Purgatory — Are Catholics Right?

This is a short, but time-sensitive post. I was listening to the Patrick Madrid Show on Immaculate Heart Radio this morning (Friday, June 23rd), and a caller asked about Purgatory. She wanted to know how to respond to a friend who was once Catholic, but now evangelical, and no longer believing in Purgatory.

Madrid quoted the standard apologetic verses such as 1 Corinthians 3:15 which, quite frankly, say nothing about Purgatory. Of course, he would typically answer that the Bible says nothing about the Trinity, either. I sent off an email to Patrick saying:

Brother, it seems to me that Catholics have to apply a forced interpretation of Scripture to make it say what it doesn’t even imply. You suggested that the caller ask her friend if he is perfectly clean to enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27). Thus the argument for Purgatory.

The implication is that we are all unclean; but Paul said some will endure the fire (their works, that is) and receive a reward. The apostle was speaking of crowns — not entry into Heaven. People will enter Heaven by the blood of Jesus though their works may be burned up. This says nothing about a soul being purified in a mythical Purgatory. Context, please.

Again, the faithful have been cleansed by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). I am clean to enter Heaven — not based on my works, but by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ though you disagree with this interpretation. [End]

For the purpose of context this is what Paul wrote:

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

… and John in Revelation 21:27:

But nothing unclean will ever enter it (Heaven), nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Patrick suggested that his caller ask her friend if he was clean enough to enter Heaven. The prompted response that he hopes to elicit is that no one is clean enough to enter Heaven, but this is a gross mishandling of the Word of God.

Madrid then cautioned his caller that her friend might answer with 1 John 1:7 …

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

… but the friend would be incorrect, said Madrid, since Catholics teach that a saved person might die in an imperfect state thus in need of purifying.

Nowhere is this doctrine taught in Scripture … nowhere.

The following commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:15 reminds us that we can’t take the verse out of context.

Charles Ellicott

These words remind us that the whole passage, and especially the reference to fire, is to be regarded as metaphorical, and not to be understood in a literal and physical sense. Forgetting this, Roman divines have evolved from these words the doctrine of purgatory.

Matthew Poole

For the fire of purgatory, it is a fiction, and mere imaginary thing, and of no further significance than to make the pope’s chimney smoke.

Albert Barnes

Yet so as by fire — ὡς διὰ πυρός hōs dia puros. This passage has greatly perplexed commentators; but probably without any good reason. The apostle does not say that Christians will be doomed to the fires of purgatory; nor that they will pass through fire; nor that they will be exposed to pains and punishment at all.

I closed my email to Patrick saying:

Catholics apply the same meandering logic to most of their unique doctrines such as praying to Mary, and calling the Pope ‘Father’. It just doesn’t work.

I confess that my closing remarks were out-of-context, and unfair. I do not wish to start a fight with my Catholic brothers as readers of this blog know that I am especially kind to Catholics if only for the sake of unity.

My impression of Catholics and Protestants is from the perspective of the Jerusalem assembly 2000 years ago when there wasn’t a single Gentile in the church of Christ.

If you have further interest in this discussion please listen to the rebroadcast of this morning’s show, and try to catch Patrick’s response on Monday when he will address, what he calls, my incorrect interpretation.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

A Call to Prayer

A house divided against itself cannot stand. — Abraham Lincoln

Today, I want to address the escalating tensions that are rocking America. To my brothers and sisters in Christ who are apolitical I only ask that you hear me out. I promise to conclude this post with a spiritually relevant observation.

Readers of this blog know that I am a conservative. The radical left hates people like me. They hate my faith and they hate my politics. One of their weapons — quite effective, actually — is to simply smear the opposition. One way they do this is by hurling insults. If you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth so they label their opponents as racist, sexist, homophobic, and misogynist until it sticks in people’s minds and becomes their reality.

As I’ve noted before these tactics are right out of the leftist playbook, Rules for Radicals. The author, Saul Alinsky, influenced the politics of people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who wrote that conflict is the route to power.

This echoes Alinsky’s thoughts that a community organizer should be abrasive, inciting resentment and hostility, an agitator to the point of conflict.

The Democrat Party, at least in my lifetime, has adopted these principles in order to gain and hold power. They incite class warfare on a variety of fronts — sex, race, age, income and, more recently, gender identity. These tactics are intended to divide the country, and create a power base from which Democrats can rule in these Divided States of America.

A young woman, speaking on a university campus, said:

There will be casualties. Unfortunately, people must die in order to effect change.

I guess she took Obama’s change theme to the extreme. Christian, you can hide your head in the sand for so long, but this is the face of evil. This young woman is an Obama-baby who represents the base of the Democrat Party.

Have you heard of Antifa? DisruptJ20? DC Welcoming Committee?

Antifa (antifascist) is a worldwide movement that organizes protest marches against the establishment (Western, capitalist democracies). They are known for wearing masks and inciting violent resistance through a diversity of tactics. You saw them marching in front of the Trump hotel on Inauguration Day.

DisruptJ20 is an organization that pre-planned many of the nationwide marches against President Trump. (What appeared on the nightly news as spontaneous protests were events organized before Trump took the oath of office.)

DC Welcoming Committee is a branch of the national Welcoming Committee. With offices in cities across the country it is a LGBTQ activist organization that participated in the protest marches on Inauguration Day. That explains the gay protesters I saw kissing in front of the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave.

Antifa and DisruptJ20 were involved in the violent protests at Berkeley which resulted in the cancellation of speeches by conservative pundits such as Milo Yiannopoulos (senior editor at the conservative Breitbart News).

Yiannopoulos was especially targeted because he is homosexual. Aren’t liberals the defenders of gay people? This is the deception that lies at the core of liberalism. If you are a conservative member of any one of the designated oppressed classes you are an even greater threat to the liberal agenda, and must be silenced.

Ask yourself this: Who are the fascists?

Recall Madonna’s profanity-laced speech at the Women’s March where she blurted out that she often thought of blowing up the White House. It was an inciteful thing to say prompting an investigation by the Secret Service and FBI.

More recently, Kathy Griffin made headlines for posting that very disturbing photo. (No further comment is necessary.)

Conservatives (and Christians) are excoriated for the most innocent of offenses. The double-standard and hypocrisy is numbing to my soul. Then Griffin had the gall to stage a photo-op with her lawyer claiming that she was the victim.

At the pre-election debate, Donald Trump was asked if he would accept the results of the election, and was crucified for his uncommitted response. Democrats have refused to accept that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. They have behaved like temperamental infants, and will not be satisfied with anything less than impeachment.

For months the public has been fed a steady diet of anti-Trump rhetoric. It has become an obsession of the mainstream media to defame, belittle, libel, slander, malign, smear, vilify, besmirch, disparage, and discredit this President.

Hillary lost the election because of her policies, and in the end she resorted to mudslinging. The media picked up Clinton’s fumble, and has continued pushing the negative stereotype. Push the negative hard enough, taught Alinsky, and it becomes the reality.

Let’s stop here for a moment and consider these things in light of the shooting at the Republican softball practice. The shooter reportedly was a volunteer on the Bernie Sanders campaign. He posted anti-Trump propaganda on his Facebook page, and allegedly asked if the softball team was Democrat or Republican before opening fire.

There is a civil war (small letter “c”) raging in this nation. The Republicans didn’t start it, nor did the Christians. It is fueled and flamed by leftist activists who are intolerant of anyone who resists their imposition of an ideology that is anti-Christian, anti-Constitution, anti-capitalist, and anti-democratic.

The Democrat Party is complicit. The politics of division breeds discontent which is sometimes manifested in violent protest.

Young people, idealistic by nature, have been so indoctrinated by leftist ideology that they are emotionally incapable of even hearing contrary views. I fear for a nation where colleges and universities have to provide safe-rooms (stocked with Play-Doh, crayons, coloring books, and bubbles) to sooth the angst of students who panic whenever they hear the name Donald Trump.

The Spiritual Lesson

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

I did not vote for Barack Obama, and disagreed with his policies. He was wrong on health care, abortion, and gay marriage. I did, however, pray for President Obama (as I do for President Trump.) It is the Christian’s duty to pray for our leaders.

We are not like the zealots who expected Jesus Christ to take up arms against the Romans. We are non-violent and peacefully resist. We do not wear masks, throw bottles, break storefront windows, overturn cars, nor set fire to emergency vehicles. We respect the office of the President — as Kathy Griffin once lectured Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

And we pray.

LORD,

May you pour out your Holy Spirit upon this nation for restoration and revival.

May you strengthen our families, and protect our children.

May you heal this nation of its spiritual ills which are manifested in social strife, cultural malaise, moral decline, political violence, and financial bankruptcy.

May you lift up America unto Thy glory, and as a witness unto all the nations.

In the blessed name of Jesus.

Amen

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

In Search of the True Church

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you (Romans 16:16).

Before we get started, I wanted to give a shout-out to WordPress blogger Altruistico. He writes that he is a re-born Christian of non-denominational faith. Serving the one true church, that of Christ Jesus, upon whom the true Church is built.

I believe the Holy Spirit crossed our paths for that has been a theme in my current series of articles — what is the true church of Christ? In this anniversary year of the Reformation I’ve been taking a closer look at the institutional church.

In my last post I asked the question:

If the Pope is the Man of Sin, and Martin Luther an anti-Jewish nationalist then where does the disciple of Christ go to worship? Hint: God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:19-24).

The church is the bride of Christ. It is not an institution, but a spiritual body of people like you and me who have been saved by grace through faith.

There was no Baptist church in Ephesus, nor Methodist church in Corinth. There were no Presbyterians in Galatia, nor Catholics in Thessalonica. Christians met in their homes to worship God, break bread and fellowship. You might say that the house church is the true church of God. They weren’t even called Christians, but were disciples of Christ – a sect of the Nazarenes — who followed the Way (Acts 9:1-2, Acts 11:26).

In this series of articles I have been rather kindly towards the Catholic Church, and admittedly critical of the Protestant Church. My charge against the Reformation is that it split the Church in two. It unleashed confusion and division — opening the door to a flood of heresy and false teaching. The shortcomings of Roman Catholicism were only magnified in Protestantism. One might conclude that neither represents the true body of Christ.

The New Testament ecclesia was not an institutional church. I think it interesting that Protestants view the Pope as the Man of Sin while Catholics see Martin Luther as the false prophet. Will Jesus spew them both out of his mouth? Consider our Lord’s warning to the church at Sardis:

I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 3:1-6).

The Seven Churches in Asia, to whom Jesus speaks in Revelation, are considered to be representative of the various states of the church during this age of grace. However, these were seven literal churches that existed in the first century. To the extent that they are representative of the modern church is that both share the same faults and failures. Notice that Jesus did not condemn all who were in the church at Sardis:

You still have a few who walk with me in white, for they are worthy.

This also answers the question of eternal security. Those who believe in predestination typically hold the doctrine of once saved, always saved. That is false teaching.

Jesus taught:

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned (John 15:6).

A Calvinist will suggest that the one who is lost was never saved. Judas Iscariot was saved, but he did not abide. If he had repented he would have been forgiven, but he could not live with the heavy burden of unrepentant guilt. A person can be in Christ, but if they don’t remain they will be cut off.

What if I backslide? I would not want to be in a fallen state when Christ returns, but consider the parable of the Prodigal Son. He fell from grace, but recognized his sin and returned to his father. If you have fallen away, as long as you have breath, God will welcome you back.

Sardis might resemble your church. Not everyone who attends will be saved. Some are like spiritual zombies — their faith dead like a tree that bears no fruit. This is the distinction between justification and sanctification. We are justified by faith, but sanctified by the Spirit. Sanctification is manifested by the fruits of the Spirit, and good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

This was the stumbling block for Martin Luther. He saw himself as a wretched man, lost and hopeless, vainly seeking solace through the many hours of prayer and meditation. In 1510, he journeyed to Rome and crawled on his hands and knees up the 28 stone stairs that Jesus climbed when he faced Pilate’s judgment. (The stairs were moved there from Jerusalem.)

Luther reached the top with bloodied knees and a yearning spirit. He found no comfort in works of the flesh, and returned to Germany downcast and sullen.

Luther was not a Calvinist — if only for the fact that John Calvin wasn’t born until 1509 — but he framed the theology that would later become Calvinism.

Man is totally wretched and depraved. That’s how Luther viewed himself. He discounted good works (including prayer and study) because they left him feeling unjustified. He wrote that good works were as good as sin. Whatever good deeds we do are stained by our inherently evil state.

Paul rang in his ears:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate (Romans 7:14-15).

This set Luther at odds with the Catholic Church and Scripture itself (James 2:24). He couldn’t harmonize Paul with James so he simply dismissed what James wrote. This is not rightly dividing the Word of God.

Pastor David Jeremiah said that Christians have to be careful with the doctrine of justification. “Some just let it fly,” he said. “They go on living in sin thinking there’s no work involved.”

I had to walk away from a recent sermon where the pastor was pounding the theme of salvation by faith alone. Orthodox Christians do not disagree in the sense that Jesus did all the work necessary to redeem us, but this is not what he was talking about when he told the church at Sardis that their works were incomplete. We are told to abide in Christ, to manifest the fruit of good works, and to persevere:

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments …

Well, there’s so much more to say, but I have exceeded my 1000 word limit. In closing, I would like to give the last word to Altruistico. They’ve posted some great articles on church history (click on their Church tab). In this article they discuss what is the true church:

The ability to trace one’s church back to the “first church” through apostolic succession is an argument used by a number of different churches to assert that their church is the “one true church.” The Roman Catholic Church makes this claim. The Greek Orthodox Church makes this claim. Some Protestant denominations make this claim. Some of the “Christian” cults make this claim. How do we know which church is correct? The biblical answer is – it does not matter!

The “first church” is the church that is recorded in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul. The New Testament church is the “original church” and the “one true church.”

Written by Donnie Skaggs, Leann Hart, Don Poythress • Copyright © Capitol Christian Music Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ