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Purgatory - In The Bible

Brief Overview
Bible passages
Reflection on God’s Love and Fire
Christ’s Suffering is all sufficient : He paid the price


Purgatory is a spiritual state that some souls go through on the way into heaven.  It can be likened to the vestibule of heaven.  The Catholic Church’s teaching on Purgatory is biblical. It is an expression and manifestation of God’s all powerful grace helping us in a loving way, and in the way most needed by those who go to it.

A. Purgatory is not a second chance,

B. Only the saved go to purgatory,

C. It exists for purification & reparation,

D. Only a temporary state.

Purgatory is a Gift 

All those who go there will be grateful for the opportunity to be there.

Please first read part 1.

Purgatory is a Gift 


In regards to Purgatory we all agree that Jesus Christ paid the price of our guilt and by his gift of forgiveness that our guilt is wiped away.  As for making restitution for our sins, correcting the wrong we committed, I think all those going into purgatory will regard it as a gift and a blessing to go there on the way to heaven, even though the suffering will be real and perhaps severe for some.

I think of those I have loved and in some way hurt by my sins.  I feel terrible remorse for having hurt them.  I want to make good and repair the harm I caused.

Out of my love for them I want to make up for the hurt. Hopefully, I can make restitution on this earth, but if not I would and will want to do so in purgatory.  Purgatory is not God exacting some vengeance against sinners.  It is His gift to them.

In heaven I will have an intense love for everyone.  I will have that deep desire to make good to everyone for the hurt my sins have caused.  My sins hurt the whole body of Christ.  Sin and grace are communal. By the grace Jesus won for us on the cross we have the ability to go through purgatory in order to make just restitution for our sins against others.  Out of love for God and for them we will want to accomplish that.  Because our love for them will be deep, so will our desire to make that restitution be deeply felt by us. And so our gratitude for purgatory will heart felt.

CCC  1473
“ ... the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. …”

New Catholic Encyclopedia:
Purgatory is the state, place or condition in the next world which will continue until the Last Judgment, where the souls of those who die in a state of grace, but not yet free from all imperfection, make expiation, that is, restitution for unforgiven venial sins and mortal sins that have already been forgiven, and by doing so, are purified before they enter heaven."


We can say that Catholics believe what Protestants believe about God’s grace making us ready and fit for heaven, it is just that Catholics believe more, that God’s grace is more powerful in what it does and what it accomplishes.

Heaven will be to see God face to face.  It is a gift.  No one deserves to go to Heaven, and it is only by applying and receiving the grace obtained for us by the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ can a soul be made fit for Heaven.

(This is why children need to be Baptized, that is, brought into union with Christ.  We can hope that un-baptized children who die before committing serious sin will be baptized by God, but clearly the normal way is for us to Baptize them here on earth before they die.  They need Jesus and his grace too.  But that is another subject.)

Sin is a spiritual disease that attacks us from within.  Imaging a criminal who is dying on a hospital bed.  He needs to be forgiven, but God in His mercy also wants to heal him, by the power of his grace.

Imagine that you said or did something that really hurt a close friend of yours.  Most likely, you would want to sooth them, help them, or some how repair the injury or pain that you caused.  Purgatory is the opportunity to make reparation for the sins we committed here on earth, but for whatever reason failed to make reparation for here on earth before we died.  The only place that people in purgatory would rather be is in heaven, and that is where they are going and purgatory is the exact place they need to be to get there.


Why Would a Person Need Grace, or an Indulgence, For A Sin Already Forgiven ?


Purgatory in the Bible

Requirement For Heaven

A. Nothing unclean shall enter it (Rv 21:27)

B. Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, (Mt 5:48; cf 1 Pt 1:14-16).

C.    Matthew 6:14-15   If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.    But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

Matthew 18: 35   “ So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

What if our forgiveness is sincere, but somehow not yet perfect ?

Imagine someone who rape, murdered my wife and tortured to death my children.

Suffering Purifies Sinners

Romans 8:16-17
“ … we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”

A Refiner’s Fire

A. Our God is a consuming fire, (Hb 12:29)

B. For He is like a refiner’s fire...; He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord, (Mal 3:3-4).

C. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (1 Pt 1:6-7).

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire, (Mt 3:11).

1 Corinthians   3:9-17
“Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done...If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire

The Greek word for fire is “pur” [Strong's Greek #4442 "πυ̂ρ” ]
And it is from this root word which “PUR-gatory” derives. Purgatory is that state of purification by fire for those who are already saved.
See Catechism CCC 1030-1032

Heaven and Hell, but also a
Third State –a  Temporary Prison

Purgatory  was referred to by the following words in these languages:

Hebrew ...  Sheol  - place of the dead which is not heaven or hell.
                   Therefore, a third place does exist. 
                   It would include those who need purification
                   before going to heaven.

Greek ...    Hades -Where Christ descended to. Not Tartaroo or Gehenna.

Latin  ....    Purgatorio

In Greek, the word for Hell, the place of damnation, is not Hades, but Tartaroo which is the equivalent to the Aramaic of Gehinnom or the English Gehenna.

Mark 9:47-48
“Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ ”  
Cf. Matthew 25:41, 46

1 Peter 3:18-19  
“For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.   In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison … ”  NAB

Matthew 5:25-26  
“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.     Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”  NAB  Cf. Luke 12:57-59

The same Greek word, # 5438, phulake, is used in each of the two reference above and translated as prison.   [In some Apostle Creed translations the word is  (mis)translated as Hell.  Hades would be a better translation.]

Classic Scriptural Texts

Matthew 12:32
“And whoever says 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.”

2 Maccabees 12:39-46
“For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”

1 Corinthians 3:15
“But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Hebrews 12:22-23
“No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem … and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven … and the spirits of the just made perfect …”

Those who were justified by God’s grace had been made perfect.  Where were they made perfect ?  Not heaven, not hell, … ?

Revelation 21:27
“But nothing unclean shall enter it, (the heavenly city of God –Rev 21:2)  nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”


Forgiveness of Guilt  -and-  The Gift of Being Enabled by God's Grace to Make Restitution, Reparation

Even though David was forgiven, he was still punished.

2 Samuel  12:13-14
“David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die,"

A loving heart and spiritual maturity make this point ever so clear.


Purgatory : Lazarus and Rich Man,
notes from Scott Hahn

In one of his tapes Scott Hahn, Ph.D., makes a good case for this passage about Lazarus and the Rich Man to be presenting the concept of purgatory for that place where the Rich Man goes.  He is said to go to the netherworld.  Mr. Hahn identifies that with Hades – the place of the dead- in Greek, Sheol in Hebrew, and Purgatorio sp? in Latin and not to be confused with the fires of Hell, Ghenna sp? in Greek.

He also supports the position that this is an actual story and not a parable.  Parables do not have specific names as this passage does.

Arguments for Purgatory:

Luke 16:19-31   - The Rich Man and Lazarus

“The rich man … cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. …”

 “Abraham replied, ‘My child, …”

[The rich man claims a paternal relationship with ‘Father’ Abraham and Abraham responds in kind]

“Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours …”

[No one would want to go to Hell although perhaps someone might want to go to the aid of a saved loved one in Purgatory.  The passage does not say that the chasm preventing the Rich Man from going to the bosom of Abraham is forever enduring. ]

“He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.”

[ The Rich Man shows compassion for his relatives.  There is no love in Hell where they are completely removed from all of God’s grace.]

“He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

[Again, we see a paternal relationship with ‘father’  Abraham.]

“Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

[Interestingly Lazarus really was raised from the dead.]

Purgatory Quick Verse  
[ click verse to read text]

 Lk 12:59   ... temporary agony.

1 Cor 3: 13-17 ... passing through fire.

 Heb 12:6-11 ... God's painful discipline.

 Mt 12:32 ... no forgiveness ... nor in the age to come.

Matthew 5:25-26
“... your opponent will hand you over to the judge ... and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

 1 Pet 3:18-19 ... purgatory - prison

 Rev 21:27 ... nothing unclean shall enter heaven.

 Matthew 6:14-15    Our forgiveness must be perfect

 Heb 12:23 ... souls in heaven are perfect.

 Col 1:24;   ... "extra" suffering.

 2 Mac 12:43-46 ... sacrifice for the dead.

 2 Tim 1:15-18 ... prayer for Onesiphorus for "that Day."

1 Jn 5:16-17 ... mortal/venial sins - Not all sins Deadly, i.e. mortal

 2 Sam 12:13-14  ... Guilt  vs  punishment


Reflection on Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical, Spe Salvi, from the Diocese of Melbourne.

Just as we would be appalled to attend a grand banquet in our dirty work clothes, so the thought of entering the presence of the Holy God in a state of uncleanness appalls us. So, God mercifully promises “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). ‘Cleansing’ (or ‘purification’) is precisely what the word ‘purgatory’ means. But, how will this cleansing take place?

Fire and flames form a central part of our traditional picture of purgatory. In Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict takes up a passage from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where he writes:

“Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
(1 Cor 3:12-15)

In the Church’s catechetical tradition, this passage is traditionally used to show the scriptural basis for the doctrine of purgatory.

The image of fire and burning may explain the common confusion of the ‘fire’ of purgatory with the ‘fire’ of hell. Lest there be any such confusion, the Catechism tells us that “this final purification of the elect … is entirely different from the punishment of the damned”. (§1031)

Primarily, the difference is that all who enter into the “purging fire” of purgatory have the hope of absolute assurance that they will enter the presence of God and attain the Beatific Vision of God’s face. On the other hand, there is a total absence of hope in Hell – it is pure despair. Another difference is that the fires of hell are destructive, whereas the fires of purgatory are purifying, like the fire that refines gold (as St Paul points out).

In addition to this, the Holy Father points out that the fire described by Saint Paul is nothing other than the soul’s encounter with Jesus! He writes: “The fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with Him is the decisive act of judgement. Before His gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with Him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses.”

It is obvious that as we are finally separated from all our unloving attachments and stripped of our ‘false self’, we will experience pain and suffering. But this is not a cause for fear! “Yet in the pain of this encounter,” writes the Holy Father, “when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of His heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire’. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of His love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.”

Described like this, we see not only how necessary purgatory is, but also how desirable it is. Far from being afraid of purgatory, we even begin to hope for it Read more...


Christ’s Suffering is all sufficient : He paid the price

Protestants often object to the existence of Purgatory with the claim that
“Christ’s suffering is all sufficient therefore there is no Purgatory.”  Christ suffering is all sufficient, however their claim actually makes too little of Christ’s suffering by failing to recognize all that His suffering accomplishes.

God does wash away all our guilt through the Sacraments, but He desires to accomplish even more that that. Purgatory is a good doctrine and our world is much better with it than without it.  Christ’s suffering makes Purgatory possible. A world without a Purgatory actually would make God and His sufferings less effective than what they are.

Protestants often fail to see this because the World has confused them so that they often misunderstand what it means to be in heaven and to be reconciled with God.  The World misunderstands what true love means.  The worldly person may say that they love  ___  (fill in the blank any one of the several hedonistic desires that afflicts our culture.)

It can be helpful to contrast the Muslims view of heaven with the Catholic view.  Muslims believe that if they die while trying kill off the infidels they will be rewarded with 72 virgins. (I do not know how the virgins get rewarded.)  Here, God’s holy plan is converted or changed into our worldly hedonistic value system.  Whereas, in the Christian understanding it is our hedonistic values that must be overcome as we get converted to God’s holy way.  So, the contrast is God being converted to our ways verses we being converted and believing in God’s holy ways.

To be reconciled with God means for us to desire the good, that which He desires for us.  We need to be cleansed of any sinful desires in order to go heaven.

Genesis 19:26
“But Lot’s wife behind him looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

Lot’s wife looking back symbolized her yearning for the ways of life of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Her turning to salt showed how she was not worthy of or even accepting of the life God was wanting to give to her.

Sometimes people die without being purified on earth of all their desires that are contrary to God’s will.  Therefore, in the true and Catholic understanding we need to be purged of those desires and sins before we can enter heaven.   We need purgatory.  Purgatory was made possible by the grace that Jesus won for us on the cross.  It is the place, or better the state (for the lack of a better way to describe it) where we are purged of our sinful desires and are reconciled with God in heaven and His holy ways.  No one in heaven disagrees with God about what is good or evil, or holy or sinful, or true or heretical.  We need to be purified of all that is wrong.  God’s grace makes that possible in purgatory.

Revelation 21:27
“But nothing unclean shall enter it, (the heavenly city of God –Rev 21:2)  nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

CCC 1472   
To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. …  Read more at 1030

CCC  1473
“The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. …”


Purgatory is the beautiful portico of heaven where we are washed clean.  It can be painful for us to be changed into the way we need to be.  As we come into God's presence we will see all the good and bad that we have done and recognize it for what it is.  Some of that will be painful too.

Catholics believe that God by His grace accomplishes more than what Protestants believe His grace accomplishes.  We get washed clean before entering heaven.  We are purged of all filth and sin. We don't stink the place up.


Catechism Of The Catholic Church

958   “Communion with the dead. … Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”


God blesses us with the opportunity to help them, and for them to help us.  The key to understanding the revelation of Jesus Christ is to understand it in the context of a loving family.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is the perfect family.  And by adoption He brings us into His family.

Links :

Three Bible Passages that Talk About Purgatory
Excellent video by Dan Marcum

Here is Scott Hahn’s talk on purgatory, Holy Fire

 Purgatory Holy Fire,  

Purgatory in the Bible

Purgatory :  A Word Study


Scott and Kimberly Hahn: Selected Audio Resources and Last Things

Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory
Short stories of Purgatory

Short stories of Purgatory

The Biblical Doctrine of Purgatory
by Patrick Madrid

How To Explain Purgatory To Protestants
by James Akin

Is Purgatory in the Bible? 
by Tim Staples

St. Francis de Sales, (1567-1622), discusses the arguments in favor of Purgatory in
The Catholic Controversy.


See examination of
Jack Chick tract called Last Rites


See Biblical explanation of
Anointing of the Sick





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