Thursday, May 22, 2014

THE PURGATORY PROBLEM

Chuck White's post on Kiko's view of Purgatory - or lack of it - got some folks all in a twist, including the poor fellow from Yona who uses this blog to exorcise his Catholic demons. He's one of those who picked up a bible and now has all the answers for the rest of us. 

As expected, he called Purgatory "a self-created place of torture where the Catholic Church locked itself to suffer till the end of time" and "a pure invention without any basis in the Bible." I would call him "ignorant", but I'll hold off since, unfortunately, he's not that far off from what many Catholics today would say about Purgatory - due to 40 plus years of any mention of it being almost wholly absent from our pulpits and our current penchant for warm-fuzzy catechesis. 


For anyone who cares to know, Purgatory is clearly explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. See Par. 1031, 1472, 1475, 1498. The Catechism has all the usual scriptural references: 1 Cor 3:15, 1 Pet 1:7, 2 Macc 12:46, and Mt. 12:31, as well as several references to the Fathers, but, as evidenced by over 500 years of rejection by Protestants - and now many Catholics -  these verses and references do not suffice. Here's why:

1 Cor 3:15 and 1 Pet 1:7 both speak of a refining fire but do so in a metaphoric context. So they get thrown out as "just a metaphor" or a parable. 2 Macc 12:46 speaks of prayers for the dead, but Luther threw that book out of the bible centuries ago so it's not even in "their bibles".  And Mt. 12: 31, where Jesus speaks of "forgiveness in an age to come" is often simply discarded as an expression of emphasis and not an actual opportunity to be forgiven in an "age to come". 

We can argue about these interpretations but then we've been arguing for more than 500 years, and it appears, by the increasing disappearance of Purgatory from our pulpits (despite the endless animas, oddly) - that the other side is winning. 

So where in the Bible do we find an explicit mention of Purgatory? First, before I answer that, let's be clear, we don't have to find anything in the Bible explicitly! If Jesus wanted us to follow a book he would have left us one. He didn't. He left us a Church and a teaching authority for that Church. He gave us a Church. The Church gave us the Bible. So we look to the Church first and then the Bible because that is the ORDER that Christ intended...otherwise he would have said "read this", not "do this." 

A little history, though. The contents of the Septuagint, or what we call the Old Testament, was pretty much in place by 250 B.C. But, for nearly 400 years after Christ, there was no Table of Contents for the New Testament, and in fact there was no New Testament. There were simply writings and letters of varying authority floating about the ancient Church. 

A canon, or list, was solemnly defined and public revelation considered closed near the end of the fourth century, but Christianity was pretty well established by then, and well, all without a bible. How did that happen? 

In fact, since only a fraction of the world knew how to read, a bible wouldn't have done much good anyway. And since for the better part of Christianity bibles had to be handwritten, most Christians couldn't get one even if they could read. 

But let's get back to our question: Where is Purgatory explicitly mentioned in the Bible? Answer: Revelation 20:13-14:
The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds.Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.)
So here we are at the end of time and there are dead people in this place called Death and Hades. Where is that, or What is that? It's not Heaven, and it's not Hell. Why is it not Hell? Because Hell, Gehenna, the everlasting place of torment, is the "pool of fire" and Revelation tells us that after Death and Hades give up their dead, Death and Hades will be thrown into the pool of fire. You can't throw Hell into Hell, so it's not Hell. So what is it? And why, at the end of time, are there "dead" in it?

Well, let's do that math. It can't be (a) Heaven and it can't be (b) Hell, so that's two places. Aha! So it must be (c) a THIRD PLACE! If you guessed (c) then you win the prize: a get out of Purgatory free card (that's called something else so we'll get back to that another time.)

The existence of a place that is not Heaven and is not Hell is not new. Before Christ opened the Gates of Heaven, the souls of the just went to a "place" sometimes known as the Bosom of Abraham. And in fact we see Jesus going there "after" his death: 
"In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison..." (1 Pet 3:19). 
Hades is a Greek word that most of think means Hell, but it actually means the abode of the dead. It is a holding place, and as Peter notes, the spirits of the dead who did not deserve Hell were "imprisoned" there. 

But after Jesus released those spirits from prison and opened the Gates of Heaven there should have been no more need for anyone to go there. Yet, at the end of time, we see the spirits of some who have died (the "dead"), languishing in a place called Death and Hades. Why?

See Catechism. 


Recommendations by JungleWatch