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Welcome back to the second special edition column where we walk through the most fundamental beliefs of the Church and their basis. Now that Easter is closer than we think, the pop-trends topics are coming back on the rise again, I promise. But for now, let’s talk about the Catholic ideal of purgatory.
Being a cradle Catholic myself, I have never questioned the existence of a place reserved between heaven and earth. However, this semester has become the season of realizing that I didn’t know enough about why the Church holds certain beliefs. One must ask the question of himself then: “if I don’t know, how am I to be expected to thoroughly explain and evangelize?”
Non-Catholic Christians’ main argument against the existence of Purgatory stems from the idea that, since the word “purgatory” cannot be found in the Bible, it must be a false teaching, or heresy.
This type of allegation is an example of a “sola scriptura” teaching, a Latin phrase meaning “by scripture alone.”
Although the exact word “purgatory” is not mentioned in the Bible, there are several other scriptural references for its existence. Just because the Bible only outlines the details of the last supper doesn’t mean that’s the only meal Jesus ever ate.
In 2 Maccabees 12:46, it says, “Thus, he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”
In this chapter, it shows how the Jews prayed for the dead, which in turn shows that they believed in a place where the dead could be helped, i.e., the idea of “purgatory.” This chapter also emphasizes the practice of purgatory shown from God’s chosen people. Purgatory is not just a location; it is an atonement process, something that will be explained later.
Isaiah 6:5-7 says, “Then I said, ‘Woe is me; I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. ‘See,’ he said, ‘now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed; your sin is purged.’”
In this story, Isaiah has sinned, and the seraphim, or angel, touches a piece of burning coal to his lips and says, “your wickedness is removed; your sin is purged.” In order to be atoned for his sins, a fiery ember was used to purify him. This is precisely what purgatory is.
The word “purge,” used in this chapter, comes from the Latin word “purgare,” which is anglicized as “purgatory.” It is simply a state of suffering in order to atone for sins.
Nothing unclean will enter heaven. We are sinful and unclean when we die. If we do not confess our sins before our death, we are considered unclean. There is only hope in atonement in purgatory.
As it states in Revelation 21:27: “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.”
The next, and last, biblical example is 2 Samuel 12:1-31. This chapter talks about King David sinning by sleeping with Bathsheba. God punishes David, just as any father would, but still forgives David. This example can be applied to purgatory.
When we sin against God, as King David did, God still forgives us completely. However, God knows that we must learn a lesson, so He makes us atone for our sins.
When I was driving back to campus my freshman year, I got a speeding ticket via the traffic cams. My parents forgave me, but we did end up paying the ticket. My parents did not love me any less after that, but the consequences had to de paid all the same.
This same analogy goes for the Catholic idea of purgatory.
Since humans are unclean, and nothing sinful can enter heaven, it is reasonable to assume that purgatory exists.
Thanks for tuning in to this second and final endeavor into Catholic Apology. Tune in next time for my take on how the music industry has become an excuse to openly accept disreputable values.