Wednesday, December 14, 2016

No, Virginia, There is No Purgatory

In Hebrews 1:3, that writer tells us, "He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." I am especially focusing on the first clause of the second sentence: "After making purification for sins..."

Most people have heard of Purgatory. In the Catholic Catechism, it is defined as "purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," which is experienced by those "who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified." That is, when a regular Christian (regular, as opposed to a "saint"), he has sins of which to be purged after death. Thus, it is actually a condition, though we usually think of it as a place.

Let's compare that doctrine to the verse cited above. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus made purification for sins. Who was that? The Catholic Church says the Christian makes purification. Hebrews says Jesus made purification. When is that? The Catholic Church says that the Christian will do so, future tense, after death. Hebrews says that Jesus did so, past tense, before the writing of that epistle, almost two thousand years ago.

To my mind the contrast produces a very easy conclusion that the Catholic doctrine is not only unscriptural, but antiscriptural. But what is worse is that the Catholic doctrine implies that the redemptive work of Jesus was a failure, insufficient. "Yes," Rome says, "Jesus intended to purge the sins of His people, but He didn't quite make the curve. We, the pope and his assistants, figured that out, and came up with a way to finish what Jesus failed to do."

Can that be considered anything less than blasphemous? And further, just by itself, is it not sufficient grounds for saying that no born-again Christian has no place in the Catholic Church? I certainly say so, and so does Scripture: "Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD" (Isaiah 52:11), "Go out of the midst of her, my people! Let every one save his life from the fierce anger of the LORD" (Jeremiah 51:45), "Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you" (II Corinthians 6:17), and "Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, 'Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues'" (Revelation 18:4).

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