Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Is Purgatory a Biblical Doctrine? Part 3

Scripture Against Purgatory

Having defined Purgatory, and examined the Scriptures used by Roman Catholicism to justify a belief in Purgatory, we now turn to consider the Biblical evidence against it. There are primarily three arguments used by the Reformers to clearly demonstrate that purgatory is not only absent from Scripture, but is contradictory to it.

1) Only two soul-states are given in Scripture (Heaven/Hell)

Consider this quote: “The Bible always describes the state of the dead in terms of two conditions not three. The Bible knows of heaven and hell, the place of the righteous and of the wicked after death, bliss and torment, but of no third place. In the Lord's parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus in Luke 16, again the beggar is in paradise and the rich man in torment. This is the alternative. If there is a third it is astonishing that the Bible never says anything about it.”

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' (Luke 16:19-31)

2) Death is described anticipated in glorious good news, not a passageway into suffering and torment.

Scripture clearly teaches that when the believer dies, they are in the immediate presence of Christ. “The apostle Paul said, ‘I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better’ (Philippians 1:23). Paul is saying that the very moment after physical death occurs, he will be with Christ. … Moreover, for believers ‘to be absent from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:6-8) (Rhodes, p 239)”

“The Bible often openly and emphatically asserts the glorification of the Christian's soul at the moment of death. (Phil 1:23, 2 Tim 4:7,8; 1 Cor 15:55) Could Paul possibly have meant that Christ has removed the sting of death, but that death ushers the believer into perhaps centuries of suffering for his sin? (Rayburn)”

Consider also this line of reasoning by Ron Rhodes (p 237)

“Consider what Roman Catholics are saying in regard to the doctrine of purgatory. Let’s say you are a good-hearted Catholic, and you do all the things required of your Church throughout life. You regularly attend Mass, you work hard to maintain sanctifying grace in your soul by being faithful, and you confess your sins to a priest when you do wrong. You are always careful to participate in the sacrament of penance after committing what you think may be a mortal sin. … You do all this and more, in keeping with what your Church tells you. When you die, you will likely still have to go to purgatory before being granted entrance into heaven. Throughout someone’s lifetime he or she could attend over a thousand Masses and still die not fully purified from sin. Protestants respond that this hardly seems like the “good news” of the gospel (Ephesians 2:8,9).

So we have seen that the Scriptures describe two places in the afterlife, heaven and hell. We have seen that in the Bible, death for the believer is described as a glorious passageway into the presence of Jesus, not a portal to suffering. But most importantly, this belief that we can suffer to pay for our own sins in this life or in purgatory, is an affront to the Gospel of the blood of Christ, which is sufficient to cleanse us from our sin.

3) Purgatory is a rejection of the sufficiency of Christ’s complete and perfect work on the Cross for our sins.

From a scriptural perspective, when Jesus died on the cross He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus completed the work of redemption at the cross. No purgatory is needed for those who trust in Christ. In His high priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4 NIV, emphasis added). First John 1:7 (NIV) says, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (emphasis added). Romans 8:1 (NIV) says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added).

We are cleansed not by some alleged fire of purgatory but by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:14). Jesus “Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2). It is through Jesus’ work on the cross that we are made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). The apostle Paul spoke of this life as “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:7-9). It is through this wonderful work of Christ on the cross that believers are “blameless,” and hence are in no need of some alleged purgatory (Jude 1:24; see also Ephesians 1:4).

Rhodes then points to a key verse to share with Roman Catholics who argue for purgatory.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)

“In other words, no further purging is necessary because Christ has perfected ‘for all time’ those who have believed in Him. That which is already perfect ‘for all time’ needs no further purging. There is no need for purgatory for those who have truly trusted in Christ as Savior. (Rhodes, 239)”

Our sins are cleansed in the blood of Christ at the moment He died for us, absorbing the Father’s wrath on our behalf. As the Reformers point out, “The notion that we must satisfy for our sins by paying the price for them, enduring punishment for them, was an insult to the perfection of the redemption of Christ, of his sufferings for our sins, and assumed the fundamentally erroneous notion that we could pay for our sins -- even their temporal penalties -- if we had to.” Rayburn continues, “It is crucial to the entire biblical teaching of salvation and of Christ's redeeming work to understand that for the man or woman who is in Christ by faith, "there is, therefore, now no condemnation." As the author of Hebrews puts it in 1:3, "After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the Right Hand of the Majesty in heaven!" The work was finished. Or, as the same author has it later, "Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." [Heb 10:13-14]

As the Scripture says it in a hundred different ways, we are healed by his stripes, not ours; the chastisement of our sin fell on him, not us. There is no sense in which the afflictions of believers, in this life, "pay" for their sins in the sense that they remove the guilt or penalty of those sins. They are only chastisements by which we are taught to love and fear God. They are discipline not satisfaction. They have no virtue to remove guilt or to remit penalty. Christ alone, the infinite and infinitely perfect sacrifice, can do that!

This is not just a doctrine where the Protestants disagree with Roman Catholics. It hits at the very center of the Gospel. As Sauer puts it, “purgatory must lead men away from God because it leads men away from the cross.”

We must put our complete and total trust in the Perfect Work of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only basis for our entrance into Heaven. Purgatory does not exist. If it did, the Holy Spirit would have been sure to include it in the Scriptures.

We have seen how the few Scriptures that are used in support of purgatory do not hold up in light of Scripture as a whole. We have seen also, that there are many passages which contradict the concept of Purgatory (Romans 8:1, Hebrews 10:13-14, Hebrews 1:3). Finally, we have seen that the idea of Scripture denies the sufficiency of the Perfect, once for all cleansing from sin that Christ’s death on the Cross brings to the believer. Please listen to this plea by Joe Mizzi.

Perhaps up till now you have hoped to go to a place of suffering to undergo cleansing from sin. The opportunity to experience purification and complete forgiveness is now, while you are still living. God is compassionate and He really forgives and cancels the debt of all those who turn to Him by faith. Look to Jesus the Deliverer, whose death on Calvary is a full and adequate payment for the sins of His people. His blood was not shed in vain; it actually purifies the soul from all defilement. Do you believe in purgatory? I hope you will affirm, 'Yes, I believe in God's purgatory. My purgatory is the Lord Jesus Christ!"

I close with the words of the great hymn, Jesus Paid it All:

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)”

-Rev. Dr. Robert S. Rayburn, Roman Catholicism: Purgatory (Sermon preached at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) on March 15, 1998
-Dr Joe Mizzi; Purgatory

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