November 2007, our local newspaper, The (Opelousas, Louisiana) Daily World, published a religious column written by a local Roman Catholic priest, “Reverend Mitchell.” In that article titled “Purgatory is not heaven’s waiting room,” Mitchell contended that the Bible supported the idea of purgatory. Is this true? The average Roman Catholic is unlearned regarding purgatory: some Catholics are completely unfamiliar with it, while other Catholics doubt its existence.
In this Bible study, we want to compare “Reverend” Mitchell’s comments to God’s Word, and we will see what the Bible really says about purgatory, if anything. Let us begin.
“Rev.” Mitchell: “Perhaps one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Catholic Church by non-Catholics concerns belief in the purgative state of the soul sometimes necessary before its entrance into heaven.” (underline emphasis mine)
Just in case we do not understand what the Church of Rome teaches about purgatory, we will look to Catholic Encyclopedia for Rome’s definition:
“Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching 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…. Further than this the definitions of the Church do not go, but the tradition of the Fathers and the Schoolmen must be consulted to explain the teachings of the councils, and to make clear the belief and the practices of the faithful.” (underline emphasis mine)
According to Catholic Encyclopedia, the “tradition of the Fathers and the Schoolmen must be consulted to explain the teachings of the councils.” If the Bible does teach purgatory (which “Rev.” Mitchell will strongly contend later on), then why does the Encyclopedia encourage us to consult the “tradition of the Fathers” to further understand purgatory? The Encyclopedia gives us the answer—purgatory is not a teaching of Scripture, but a “teaching of the [Roman Catholic Church] councils.” Here, the Encyclopedia admits that purgatory has no Scriptural support whatsoever! Purgatory is simply a “tradition of men,” designed to draw us away from the authority of God’s Word (Colossians 2:8). The Bible refers to heaven and hell, but it does not make even a single reference to purgatory. Rome knows it, and we as Bible students know it. Purgatory is nothing more than a fable.
“Rev.” Mitchell claims that the purging of one’s soul is “sometimes necessary before its entrance into heaven.” The Church of Rome teaches that in the state of purgatory, the temporary suffering that the person’s soul experiences cleanses the soul of every venial sin that prevents the person from going to heaven.
On the contrary, the Bible says that the shed blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9) and Jesus Christ “by himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3). In Christ Jesus, “we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:11). We are “blameless” in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:8), “holy and without blame” (Ephesians 1:4), “forgiven all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13), and we have been given “the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). Either Rome is correct, or God is correct. God is right and His Word is the final authority. We have already been purged of our sins through Christ Jesus’ finished crosswork! Period. We have no reason to suffer for our sins in “purgatory.” Purgatory emphasizes our performance instead of what Jesus Christ did for us.
Let us continue reading his column.
“Rev.” Mitchell: “It [Purgatory] is not an alternate place where one goes because he or she isn’t good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell. All those who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly sanctified, not spiritually perfect as Jesus commands in Matthew 5:48, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation but after death must undergo some purification to achieve the sanctification necessary to enter the joy of heaven. If nothing imperfect can be found in heaven, and none of us would dare say we are perfect, then what happens to us at judgment after death?” (underline emphasis mine)
“Rev.” Mitchell reassures us that “[Purgatory] is not an alternate place where one goes because he or she isn’t good enough for heaven or bad enough for hell.” That is the exact opposite of the Catholic Encyclopedia, for it claims that purgatory is for those “not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” Evidently, the alleged souls in purgatory were too bad for heaven because they had not yet paid for their sins (remember, according to Roman doctrine, these sins must be thoroughly cleansed before these souls can go to heaven)! Are the people in purgatory too bad for heaven, as the Catholic Encyclopedia states, or were they not too bad for heaven, as “Rev.” Mitchell claims? Mitchell contradicts his own church’s publication! What are we to believe?
In the Bible, “sanctification” means “set apart for God’s purposes.” This is where we get the term “saint.” Strangely, “Rev.” Mitchell states that some people die “imperfectly sanctified.” Exactly what does that mean? God set them apart, but God set them apart imperfectly? What nonsense! Either a person is fully set apart for God’s purposes, or he is not—there is no neutral ground. “Imperfectly sanctified” makes as much sense as “partially infallible!”
“Rev.” Mitchell asked: “If nothing imperfect can be found in heaven, and none of us would dare say we are perfect, then what happens to us at judgment after death?” Moments ago, we addressed how sinful humans can go to heaven—the shed blood of Christ. Humans are imperfect, absolutely, but since we have been given God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9), that imputation makes us fit for heaven! See, again, Jesus Christ is the issue, not our “sinlessness” or sinfulness.
Furthermore, “Rev.” Mitchell ignores the fact that Matthew 5:48—“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”—belongs to the nation Israel because Jesus Christ was a “minister of the circumcision” (Romans 15:8). Jesus was sent only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Everything that Jesus said in the Four Gospels, He spoke to Jews under the Law of Moses. We are not Jews, and we are not under the Law (Romans 6:14,15; Galatians 3:28), so we have no business stealing verses from Israel’s program.
Everyone who will be in heaven’s glory will be there only because of the Lord Jesus Christ’s finished work at Calvary (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). They will be in glory not because of their own righteousness, but because of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 3:5). What happens to us at judgment after death? Believers in Christ Jesus go to be in His presence in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8); lost people go straight to hell to wait for judgment (Romans 2:5).
“Rev.” Mitchell makes some more outrageous admissions! Notice:
“Rev.” Mitchell: “While the church gave the name to purgatory, the teaching is most definitely based on Scripture. In Matthew 12:32, Jesus declares that if anyone should blaspheme the Holy Spirit, it would not be forgiven him in this world or the world to come. Obviously, there is forgiveness of sin in the afterlife, but when or where?” (underline emphasis mine)
“Rev.” Mitchell freely admits that the Roman Catholic Church named “purgatory.” In spite of that, he says the teaching is “most definitely based on Scripture.” (Yeah, sure!) He then refers us to Matthew 12:32. Yet, Matthew 12:32 says nothing about the possibility of us suffering for our sins before we can get into heaven (look at the context!).
“Rev.” Mitchell does not understand that God designed His Word to be studied in a particular manner: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). God has made divisions in His Word, so we need to make sure that we make those same divisions God made.
Unfortunately, “Rev.” Mitchell uses Rome’s denominational bias to define the “world to come” in Matthew 12:32 as “the afterlife.” However, God’s definition of the “world to come” is something else.
We find that term “world to come” used in Hebrews 2:4,5 KJV: “God also bearing them witness, both with signs, and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” The “world to come” is Israel’s earthly kingdom. Jesus Christ performed all His miracles to prove that He was about to establish Israel’s kingdom (cf. Hebrews 6:5)! So, what is Matthew 12:32 talking about when it says “whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come?” The meaning of this, according to the Bible, is quite fascinating!
Without going into great detail, understand that God the Father sent John the Baptist to Israel (John 1:6), but the Jews rejected him and let Herod behead him (Matthew 14:10). The Lord Jesus warned in Matthew 12:32, “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” “Rev.” Mitchell ignored the first part of this verse, which is crucial to understanding its meaning!
The Jews rejected God the Son (Jesus Christ) and demanded that Pilate crucify Him on Calvary (Matthew 27:22). So, Israel has already rejected God the Father and God the Son, but Jesus Christ says that speaking against Him can be forgiven. This is why, on Calvary’s cross, Jesus asks His Father to forgive Israel for crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). God the Father does forgive Israel because He sends the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2, thereby giving Israel an opportunity for repentance (change their thinking, and accept Jesus as their Messiah-King).
The Holy Spirit is the last member of the Godhead, the only Person of the Godhead that Israel has not yet rejected. Unfortunately, Israel’s religious leaders in Acts chapter 7 stoned their prophet Stephen, who was filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:55). At this point, Israel has committed the sin of Matthew 12:32, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. So, God began to set Israel and her kingdom program aside (Romans 11:11,12). Accordingly, Israel’s promised kingdom has been postponed for 2000 years. What was the “world to come?” Again, it was Israel’s earthly kingdom.
Matthew 12:32 has nothing to do with us dying and getting forgiveness in the afterlife. Mitchell’s claim about “obviously, there is forgiveness of sin in the afterlife” contradicts what God Almighty said in Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Does the Bible say “forgiveness” after death? No, the Bible says “judgment” after death!
The only way you can have forgiveness in eternity and in the afterlife is by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour now, while you are still living here on earth. You do not have to wait until the afterlife to get forgiveness; you can be forgiven of your sins today! By the way, you should know that, once you die, it is too late to trust in Christ Jesus.
When a Christian dies, he or she will then face God to give an account for their Christian life, spiritual maturity, and service (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9,10). As a lost person after death, you face God to be judged for your deeds, before being eternally damned to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)!
“Rev.” Mitchell: “St. Paul, speaking of the day of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 3:15 says, ‘But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved but only as through fire.’” This does not refer to the fires of hell since no one in hell is saved nor can they be saved—it is eternal loss; it does not refer to heaven as no one suffers there but already saved for all eternity. It logically points out to a temporary state where the soul for a time suffers loss it may gain the fullness of joy in heaven.” (underline emphasis mine)
The day of which the Bible is speaking in 1 Corinthians 3:15 is the “judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 10:14; 2 Corinthians 5:10)—this has nothing to do with the “day of the Lord,” as “Rev.” Mitchell stated. (Evidently, Mitchell does not know that “the day of the Lord” and “the judgment seat of Christ” are two different concepts in Scripture). In 1 Corinthians 3:15, we do not read that someone’s soul passes through fire. In fact, the verse says in the King James Bible: “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Even in “Rev.” Mitchell’s perverted “bible,” we can clearly read that a person’s “work”—not his “soul”—passes through fire. Again, the Bible says, “If any man’s work shall be burned….” Notice that “Rev.” Mitchell writes: “It [the flames of 1 Corinthians 3:15] logically points out to a temporary state where the soul for a time suffers loss it may gain the fullness of joy in heaven.” My, Mitchell is certainly reading much into the text here! How could this verse “logically” point to purgatory, a topic that is neither in the context of the verse nor in the Bible text at all? Any attempt to force the flames of purgatory into 1 Corinthians 3:15 is nothing more than an effort to corrupt God’s Word and promote silly religious tradition (making the Bible say whatever people want it to say).
“Rev.” Mitchell: “The implications [in 1 Corinthians 3:15] of a spiritual cleansing are very clear.
So, we may have to go to purgatory for a spiritual cleansing? We have to suffer for our own sins before we can reach heaven? Again, the Apostle John writes in 1 John 1:7: “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21 KJV). Colossians 2:13 says that God “has forgiven me all trespasses.” All that work that Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary, and it was still not enough to cleanse my soul from sin? Wow, exactly who is that “Jesus Christ,” then? If Jesus Christ Himself, God Almighty, was unable to pay off my sin debt, then how can I as a weak sinful man hope to accomplish this by myself in purgatory? The Bible says, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Romans 3:25). Jesus is the “propitiation”—the fully-satisfying payment for our sins. Christ Jesus paid it all!
Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” If there were such a thing as purgatory, it would have to be everlasting, not temporary, for we can never pay for our sins. However, purgatory is an invention of religion, so not surprisingly, it makes no sense anyway. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:14 that “how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” No purgatory is needed, according to that verse, for “the blood of Christ purges our conscience from dead works!” Hebrews 1:3 says, “…when he [Jesus Christ] had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
“Rev.” Mitchell: “Also, in 1 Corinthians 15:29-30, St. Paul mentions an odd practice of some early Christians which he neither condemns nor condones: baptism by proxy of the dead. He writes, ‘…what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them?’ In his argument for the resurrection of the body, St. Paul mentions this practice which is performed with the belief that the dead can be purified so that they may enter into glory; note that St. Paul does not say there is no purification necessary.” (underline emphasis mine)
“Rev.” Mitchell informs us that “an odd practice of some early Christians” was being water baptized for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29,30). Actually, this is untrue, for Paul never wrote that “Christians” were performing this ritual. In the passage, Paul did not use “us” or “you,” but rather “they,” indicating that whatever this baptism was, Paul did not perform it and none of the believers at Corinth performed it. A third party was performing that baptism. Furthermore, we cannot determine with certainty what “baptism” is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:29—it may or may not be water baptism. In addition, Mitchell says this baptism was “performed with the belief that the dead can be purified so that they may enter into glory; note that St. Paul does not say there is no purification necessary.” Mitchell again is reading into the passage, wrongly assuming that Paul is referring to a “baptism” that is “for purification”—again, we know what Paul is speaking of here.
“Rev.” Mitchell: “Make no mistake, one cannot be bought out or paid out of purgatory, only prayed out of purgatory. One cannot buy grace; Mass offerings are just that, a free will offering given as an act of love on behalf of the deceased. The best way to avoid purgatory is to go to confession now, attend Mass, pray, offer sacrifices and works of charity, and live a life of holiness with firm faith and an undivided heart.” (underline emphasis mine)
“Rev.” Mitchell, you are correct, no one can be “paid out of purgatory” because purgatory does not exist! It is only logical that one cannot be bought out of a nonexistent place—after all, it is nonexistent. If someone missed heaven’s glory because they were “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), the person went to what the Bible calls “hell.” If people who died in venial sins are supposedly going to purgatory to pay for those sins before going to heaven, and purgatory is a myth, obviously these “purgatory-bound” souls must actually be going to hell! Why does Mitchell not tell us the truth? Is he willingly withholding biblical facts so as to bolster his misinformation? We think so!
So, what should you do to avoid purgatory? “Rev.” Mitchell gives the classic answer of religion: “DO, DO, DO, DO, DO….” Just do all the good works you can, and then hope and pray you did enough. Offer as many sacrifices as you can. Live a life of holiness. Attend mass. Pray. Go to confession. Heck, go ahead and give some mass offerings and support Rome financially with a “generous donation.” Friend, if that is not extortion, I know not what is!
Ephesians 2:8,9 KJV says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Romans 11:6 says: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). None of these verses make any references to works as being necessary for salvation—salvation is by faith in Christ, and by faith alone. God’s Word says we are saved by faith, we are not saved by works; yet, Mitchell says we are saved by works such as confessing sins, praying, offering sacrifices, going to Mass, and so on. Would you rather believe God, or “Rev.” Mitchell? Are we not supposed to obey God instead of some fallible man?
So, according to God’s Word, how can we avoid purgatory? Regardless of what we do, all of us will avoid purgatory, for purgatory does not exist! As we saw, the Bible says nothing about purgatory; the Bible actually contradicts the teaching of purgatory. The Bible says to rely, by faith, on the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Calvary to get you to heaven! “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). You can reject the Gospel of the Grace of God, you can choose to remain dead in your trespasses and sins, but the penalty for doing so is spending eternity apart from God’s glory, burning forever and ever in the lake of fire and brimstone.
If you have not trusted in Christ Jesus alone for salvation, the Bible says that you are dead in your sins, and that you are on your way to hell! The flames of hell are not temporary—they last forever and ever and ever and ever. Trust in Jesus Christ alone today, and you be saved!
SUPPLEMENT: But, Catholics say purgatory can be found in the Bible—in the apocrypha. Is that true!? If purgatory can be found in the apocrypha, does that mean God’s Word teaches it?
Purgatory can be found in the Roman Catholic “bible,” in the Old Testament “apocrypha,” but the apocrypha is not found in the Hebrew Old Testament Bible; the apocrypha books do not claim any inspiration of God, and they are not to be considered God’s Word. Paul warned against forged “bibles,” such as the Roman Catholic “bible,” in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Praying for the dead and purgatory are taught in 2 Maccabees 12:42-46 in the apocrypha. Let us briefly demonstrate that even the apocrypha condemns itself as being spurious and uninspired of God. Here is the “death blow” of the teaching of purgatory, found in the very passage used to support it! We read about praying for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:40-46:
“And they found under the coats of the slain, some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain…. Turning to supplication [prayer], they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin,… He then took up a collection among all his soldiers.., to provide for an expiatory sacrifice…. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” (underline emphasis mine)
Firstly, anyone who is familiar with the syntax of the Bible (the way the words of Scripture seem to flow in thought and meaning) can observe that this passage does not exhibit the characteristics of God-breathed Scripture. It lacks power, it lacks truth, and more importantly, it even contradicts itself! Secondly, notice why God killed these people—the passage says because of their idolatry! individuals then pray for these dead idolaters, that they may be freed from “this sin” (freed from purgatory). When we look at two papal quotes, this quote from Maccabees is exposed to be a forgery.
Pope Gregory X, Second Council of Lyons (1274), ex cathedra (“from Peter’s chair”) stated: “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only… immediately descend into hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.” Pope John XXII in a letter “Nequaquam sine dolore” to the Armenians on November 21, 1321 repeated this declaration: “It [The Roman Catholic Church] teaches . . . that the souls . . . of those who die in mortal sin, or with only original sin descend immediately into hell; however, to be punished with different penalties and in different places.” (See Catholic Encyclopedia entry for “hell.”)
Interestingly, Pope Gregory X and Pope John XXII both affirmed the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church: “the souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell.” The Catholic Church teaches that idolatry is one of many mortal sins, worthy of immediate hellfire. How can those in Maccabees be praying for those in hell?!?! This quote from Maccabees is clearly not God’s Word—the Catholic Church invented this passage about praying for the dead, and then they created fake “Bible books” to support that heresy. Why? Sadly, purgatory is one of Rome’s most lucrative doctrines!