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What Does the Bible Say About...Purgatory?

What do you think about purgatory and does the bible talk about purgatory?


The Bible says nothing about Purgatory. In fact, it argues against such an idea. The concept of Purgatory is necessary if one holds the doctrine (also not found in the Bible) of Original Sin. If a child is born sinful, then there has to be some means that an unbaptized child can get to heaven. The concept of purgatory is that some people who are not saved when they die may still receive a light punishment to “purge” their sins that are not “mortal sins.” (Even though the Bible teaches every sin is “mortal” in that it brings death.)

The problems I see with the doctrine are that it promotes legalism and that it goes against scripture. It also leads to the idea that everyone will be saved (even the devil?) given that they have an eternity to “purge” their sins. Mostly, it says that Jesus did not have to die.

Those first and last points go together. If man can be saved based on his own works, or based on enduring a long enough punishment, then we can save ourselves. If there is a purgatory, why even try to be a Christian? Just endure the punishment for a while, and be saved in the end. I can endure just about anything if I know it will end. And since in eternity time is not a consideration, any punishment that ends would be as if it did not exist. If I can be saved regardless of what sins I committed on earth, then the death of Jesus was worthless. He died for nothing. The reason he had to die was that we could not save ourselves. There had to be a blood sacrifice. (Read the book of Hebrews.) But if there is a purgatory, such a blood sacrifice was unnecessary, and if unnecessary then it was cruel of God to demand it of Jesus.

Most importantly, though, the concept of purgatory goes against scripture. The usual scripture mentioned in this context is Luke 16:26. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man in torment asks Abraham to send Lazarus to him with some water. Abraham replied, “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” Scripture says nobody can pass between punishment and reward. Another scripture, though, makes a stronger argument. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) We are to be judged based on what happened in this life, not on what happens after this life.