Where does the idea of “purgatory” come from? Does the “evidence” have any rationale, or is it taken out of context?

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Where does the idea of “purgatory” come from? Does the “evidence” have any rationale, or is it taken out of context?

Post by Admin on Fri Jul 01, 2016 9:30 pm

he idea of purgatory actually comes from Catholic tradition versus any specific Scriptural basis. No less an authority than The New Catholic Encyclopedia categorically states, “[T]he doctrine of Purgatory is not explicitly stated in the Bible.” In fact, it was one of the doctrines against which Martin Luther was protesting in 1517 when he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. But, to discuss it correctly, we probably have to first look at the Catholic doctrine of sin in the context of two categories: venial sin and mortal sin. Venial sin is the lesser sin; it is considered the more forgivable sin because it does not result in a complete separation from God and being eternally cast into hell. It comes from the idea that we all live in a state of constant grace with God, so our venial sins, while not breaking our relationship with God, injure it. Venial sins result in a need for penance, and penance left undone during one’s lifetime results in purgatory. Mortal sins, on the other hand, condemn a person to hell if not forgiven during one’s lifetime. These are obviously more serious offenses. To be forgiven, they must, along with a proper repentant spirit, be specifically named—both in terms of what they were and how often they were done—in the sacrament of confession. Now, all of this being said, in Catholic doctrine, the forgiveness of both venial and mortal sins ultimately are left to the mercy and grace of God because only God can see into the mind of the sinner.
Now, according to Catholic tradition, purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for those who have committed those venial sins. When those sins are removed by masses said for them, prayers said for them, and penance in all forms of work, the person is then released from purgatory and allowed to go into heaven. Well, if it is not even mentioned in Scripture, where did it come from? The first mention goes back over 740 years, to the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, where that group said, “If those who are truly repentant die in charity before they have done sufficient penance for their sins of omission and commission, their souls are cleansed after death in purgatorial cleansing or punishment. The suffrages of the faithful on earth can be of great help in relieving these punishments, as for instance, the sacrifice of the Mass, prayers, almsgiving, and other religious deeds which in the manner of the Church the faithful are accustomed to offer for others of the faithful.” In other words, the idea of purgatory grew out of mere speculation that some people are not good enough to go to heaven but not bad enough to go to hell, and therefore there should be some place where people can go to be purged and cleansed and then be rightly and appropriately placed in heaven. The doctrine of purgatory was officially defined by the Council of Florence in 1439 and affirmed by the Council of Trent in the late 16th century. But take a good look at what they did: There is no Biblical citation—no verses of Scripture to support this position. It is simply a human conclusion that became, by means of a papal council, perceived holy tradition that became infallible truth and holy church doctrine. As such, people adhere to this teaching; they have to. As Vatican II stated in the 1960s, “[T]he church is necessary for salvation” . . . it is the “all-embracing means of salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained.”
Biblical Christianity teaches something far different. As the Old Testament points out through the words of David, The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one—David, Psalm 14:1-3. As David also pointed out, You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong—David, Psalm 5:4-5. This corresponds completely with what the prophet Habakkuk said: Your [God’s] eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong—Habakkuk 1:13a. So where does that leave us? Isaiah said it, painfully plainly: All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away—Isaiah 64:6. And the picture doesn’t become any better in the New Testament—apart from Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul makes it very clear: [F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—Paul, Romans 3:23. And, as a result of that sin, the wages of sin is death—Paul, Romans 6:23a. And as he makes understood, [S]in entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—Paul, Romans 5:12. And it is the apostle James who drives the last spike into our goodness as he says, For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it—James 2:10. Bottom line: We naturally exist outside of relationship with God—impossible to make holy on our own, impossible to meet His standard of holiness, and condemned to be forever severed from Him. We are completely guilty!
But, as Paul said so appropriately, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!—Paul, Romans 7:24-25a. The perfect life of Jesus Christ—meeting God’s every standard in every way—and His substitutionary death on the cross—meaning His death took my place, receiving the punishment that my sins deserved—offered me the only hope that I could ever have in being reborn into a life that could have relationship with God because His standards were met—not by anything I did but only because of what Jesus Christ did. This opportunity is uniquely found in Jesus Christ; as He Himself famously said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me—Jesus Christ, John 14:6. And it was before the Sanhedrin that His disciple Peter concurred by saying, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved—Peter, Acts 4:12. How did He do this? The prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before Christ even walked the earth, gives us the answer: But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all—Isaiah 53:5-6. So, centuries later, and after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul could tell us, He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ—Paul, Romans 4:25-5:1. As he told the church at Corinth, highlighting the substitutionary nature of Christ’s life and death, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God—Paul, II Corinthians 5:21. He wrote similar sentiments to the Colossian church: For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. . . . For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—Paul, Colossians 1:13-14, 19-22. And the writer of Hebrews addresses just how complete and wide-ranging this substitution was: [W]e have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all . . . because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy—Hebrews 10:10, 14. In fact, His sacrificial, substitutionary death was so complete that Jesus Himself could say from the cross, It is finished—Jesus Christ, John 19:30a. That is why Paul can say so triumphantly, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus—Paul, Romans 8:1. The question becomes: How can anyone declared “not guilty” by God (the meaning of “justification”) somehow have additional need for intervention? If Christ’s atoning work on the cross was truly complete in every detail, meeting every spiritual need we would ever have, what can still left to do? Answer: Nothing! Christ did it all! As Paul stated so emphatically, When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross—Paul, Colossians 2:13-14.
The twin sins within Catholicism in supporting the doctrine of purgatory are these: (1) Purgatory declares that the work done by Jesus Christ on the cross for our behalf was not enough, and (2) tradition operates on equal footing with Scripture. Regarding the first, it is a similar statement that was being made by the “Judaizers,” those first-century Christians that were coming out of a Jewish tradition that held that Gentiles coming to Christ still needed to observe Jewish traditions. This was seen as such a serious threat to the meaning of Christ’s death that a church council was convened in Jerusalem (Acts 15), during which Paul, Barnabas and Peter all spoke, Peter very eloquently stating, We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are—Peter, Acts 15:11. As Paul wrote to the Roman church, So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace—Paul, Romans 11:5-6. While works are an important outcome of our salvation, it is not what our salvation is based on; as Paul famous said to the Ephesian church, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast—Paul, Romans 2:8-9. Paul wanted our focus to be, as he wrote to his pastoral protégé Titus, on the completely encompassing work of Christ; he wrote: But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life—Paul, Titus 3:4-7. And the bottom line for Paul was this; as he said so clearly to the Galatians—a church very troubled by the teachings of the Judaizers: [I]f righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!—Paul, Galatians 2:21b. On the contrary, because of Jesus Christ, as Paul said, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding—Paul, Ephesians 1:7-8. It is what the writer of Hebrews was referring when he wrote, [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 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—Hebrews 9:26b-28. And as John concluded in his first epistle, He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world—I John 2:2. Second, purgatory is a great example of the Catholic rule of tradition—specifically Church tradition—holding sway over everything, including Scripture. For Catholics, the Bible alone is not sufficient for doctrine; it is the Bible plus tradition, particularly the traditions that have arrived via edicts of the hundreds of popes that have ruled over the church through the centuries. Pope Boniface the Eighth, speaking in 1302, said, “For every human creature, it is altogether necessary to salvation that he be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” And it was Pope Pius the Ninth in 1870 that first enunciated the doctrine of papal infallibility, that the Pope possessed full and complete power and authority over the whole Church, that the Pope can rule independently on any matter that comes under the jurisdiction of the church, and that there is no higher authority on earth than the Pope. Compare this with these words of Paul’s to the Colossian church: He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy—Paul, Colossians 1:15-18. No—purgatory is a false, human-based doctrine that has no basis in biblical Christianity.

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