Saturday, September 03, 2005


What follows is an explanation I gave in 2003 to a Protestant who asked about Purgatory...

From: "Purgatory" by James Akin
A fundamental truth of the Christian faith is that we will not be sinning in heaven. Sin and final glorification are incompatible. Therefore between the sinfulness of this life and the glories of heaven we must be made pure. Between death and glory there is a purification.
I've dialogued with many Protestants who also teach that when we die, we undergo a final process which makes us holy, worthy of God's presence. Of course, you won't often hear "purgatory" or "purgation" in their discussion, however, this is the same concept. Why do Protestant, Catholics, and Orthodox believe that such a process takes place? This teaching is implied by Sacred scripture.

It is God's desire that we be perfected in Christ
Mt 5:48 -be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect
Without holiness, we cannot see God
Heb 12:14- strive for that holiness w/o which cannot see God
Even unto death, we may fall short from that holiness
Jam 3:2 -we all fall short in many respects
Nothing unholy will enter heaven
Rev 21:27 -nothing unclean shall enter heaven
The wages of sin is death, however, not all sins are deadly
1 Jn 5:16-17- degrees of sins distinguished
Jam 1:14-15- when sin reaches maturity gives birth to death
Even after sins are forgiven, temporal punishment remains
2 Sam 12:13-14- David, though forgiven, still punished for sin
Mt 5:26 -you will not be released until paid last penny
Mt 12:36- account for every idle word on judgment day
Not all sins are forgiven
Mt 12:32 -sin against Holy Spirit unforgiven in this age or next
Pain of purgation implied by Paul
1 Cor 3:15 -suffer loss, but saved as through fire
Praying for the dead an ancient Jewish teaching
2 Macc 12:44-46 -atoned for dead to free them from sin

Mr. Akin further explains ...
The doctrine of purgatory, or the final purification, has been part of the true faith since before the time of Christ. The Jews already believed it before the coming of the Messiah, as revealed in the Old Testament (2 Macc. 12:41-46) as well as other pre-Christian Jewish works, such as one which records that Adam will be in mourning "until the day of dispensing punishment in the last years, when I will turn his sorrow into joy" (The Life of Adam and Eve 46-7). Orthodox Jews to this day believe in the final purification, and for eleven months after the death of a loved one they pray a prayer called the Mourner's Qaddish for their loved one's purification. Jews, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox have always historically proclaimed the reality of the final purification. It was not until the Protestant Reformers came in the 1500s that anyone denied this doctrine. As the following quotes from the early Church Fathers show, purgatory has been part of the Christian faith from the very beginning.Some imagine that the Catholic Church has an elaborate doctrine of purgatory worked out, but basically there are only three things that are essential components of the doctrine: (1) that a purification after death exists, (2) that it involves some kind of pain, and (3) that the purification can be assisted by the prayers and offerings of the living to God. Other ideas, such that purgatory is a particular "place" in the afterlife or that it takes time to accomplish, are speculations rather than doctrines.

I believe that when we die, all of our sins from our life will be made known to us, all the forgotten sins, all the opportunities to love passed by, as well as the further "ripple effect" our sins had on the lives of others. I believe this realization will be a painful process of coming to understand the mistakes of our lives. It is the pain of this process which I believe to be the pain of purgatory.

I also believe that God blesses some for the faithfulness of others. If this is so, then praying for those that have died is a holy practice which may bring God's blessing upon those loved ones who have passed away, if that be God's will.

God bless,



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