The Holy Catholic Church infallibly teaches that “there is a purgatory, and that the souls there detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful and chiefly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar” (Council of Trent). The Church thus defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven, which is experienced by those who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). But why is there a need for purgatory? Because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (cf. Revelation 21:27) and, even though mortal sins were forgiven before death, there still remains impurities, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to already forgiven sins. At the end, the non-Catholics would then ask: Is the doctrine of purgatory biblical?
To understand deeply the doctrine of purgatory, first there is a need to know the very nature of God. First, GOD IS HOLY (cf. Habakkuk 1:13; Isaiah 6:3; Revelations 4:8; Leviticus 11:44); that is why He wanted His people to be holy too (cf. Matthew 5:48) in order for them to be worthy of Him because nothing unclean can see Him in heaven face to face (cf. Revelation 22:27). So, because GOD IS JUST (cf. 1 John 1:9; Revelations 15:3), those who remained unclean are punished with eternal fire and those who lived a holy life are rewared with eternal joy in heaven. But the question now would be: will all be thrown into hell then? As St. Paul said: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Of course not. God will not let that happen because HE IS MERCIFUL (cf. Psalm 116, Lamentations 3:22, Psalm 103:8). He wanted that all His children will be with Him forever in heaven. God doesn’t want that all men be eternally punished because HE IS LOVE (cf. 1 John 4:8, 16). “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Out of God’s holiness, justice, mercy and love, those who died in the state of grace, though not yet totally perfect, are not immediately damned but still given hope for salvation through final purification with fire. Then, what is the proof?
In Matthew 12:32, Jesus said: “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” This verse suggests that there is still forgiveness after death, i.e. the AGE TO COME. Can there still be forgiveness in hell? Of course not because souls there are already damned. How about in heaven? Of course not because souls there are already saved. Therefore, what is this age to come in which sin can still be forgiven? If purgatory is just a lie then that means Jesus speaks with no sense.
Similarly, St. Paul taught that, when one is judged, his own work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? In 1 Corinthians 3:15, the apostle said: “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Notice of the phrase: “will be saved”, which is in the future sense. It clearly suggests that salvation can still be attained ONLY after undergoing purification through fire. This indeed doesn’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there anymore; and heaven isn’t either, since there is no more suffering there. Indeed, the Holy Catholic Church alone has the right teaching on this matter as she is guided by the Spirit of truth (cf. John 16:13).
Moreover, below are other biblical proof texts on the reality of purgatory, i.e. forgiveness of sin even after death:
⚫ Matthew 5:25-26 — “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
⚫ Matthew 18:32-34 — “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”
NOTE: The two passages above refer not to the torment in hell for there is no more chance of getting out from suffering once thrown in there. Thus, the prison mentioned here speaks of a temporary torment or suffering and, once completed, be rewarded of eternal happiness.
THE Sacred Scripture also speaks of a realm where salvation is still absolutely possible:
⚫ Philippians 2:10 — “… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth…”
NOTE: Does “under the earth” refer to hell? Of course not because those in hell are already damned and deprived of being able to see God; thus, they can longer worship Him.
⚫ 1 Peter 3:19-20 — “After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”
NOTE: Does “imprisoned spirits” refer to those in hell? Of course not because they are already damned and there is no more salvation in them.
⚫ 1 Peter 4:6 — “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
NOTE: Is the “dead” mentioned in this passage those found in hell? Of course not because they can no longer be saved. Therefore, the “dead” here suggests to be placed somewhere where salvation can still possibly be attained.
After all, it is still certain that, despite the biblical proof texts above, the non-Catholics would remain hard-headed. They would ask: Where in the Bible can purgatory be read?
To answer this question, it is to understand first that the Holy Bible is not a Book of Terms but a Book of God’s Love. Well, just to ride on their own reasoning, the term “purgatory” is indeed biblical, word-for-word. First, take note that the term can’t be found in an English, Filipino, or non-Latin Bible translation because Purgatory was derived from a Latin verb “purgare” meaning “to purge”, “to cleanse”, or “to purify”. Thus, to find the term Purgatory in the Bible, it is must be read in a Latin-translated Bible, as follows:
◾ Numbers 6:9 — “Sin autem mortuus fuerit subito quispiam coram eo, polluetur caput consecrationis ejus: quod radet illico in eadem die PURGATIONIS suae, et rursum septima.”
◾ Ecclesiasticus 7:34 — “Da illis partem, sicut mandatum est tibi, primitiarum et PURGATIONIS, et de negligentia tua PURGA TE CUM paucis.”
◾ Luke 2:22 — “Et postquam impleti sunt dies PURGATIONIS ejus secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt illum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino.”
◾ 2 Peter 1:9 — “Cui enim non praesto sunt haec, caecus est, et manu tentans, oblivionem accipiens PURGATIONIS veterum suorum delictorum.”
◾ Hebrews 1:3 — “Qui cum sit splendor gloriae, et figura substantiae ejus, portansque omnia verbo virtutis suae, PURGATIONEM PECCATORUM faciens, sedet ad dexteram majestatis in excelsis:”
LASTLY, below are other biblical verses which show the very purpose of Purgatory, i.e. to cleanse, to purify, or to purge:
◾ Luke 3:17 — “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will PURGE his floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn WITH UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.”
◾ John 15:2 — “Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will PURGE it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”
◾ 1 Corinthians 5:7 — “PURGE OUT the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you are unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed.”
◾ Mark 7:19 — “Because it entereth not into his heart, but goeth into the belly, and goeth out into the privy, PURGING all meats?”
◾ Ezekiel 20:38 — “… and I will PURGE from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the LORD.”
◾ Isaiah 4:4 — “When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and THE SPIRIT OF BURNING.”
◾ 2 Chronicles 34:3 — “For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to PURGE Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images.”
◾ Malachi 3:3 — “He will sit as a smelter and PURIFIER of silver, and He will PURIFY the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.”
INDEED, the necessity of the purging is taught in the above passages. In addition to them, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 declares that God chose His people “to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit.” Sanctification is thus not an option, something that may or may not happen before one gets into heaven. It is an absolute requirement, as Hebrews 12:14 states that all must strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Purgatory is a doctrine of God’s infinite mercy to mankind. Hence, rejecting this very teaching is absolutely denying His mercy.