Christina and I were asked the other day about purgatory. The question was brought up from a lady in our Church and she was wondering where people get the idea from. Being raised Catholic I had heard the term before and even at one time believed in it.
Like most Catholics, I never questioned if Purgatory was true or not. It was what I had been told so it must be. When I decided to devote my life to Christ and follow Him, I never gave it another thought. It had just been put away in my mind with all the other things I had been told that weren’t true. There were a lot of things I was taught growing up, whether by the Church or my parents that I found out later weren’t true. Well they were true in the sense that it was what they were told or taught, but not in the sense that it’s what the Bible reads.
The problem with most “Christians” is that they don’t read the Bible for themselves. I know when I went to jail for the first time I was shocked that people took the time to read. I mean, sure we had a Bible at home. It was nice too. It was big! And it had gold edged pages and the cover felt like a pillow; it was squishy and soft. I would even open it sometimes because the letters were cool and the words were different than we speak today. But to read it? To read it and can understand it and learn from it? I thought that was impossible. How could I? I didn’t have the education to read it. Plus, I didn’t know of anyone else that read it. I wasn’t even sure if the priest picked it up and read it so why would I?
So, all that being said, back to the question. The answer that I gave was that Catholics believe in purgatory because it is in some of the books that are excluded from the “Protestant” Bible talk about it. As some may or may not know, the Catholic Bible has 73 books (46 Old Testament and 27 New Testament) and the Protestant Bible has 66 (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament). I won’t go into why some are in one and not the other right now, but that was my answer and I was content at the time with it.
Well today it was on my mind and I couldn’t shake it, so I took some time to do some research. While some of the verses used are from books not included in both Bibles like II Maccabees 12:39-46. While I can’t speak about this book because I have never read it, I can speak on the ones found in the Protestant Bible. Matthew 12:32 is one of them “And whoever says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come”. Sure, if you take this verse and use it just like it reads here you might get that idea. That is the problem with not reading for yourself. Things can be taken out of context and you don’t even know. This verse, when read in its whole context would not give you that interpretation. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and was speaking how they would understand. They believed in a type of purgatory so He included that in His talk.
So here is my thought on this whole deal without going too deep. Time is relative. Time is a restraint that is placed on the earth. God, His Kingdom and the “afterlife” are not bound by the restraints of time. Time is measured by the rising and setting of the sun. If you are no longer on this earth then what the sun does has zero effect on you. I believe that is why Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:8 “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Then there is also the thief on the cross. If there were a “purgatory” then how could Jesus tell him in Luke 23:43 “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” If there were some sort of “purgatory” where he needed to “pay penance for his “unforgiven sins” then that would make Jesus a liar.
These things are exactly why it is so important for us to read and study God’s Word for ourselves. We are ultimately responsible if we are lead astray. He has given us His Word to read but He will not make us read and study it. We must do that on our own.