Is there a Purgatory?

A Bible Perspective

Short Answer

The short answer is no – it is a condition invented by the Catholic Church in order to raise money. There is no Biblical support for such a notion and is false teaching that has come into the orthodox churches as foretold by the Apostle Paul and others (e.g. 2 Corinthians 15:15, 2 Peter 2:1, Acts 20:29, 30).

What is the theory behind purgatory?

The notion of purgatory is said to arise from various writings that are non-canonical, that is, that do belong to the Bible. In actuality it arises from ancient rites of the false religions that habit the Middle East. Pagan priests would demand exorbitant prices to pray for the souls of dead loved ones. This practice has been carried into Christianity, placing a heavy expense, on especially the poor, who not only have to pay for the funeral, but the many visits of the priest makes, who demand a heavy price for the trick of suggesting their loved one is suffering in purgatory. The Egyptians and Greeks long before also had similar requirements on burial of loved ones.

The theory states that a person’s soul goes to some place called purgatory, and if sufficient prayers and money are offered, especially the latter, the sins of the dead will somehow be purified and they will then enter heaven. Purgatory is a nasty place hot and full of fire described in detail by Dante.

In essence it is a method by which churches that subscribe to the theory raise money, which is particularly important given the extravagant lifestyle the clergy live and the expense of such monoliths as the palace the pope and his entourage live. Jesus was scathing of religious rulers that oppressed the people to satisfy their pride and ego.

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Matthew 23:13

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets. Luke 6:24-26

If there is no purgatory, how can a dead person's soul get to heaven?

The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ shed on Calvary is sufficient to completely wash way the sin of any person, so that if that person believes on (i.e. places their trust in) the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she is saved and will go from earth to heaven the day their mortal body dies. A person who believes on Christ is born again – that one becomes a new creature, and thus able to enter into the blessed presence of Jehovah. As Alexander Hislop writes in his dissertation on this topic “How blessed to feel that the blood of the Lamb, applied by the Spirit of God to the most defiled conscience, completely purges it from dead works and from sin!”[1] There is no need for purgatory to purge our sin, because the blood of Christ has done this already, for those that believe.

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14

In essence, as the Apostle Paul writes in his Letter to the Ephesians, on accepting Jesus Christ one is born again and are deemed to be 'in Christ'. The Catholic notion that some stain of sin remains that need to be purged is wrong. Our salvation is staked on the blood of Christ and God's grace that gives rise to a rebirth – the old which is tainted with the sin of Adam is done away with and we are totally and absolutely made new. Sure, we are still in mortal bodies, which will be done away with, and this moral body still sins, but God sees the reborn you, through the blood of Christ; perfect.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6

Twelve times Paul speaks of being ‘in Christ’ in the Letter to the Ephesians. It is illogical and in correct to believe one can be ‘in Christ’ and not be perfect. A born again person is just that – new from the beginning. Indeed the act of praying for dead souls compares with the apostasy the Galatians had fallen into, and Paul asks, sarcastically:

“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).

On the other hand the work of Christ Jesus, who died on the Cross of Calvary, provides a believer with the gift of eternal life with Christ because the price of his or her sin has been paid for in full.

Paul also admonishes the Church at Colossae for attempting to add to their salvation in Colossians 2:6-15. He sets out in verse 9 that Christ is the same substance as God, (divine), and by his death and resurrection (as displayed in baptism – verse 12) has wiped the debt we incurred by our sin; past, present and future. All this took was having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Col 2:6, 7).

God made [believers] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13, 14)

What about the sinner who has does not believe on Jesus Christ?

There is no second chance for an unbeliever. The one that has not believed on the Lord Jesus Chris will be judged by God and then thrown into hell because the wages of sin is death. Every person has the opportunity to accept Christ while on this earth; once he or she dies, his or her soul is sent to Hades awaiting judgement in the last days. Praying for another person's soul cannot cleanse it from sin – humans a simply not good enough to save someone else from their sin. And in any case only by the shedding of blood is sin dealt with.

The Bible says that all unbelievers are brought before God for judgment and, all are thrown into the lake of fire to experience what Scripture calls the “second death.” (Luke 16:19-31).

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ will never experience the second death. Instead, believers all eagerly await the coming of Christ knowing our faith has saved us from this outcome.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20

[1] Alexander Hislop The Two Babylons or The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife by First published as a pamphlet in 1853--greatly expanded in 1858 – available online: < >

David L Simon (19 March 2017; Edited 31 July 2022)
Questions\Is there a Purgatory?

^ Return top
/* Run the following to create the TOC */