If one fundamental doctrine of Bible truth is changed it inevitably leads to a corruption of other Bible teachings. An example of this is the error regarding the teaching of immortal souls. From this error comes the false teaching of heaven and hell at death. However the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, with its heartless tormenting of souls in a furnace, not only denies the truth regarding sin, death and resurrection, but blasphemes Yahweh’s merciful character and His forgiveness.

The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory with its fiery suffering for billions of souls every minute of every day makes the suffering of Hitler’s Holocaust pale into insignificance. How thankful we should be that we have been delivered from the “strong delusion” of the immortal soul myth and through God’s grace can look to the wonderful hope of the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s appearing.

Once belief in an immortal soul was accepted by the Church then followed the question, “What happens to the soul once the person dies?” Going to heaven or hell at death was the simple answer. Once the soul departed, most Christian religions felt they had done all they could for that person. But not the Popes! They have developed a range of doctrines that give them control of the destiny of the soul, and provide church funds for years to follow. Among their teachings based upon the fallacious doctrine of an immortal soul they have purgatory, indulgences, beatification of saints, prayers to saints, prayers to Mary ‘the mother of God’ with reciprocal benefits from her, and of course the relics of those martyrs and saints now in heaven that give special merits if worshipped. Limbo was on the list, which was like a playground for the souls of unbaptised children that died in original sin. that teaching has now been revised!

Purgatory – the background

For the non-Catholic we will give a little of the background of what they believe happens at death. Roman Catholicism claims that there are two forms of sin – actual transgression and original sin with its inherited sentence, based on the sin of Adam. Both require the sacrament of baptism (sprinkling with water or christening) as a means to clear away the effects of both forms of sin. If this is not done then the soul goes straight to hell at death. Regarding actual sins committed, these are divided into two categories – mortal sins and venial sins. Mortal sins are the really bad ones and if one dies in mortal sin he goes to hell for all eternity. However if the mortal sin has been confessed to a priest it is forgiven. Priests, they believe, have the amazing ability given by Jesus to forgive sins … and of course to determine the necessary ‘penance’ (work) to be performed to show one is really repentant. Venial sins, from the Latin meaning ‘pardon’, are excusable sins which are not so wrong! These must be confessed too.

It must be understood that a Catholic cannot pray to God or Jesus for forgiveness of sins and expect to receive it. The Church teaches that the authority to forgive sins was given by Jesus to the apostles, based on John 20:19–23, and on the principle of ‘apostolic succession’ it has now passed to the priests. This validates the Catholic teaching regarding confession which requires Catholics to confess their sins to the priest to receive absolution or forgiveness. If this is not done then they must endure a longer time in purgatory.

With sins forgiven one would feel that all is well, but not so. Then comes the next amazing blasphemy! Though sins are forgiven by the priest there still needs to be the purging of the stain of the sin from the soul.

Purgatory – the place

The Catholic Encyclopaedia states: “Purgatory (Lat purgare, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is 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.”

Purgatory then is “a place or condition” of temporary punishment; certainly an understatement as it can last for thousands of years. Originally purgatory was a literal place as church artists portrayed, showing suffering souls in the flames of purgatory. Interestingly in their paintings the souls suffering in flames always have human bodies, though the bodies are actually in the grave! The last Pope, John Paul II, in August 1999, turned purgatory into “a journey”, saying “the journey towards full beatitude requires a purification”, which the faith of the Church illustrates in the doctrine of purgatory. All go there who “have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions”. Only martyrs and saints escape the pains of purgatory and so this doctrine makes death for the Catholic a fearful event to face. St Thomas Aquinas describes purgatory as follows: “It is the same fire that torments the reprobate in hell, and the just in purgatory. The least pain in purgatory surpasses the greatest suffering in this life.” Cardinal Hayes wrote: “Nothing but the eternal duration makes the fire of hell more terrible than that of purgatory”. In fact it is recorded that both Pope Benedict XV, who died in 1922, and Pope Pius XII, who died in 1958, died in fear and insecurity, not knowing what the future held in store for them in purgatory. Surely by giving themselves a ‘plenary indulgence’ they would have cured that attack of fear – if they believed it!

Indulgences and dollars

Now enters a wonderful money-making scheme – prayers for the dead (who really are alive and know if you are paying for them!) and indulgences. Indulgences are given or sold by the pope for the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin; that is a time reduction for the soul in purgatory, not through good behaviour but through dollars paid by their relatives. There are two kinds of indulgences – plenary and partial. Plenary indulgence is full remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, while partial indulgence is the remission of part of it. As we know, it was the sale of these indulgences that Luther stood firmly against in 1517. Tyndale was just as forthright against purgatory and indulgences. He saw purgatory merely as “an invention to squeeze coin from the masses” and so he boldly asked, “Where findest thou in all the Scripture purgatory, shifts (confessions), penance, pardon … and a thousand feigned terms more?” Pope John XXIII in 1958 granted a plenary indulgence to all who attended his coronation ceremony, listened to it on radio or viewed it by television or news reel. This surely reeks of buying an audience rather than an act of amazing mercy from the one who holds the keys of purgatory.

A companion of Tyndale named Fisher wrote a very clear denunciation of purgatory in Supplication of the Beggars: “If there were a purgatory and if that the Pope with his pardons for money may deliver one soul; he may deliver him as well without money: if he may deliver one, he may deliver a thousand: if he may deliver a thousand, he may deliver them all, and so destroy purgatory. And then is he a cruel tyrant without charity (love) if he keeps them there in prison and in pain, till men give him money”. This is well stated – what kind of person is this ‘Vicar of Christ’ on earth?

Is purgatory proved from the Bible?

Have you ever wondered why the Catholic Church insists on including the Apocrypha in their Bible? It is because without this they have no ‘proof ’ of purgatory. Normally a few Bible quotes are wrested in an endeavour to substantiate the wrong teaching, but there is not one Bible quote that gives the basis for ‘paid for prayers’ to be given for souls in purgatory. In the Apocrypha, 11 Maccabees 12:43–46, there is the story of Judas Maccabeus sending a donation to Jerusalem for a sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead killed in battle, and for prayers to be offered for them. The ‘immortal soul’ doctrine, propounded by Plato 200 years before the Maccabees, had infiltrated the religion in Judea and, as the Apocrypha shows, was held there at that time. On this basis, ‘paid-for-prayers’ for the souls of the dead were accepted by the Church. Various scriptures were then wrested to substantiate aspects of the teaching of purgatory. Dr Charles Hughes, writing on the history of purgatory, says: “It was Gregory the Great (Pope 590–604AD) who consolidated the vague and conflicting views circulating through the church, and brought the doctrine into shape and into such connection with the discipline of the church to render it the effective engine of government and income, which it has ever since remained”. In fact the highest percentage of revenue the Church receives is from paid-for masses.

The Church has held its ignorant followers in fear and subjection with this horrible doctrine, while extorting massive wealth from the relatives of the dead through indulgences and masses for souls in purgatory. Consider the outright blasphemy of this teaching! If money be paid for a mass to reduce time for the soul in purgatory, the rich can leave/ give more money for more masses to be said – so that soul gets out quicker than the poor soul with no-one to pay. A widow may be brought to penury trying to pay for masses for her dead husband. This evil doctrine teaches that money and not character gets a person out of purgatory and of to heaven quicker! These considerations move us to utter abhorrence of this Church and its teachings. How true were Paul’s words: “They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 _ ess 2:10-11). It has been well stated: “If men will not believe the rational and true, they will believe the absurd and the false”. Purgatory certainly is absurd and false.

In conclusion

Let us never minimise the blasphemy of the Roman Catholic Church, nor be deluded into underestimating the importance of the study of Revelation so that we can appreciate our Lord’s abhorrence of this abominable system. This is the church that has made “war with the saints” and is “drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus”, even our brethren who stood against such blasphemy. How thankful we are that we have a High Priest through whom we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need”. Let us earnestly pray that very soon our Lord will return, for then “with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all”. Then we shall all shout with the loudest of voices, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants” (Rev 19:1–2 ESV).

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus”.