What is purgatory?

Does the Bible say anything about purgatory? If so, who goes to purgatory, and what happens to them there?


Answer:

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines purgatory as "a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions." This concept is like a place for people not bad enough for hell, but not yet good enough for heaven. The Bible, however, does not speak of anything like purgatory at all.

The Bible is very explicit in what happens immediately after death: "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing " (Ecclesiastes:9:5, emphasis added). According to the Bible, there is no immortal soul that is whisked off to an eternity in heaven, hell or purgatory—there is only unconsciousness until the resurrections following Jesus Christ's return to the earth (1 Corinthians:15:51-52; Revelation:20:12-13).

The concept of purgatory also clashes with biblical truth in its assertion that sins can be erased through punishing the sinner. No such idea exists in the pages of the Bible, which contends that only the death of our Savior pays the penalty for sin (Acts:4:12; Romans:5:8). Scripture also teaches that there are no minor sins (James:2:10). Sins cannot be purged by cruel punishment, but they can be forgiven and overcome with the help of a loving Creator.

What about those who die without ever having had an opportunity to repent of their sins? That is likely the reason some hope in the unbiblical doctrine of purgatory. God intends to give everyone an opportunity for salvation, as we explain in What Happens After Death?

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