So what’s up with purgatory. Isn’t it just some made up concept that the Catholic Church used to sucker some people out of money? Well, yea sometimes by some unsavory people, but just because people have used cars to rob banks doesn’t exactly make the cars bad, well it’s the same with purgatory.
What is it then?
In the Middle Ages artist like to paint purgatory as a nice quiet suburban of hell, but the truth is probably closer to it being a process. A way in which we become what we are meant to be. You see the scriptures are pretty tough on what it takes to see God. Revelation 21:27 says: nothing unclean shall enter it [heaven], Hebrews 12:14: says,”Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord?”. Heck even Jesus says,”You therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Can anyone really claim to be this good? Probably not because let’s face it most of us kinda suck, but we are probably not so absolutely horrid that we deserve to be thrown into a freaking lake of fire either. Purgatory is the Biblical answer to this problem.
Say what you’re losing me?
1 John shows us that sin like the weather comes in degrees, some sins are bad but largely annoying while some are in and of themselves deadly but don’t take my word for it look it up in the Bible, “If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal” (1 Jn 5:16-17).
Ok so what do degrees of sin have to do with purgatory?
Well if you die with one of these annoying little sins still hanging around your neck you go to purgatory or better yet you go through purgatory on your way to heaven (see what I did there? I didn’t make it a halfway house). Purgatory becomes a sort of car wash in which our non mortal sins are removed from being. This doesn’t mean that their won’t be some pain involved because let’s face it we tend to be attached to our little faults (gossiping, lack of charity exc). So while there is no time after our death the best way for us to conceive of our sins being removed on the way to heaven is to see purgatory as a place where we are purged of our sins.
Finally in the Old Testament book of 2 Maccabees which exists in all the ancient Churches Bibles (Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian, Ethiopian) but not in the Protestant Bible’s there is actually a statement about praying for the dead so that they are delivered from their sin. “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, so that they might be delivered from their sin. (2 Maccabees 12:44-45). There is some thought that it was the reformers who chose to delete this text and use only the Hebrew text because it went in the face of their “faith alone” theology.
Anyway doesn’t it sort of make sense that most of the world isn’t so totally screwed up that they should go to hell? That we also aren’t so good that we can just go straight to heaven either, instead we are offered a middle state that will eventually grant us everlasting life.