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Catholic Apologetics


Chapter 23 -- Purgatory


 

Jews at the time of Christ believed in Purgatory. They may have had a different name for it, but the doctrine was understood by all. Early Christians, likewise, believed in Purgatory. It was so evident for them, there was little need to speak of it, and rarer still was the need to justify it. Purgatory was a doctrine of the Church from the beginning. It went unchallenged until Martin Luther proposed to dismiss it in his Protestant Reformation.

To avoid misstatement, here is what the Catholic Church preaches on Purgatory, taken directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

CCC 1030 - All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

CCC 1031 - The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396; cf. Mt 12:31)

CCC 1032 - This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." (2 Macc 12:46) From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. (Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 856) The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them. (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41, 5: PG 61, 361; cf. Job 1:5)

Let's examine some of the Scriptural support for the doctrine on Purgatory.

1 Cor 3:10-15 - According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ.

If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.

Paul describes the process of Purgatory to the Corinthians. Paul laid the foundation for salvation, for righteous living. The "Day will disclose it" refers to Judgment Day. Whatever was built on the foundation of Jesus Christ by Paul and others will become evident at Judgment.

At judgment, fire will test the quality of each person's spirit. If the person is completely righteous, "that person will receive a wage" and go to Heaven. If, however, some unrighteousness remains in that person's spirit, they will suffer loss, just as David did (see below). There is consequence for sin, even if the sin is forgiven.

"The person will be saved, but only as through fire." They will be saved, they will go to Heaven, but only through fire. Where do they go to be saved, but only as through fire?

1 Pet 1:6-7 - In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

There is that term again--tested by fire. See also Zech. 13:8-9; Mal. 3:2-3; Sirach 2:5; Wis. 3:5-6; Dan 12:10; Rev. 3:18-19. Peter speaks of it in the same sense as Paul. Where do we go to be tested by fire? We call this state Purgatory.

Matt 3:11 - I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.

What did John the Baptist mean when he stated that Jesus would baptize with Holy Spirit and fire? This is the same test of fire discussed above by Peter and Paul.

2 Sam 12:13-14 - Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan answered David: "The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the LORD by this deed, the child born to you must surely die."

We see here that David sinned. God forgave his sin. But God also showed David there was consequence for his sin. Even if God forgives our sins, we still must suffer consequences of those sins. What happens if one dies before they suffered the consequences of their sins? The Catholic Church preaches they suffer in Purgatory.

Matt 5:48 - So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus tells us to strive to be perfect. To what purpose? If we can get into Heaven without being perfect, why strive for perfection?

Rev 21:22-27 - I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there. The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

In his revelation, John saw Heaven-the New Jerusalem. He was told that "nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies." This is one reason why Jesus wants us to strive to be perfect. We can not enter Heaven if we are unclean, if we do abominable things or if we tell lies. Put another way, we must first be cleansed.

How, then, can the vast majority of us ever enter Heaven? Most of us die unclean to some degree. It is rare to find someone so fully righteous, they have no need of cleansing, although the Bible does list some. First, we must be purged of our uncleanness. Where does one go to be purged of their uncleanness? We call this state Purgatory.

Heb 12:22-24 - No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Here is a gathering of all in Heaven, "the heavenly Jerusalem". We see countless angels, the assembly of the firstborn, God Himself, Jesus Himself, and the spirits of the just made perfect. These spirits are the saints in Heaven. Paul reiterates this process of purging when he states "the spirits of the just made perfect".

Note, the Bible states that even just men do not have perfect spirits. How can the spirits of just men be made perfect? What process does God give us to make the spirits of just men perfect? If you die as a just man, but your spirit is not yet perfect enough to enter Heaven, as Jesus stated above, you are purged of your imperfections through fire. We call this process Purgatory.

2 Tim 1:16-18 - May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus because he often gave me new heart and was not ashamed of my chains. But when he came to Rome, he promptly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day. And you know very well the services he rendered in Ephesus.

Onesiphorus died. Paul prayed for the Lord to give him mercy on the Day of Judgment. If Onesiphorus was in Heaven, there was no need for more mercy; if he were in Hell, there was no mercy. Paul's prayer was if Onesiphorus was in Purgatory.

1 Pet 3:19 - In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,

After Jesus was crucified and before He arose again, He went to preach to the spirits in prison. Heaven is not a prison. Hell is a prison, but there is no sense in preaching there since there is no escape. Purgatory is the only prison that fits this Bible verse.

1 Pet 4:6 - For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God.

Why preach the gospel to the souls in Hell? There is no escape. You cannot 'live in the spirit' in Hell. Why preach to the souls in Heaven? They already know the gospel, probably better than any earthly teacher, and are already living in the spirit. The gospel is preached to the souls in Purgatory so that they might live in the spirit.

Matt 12:31-32 - Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Jesus tells us there are things that will be forgiven in this age and things that will be forgiven in the age to come. If you are in Heaven, there is no need for forgiveness. If you are in Hell, there is no forgiveness. Where can you be, in the age to come, where you can receive forgiveness? We call this process Purgatory.

Matt 18:23-35 - That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."

In this parable, Jesus describes why we must forgive each other. He likens God to a King who will put you in prison for not paying your debt. In the process, He mentions, without any need to explain, that God put the wicked servant in prison "until he should pay back the whole debt." See also Matt. 5:26; Luke 12:58-59.

This implies the wicked servant can pay back the debt. He has to pay back everything, and then he will be released from prison. The wicked servant starts within the prison in the Kingdom, but does not remain there indefinitely. He is eventually released to the Kingdom. If this is likened to the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jesus tells us at the beginning of the parable, then there must be a process where those who do not forgive their brothers from their hearts will be made to pay back their own debts, then released to Heaven. We call this process Purgatory.

And note, too, that the wicked servant showed little or no compassion, which is a sin of itself, but I wouldn't rate it as a mortal sin. Unrepentent mortal sins, on bodily death send the soul to Hell, not Purgatory. If this wicked servant example will be tortured for a time, then set free, it can not be Hell.

Luke 16:19-31 - "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.'

Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.

Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.'

He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.'

But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'

He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"

Here is another parable by Jesus. Several clues tell me the rich man was in Purgatory. (Note, this is not official Church teaching--the Magisterium is silent on this point. This is my own interpretation.)

We are told the rich man dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day, presumably ignoring the suffering of Lazarus just outside his door. These things are excessive, but hardly mortal sins. The rich man could see Abraham and Lazarus from his site. Can those in Hell see those in Heaven? The rich man could talk to Abraham. Can those in Hell speak to those in Heaven? The rich man called Abraham "father", and Abraham called the rich man "my son". Are these the titles spoken between parties in Heaven and Hell? The rich man was not vindictive, he did not complain of his torment. He only asked for mercy. Do the souls in Hell expect mercy? And, he had compassion for his brothers. Do those in Hell have compassion for anyone? All these traits preclude him being in Hell. Yet, he was in torment, in a place of suffering. I call this place Purgatory.

James 5:19-20 - My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James says you can save your soul from death by bringing another sinner back to the faith. But James goes on to say you will not only save your own soul, but you will "cover a multitude of sins". What does James mean by this? If your soul is already saved from death, meaning you will not go to Hell, what need is there to cover a multitude of sins? If Purgatory does not exist, this passage makes no sense. If Purgatory exists, and you are purged of your sins there, then there is a great benefit to covering a multitude of sins.

1 Pet 4:7-8 - The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.

There it is again, the phrase "covers a multitude of sins". It appears James is not the only one using it. Peter uses it in the same way James does. Peter expects love will help you get through the cleansing in Purgatory.

As was explained in the Chapter on the Body of Christ, God wants us to depend on each other. Every righteous act any of the members perform goes to the benefit of the entire Body of Christ, and every unrighteous act goes to the detriment of the entire Body. We can help (and hinder) each other.

Col 1:24 - Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.

Paul rejoices in his sufferings for our sakes. He states the obvious to the Christian of the day--that our sufferings can be for the sake of others. He has no need to explain his words, everyone understands them.

Paul goes on to say Christ's body is the church. The members of the Body of Christ, the members of the Church, can offer sufferings for each other. And we saw from the chapter on the Body of Christ, the Church consists of all true believers, both living and dead.

There is no suffering in Heaven, so those members of the Body can not offer suffering, and need no suffering offered for them. Those in Hell are not members of the Body. But those in Purgatory can receive offerings of suffering from us. We can pray for them. We can offer our labors for them. We can offer our sufferings for them. If and when any of us enters Purgatory, then others can help us.

Indulgences

CCC 1471 - An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints." "An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin."

The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.
CCC 1478-1479 - An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.

Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.

When Rome fell, and anarchy reigned in Europe, sin was rampant. Those calling themselves Christian would commit murder, adultery, stealing, etc in the normal course of business, then go to confession and receive absolution. It was too easy, and it was abused. The righteous suffered, and the unrighteous were "getting away with murder".

A group of monks in Ireland put a stop to all that. They imposed severe penances for common sins, thus necessitating true repentence to receive absolution. For instance, if you committed adultery, the penance might be abstaining from any sex with anyone (even your spouse) for a period of seven years, a set series of daily prayers to be recited every day of those seven years, and no eucharist all that time. It made you think twice before sinning again.

You might think the severe penances would have been snuffed out, but instead, it caught on like wildfire. More and more strick penances were subscribed, and sinning was reduced significantly almost overnight. To keep it just, the penances were kept the same throughout Europe for the same sins. Thus, you couldn't sin in France, and receive a lighter penance in Italy.

The pendulum was swinging, and as often happens, it swung too far. Sinners found themselves in impossible situations. For instance, it was not uncommon for a penitent sinner to accrue penances amounting to hundreds of years. Obviously, there was no way to do the penance before dying, so there was no hope of ever dying in a state of grace. Thus began the concept of indulgences.

An indulgence was like a super act of penance. It might be declared someone could reduce their penance by five years if they said the rosary daily for one year. Or one might reduce their penance by twenty years if they spent five years helping build a church. This gave sinners hope.

And, for those who died, we, on Earth, could offer indulgences on their behalf. We could say the rosary, or help build a church, or something else, for their benefit.

The pendulum began to swing back again towards a more neutral position.

At the time of the Reformation, the Church was politically powerful. Many disreputable characters wanted that power and thus were attracted to become members of the Church hierarchy. Their true natures became evident after they began to abuse their power. As one might expect, this disenchanted many Christians, among them Martin Luther.

One way the Christian faithful could offer their labors for those in Purgatory was to offer the fruits of their labors (money) to the Church. It doesn't take a degree in psychology or sociology to imagine the tremendous opportunity for abuse of monetary indulgences. Unfortunately, at the time of the Reformation, conditions were at their worst. Unscrupulous members of the hierarchy preyed on the emotions and fears of survivors wanting to help their loved ones minimize suffering in Purgatory. There was nothing wrong with the concept of helping loved ones, and there was nothing wrong with the concept of indulgences, but it was abused terribly.

For Martin Luther and many others, that was the last straw. There was no way God condoned the abuses. There was no way God supported the unrighteous characters controlling the abuse. Luther concluded God did not support indulgences at all. In fact, if Luther was right about another of his theological propositions, Sola Fide, then God did not support Purgatory either.

If you remember from the chapter on Sola Fide, Luther proposed we are saved by faith alone. If we believe, we are saved, end of story. If that is true, there can be no Purgatory. What need would there be to purge us of our unrighteousness if unrighteousness is irrelevant?

It all made sense to him then. The Church had it wrong all along. There was no Purgatory.

But there was that pesky chapter in 2 Maccabees that spoke directly of praying for the dead, and how it was a holy and pious thought to do so. Luther knew in his heart of hearts there was no Purgatory. How could something that supports Purgatory be in Scripture? …unless it was not Holy Scripture after all?

Perhaps 2 Maccabees was never inspired; maybe it was never meant to be a part of the Bible. If you revisit the Chapter on the Origins of the Bible, you will see that Luther summarily dismissed 2 Maccabees from Scripture, along with several other books.

As we learned previously, Jesus, the Apostles, indeed the entire Christian community used the Septuagint version of the Bible. Recall that Paul wrote to Timothy:

2 Tim 3:14-17 - But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known (the) sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Paul admonishes Timothy to "remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred scriptures". The only Scriptures Timothy knew were those taught by Paul, and Paul taught the Septuagint version. Paul says Timothy must remain faithful to what he learned from the Septuagint version of Scriptures.

Paul then stated the famous verse "all scripture is inspired by God". To Paul and to Timothy, all scripture meant all the texts of the Septuagint version (the New Testament was not yet written when Paul wrote this to Timothy).

Paul did not write "all scripture except the following books: …" Paul did not write "all scripture unless someone in the future determines some of this is not inspired after all". Paul did not write "all scripture except anything that refers to praying for the dead." Paul wrote "all scripture". Nonetheless, Luther determined Paul was right in stating all scripture is inspired, but Paul was wrong in thinking 2 Maccabees was a part of Scripture.

Poor Timothy, Paul misled him right from the start, and he passed it on to others, who passed it on to still others, and so on. What a terrible thing for Paul to do. It makes you question Paul's claim to apostleship.

With the disdain for all the abuse of power in the Church, it did not take much convincing to get other Christians to follow Luther's lead. There was a mass exodus from the Catholic faith. With the decline in Church numbers came a decline in Church power, and there was little to attract the power-hungry to the hierarchy. They soon left, or sank into obscurity. Some of them saw the power shift, and joined the new Protestant power regime, thus enabling them to satisfy their true natures once again.

Luther was right to be disenchanted, but the answer was not to change Church doctrines or to leave the Church founded by Christ--the answer was to remove the wrongdoers. Ironically, because of Luther's actions, that is exactly what happened, but at a great price! Equally ironic is that some of the wrongdoers joined the camp of the reformers since it was now more attractive.

Christ did not promise there would be no evildoers in the hierarchy of the Church. Christ promised the Gates of the Netherworld would not prevail against the Church. Satan and his minions can affect individual members of the Church, even members of the Church hierarchy, even the Pope, but doctrines of the Church and the Church itself never would be overcome. No official teaching issued by the Magisterium could be false. Purgatory and indulgences for those in Purgatory are official teachings of the Church.

And note that Luther's proposed theological shift had no Biblical support. There were no verses in Scripture disproving Purgatory. Luther reasoned if Sola Fide were true, then Purgatory could not possibly exist, and any verses to the contrary must be uninspired. This is a great example of twisting the Scriptures to one's own destruction. See 2 Pet 3:16.

So, let's look at 2 Maccabees, part of the Septuagint version of the Canon of Scripture. Several hundred years before Christ, Jews were tortured and killed by many Asians throughout the region. Judas Maccabees gathered an army and attacked all enemies of the Jewish nation with great success. He won many battles and slaughtered many enemies.

2 Macc 12:38-46 - Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the Sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. 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.

Even if you don't accept 2 Maccabees as divinely inspired, it is still an historical record. The soldiers prayed for the dead and took up a collection as an expiatory sacrifice. This is unmistakable proof Jews of the day believed in the concept of Purgatory, even if they had no name for it (but see below).

If one is in Hell, no prayer will help. If one is in Heaven, no prayer is needed. The dead only need prayer if they are in Purgatory.

If you do accept 2 Maccabees as Divinely inspired, then the Word of God says you can make atonement for the dead that they might be freed from their sins. The Word of God says it is a holy and pious thought to make an expiatory sacrifice. Thus, someone can die with the stain of sin on their spirits, and be purged of that sin by the sacrifices of the living.

This is strong Biblical support for the Church teaching on indulgences. Judas Maccabees took up a collection and gave it to God (through the Temple) to expiate (remove the guilt) of the sins of the dead. The Word of God says this is a holy and pious thing. The Church teaches we can do the same. We can give money to God through the Church to expiate the sins of the dead.

Sheol

One last point I would like to make. Some Scriptural scholars claim Sheol or the Netherworld was the Jewish name for Purgatory. Let's explore places where Sheol is used in Scriptures and see if it compares.

Num 16:28-33 - Moses said, "By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD." As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

Some men rebelled against Moses' authority as leader of the Israelites. They felt Moses had no authority to reign over them. They challenged Moses, and God responded by swallowing them in an earthquake.

These were the bad guys, so it would not be too hard to imagine God sent them straight to Hell. But God also sent their wives, children and servants with them. Did God condemn the children to Hell for the sins of the fathers? Is it possible, even probable, they did not go to Hell?

1 Sam 2:5-7 - Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes. The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.

This leans a little more towards Purgatory. It says God brings down to Sheol and raises up. It is not likely God routinely raises souls up from Hell. But, as we saw earlier, God routinely restores souls from Purgatory to Heaven.

2 Sam 22:4-7 - "I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. "For the waves of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me; the cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. "In my distress I called upon the LORD, yes, I cried to my God; and from His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears.

This was David singing to God after God rescued him from Saul. This again leans towards Purgatory since it is unlikely the Bible would record that David was near a death that would lead him to Hell.

1 Kings 2:5-7 - "Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace. And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet. So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace. But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table; for they assisted me when I fled from Absalom your brother.

David was near death and speaking to Solomon. David did not want Solomon to let Joab's gray hair go down to Sheol in peace. Can you go to Hell "in peace"? Not likely. This is evidence in Scripture that suggests Sheol is the abode of the dead, where (?all/some?) go when they die, and not Hell.

Job 14:1-17 - "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure. Do you fix your eye on such a one? Will you bring him before you for judgment? Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. So look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired man.

At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.

But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.

"If only you would hide me in Sheol and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.

Job prays that God will hide him in Sheol and conceal him until God's anger has passed. He then prays God will not keep track of his sin and that God will cover over his sin.

This can not be Hell. Job asks to go to Sheol to hide for a while, and then be released again. You don't get released from Hell. Job asks that while he is in Sheol, God would not keep track of his sin. In Purgatory, as we now envision it, we pray for God to forgive and forget our sins.

Psa 30:1-3 - I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD , you brought me up from Sheol; you spared me from going down into the pit.

David not only says God brought him up from Sheol, but God spared him from the pit, implying there is Sheol and there is another place-the pit. In this psalm, David is calling God from Sheol. Again, we see Sheol can not be Hell-the pit is Hell. No one can call God from Hell. No one is brought up from Hell. Sheol must be Purgatory.

Psa 49:15 - But God will redeem my life from Sheol; he will surely take me to himself.

This describes Purgatory perfectly. God redeems from Purgatory and takes us to Heaven.

1 Sam 2:6 - The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again.

If God casts down to the nether-world, then raises up again, can the nether-world be hell, or is Purgatory more likely?

The evidence is not conclusive, but it is significant that Sheol signifies Purgatory. At the very least, ancient Israelites believed in a place or state where you would go when you die that was temporary, and neither heaven nor hell.

Parting Comment

There are a great many more verses that support the doctrine of Purgatory, but there is no need to repeat all of them here.

We see there is significant Biblical support for the doctrine of Purgatory. Jesus, the Apostles and all of the early Church honored the Scriptures, which included 2 Maccabees. There is no Biblical support opposing Purgatory--only human reasoning. Most Jews and early Christians believed in Purgatory and it was a doctrine of the faith until challenged by Luther, almost 1,500 years after the death of Jesus. With the abuses of indulgences, we see why Luther and others may have wished it weren't so, but that does not destroy a doctrine of the faith. The answer was not for Luther and others to leave the Church; the answer was to remove the evil doers.

Where do we go to be tested by fire? Where do we go to be purged of our uncleanness before entering Heaven? How can the spirits of just men be made perfect? Where can we be where we can receive forgiveness in the age to come? Where can those who do not forgive their brothers from their hearts will be made to pay back their own debts, then released to Heaven? We call this state Purgatory.


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