Where is Purgatory in Scripture?

Q. Where is Purgatory in Sacred Scripture?

A. Well, the word purgatory does not appear anywhere is Sacred Scripture. However, the words trinity and incarnation also do not appear anywhere in Sacred Scripture. So, the fact that a word does not appear in scripture does not categorically exclude the truthfulness of the doctrine it conveys. If it did we would all need to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, the Doctines of the Trinity and Incarnation are clearly found in scripture. And so is the Doctrine of Purgatory.

Matthew 12:32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Here Jesus implies that some sins will be forgiven in the “age to come.” We know that sin cannot be forgiven in Hell and there is not need for any sin to be forgiven once you are in Heaven. So, there must be some other state/age/place where sin CAN be forgiven after this age or this life. We call this Purgatory. This word comes from the Latin word for pure purigare. It is an intermediate state between life in this world and Heaven in which the soul is purified.

1 Corinthians 3:15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

You might want to look at this whole passage in context. Again, we know that once someone is in Hell, there is no escaping. And we also know that in Heaven there is no suffering, so this passage must be talking about a purification before Heaven is attained.

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

1 Peter 4:6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

Luke 16:22-26 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23″In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.24″And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’25″But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.26’And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.

From these passages Sacred Scripture speaks of a “place” that is neither Heaven nor Hell. As a Protestant I was taught that until Jesus died and rose again Heaven was closed to everyone. So, the souls of the godly people of the OT went to Sheol or Hades, a kind of holding tank until the work of Christ was completed and these souls could enter Heaven. So, even many Protestants believe in some sort of place/state that was neither Heaven nor Hell.

Jesus went to this place to preach the gospel to Old Testament spirits who were disobedient so they might live. In the Luke passage we see that the Jews of Jesus’ time must have been familiar with the idea of Abraham’s Bosom, as opposed to the “prison” of the I Peter passages or the flames of the rich man, where the just were comforted while awaiting Heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

From this verse we see that something happens to change us, presumably before we reach our final destination. And finally,

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

Christ did His part, perfectly. And we must do our part.

II Maccabees 12:44-45 …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. 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.

This passge shows that the Jews before Christ practiced prayer for the dead so that they might be purified of their sin

For further evidence that the Jews , even still, retain the belief that there is a purification necessary after death. and for Jewish beliefs on the afterlife see my post HERE. To view a Jewish site click HERE and HERE.


4 Responses to Where is Purgatory in Scripture?

  1. Paul Hoffer says:

    I wrote an article on Dave Armstrong’s blog defending the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory and pointed to a number of OT texts that were used by the Pharisees to teach the doctrine including Zechariah 13:9 and others. This is can be shown from what is written in the Talmud:

    In the Soncino Babylonian version of the Talmud at Tractate Shabbath Folio 33b, one will find:

    “The judgment of the wicked in Gehenna (purgatory) is twelve months.”

    In the Babylonian Talmud, translated by Michael L. Rodkinson (1918), one reads at Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter 1, pp. 26-27:

    “We have learned in a Boraitha: The school of Shammai said: There are three divisions of mankind at the Resurrection: the wholly righteous, the utterly wicked, and the average class. The wholly righteous are at once inscribed, and life is decreed for them; the utterly wicked are at once inscribed, and destined for Gehenna, as we read [Dan. 12:2]: “And many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The third class, the men between the former two, descend to Gehenna, but they weep and come up again, in accordance with the passage [Zech. 13: 9]: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; and they shall call on My name, and I will answer them.” Concerning this last class of men Hannah says [I Sam. 2: 6]: “The Lord causeth to die and maketh alive, He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up again.” The school of Hillel says: The Merciful One inclines (the scale of justice) to the side of mercy, and of this third class of men David says [Psalms, 114:1]: “It is lovely to me that the Lord heareth my voice”; in fact, David applies to them the Psalm mentioned down to the words, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death” Ibid. 8.

    Likewise, we find in the Tosefta Sanhedrin, 13;3, a rabbinic supplement to the Talmud, the following:

    “In the House of Shammai it was said: There are three groups: One is destined to eternal life, and another is consigned to ignominy and eternal abhorrence- they are the thoroughly wicked, the average among them will go down to hell, and dive and come up and arise thence and be healed… In the House of Hillel it was said: “[God is] rich in kindness (Exodus 34;6)”- would incline the balance to the side of mercy.””

    Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-7 similarly was used to teach the doctrine as well:

    “But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought to be an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble.”

    Since St. Paul remained a pharisee even after he became a Christian and was well-versed in their teachings, he certainly would have known that he was teaching the doctrine of Purgatory using the same allusion of fire purifying at 1 Cor. 3:10-15 that the Pharisees did in interpreting Zechariah 13:9 and Wisdom 3:1-7.

    God bless!

  2. Thank you very kindly, Paul!

  3. benny says:

    where is purgatory? if we die our inner person should sleep? then where he go?

  4. bfhu says:

    I don’t know where Purgatory is but my guess is that it is in the same vicinity as Sheol.

    When we die our bodies “sleep” awaiting the resurrection to Heaven or Hell. Our soul, on the other hand, is immortal and does not sleep but goes immediately to judgment. It is the soul that resides in Hell if damned or Heaven if perfect, or stops off in Purgatory for Purification before arrival in Heaven. After the end of Time our bodies will be resurrected and join its soul at its destination.

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