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

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2 thoughts on “Purgatory — Are Catholics Right?

  1. To me, the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is not an issue of our God-given faith (the “one faith” of Ephesians 4:5). It’s significance is that it reflects the teaching and tradition of the Catholic religion. That makes it important to Catholics. However, as you point out, there is no Scripture (remember, the Apocrypha is not Scripture) that justifies Purgatory. Catholics simply believe it is so. That’s what they are taught. That’s their tradition. So, good Catholics comply.

    The real issue is not a religious one, but a spiritual one. The Christian wants to know where he stands. What does his salvation mean? Does his eternal standing with the King of the universe rely on his adherence to man-made religious practices? James 1:27 reminds us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” I advise us all not to go beyond what is written, where religion is concerned.

    John 1:12 tells us that to all who receive Messiah and believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God. Romans 8 tells us of the glory that will be revealed to us, that we and all of creation eagerly await our “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”. Verse 24 says, “For in this hope we were saved.” Paul affirms that this hope is sure in verses 29-30. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

    If your name is written in the Book of Life, he foreknew you, he predestined you, he justified you, and he glorified you. It’s a done deal. We are only awaiting (and groaning) for that glory to be revealed (shown, experienced, manifested). If we have already been raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6), the idea of Purgatory makes no sense. If I am (spiritually) seated with Christ in heavenly places, and only awaiting the “physical” manifestation of that reality, no way is it possible that I will be yanked down to serve an indefinite term in Purgatory while I get my act together.

    I will always choose “life in the Spirit” over life in the Catholic religion.

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  2. I sent a follow-up email to Patrick Madrid which said in part:

    I hope to listen to your radio discussion on the doctrine of Purgatory. The only thing I would add are the commentaries of these respected men — Charles Ellicott, Albert Barnes, John Gill, Matthew Poole, Matthew Henry and the Pulpit commentary. I’ve done a lot of personal study and am convinced in my own mind that the doctrine of Purgatory is a false teaching.

    I’ll only quote the Pulpit Commentary regarding this:

    Some of the Fathers gave to this beautiful verse (1 Corinthians 3:15) the shockingly perverted meaning that “the workman be preserved alive for endless torments,” “salted with fire” in order to endure interminable agonies. The meaning is impossible, for it reverses the meaning of the word “saved,” and makes it equivalent to “damned,” but the interpretation is an awful proof of the distortions to which a merciless human rigorism and a hard, self-styled orthodoxy have sometimes subjected the Word of God.

    On this, and other Catholic doctrines, we will simply have to disagree.

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