Now let us go to the Scriptures that give the foundation for purgatory.
1) God is called Holy, Holy, Holy (Isaiah 6:3, Rev. 4:8). The Hebrews did not have the language such as ‘very’ Holy, so the way that they could describe him as extraordinarily Holy, is by repeating the term ‘Holy’. Many more verses can be provided, but I don‘t think any Christian would disagree with this characterization of God as all Holy.
2) Nothing unclean will enter the kingdom of heaven. The need for purgatory is given by the following Scripture, Rev. 21:27:
But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
The context in Revelation 21, is about entering the gates of heaven. The New Jerusalem is described. The nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light (Rev. 21:24). Immediately after this passage it speaks about approaching the throne of God and the Lamb (Rev. 22:1).
Now, when we approach the throne of God and the Lamb, nothing unclean shall enter heaven. Although this does not directly teach purgatory, it shows the need for it. Why? Because we know that we are sinners. God calls us to complete holiness (Mt. 5:48), and it is possible for us to do so, but we know that we are sinners, and in most cases, we will not fully be cleansed from our sins by the time of our death. If we are not fully cleansed at the time of our death, Revelation 21:27 shows that there is a need for such cleansing. That is what purgatory does.
3) We will be judged for all of our actions. Those who are saved, as well as those who are not, will be so judged. All have to give an account for everything that we do. For a sampling, four different Bible authors assert this:
Mt. 12:31-36: 31: Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32: And whoever says 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. 33: "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34: You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35: The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36: I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter.
2 Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.
Revelation 20:12-13 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.
1 Peter 1:15-1715 but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.
We see four different passages with four different authors showing that we will get judged for all our works. Jesus tells us that we will get judged for all that we say, even idle words. This is in the context of the good bringing forth good fruit, and the bad bringing forth bad fruit (vv. 31-35). Now, according to Jesus himself, some of those who are good, still will have to give an account even for their idle words (which can be bad). Second, Paul says that we will have to give an account for all the deeds that we do, either good or bad. Thus, it shows that even those who are in Christ will be judged for their sins. Third, in the Book of Revelation, there is a great white throne judgment, when all will be judged. All will be judged according to their works. Those who have bad works, and are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). However, all will be judged on all their works. Finally, we see in 1 Peter 1, that the Father judges each one, according to his deeds. Thus, for believers, it is not just that we get judged for good deeds, but we get judged for all our deeds. These passages do not give us any idea that since we have an imputed righteousness of Christ, we won’t be judged for the bad works, which are sins. On the contrary, even believers will be judged for sins we commit. This destroys the theory of imputed righteousness of Christ as serving as the basis for the idea of there being no need for purgatory.
4) Next, we see that there is in Scripture a difference between mortal and venial sins. This is a Biblical truth. This is also an important basis for there being such a thing as purgatory. Those who die in mortal sin, will not go to heaven. Those who die in God's grace, but still with sins on their soul, will go to purgatory. There are many passages in Scripture that say that if one commits those mortal sins, those people will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. We see this in 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Eph. 5:3-6, Mt. 5:22, 28, 30, Mk. 9:42-49. But we also see in Scripture that not all sins are mortal. As we are in a covenant relation with the Father, as adopted sons, we do not get cast out of grace if we sin in a lesser fashion. For example, we can see this in several passages where there is a difference in treatment by God of those who commit small sins, as opposed to mortal sins. One example is Hebrews 12:5-17:
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? --"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; 16 that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Now, we see in Hebrews 12:5-17, a different treatment for small sins, which are discussed in verses 5-14, from those sins where like Esau we can sell our birthright, we can in the end be rejected like Esau (v. 17). Now, we see that this passage shows in the first verses that we are punished for our sins, just as a Father punished his children. If we have no discipline, God calls us illegitimate children. It says we get chastised because he loves us. Now, what is the purpose for this discipline? What is the purpose for this punishment? So that we may share in his holiness (v. 11). That in fact is what purgatory does. Now of course here it is speaking about why God will discipline/punish those on earth while we are here, but there is nothing in Scripture that says that this discipline will stop at the time we die. Remember, we can not be unclean in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must pursue holiness, otherwise we will not see the Lord. So thus, Paul introduces the subject that, even if we are his children, if we do not pursue that holiness, we will not see the Lord (v. 14). Now, as we are under grace, for small sins that we commit, we only get punished or disciplined. Now, in v. 15 Paul says that if we are not diligent we can fall short of the grace of God and become defiled, which is a reference to Deut. 29:18:
Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit,
Although the translation does not show the comparison, as the Jerome Biblical Commentary notes about Heb. 12:15 and Deuteronomy 29:18:
The reference to the bitter root is an almost verbatim citation of Deut 29:18 (LXX). Ed., Raymond Brown, S.S., Joseph F Fitzmyer, ,SJ., Roland E Murphy, O. Carm, Jerome Biblical Commentary, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 61:68, p. 402, Myles M. Bourke.
Thus, though we are his children, if we turn away from the Lord, and we do not pursue the holiness, we can cut ourselves off from God. We can thus disinherit ourselves from salvation. We can become like Esau, who sold his birthright (vv. 16-17). Thus, we see that there is punishment that God gives us to enable to make us more holy for small sins (vv. 5-14), but if we become defiled via fornication or become profane like Esau, via mortal sins, we can lose our salvation. Thus, this Hebrews 12 passage shows a distinction between mortal, and venial sins.
But doesn’t James 2:10 say that if we keep the whole law but stumble in one point, he is guilty of all? Well, if we approach God exclusively through law, we can never be saved, because even small sins would take us from his presence. We are no longer under strict law, but grace Jn. 1:17, Rom. 6:14, Gal. 5:18). As James 2:12 says, we are not judged by a strict law, where, a small sin, would cast us out of God’s presence, but ‘So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.’ Thus, in God’s grace, it is only the mortal sins, as mentioned in Heb. 12:15-17, that will cast us out of God’s sight.
A passage which clearly speaks of there being a difference between mortal and lesser, or venial sins, is 1 John 5:16-17, with specific verses before and after to give context:
11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. 13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life...16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal...20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
Verses 16 and 17 speak clearly about there being a difference between mortal and venial sins. Mortal sins are those sins that lead to death. But there are also sins that are not mortal, which are venial sins. Now, some Protestants argue that this is not speaking about degrees of sins in God’s sight, but only talking about sins that lead to physical death. In fact, there may be indeed a mention of sin that lead to physical death, but that is not what John is primarily speaking of. In the prior verses, 11-13, he was speaking about how one gets eternal life. Not how one physically lives or dies, but how one gets eternal life and death. He who has the Son will have eternal life (v. 13, provided he keeps the commandments, 2:2-5, 3:24, 5:2-3). Also, in v. 20, John speaks of the truth of eternal life. Thus, with this context, the sins that he speaks of concern eternal death and or life. Thus, the mortal sin he is speaking of includes a reference to sins that will lead or not lead to eternal life or death. Thus, mortal sins lead to eternal death, or separation from God. Now, in this specific mortal sin, he may be speaking about what is apostasy, a denial of the faith of Jesus Christ. Thus, he goes from being one who believes and knows Jesus (vv. 11-13), to one who no longer does. But regardless of whether it is apostasy that is specifically mentioned in v. 16-17, as one mortal sin, the issue is eternal life and death. He is speaking of sins that lead to spiritual death, not physical death. Both before and after 1 John 5:16-17, it is not speaking about how someone will physically live or die, but how one can or can not achieve eternal life. Thus, here John makes an important distinction in how God sees sins for our spiritual status before Him. Some sins lead to spiritual death (the primary example may be apostasy), other sins are only venial, and do not cut off our relationship with him. But they do nonetheless make us still unworthy to actually get to heaven if we die with that sin uncleansed of. As noted before, we must actually be cleansed of all unrighteousness before we can enter heaven (Rev. 21:27). Purgatory is that which cleanses us from the effect of venial sins.
Another passage that shows the difference between mortal and venial sins, is when Jesus gives us the story of the prodigal son, in Luke 15:11-32. Now it would take too long to give the whole quotation of it, but here Jesus is describing the love of the Father, when a prodigal son repents of his sins, and comes to the Father. Now, as background to this parable of the prodigal son, Jesus tells us how much joy there is in heaven, when one repents of his sins and comes to God. There is more joy in heaven over one who repents of his sins over those who have stayed in his grace (Luke 15:1-7, 8-10). Now Jesus plays this out in actually with the story of the prodigal son, and here He is speaking about the joy of the Father in welcoming one who repents of his sins. Now, there are two sons, both of whom already start off in God's grace. One of them cashes in his inheritance, and throws it all away, over the fleeting pleasures of his sin (Luke 15:11-13). He becomes desperate and wants to come back to the Father, just so he could eat. Then he ultimately truly repents of his sins, and comes to the Father. He realizes his unworthiness (Luke 15:19-21), and confesses his sin. He realized that the sins he committed were mortal, and he had to repent of those sins, to get back in the graces of the Father. He is a son, whose actions disinherited him. Now, the Father, when seeing the son repenting of the mortal sins, welcomes him upon the son's repentance. He not only welcomes him, but runs for joy upon seeing his return. This parable reflects the Father's joy when he sees a sinner return to him. This reflects how heaven rejoices upon the seeing of one who repents of his sins (Luke 15:7, 9-10, cf; v. 20). How do we know that those sins that he committed were mortal? Because the Father in the parable specifically says that. He says, in Luke 15:
24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry...
Here, the Father notes that the prodigal son, by his action, became dead spiritually. He repeats this two times to the other son, who was not dead. Through repentance, the son, just as David did, repented of his mortal sins, and came back to God's grace.
32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.
Now, did the elder son, who had not turned his back on the Father also commit a sin? Yes, he committed the sin of envy. He did not, like heaven did, rejoice that his brother came back to the Father. He complains about not getting thrown parties for his faithfulness (vv. 28-30), while his wayward brother gets all this great attention. He becomes angry and envious, not joyful. Now, how does the Father respond directly to the non-prodigal, but still envious son?
Luke 15:28, 31-32
28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him
Thus, the brother should have rejoiced like his Father, who rejoiced over bringing the son back from lost, to life. When he speaks to the envious son, he says that you are always with me, and what I have is yours. In other words, he did not commit a mortal sin, but the Father is telling the envious son that though he had not committed mortal sin, he was still in the wrong because of his envy. Thus, implied is that the elder son is committing a venial sin. Thus, the Father shows that there are two different types of sins.
31"And he said to him, "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.
We also see this distinction in treatment of sins in the Old Testament. There were different offerings mandated to deal with different types of sins. For example in Leviticus 5, we see that if one touches an unclean thing, or if he is a witness and called to be a public witness, but withholds this information, or if one utters a rash oath that is evil, he must confess the sins he committed and bring a guilt offering to the Lord for sin (Lev. 5:1-5), and the priest makes atonement for sins. He gives prescription for different types of sins. And they are treated differently, based on the severity of the sin. And this is the Lord Himself mandating that he treats sins differently (See all of Leviticus 5-8). Of course later in Leviticus, God mandates death for sexual sins such as adultery (Lev. 20:1-12) and also for witchcraft (Lev. 20:27). So this practice of differentiating between the severity of punishment for sins has precedent as well in the Old Testament.
5) Scripture shows that there is temporal punishment for sins. Even for those sins that are forgiven. For example, we see David after already being called to task by Nathan the prophet, after his sin with Bathsheba, in 2nd Samuel 12:13-14:
13: David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
14: Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die."
Thus, we see that David is forgiven his sins. His sins are put away by God. He has regained his justified status, which he had lost with the commission of mortal sin with Bathsheba. This, by the way, shows that one can lose justification. Then he regained that very justification. Nonetheless, because of this sin, even though he has been forgiven for that sin, he had the byproduct of that sin, his child, die. This was a true punishment of David, even though he was truly forgiven. This was a true, spiritual punishment, that David had to endure, which was very harsh indeed, even though he was truly forgiven his sin. So there can be temporal punishment, even after one is forgiven sins.
We know that this is true in practice because as Romans 5:12 shows, death spread to all men. We are forgiven sins in our justification and made righteous (Rom. 5:16, 19), but we know that we all suffer the temporal punishment of death. Of course it is only temporary, because in the future we will all have resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 15)
Moses we know was forgiven for his sin at Meribah, where he was impatient and struck the rock, of course was ultimately forgiven for that sin, but we know that he was still punished by the Lord. For example, in Dt. 27:12-14:
12: The LORD said to Moses, "Go up into this mountain of Ab'arim, and see the land which I have given to the people of Israel.
13: And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was gathered,
14: because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin during the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the waters before their eyes." (These are the waters of Mer'ibah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)
These latter two passages I draw from James Akin's article on indulgences: httphttp://www.cin.org/users/james/files/indulgen.htm
In a very related issue. here are a couple of New Testament passages which reflect the need for spiritual sufferings to join with Christ:
Phil. 3:10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
Col. 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
Thus, these passages show that we join in the sufferings with Christ on behalf of our own being conformed into His image. Paul offers his own sufferings for the sake of the Church. Thus, suffering is redemptive.
6) There are specific passages which teach the existence of purgatory. Now, a clear teaching of this is found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17. First, a little background. Paul has been lambasting the Corinthians for different sins throughout the epistles. Many of their works are sins They have been separating from each other by following Paul, Cephas, or Apollos, (1 Cor. 1:11-14). In 1 Cor. 3, he tells them how they have not grown, but are still in the flesh (1 Cor. 3:2-4) and are indeed carnal. Then he says that Paul and Apollos are only builders, and that all are rewarded according to his own labor (1 Cor. 3:5-8). We are colaborers with God. Thus, the background focuses on sins that the Corinthians have been building and he tells them that they must labor much better than they have. Following after this passage in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17, he tells them not to deceive themselves (1 Cor. 3:18-23), their trust must be in God. Thus, they have been trusting in themselves and seeing themselves as wise, even though they have not been so. Thus, when we approach 1 Cor. 3:10-17, we see Paul telling them that they must abandon this outlook and be a better colaborer and build on Christ.
The 1 Corinthains 3 passage also speaks of a cleansing fire that directly speaks to the existence of such a purgatorial state, 1 Cor. 3:10-17. Notice the three types of man‘s works and three results based on those works:
10: According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. 11: For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12: Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -- 13: each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14: 1) If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15: 2) If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16: Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17: 3) If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are.
We see in the passage that we are judged for our works. On the day in which we are judged Paul gives us three classes of people, based on the type of works that they do: The ‘day‘ (day of particular judgment) will disclose it.
1) If the man's works are of the quality of gold, silver and precious stones we see one result. The quality of his work is good. He immediately receives the reward of heaven. This is shown in verse 14. In fact, that is possible for Catholics. If we have works that are perfectly gold and silver, we can attain heaven without going to purgatory. That is in fact what we must strive for.
2) If the man's works are not as good as the person of verse 14, but he still attains heaven, it says he is saved, but only as through fire. In fact, he is judged for those works. Those bad works are sins. In fact in this very chapter he is speaking about the sins of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:3-5, 18-22). He is relaying about how those works will be judged by God. Now, the man under judgment in this verse (v. 15), his works are not as pure as the man of verse 14. Thus, he has to purified, before he can enter heaven. He is thus being judged for his sins. However, these sins were not so grievous that he had to be sent to hell. He still is in God's grace, but purification is still necessary. This disproves the Protestant concept that a believer is not judged for his sins. And this is clearly a judgment scene, after his death. Because those works were not as pure as those of the men in v. 14, he suffers punishment for those sins, before he attains heaven, when he finally attains salvation. Now, the man‘s works are both the gold, silver and stone, but also is combined with some wood, hay, and straw. That has to be destroyed, before the man in v. 15 can get to heaven.
3) We see in v. 17 that a believer who commits so grievous a sin, that he destroys God's temple (which is his own body), he will be destroyed by God. Thus, the sins here are mortal. In this same book, he gives an example of those sins that destroy the body (1 Cor. 6:11, 13-18) as being sexual immorality. If someone has those type of sins on their soul, they will be destroyed. This leads to him being cut off from God. Verse 17 thus shows even further that this passage of 1 Cor. 3:15, is speaking about how God judges us for sins we commit. If we are in Christ and so grievously sin against God, God will eternally punish us. That is the concept of mortal sin, which Paul explicitly teaches in v. 17. With this context, this shows that any attempt to say that v. 15 is not about being judged, or punished for sins we commit, is false. Though of course the sins of v. 15 are not as bad as those of the man of v. 17, who destroyed the temple of God, which is his body. Here, this man‘s works were the wood, hay, and straw, which can only be destroyed by the fire.
This further shows us that God purifies his people from sin, in judgment. This passage in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17, shows that in judgment God either uses a purifying fire such as in v. 15, where it will refine, and purify the believer, before he attains heaven, or the judgment will be consuming fire, where in judgment he will be destroyed, and the man will be cut off from his presence, as in v. 17.
This is prophesied in Malachi, which speaks of John the Baptist's coming, foretelling of what Jesus would do in the new covenant. This is shown in Malachi 3:1-3:
1: "Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2: But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? "For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 3: he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD.
This is fulfilled in Christ's coming. Mark specifically cites this passage in Mark 1:2. He truly purifies us from sin. Who can endure? Well, we can endure in judgment only when he truly purifies us from all sin. Purgatory is only this final stage of cleansing. Notice that this passage talks of refining, purifying silver, which reminds us of the Corinthian passage which speaks of purgatory. What Christ accomplishes in the New Covenant is a true cleansing.
Now, we remember that in the background to 1 Cor. 3, we see that Paul is talking about some doing bad works which are sins (the very verses brought up earlier,). In fact, much of the Corinthians letter is Paul complaining about the sins of the Corinthians. Thus, he is not merely speaking about greater rewards in heaven for good works, and just less rewards if you have bad works. Because bad works are sins, and according to the passage, must be judged by God. You can not separate this background from verses 14-15 and verses 16-17. Here, Paul is speaking about the day of judgment which tests each man's work. And here, he is not speaking about merely giving rewards to Christians, but judgment for sins. Now, in v. 14 what do we see? Those who have built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and have co-labored successfully get their reward. And what is the reward? Entrance into heaven. But also rewards for their faithfulness. Now what do
we see in v. 15? His works are burnt up. What works? Sins, which are bad works. He suffers loss, the word, with the background can be interpreted 'punished.' What is the difference between the people in v. 14 and the people in v. 15. The people in v. 14, who were so obedient (with gold, stone and silver) that they did
not have to suffer loss, or punishment, and went straight to heaven. Why do I say that? Look further in v. 15. it says he will be saved, as through fire.
Now, not being a Catholic Scholar who knows Greek, let us look at the word
sometimes translated 'suffer loss'. Robert Sungenis writes this:
The Catholic exegesis of 1 Cor 3:15 is further supported by Paul's
use of the Greek word zemiothesetai (translated as "suffer loss" in many translations). Its verbal root zemioo, has a wider meaning than merely suffering loss. It can also refer to punishment. Hence, there is a component of punishment associated with the word that is not brought out in most translations. Interestingly enough, in the Septuagint, zemioo is used only in reference to punishment. Since Catholic doctrine understands purgatory as a place to expiate temporal punishment for sin, then the lexical meaning of zemiothesetai which refers to suffering punishment fits in very well with classical Catholic teaching on 1 Cor 3:15. The Christian will suffer punishment for his bad works. It should also be noted that the Greek word "houtos" ("yet so") in 1 Cor 3:15 is an adverb modifying the verb "sotheesetai" ("shall be saved") and points to how the man is saved, i.e., by fire. "Houtos" can best be
translated as "likewise," "similarly," "just as," "in the same way," "even so," "in the same manner," etc. These words are comparative. In context, compare the fire of verse 13 with the fire of verse 15. Hence,
Paul is saying that in the same way that God's fire will purge any dross or foreign material from the work accomplished (verse 13), similarly, the fire will purge the man himself of any imperfections (verse 15). The Scriptures use two images of God's fire. One is a refining fire which makes good material better by purging out impurities (e.g., Malachi 3:2-3; 1 Peter 1:7); the other is a consuming fire that totally destroys the object in view (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 12:29). Those who suffer temporal punishment for sin, either in this life or in purgatory, do so under God's refining fire. On the other hand, those destined for eternal damnation suffer God's destroying fire. Catholic theology holds that these respective judgments occur for the individual immediately after death. It is referred to as the "particular" judgment. At the final judgment, one's eternal destiny is finally sealed. From http://net2.netacc.net/~mafg/prgtry01.htm
Thus, the language pointed to here in v. 15, points to punishment. Now, some will say that it is the work that is burned, not him. Thus, it is only figuratively speaking about works. However, as Sungenis, notes, this does refer to the person, as well. Protestants will generally try to say that this has nothing to do with punishment for sins. That one will be 'barely saved', but this is only a reward for good works. If one has works that are bad, they are not sins, according to this view. There is no such distinction in Scripture for that theory in any way, shape or form that bad works are not sins. 1 Corinthians 3 shows that there is punishment for sins in judgment. Some are punished eternally by being destroyed by God (v. 17), others do get refined, where they are purged of iniquity (v. 15), which is purgatory, so they could join those whose works were pure gold, silver & stone (v. 14).
Here then, the person who goes to purgatory is one who has both silver, gold and stone, in addition to the wood, hay and straw. He builds on the foundation of Christ with gold, silver and stone. So he will survive. However, he also has the wood, hay, and straw where the person needs to be cleansed, but his gold, silver and stone work does not get destroyed, but only gets refined. St. Augustine understands this passage in this way as well. For example, he writes, in Enchiridion of Faith, Hope, and Love, 68, writes:
Now wood, hay, and stubble may, without incongruity, be understood to signify such an attachment to worldly things, however lawful these may be in themselves, that they cannot be lost without grief of mind. And though this grief burns, yet if Christ hold the place of foundation in the heart,--that is, if nothing be preferred to Him, and if the man, though burning with grief, is yet more willing to lose the things he loves so much than to lose Christ,--he is saved by fire. If, however, in time of temptation, he prefer to hold by temporal and earthly things rather than by Christ, he has not Christ as his foundation; for he puts earthly things in the first place, and in a building nothing comes before the foundation. Again, the fire of which the apostle speaks in this place must be such a fire as both men are made to pass through, that is, both the man who builds upon the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, and the man who builds wood, hay, stubble. For he immediately adds: "The fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." The fire then shall prove, not the work of one of them only, but of both. Now the trial of adversity is a kind of fire which is plainly spoken of in another place: "The furnace proverb the potter's vessels: and the furnace of adversity just men." And this fire does in the course of this life act exactly in the way the apostle says. If it come into contact with two believers, one "caring for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord," that is, building upon Christ the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; the other "caring for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife," that is, building upon the same foundation wood, hay, stubble,--the work of the former is not burned, because he has not given his love to things whose loss can cause him grief; but the work of the latter is burned, because things that are enjoyed with desire cannot be lost without pain. But since, by our supposition, even the latter prefers to lose these things rather than to lose Christ, and since he does not desert Christ out of fear of losing them, though he is grieved when he does lose them he is saved, but it is so as by fire; because the grief for what he loved and has lost burns him. But it does not subvert nor consume him; for he is protected by his immoveable and incorruptible foundation. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 1st Series, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts, 1995, p. 259.
Now both types of men (those in v. 14 and those in v. 15) get their works tried by fire. The one whose work is purely gold, silver and stone has nothing happen to him. He gets directly to heaven and suffers no punishment. The one whose foundation is Christ, but he still holds to temporal things, will get saved, but only through fire. The one who had perfect works, his works will be tested and tried, but his works is not burned, because he did not get too attached to temporal manners. The other, though he still had Christ as the main foundation, is saved only by the fire. Now later on the saint goes on and does not know whether there is a physical fire, but there is some kind of punishment that a person whose works were imperfect will still have to go through before he attains heaven. Now, we saw in v. 17, even if originally the person had gold, silver and stone, or if they never had any gold, silver or stone to begin with, they will end up with only wood, hay, and straw, and they will be destroyed by the fire (whether the fire is literal or not is another question). The fire in v. 15 is qualitatively different. For the person of v. 15, the fire will only purify, and make the person perfect, so he can get saved, but for the person of v. 17, that fire will consume the person and he will be destroyed, as he did not have Christ as his foundation.
Another clear passage which speaks of the existence of purgatory is 2 Maccabees 12:42-46.
42 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people 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. 43: He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44: For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45: But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.
Now, Protestants will say one of two things. First, they will say that this book is not Scripture. Thus, they do not accept the validity of the passage. Well, the New Testament itself refers to 2nd Maccabees. For example in Heb. 11:35 it refers to the Martyrs who refused to eat meat that was forbidden by law. The Maccabeen Martyrs are definitely the people referred to in Heb. 11:35, the second part of that verse, as they are the only ones in the Old Testament who 'Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.' With the explicit look for the resurrection of the dead (2 Macc. 7:11, 14, 23, 29, 36), they died rather than violate God's laws.
The Fathers recognized this book as Scripture for 15 centuries. In fact, even if some of the Fathers may have had doubts as to their canonical status (which did not mean that they were not Scripture), the Fathers who wrote on the issues, all recognized the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture. Any council, be it regional or ecumenical that considered the issue, considered this book as well as the other books as Scripture. Luther saw the explicitness of this passage teaching the need for purgatory. As a result, he decided to throw the book out, and with that, the other Deuterocanonical books. He tried to cite Jerome as precedent for throwing such books out. However, Jerome, who is often misinterpreted by Protestants (and even Catholics), as rejecting not only their canonicity, but also their Scriptural status, referred to these books as inspired Scripture. He uses such terms in reference to the specific Deuterocanonical books as 'Scripture says', 'It is written', 'The Holy Spirit said', and specifically refers to these books (including 2nd Maccabees) in the exact same manner as he does to the rest of Scripture. I document the fact that the Deuterocanonicals were seen as Scripture by all the Fathers, and go over the issue on the meaning of the fact that some of the Fathers did leave them off their list of the canons, here: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/deut.html
Now, if one takes a book out of Scripture because he doesn't like the doctrine in it, what would prevent us from saying that there is no such thing as the virgin birth of Mary, all you have to do is take out Matthew and Luke? Because if you take out Matthew and Luke, there would be no explicit teaching from the rest of the New Testament that there was a virgin birth. If that is the case, anybody can throw out any book, if there is a doctrine that one does not like. That is a tampering with God's Word that should not fit any Christian at all.
Now, on to the text itself, some Protestants will say that this does not reflect purgatory because what happens is that the people were idolaters, (as all the dead had tokens on their body (vv. 39-40) that reflected them apostatizing from God and turning to idolatry). Thus, they committed mortal sins (at least according to Catholics), so the fact that they were able to get sins blotted out, shows that it could not be purgatory, because purgatory is only for those who die in a state of grace. Since they obviously worshipped the idol, this can not reflect purgatory, and is a reason that this book should not be canonical. In fact, however, even for those that did have the tokens on their body, it was only like a good luck charm. In fact, however, what they did was only like someone wearing a rabbit's foot. These people did fight for God, just as the rest of the people did, (vv. 32-34). They ultimately did put their trust in him, and they were fighting for him. There is no indication that they apostatized. But there was no doubt a sin in the fact that they were wearing tokens. Even if it was not a mortal sin, they did not put their full trust in the Lord, and that is why they fell (v. 40). However, they were still righteous, and still in God's grace. They needed to be purged from their sins in order for those sins to be blotted out, so they can achieve the resurrection of life. We see language showing that those sins would be blotted out by the offering for purgatory.
Another passage which gives an indication of purgatory is Matt. 5:25-26. For a larger context, let us look at it.
Mt. 5:22-26 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
Now, first Jesus is speaking about the possibility of mortally sinning by being angry with your brother. If one is angry, he is liable to judgment. So, we see the background to the passage is that it is speaking about how one will be judged by God, and subject to hell. In addition, He also says that we must be reconciled with our brother. Now, we see that in order to have eternal life, we must love our brother. We can only achieve eternal life if we have love. If we do not love our brother, Jesus says we will be liable to going to hell (this is affirmed also in 1 John 3:14-15, where it says one who hates his brother will not have eternal life). However, if there is a dispute with a brother, that is not to the same extent as mentioned in v. 22, Jesus next speaks of a different judgment place from that of v. 22 the fires of hell). Now, Jesus commands that one is to make friends quickly with the accuser. Thus, if these type of sins are not taken care of, one will have to face a judge. Now of course who is the judge except God? Thus, this is specifically about judgment before God. And then Jesus says, ‘you will be put in prison’, no one will get out of that prison, until one has ‘paid the last penny’. Since the context is judgment, here, Jesus thus refers to an intermediate state in v. 25-26, that is not hell. This is a place where one would be released from prison. Now, if he was speaking about hell, we know that there is no relief at all. Jesus condemns those to eternal condemnation with eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41, 46, cf., Mt. 5:22). There is no release from prison in hell. One can never ‘get out’ of hell. In heaven there is no punishment at all or any need to 'get out.' Thus, the place where one can ‘get out’ of prison, is purgatory. Here is where Jesus says that the last payment takes place. Only then can he then get to heaven. This helps us remember the passage in 1 Corinthians 3, where believers had to burn off the wood, hay and straw, before they could get to heaven. This is not my original understanding but the Fathers referred to this passage in many times, as a reference to purgatory, including Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, and Origen, all early Fathers. For example, Tertullian writes:
It is therefore quite in keeping with this order of things, that that part of our nature should be the first to have the recompense and reward to which they are due on account of its priority. In short, inasmuch as we understand "the prison" pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, and as we also interpret "the uttermost farthing" to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides. Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, 58, 1 212 AD, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, Anti-Nicene Fathers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1995, p. 235.
Tertullian, in 212 AD thus clearly teaches that in Hades, there will be come compensatory discipline mandated prior to the resurrection. This need for recompense points us to purgatory.
There is also a passage in Luke 12:58-59, which is clearly similar to Matthew 5:25-26, which is similar, as it also speaks of judgment, where Jesus speaks of the same need to get out of prison only after a payment is made. Thus, purgatory is spoken of there as well.
An example of another passage which infer purgatory includes Matthew 12:32:
32 And whoever says 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.
Whoever sins, or blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can not be forgiven, neither now or in the age to come. What is directly implied is that there are some sins that can get forgiven in the age to come. Thus, one can die with some sins on their soul, but as they are still on their soul when they die, those sins will be forgiven in the future. Fathers like St. Augustine recognized this. He writes, in his book, City of God, 21:24, how Matthew 12:32 shows purgatory:
this also is the reason why, though she the Church) prays even for the wicked so long as they live, she yet does not even in this world pray for the unbelieving and godless who are dead. For some of the dead, indeed, the prayer of the Church or of pious individuals is heard; but it is for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not spend their life so wickedly that they can be judged unworthy of such compassion, nor so well that they can be considered to have no need of it. Also, after the resurrection, there will be some of the dead to whom, after they have endured the pains proper to the spirits of the dead, mercy shall be accorded, and acquittal from the punishment of the eternal fire. For were there not some whose sins, though not remitted in this life, shall be remitted in that which is to come, it could not be truly said, "They shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come . NPNP, 2nd Series, , p. 470.
St. Gregory (Dial. 4, ch. 39), Saint Isidore and Ven. Bede also used this passage to teach purgatory . Rev. Fr. Geo. Leo Haydock, The New Testament of the Holy Catholic Bible, Catholic Treasures, Monrovia, CA, printed 1859, latest edition, 1992, p. 1273.
We have seen that Scripture supports the doctrine of purgatory. We have seen that God is truly Holy, That is the central fact of the need for purgatory. We saw Scriptures that prove that nothing unclean will enter heaven. Thus, being covered over with an imputed righteousness where God acts as though we have no actual sin, is unbiblical. We need an actual cleansing before we can come into God's full presence. Next, we see that we are judged for all our actions. Thus, even those who are in God’s grace, will be judged for bad works. Following that we saw that God makes a distinction between sins that are mortal, or cause death to the soul, from those sins that are lesser, and venial, that wound, but do not cut off our relationship with the Father. Next, we saw that the Bible teaches that there is indeed temporal punishment, or suffering that is necessary and redemptive. Finally, we saw explicit passages that teach the existence of purgatory. Thus, purgatory is not only not a man-made tradition, but is actually a necessity that all these Scriptural truths point us to.
To see another article on purgatory, which deals with not only with some of the passages I have stated in this piece, but also deals with proof texts from a Protestant who tried to say that they disprove purgatory, please see this: http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/purg.html
© 2002 Is There a Scriptural Basis for Purgatory?... Matt1618... This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.