There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing.- Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Take my word for it, it's not there"

"Take my word for it, it's not there" That was the end of the part of my conversation with an Evangelical Christian about if Purgatory is in the Bible. A nice lady, but I can't agree with her.

Purgatory, to Catholics, is a place/"condition of existence" (there isn't really a sense of "place" once you're spirit) of final purification after death for people going to Heaven. Note #1 after death, your soul is outside of time... we have no idea how Purgatory fits into that. Note #2 Purgatory is portrayed in art as a place of fire, like Hell. But after death, your soul has no concept of place... we don't really have any words to describe it. Unlike Hell, the people in Purgatory don't want to be there. Unlike Hell, people in Purgatory know that they will eventually get out. Unlike Hell, the fire is a purifying fire (Zech 13:9, or, the Bible says people can be purified in fire). Is the fire symbolic or real? I really don't know. When I die, I'll tell you.

But I really had no response to "it's not there" other than "it is there"... my word against hers. Given more time (and space) here I will try to educate myself.

The New American Bible has a lot of resources in the back... and one of them is a Doctrinal Bible Index. It names Purgatory as "a middle state of souls, suffering for a time on account of their sins, is shown by those many texts of Scripture which affirm that God will render to every man according to his works, so that suck as die in lesser sins shall not escape without punishment" The verses cited are 2 Mc 12: 43-46; Mt 5: 25f, 12, 32; Lk 12: 58f; 1 Cor 3: 15; 1 Pt 3: 18-20; 1 Jn 5: 16; Rv 5: 3, 13

The first one, 2 Maccabees 12: 42-46 (the complete passage is 38-46...I will start from 42) "Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed (of the dead men) might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas (Maccabeus) warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin"

If you do not have the book of Maccabees in your Bible, you have a defective Bible and should ask for a replacement :). Seriously, though, the reason this book is not in Protestant Bibles is because the desire to not see Purgatory in the Bible led to the Bible being rewritten. See #4 here about how Evangelicals desire a "consistent view" in their canon... the basis of their Christianity is personal interpretation of the Bible... and the basis of their Bible is what they see as "accepted" theology... which turns into only accepting what they want to. Also, note that Evangelical Christians do not accept the Septuagint, their translations of the Bible more closely follow the Jewish canon, which, by the time it was settled, had also taken cutting and pasting measures in order to try to separate Judaism from the "fulfilled Judaism" of the early Christianity. This is probably a big reason why, for Evangelical Christians, "it's not there." Another interesting note, this passage not only implies a Purgatory (or, purification after death) but it promotes indulgences as well!

Next: Matthew 5: 25(22 & footnote talk about Purgatory, for 25 see Lk 12: 59), 12: 32 "But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother 'Raqa' (imbecile/blockhead) will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You Fool' will be liable to fiery Gehenna" Footnote: "Gehenna, in Hebrew ge-hinnom, "Valley of Hinnom" or ge ben-hinnom "Valley of the Son of Hinnom," southwest of Jerusalem, the center of an idolatrous cult during the monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice. The Hebrew is transliterated into Greek as gaienna, which appears in the New Testament as geenna. The concept of punishment of sinners by fire either after death or after the final judgment is found in Jewish apocalyptic literature but the name geenna is first given to the place of punishment in the New Testament" So... as I see it, there are two ways to interpret this passage, and it hinges on what "Gehenna" is. Is Gehenna a place of eternal punishment (Hell) or is it a place of temporary punishment (Purgatory). Insults like "you fool" aren't a very serious sin. If God is Just, any insult, however small, needs repentance, forgiveness, and retribution. If God is Merciful, why would God send you to Hell as retribution for something so minor? Purgatory, (interpretation of a temporary Gehenna) is the middle ground of these two.

(from above) 12:32 "And whoever speaks 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 in the age to come.
So... If Jesus has to say something will not be forgiven in the "age to come," then doesn't that mean they believe that some things can be forgiven after death?

Ok... what now... (this stuff is coming out of my ears by this point) Luke 12:58 & 59... This story has pretty much the same idea as Matthew 5:25: "You will not be released until you have paid the last penny" If God is Just, then the correct retribution must be made, even if after death, but not at the expense of Mercy.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 "But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire." A passage that is used a lot to point to a purgatory. A good person, who has done some bad things can still be saved.

1 Peter 3: 18-20 "For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water." In the footnote, it says "It is not clear just who these spirits are. They may be the spirits of the sinners who died in the flood, or angelic powers, hostile to God, who have been overcome by Christ." What this passage does indicate is that there is a place of "prison" after death... so saying Everyone is "going to either Heaven or Hell" is Biblically inaccurate. So the argument is, if Jesus suffered for sins once and for all, why do people have to suffer more in purgatory? Jesus forgave all sins, completely, for everyone. However, that does not make us perfect people. Going to Purgatory does not mean that you have another chance at Heaven, you are going to Heaven. Jesus forgave you, you are going to Heaven. But we are imperfect, creatures. There needs to be some way for Jesus to "remove the remnants of imperfection." What is a remnant of imperfection? Ugh, big topic I don't want to go into now. If I do a post on sin, I'll go into it then. Sin is strange... it affects Everybody. Somehow. I don't know how, but... yeah. Strange stuff.

1 John 5:16 "If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and He will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly".. I may have included verse 17 too... but it sounds more finished with it. In modern terminology, venial sins are the lesser sins and mortal sins are the deadly sins. Deadly sins reject God, so it doesn't make sense to turn to God in prayer on your own. Venial sins do not cut all ties with God, so it is still possible to pray on your own. And John says that one should pray to God. Relation to purgatory? Sin is complex. It is still possible to go to heaven while holding venial sins, because purgatory will get rid of them for you. Deadly=Mortal=Going to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. So, go to confession for all your sins, especially mortal sins.

Revelation 5: 3,13 "But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it...Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe cry out: "To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever." :) It actually took me two readings through to see how this is relevant. But, I'd heard the phrase "under the earth" before, and didn't ever have it brought to my attention or ever knew what it meant. By interpretation, it could mean purgatory. Where else do you have people not in heaven, not on earth, and praising Jesus?

In further research, Revelation 21:27: "but nothing unclean will enter it (Heaven), nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." So, How do you get into the book? Ask for it? And... become clean! Accepting Jesus is one half of what you need to do. Becoming clean, through suffering on Earth or in Purgatory, is the other half.

And I found many, many more verses here and more explanation, that, actually, puts mine to shame :). QED.

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