What does the Bible say about Purgatory?

There is a belief that people go to a place called purgatory until they garner sufficient grace or lose sufficient grace to move out of purgatory into heaven or hell (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a12.htm#III). To be fair, the teaching of the church is that whoever undergoes purgatory (thought to be a process, rather than a place) is saved, but while that might be the official teaching, many believe that people can go to purgatory (as if it were a location) and those in purgatory are NOT saved and can go to hell.

The idea of purgatory and praying for the dead is supported only by the Apocryphal book called 2 Maccabees, which is not included in the list of canonical books Protestants use, nor is it considered canonical by Jews.

2 Maccabees 12:40-46 reads,

But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden.  Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers 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 then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; 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.

First, the people for which the offering was supposedly made were obviously idol worshippers. This is obviously NOT something any Jewish person would do. Scripture is quite clear how God feels about idol worship and what happens to idol worshippers.

Exodus 20:4-6

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments

Deuteronomy 27:15

“Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol—a thing detestable to the LORD, the work of the craftsman’s hands—and sets it up in secret.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!

1 Samuel 15:23

For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.

Even those who speak up for idol worshippers are blind, ignorant, and shameful.

Isaiah 44:9

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.

Jeremiah 8:19

Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away: “Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King no longer there?” “Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?”

God will cut off anyone who goes to an idol.

Ezekiel 14:6-8

6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! 7 ” ‘When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet to inquire of me, I the LORD will answer him myself. 8 I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

Indeed, idol worshippers will not get into heaven.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

So it is clear that no Jew would speak up for people who had been idol worshippers.

Second, the ideas of purgatory and that prayers to God can change the position of the dead go against what Jesus said, where you are in one place or the other and there is no crossing over.

Luke 23:43

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 16:19-31

19 There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  22 The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’  25 But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

In fact, scripture is quite clear that someone who trusts in Christ goes to be with Christ upon death. For someone who believes in Christ, to be alive in body is to be away from Christ, but to be dead in body is to be with Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Philippians 1:21-24

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Third, the belief that paying money or praying or doing good deeds on behalf of someone else can move someone from purgatory to heaven goes against where the Bible states we are saved through faith that is a gift from God, not by works.

Ephesians 2:8-9.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast

Fouth, the idea that anyone can affect your final destination in any way other than teaching about faith in Christ is against what God said in the Bible, as each of us are solely responsible for our words and deeds and will answer for them upon judgement.

Deuteronomy 24:16

16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

Ezekiel 18:20

20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Revelation 20:12-13

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done

Fifth, it is Christ who takes away the sins of the of those who believe in Him, not anyone else’s efforts.

Hebrews 9:28

28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

It is only faith that we need to be saved and have eternal life.

John 3:14-18

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

John 5:24-25

24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.

John 6:40

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Not only do those who trust in Christ have eternal life, but they can not loose that eternal life.

John 10:27-29

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

We only get eternal life because we have faith in Christ, and it is the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us that gains entry, not because of something we or anyone else does. It is only redemption through the righteousness of Christ which comes from faith in Christ that we are justified by God’s grace:

Romans 1:16-17

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 3:21-25

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished

We see this clearly in Romans 4. Abraham was credited with righteousness because of his having believed God. In the same way, the righteousness of Christ is credited to us.

Romans 4:3

What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:19-25

19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

It is because of the work Christ did, and because we have faith in what Christ did, that we are justified (declared innocent of our sins) and reconciled to God (now have a relationship with God).

Romans 5:9-11

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

But even so, if we believe in Christ, this will change our lives so we move away from sin and towards God in an ever increasing fashion. We will obey God, and live holy lives to the best of our ability.

John 4:19-21

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

John 14:15

If you love me, you will obey what I command.

Romans 1:5

5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

2 Timothy 1:9

9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time

2 Timothy 2:19

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

1 Peter 1:16

for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

So what IS eternal life? It is knowing God.

John 17:3

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

So, we saw that no God fearing Jew would ever pray for someone who had been worshipping idols. We saw that the BIble teaches that purgatory does not exist. And even if it DID exist, we saw that a believer in Christ would never go to an intermediate place between life and judgement, but directly to be with Christ. We also saw that even if such a place DID exist, no one would be able to pray anyone out of it, nor would giving money for someone move them out of it, as we are each responsible for our own sins. Not only that, but works do not save us – only faith in Christ saves us and gives us eternal life.


8 Responses

  1. I think anyone who spends time examining the passage in 2nd Macc will see something completely different than what Rome teaches.

    It was politics; a show.

    Especially considering that those who did it were the founders of the Pharisees. And we remember how much grief they received for inventing new things for the people to do.

  2. Polycarp,

    I agree with you. I can not understand why the RCC would have implemented the idea of purgatory or praying for the dead, as I find them against what Scripture actually teaches.

  3. Further, I was looking through the Jewish tradition, and found only the Kaddesh as an offertory for the dead. It is said on the monthly anniversary of the death, for 9 months (?), but if you read the prayer in English, you will note that it is a praise hymn, mentioning nothing for the dead.

    There is nothing in late Judaism or early Christianity that would give way to such a doctrine – until we turn to the Montanists. I might do a post on that, actually.

  4. My only gripe is that if there is no purgatory, and all that is needed to achieve heaven is to have faith in Jesus, What incentive is there to do good? So i believe in Jesus and his teachings, but im bored so im going to kill my neighbor. Theoretically i believes in God and his teaching, but i just fell of the path. I mean my sins are covered, so… What the hell? i might as well. Sorry God i believe in what you say, but im sinful in nature. oops! It seems a bit nonsensical to me,

    • The motivation to do good comes from God having changed our hearts. If we do not wish to love others, then we do not have the love of God within us. If we seek out sin, then we are not saved.

      1 John 5:1-3

      1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.
      2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.
      3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

      1 John 5:18

      18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

  5. Reblogged this on okikeisaiah's Blog and commented:

    • Those who have the deuterocanonical books of the Bible have support in those books for purgatory. But I think those books conflict with the canonical books.

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