Does Purgatory Exist?

GUEST POST

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Purgatory is the belief widely held by the Catholic church (but characteristically rejected by Protestants) that a Christian will first go to purgatory “after death [to] undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”[1] The Catholic church also encourages undertaking ways of helping those who have passed away: “The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”[1] The word “purgatory” simply means to have the quality of cleansing or purging—and it is never used in the Bible.[2]

Instead, Scripture gives reason to believe a Christian’s spirit goes straight to heaven after he/she dies, rather than to purgatory. The Bible says a Christian will immediately be with the Lord after death. Look at the example of the thief on the cross:

And he [the thief on the cross next to Jesus] said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43, emphasis added).

Also consider the example of the Apostle Paul who equates passing away with being immediately in the presence of the Lord both in his letter to the church in Corinth, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, emphasis added), as well as in his writing to the church in Philippi:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better (Philippians 1:21-23, emphasis added).

The Bible teaches that for the born again Christian, all of God’s wrath was spent on Jesus, and thus, no additional purification is needed beyond what Christ has already done. Christ’s gracious salvation is to be received by faith alone—and not by works/penance/indulgences.

In Romans, Paul says that believers are free from condemnation: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, emphasis added). The Apostle John writes of the same truth: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, emphasis added).

The Letter to the Hebrews communicates that Jesus’ sacrifice is not limited to some of the sins of believers, but for all of them for all time: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Further, it is Jesus who has cleansed, once for all, those who are born again: “After making purification for sins, He [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3) and “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus Christ referenced the completion of His work on the cross:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:28-30).

With the single word in Greek, tetelestai, He spoke, “It is finished.” According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, this same word was used across receipts for taxes in Jesus’ time—meaning, “paid in full.”  Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for forgiveness and purity in order to usher believers directly and immediately into His glorious presence at the end of our earthly lives.

So how do we get into heaven? Trust (i.e. believe, have faith in) Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life, who purchased your forgiveness through His death on the cross—bearing God’s wrath on your behalf—and who clothes you with His righteousness. Repent of your sins and commit your life to God in obedience out of love and gratitude to the Creator and Redeemer.

“The Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:14b-16

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
Acts 3:19-20

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
Romans 3:23-25

“And He [Jesus] said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.’”
Luke 9:23-26

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a12.htm

[2] According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “the term itself is derived from the Latin purgare, which means ‘to cleanse’ or ‘to purify.’”


Tyler is a follower of Christ who lives in the suburbs of Chicago. He is husband to Lianna and dad to his two girls, one who lives in heaven and one who lives on earth.


This post was originally published at Hope Mommies.

Lianna Davis