How Do We Defend Purgatory?
Is Purgatory scriptural?
First, we should note that the word "Purgatory" is not found in Sacred Scripture. This is not the point. The words "Trinity" and "Incarnation" are not found in Scripture, yet these doctrines are clearly taught there. Likewise, the Bible teaches that an intermediate state of purification exists. We call it Purgatory. What is important is the doctrine, not the name.
Where is the doctrine of Purgatory referred to in the Bible?
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.
Jesus implies that some sins can be forgiven in the next world. Sin cannot be forgiven in hell. There is no sin to be forgiven in heaven. Any remission of sin in the next world can only occur in Purgatory.
1 Corinthians 3:15: If any man's word is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
This cannot refer to eternal loss in hell, for there no one is saved. Nor can it refer to heaven, for there no one suffers. It refers, then, to a middle state where the soul temporarily suffers loss so that it may gain heaven. This is essentially the definition of Purgatory.
1 Peter 3:18-20: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
1 Peter 4:6: For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.
Note that it is a prison for disobedient spirits, and yet they were saved when Jesus preached to them. This is not hell, because no one is saved from hell. This is probably not the "limbo of the fathers," (often called "Abraham's bosom," where the righteous souls of the OT waited until Christ opened the gates of heaven), because this is a place for disobedient spirits. One cannot imagine that St. Peter is describing the waiting place of such righteous OT saints as David and John the Baptist when he mentions disobedient spirits.
St. Peter is describing a temporary state for disobedient souls who were eventually saved. At the very least, it proves that a third place can exist between heaven and hell. At the very most, it proves the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.
The clearest affirmation of the existence of Purgatory comes from the Greek Septuagint: the Old Testament Scriptures used by Christ, all the NT writers, and the councils of Hippo and Carthage (which authoritatively determined the "canon" of inspired books of the Bible around A.D. 400).
2 Maccabees 12:42-45: And the noble Judas exhorted the people 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 also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 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.
This passage makes two important points:
1. It proves the distinction between mortal and venial sin. Although these men had sinned by wearing tokens of foreign gods, they fell "asleep in godliness." They sinned, yes, but still died in godliness so their sin had to be non-mortal, or venial. And venial sin, not mortal, is forgivable after death.
2. It also proves the existence of a middle state where venial sins can be forgiven. We know it's impossible to aid souls in heaven (they have no need), and equally impossible to aid souls in hell (They have no hope). Praying for the dead presumes souls in a middle state where venial sins can be forgiven and atonement can be made.
This passage from Maccabees is a proof text. It explicitly affirms an intermediate state where the faithful departed make atonement for their non-mortal sins. Martin Luther's reaction demonstrates the strength of this passage. It was so contrary to his "justification by faith alone" theology that he removed 2 Maccabees, along with six other books, from his Old Testament.
Included in this Booklet:
THE SECOND COMING
What Signs Will Precede the Second Coming?
Why Were We Given the Signs of the Second Coming?
Can We Know The Date of the Second Coming?
What Is the Manner of Christ's Return?
What Happens at the Second Coming?
The Catholic View
The Fundamentalist View
Problems with the Dispensationalist View of the Rapture
A Faulty View of the Church
A Faulty View of Israel
A Faulty Reading of 1 Thessalonians 4
A Faulty Interpretation of Matthew 24:38-41
No Record in History
Jesus' Public Ministry Is Accomplished
Overlooking Revelation 13
Who Goes to Purgatory?
How Do We Defend Purgatory? (included above)
What is the Nature of Purgatory?
How Can We Avoid Purgatory?
How Do We Defend Indulgences?
How Can We Gain A Partial Indulgence?
How Can We Gain a Plenary Indulgence?
Answering Objections to Hell
MARY AND THE END TIMES
APPENDIX: SUGGESTED PRAYERS
Father Frank Chacon, and Jim Burnham. Beginning Apologetics 8: The End Times: What Catholics Believe about the Second Coming, the Rapture, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Indulgences. Farmington, NM: San Juan Catholic Seminars, 2005. Print.
To order one or more of the Beginning Apologetics books by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham, see San Juan Catholic Seminars' website.
NEXT PAGE - BEGINNING APOLOGETICS 9