|The following is a "proof sheet" on the subject of Purgatory.
I didn't write it. I don't know who did.
Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church [#1030-32]: “All who die in God’s grace and
after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the
joy of heaven. (#1030] The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of
the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” (#1031] The
Catechism goes to give several important biblical and historical reasons for this doctrine.
Purgatory comes from the verb “purge” meaning “to purify or cleanse.” We should keep
this notion of purification in mind when explaining this doctrine. Purgatory is a temporary
state of purification for the imperfect saints. The souls of the just who have died in the
state of grace but with venial sins or with reparation due for forgiven mortal and venial sins
are fully cleansed in Purgatory so that they may enter heaven. In Purgatory all remaining
reparation for sin is made; all remaining self-love is purged and purified until only love of
Remember these three points:
(1) Only imperfect saints in the state of grace enter Purgatory. It is not a “second
chance” for those who die in unrepented mortal sin.
(2) Purgatory exists for purification and reparation. The effects of sin are purged. The
punishments due to sin are paid.
(3) Purgatory is only temporary. Once the imperfect saints are purified they enter
heaven. Everyone in Purgatory will go to heaven. Purgatory will then cease to exist. Only
heaven and hell will remain eternally,
In order to defend the doctrine of Purgatory, you must explain two preliminary distinctions:
(I) between guilt and punishment; and (2) between mortal and venial sin.
DOES GOD FORGIVE THE GUILT OF SIN AND STILL REQUIRE PUNISHMENT
Ask King David. In 2 Sam 12:13-14 we read: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against
the Lord. • Nathan answered David, ‘The Lord on His part has forgiven your sin: you shall
not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you
must surely die.’” God forgave the guilt of David’s sin, but He still required reparation in the
form of suffering. A man might forgive a teenager for breaking his window, but still insist
that he repair the damages.
WHERE DOES SCRIPTURE DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN?
I Jn 5:16-17 proves degrees of sin, distinguishing between deadly sin and sin that is not
deadly. James 1:14-15 reads: “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his
own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it
gives birth to death.” St. James distinguishes desire from sin, and beginning sin from
mature sin which brings death. Sin which brings death to the soul is mortal. Sin which only
wounds and disfigures the soul is venial.
WHAT IF YOU DIE WITH ONLY VENIAL SINS?
The souls of those who die in the perfect state of grace, without the least sin or reparation
due to sin, go directly to heaven. The souls of those who die in the state of unrepented
mortal (deadly) sin go directly to hell. What about the middle sort of people: those who die
in the state of grace, but with venial sin or with unpaid reparation due to forgiven sin?
They do not merit hell; they are still in the state of grace; yet they are not pure enough for
heaven, where “nothing unclean will enter” (Rev. 21:27).
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THIS?
God is perfect holiness.
Is 6:3: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!’ they (The Seraphim) cried one to the other.”
We are called to that same holiness.
Mt 5:48: “So be perfect, just as ‘our heavenly Father is perfect.”
I Peter 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.”
Without perfect holiness, we cannot see God in heaven.
Heb 12:14: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will
see the Lord.”
Rev 21:27: “...nothing unclean will enter it [heaven).”
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FAITHFUL WHO DIE WITHOUT PERFECT HOLINESS OR WITH
SIN THAT IS NOT DEADLY? The biblical, logical, and historical answer is 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 FOUND IN THE BIBLE?
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." 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 Cor 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.” 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, 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 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, who had once been
disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in
which a few persons, eight in all were saved through water.”
1 Peter 4:6: “For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though
condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation
of 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
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
at the end of the 4th century).
2 Maccabees 12:44-46: “...for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would
have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to
the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and
pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this
sin.” It is 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 atonement for sin 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 sins. 2 Maccabees was so contrary
to the “justification by faith alone” theology of the Reformers that Martin Luther chose to
remove it (along with six other books) from the Old Testament.
This takes us back to the question of the canon of the Bible:
How do you know which books realty constitute the Bible? By whose authority do you trust
that the books upon which you stake your eternal salvation really are inspired?
Do you rely on the private judgment of a renegade priest, Luther, who also wanted to
throw out Esther, James and Revelation, and thought nothing of adding the word “alone”
to his translation of Romans 3:28?
OR, do you accept the divinely protected judgment of the Catholic Church who used her
authority around the year 400 A.D. to determine the official Canon of the Bible. This is the
same Bible (less seven books) used by the Protestants to attack the very authority of the
Church who gave it to them.
Even if 2 Maccabees is rejected as Scripture, there can be no doubt that, as history, the
book accurately reflects the religious character of the Jews of the second century BC. A
little more than one hundred years before Christ, Jews prayed for their dead (and still do
In fact, some of the earliest Christian liturgies (worship services) include prayers for the
dead. Ancient Christian tomb inscriptions from the second and third centuries frequently
contain an appeal for prayers for the dead. This practice makes sense only if early
Christians believed in Purgatory even if they did not use that name for it.
Tertullian, writing in the year 211 A.D., presents the practice of praying and sacrificing for
the dead as an established ,custom: “We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday
anniversaries.” The practice of praying for the dead was universal among Christians for
fifteen centuries before the Reformation.
ARE THERE ANY NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES THAT REFER TO PRAYERS AND
PRACTICES PERFORMED FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE DECEASED?
2 Tim 1:16-18: “May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus because he often
gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains.... May the Lord grant him to find
mercy from the Lord on that day.” St. Paul prays for his departed friend Onesiphorus,
which makes sense only if he can be helped by prayer.
I Cor 15: 29-30: “Otherwise, 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 (without
condemning or approving) the practice of people having themselves baptized for the
benefit of the dead, who cannot be helped if there is no intermediate state of
In short, if the Jews, St. Paul, and the early Christians prayed for the dead, we should have
no fear of praying for them as well. Praying for the dead presumes an intermediate state of
purification, whatever you may call it. Catholics call it Purgatory.
The epitaph of Abercius (180 AD] reads The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while
I lived that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the
chaste shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields who has great
eyes surveying everywhere who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I,
Abercius ordered tihs to be inscribed; truly I was in my seventy second year. May
everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for "Abercius” (Jurgens, p.
78, #187). -
3 On the grounds of sola scriptura, Protestants have no way to refute the Mormon practice
of baptism for the dead. They must have recourse to the Fathers and Church Tradition to
prove that Christianity never endorsed this practice.