What Does The Bible Say About Purgatory?

The Protestant Bible, which contains 66 books, mentions nothing of purgatory. To be fair, you should read this article (Click Here) before progressing so you understand exactly what Purgatory is and from where the idea originated. We will refute the idea of purgatory with two scriptures.  One directly from Jesus’ life and the other from the Apostle Paul.

1. Two criminals were crucified with Jesus. Prior to their deaths, an important conversation took place between the three.  The gospel of Luke records the conversation:

Luke 23:39-43 (NLT)
39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?
41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus’ words here are important.  Jesus never mentioned nor gave even a hint of a post-death purification.  Even for a criminal!  Instead, his response clearly demonstrated the immediate transition from earthly life into a spiritual eternity with no purification process necessary to enter paradise.  Jesus clearly stated that the criminal would be with Him in paradise that day. The only requirement? The criminal recognized his need for a Savior.  In other words, he “changed his mind” about God. He repented. The criminal was dying alongside Jesus. Jesus was sinless while the criminal knew he received what he deserved. At that moment, his eyes were opened to the purpose of God in Jesus and he believed.  Therefore the criminal repented and believed, the two things (and only two things) required to receive the free gift of salvation from God. In that moment, the criminal received Jesus’ perfect life in exchange for his messed up and wasted existence. Through his faith the criminal received an inheritance granting him, as John 1:12 states to become a child of God. Now the criminal was no longer a criminal and an enemy of God. He was a son. Sons are always welcome in their father’s house and have a right to all the father has.  Jesus never even eludes to the idea of purgatory. If anybody needed purgatory, it would have been that criminal. Instead, Jesus offered him paradise that very day. Faith in Jesus is all that is required for entrance into Heaven.

2. The following scripture is often used, incorrectly, to defend the idea of Purgatory as a post-death spiritual purification process.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NLT)
10  Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful.
11  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
12  Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw.
13  But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.
14  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.
15  But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

Many who support the idea of purgatory using this scripture seem to neglect verse eleven. Jesus came to the earth lived a life that we couldn’t live; Died a death we should have died; And was raised to life again overcoming sin and death offering us His life in place of our own, that we might be made right with God—able to have a personal relationship with Him.  That’s the foundation Christ laid. Paul’s discussion here is not one of heavenly purification; Rather, it is one of human effort in building God’s kingdom on the earth! Paul’s focus is the end, when all people are judged. Those who work for Jesus and accomplish much for His glory will be rewarded. Those who simply trust him and squander their opportunities to serve Him will STILL BE SAVED but will suffer loss.  This is extremely important. The reference here is not in support of a post-death purification, it’s about giving your all now, being careful to build up the Kingdom of God with strong and useful materials.  Therefore, the idea of purgatory is not justified by this scripture.  If anything, it is denied and here’s why:  The foundation is Jesus.  There can be nothing else in place of Him.  Purgatory suggests that there must be more sanctification in order for sinful people to be allowed into heaven. In other words, purgatory suggests that Jesus isn’t enough… That can’t be true because Jesus stated that He was the only way. (John 14:6)

These are only two examples.  There are many resources available on the web for those still struggling or searching for a deeper understanding.

-Pastor B