QandA: PurgatoryI went to church with my sister on Sunday and I listened to the priest tell the people that all those who died in Christ that had something in their life that they were struggling with at the time of death are now in the holding place called purgatory. He also said that we must pray for them that God will help them out of there and give them a place with Him. I was appalled at that message and thought about the error of the false teaching. The majority of them believed it. Can you please give me some sound Scripture and truth pertaining to this topic?
Two visitors to the site have raised questions concerning life after death. The answers to these questions are addressed on GodSaidManSaid in various places. An expanded explanation will follow.
Bill asked, "Is there any mention of man dying and going to heaven or hell in the Old Testament?" [End of quote] What appears to be a very simple question requires a somewhat complicated answer.
In the Old Testament, men and women (with the exception of Adam and Eve) were not called sons and daughters of God. They were rightfully titled the sons and daughters of men. For example, Luke 3:38, "Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." [End of quote] Abraham, for instance, was not called a son of God, but the friend of God (James 2:23). Noah, Moses, David, and Jeremiah were servants of God, and the Hebrew people were called the children of Israel. The opportunity to become sons and daughters of God was made possible by Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, who broke the back of Satan’s spell on the Cross of Calvary. It’s only at the Cross that the miraculous transformation of Jesus, so appropriately called born-again (born a second time), takes place.
The Old Testament laws and commandments given to the children of Israel were shadows and types of the New Testament Christ who was to come. Galatians 3:23-25:
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Old Testament believers participated in acts of obedience to God’s ordinances awaiting their Messiah—the Christ who would fulfill the law. Hebrews 10:4-10:
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The Old Testament blood sacrifice yielded numerous benefits to the children of Israel, but "the blood of bulls and goats" could not take away sin and break the back of Satan’s bondage and set captive souls free. God’s sonship requires the new birth—the born-again transformation—and this was not possible until Calvary, therefore those who hungered and thirsted after righteousness could not be made complete until the cross. For more information on the blood of Christ, click on to "Why the Blood of Jesus?" on this website.
When the righteous died prior to the Cross, they resided in a temporary place awaiting the advent of their Messiah, Jesus Christ the Righteous. This place was known by Jesus as Abraham’s bosom. Luke 16:22-31:
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 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.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
This is not a parable, as some would suggest, but rather a true account with names and places. In this account, Jesus describes the rich man who was dead to this world and in hell fire, and Lazarus, also dead to this world, but being comforted in Abraham’s bosom. This event in Luke takes place before the Cross of redemption. Abraham’s bosom was a real geographical place located in the earth, separated from hell by a gulf, and it was also called Paradise. Here the righteous awaited their redeemer and the opportunity to be born into the family of God.
The mighty prophet of God, Samuel, died and went on to Abraham’s bosom. Shortly after Samuel’s death, the disobedient King Saul found himself in dire straits preparing to lead Israel into battle against the Philistines. Saul sought out the witch of Endor to summon Samuel from the dead that he might give him council regarding the coming battle. The witch, who had a familiar spirit, practiced her evil but was shocked and screamed out in horror when she saw the real Samuel and not the faker she was summoning. This telling dialog followed, I Samuel 28:13-15:
13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.
15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?...
Several other passages that deal with the concept of Abraham’s bosom follow:
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
I Peter 3:18-20:
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
I Peter 4:6:
For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
The Old Testament speaks of heaven and hell. Prior to salvation, there are reports of men in hell, but sons and daughters of Adam had no access to heaven until the Cross of Christ—until the born- again experience. Then they are actually birthed into the family of God.
The following e-mail concerns the afterlife and the doctrine of purgatory. It reads:
I would like to know if there is such a place called purgatory as the Catholics teach.
I went to church with my sister on Sunday and I listened to the priest tell the people that all those who died in Christ that had something in their life that they were struggling with at the time of death are now in the holding place called purgatory. He also said that we must pray for them that God will help them out of there and give them a place with Him.
I was appalled at that message and thought about the error of the false teaching. The majority of them believed it. Can you please give me some sound Scripture and truth pertaining to this topic? [End of quote]
The concept of purgatory does not exist in the Old Testament Masoretic text, which was handed down to us by the Hebrew Levite priests who were entrusted with it by God. Purgatory is also not found in the New Testament majority-text, the absolute authority based on grounds of age and scholarship. Both the Masoretic text and the majority-text are found in the Authorized Version of the King James Bible. There is the concept of Abraham’s bosom (mentioned above) which was fulfilled in Christ. But, it was a place of waiting until salvation had been purchased at the Cross. The only other passage in the Scriptures that proponents of purgatory might look to for support would be I Corinthians 15:29:
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
Extra-Biblical information on the act of baptizing for the dead, which would be by full-body immersion of course, is not overly abundant. But, it appears that some of the early saints would baptize in proxy for those Christians who died, and for some reason beyond their control had not been baptized before their death. Purgatory has no Biblical traction.
Authorized King James Bible
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Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.