Purgatory: Purifying Fire or False Doctrine Fable


As a former Roman Catholic (see About GWT) who was taught from an early age and fully believed in the doctrine of Purgatory, the following article accurately defines Purgatory to be that of which makes the Roman Catholic Church system work effectively.

Catholics who believe a purifying fire will purge away their sins are deluded victims of a fatal fabrication. The invention of a place for purification of sins called Purgatory is one of the most seductive attractions of the Roman Catholic religion. Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church described this deceptive hoax brilliantly. He said: “Purgatory is what makes the whole system work. Take out Purgatory and it’s a hard sell to be a Catholic. Purgatory is the safety net, when you die, you don’t go to hell. You go [to Purgatory] and get things sorted out and finally get to heaven if you’ve been a good Catholic. In the Catholic system you can never know you’re going to heaven. You just keep trying and trying…in a long journey toward perfection. Well, it’s pretty discouraging. People in that system are guilt-ridden, fear-ridden and have no knowledge of whether or not they’re going to get into the Kingdom. If there’s no Purgatory, there’s no safety net to catch me and give me some opportunity to get into heaven. It’s a second chance, it’s another chance after death” (from “The Pope and the Papacy“).

The Deception of Purgatory

Purgatory comes from the Latin word “purgare,” which means to make clean or to purify. 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.” They must be purified of these “venial” sins before they can be allowed into heaven. Here we see Catholicism perpetuating the seductive lie of Satan by declaring “you will not surely die” when you commit venial sins (Gen. 3:4). The Council of Trent dares to declare that “God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction and will punish sin…The sinner, failing to do penance in this life, may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God.” (Session 15, Can. XI). Those Catholic Bishops had the audacity to declare that the suffering and death of God’s perfect man and man’s perfect substitute was not sufficient to satisfy divine justice for sin.

The Motivation for Purgatory

Over the centuries billions of dollars have been paid to Roman Catholic priests to obtain relief from imaginary sufferings in Purgatory’s fire. The Catholic clergy has always taught that the period of suffering in Purgatory can be shortened by purchasing indulgences and novenas, buying Mass cards and providing gifts of money. When a Catholic dies, money is extracted from mourning loved ones to shorten the deceased’s punishment in Purgatory. When my dear old dad passed away as a devout Catholic of 79 years, I was amazed at the hundreds of Mass cards purchased for him by well-meaning friends. We have heard of other Catholics who have willed their entire estates to their religion so that perpetual masses could be offered for them after they die. It is no wonder that the Catholic religion has become the richest institution in the world. The buying and selling of God’s grace has been a very lucrative business for the Vatican.

Another motivation for Rome to fabricate the heretical doctrine of Purgatory is its powerful effect on controlling people. Ultimately, the enslavement and subjugation of people is the goal of every false religion, and Purgatory does exactly that. The concept of a terrifying prison with a purging fire, governed by religious leaders, is a most brilliant invention. It holds people captive, not only in this life but also in the next life. Catholic clergy will not say how many years people have to suffer for their sins or how many Masses must be purchased before they can be released from the flames. This dreadful fear and uncertainty is the most ruthless form of religious bondage and deception!

Biblical Support for Purgatory

There is absolutely none! In fact, neither the word nor the concept of sin-purifying fire is found in Scripture. The Vatican was confronted with this in the 16th century when the Reformers protested its practice of buying and selling of God’s grace through indulgences. Backed into a corner, the Council of Trent added the apocryphal books to its canon of Scripture. Rome now declares there is scriptural support for purgatory in the apocryphal book of Second Maccabees. The council ignored the fact that the Jewish scribes never recognized the apocryphal books as inspired or part of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were never included because of their many historical, theological and geographical errors. Since God is not the author of error, He obviously did not inspire the writers of the Apocrypha. This is why the Apocrypha was never included in the original canon of 66 books.

The apocryphal verses Rome uses to defend its doctrine of Purgatory refer to Jewish soldiers who died wearing pagan amulets around their necks. Judas Maccabees “sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead…Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Maccabees 12:43-46). Rome argues that since Judas Maccabees prayed for the dead, there must be hope for those who die in sin. This of course, goes directly against God’s Word which declares, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:22). Rome’s attempt to give credence to Purgatory by using this ungodly practice of the Jews, who had a history of disobeying God, is pathetic.

In another attempt to find support for Purgatory, many Catholics point to this verse: “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). Clearly, the context of this verse is the testing of a man’s works by fire. The works that survive are the ones done for the glory of Christ and are called gold, silver and precious stones (Eph. 2:10). All the other superfluous works are burned in fire and are called wood, hay and stubble. It is not man’s sins that are being purged, it is man’s spurious works that are being burned and destroyed.

The Biblical Rebuke of Purgatory

God’s Word leaves absolutely no possibility for sin to be purged away by anything other than the blood of Jesus Christ. The beloved apostle John penned these words with irrefutable clarity. He wrote, “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” and “all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9). John did not say “some” sins or “most” sins, but all sin! This soundly rebukes the need for a sin-purging fire. God’s Word also declares, “All things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). When Jesus “made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Those who desire to have their sins purged need to trust a person, not a place. The blood of Christ is the only cleansing agent for sin! Those who come to the cross of Christ must come with empty hands of faith, bringing nothing but their sins.

Every blood-bought believer is instantly present with their Redeemer at the moment of death. To be “absent from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6-8). This good news was affirmed by the Lord Jesus with the promise He gave to the repentant thief at Calvary. He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). This habitual sinner did not need a fire to purge his sins.

Catholics who believe in Purgatory need to be asked: “Who is in charge of releasing souls from the purging fire?” It cannot be God because of His promise to believers. “Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). After conversion, God no longer counts sins against His children (2 Cor. 5:19).

Purgatory is a travesty on the justice of God and a disgraceful fabrication that robs Christ Jesus of His glory and honor. He alone satisfied divine justice, once and for all, by the perfect and finished sacrifice of Himself. The fatal deception of Purgatory blinds Catholics from the glorious Gospel of grace. It is one of Satan’s many lies which keep his captives from knowing and trusting the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. It is Christ alone that will present us “faultless before the presence of his glory” (Jude 24).

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History of The English Bible

History of The English Bible: Roman Catholic Church, John Wycliffe, John Hus, and the Lollards

AD 1382 The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts of the complete Bible were produced by John Wycliffe (1320-1384), an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. Wycliffe, (also spelled ‘Wycliff’ and ‘Wyclif’), was well-known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, which he believed to be contrary to the Bible.  With the help of his followers, called the Lollards, and his assistant Purvey, and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe.  John Wycliffe is considered the main precursor of the Protestant Reformation. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!

One of Wycliffe’s followers, John Hus, actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas: that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language, and they should oppose the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church that threatened anyone possessing a Non-Latin Bible with execution.  In Constance on July 6, 1415, having been condemned by the Council of Constance in an unfair trial, Hus fell upon his knees, and with a low voice he asked God to forgive all his enemies, and declared, “God is my witness that I have never taught that of which I have been accused by false witnesses. In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, I will die today with gladness.”  Then followed his degradation; he was enrobed in priestly vestments and again asked to recant; again he refused. With curses, his ornaments were taken from him, his priestly tonsure was destroyed, and sentence was pronounced that the Church had deprived him of all rights and delivered him to the secular powers whereupon he was burned at the stake with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used as kindling for the fire.  The last words of John Hus were that, “In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” Almost exactly 100 years later, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses of Contention (a list of 95 issues of heretical theology and crimes of the Roman Catholic Church) into the church door at Wittenberg. Thus, the prophecy of Hus had come true! Martin Luther went on to be the first man to print the Bible in the German language. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs records that in that same year, 1517, seven people were burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic Church for the crime of teaching their children to say the Lord’s Prayer in English rather than Latin.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1450’s, and the first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg’s Bibles were surprisingly beautiful, as each leaf Gutenberg printed was later colourfully hand-illuminated.  Ironically, though he had created what many believe to be the most important invention in history, Gutenberg was a victim of unscrupulous business associates who took control of his business and left him in poverty.

Nevertheless, the invention of the movable-type printing press meant that Bibles and books could finally be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time. This was essential to the success of the Reformation – delivering the people from heretical theology and doctrine.

In the 1490’s, another Oxford professor, and the personal physician to King Henry: the 7th and the 8th, Thomas Linacre, decided to learn Greek. After reading the Gospels in Greek, and comparing it to the Latin Vulgate, he wrote in his diary, “Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians.”

The Latin had become so corrupt that it no longer even preserved the message of the Gospel, yet the Church still threatened to kill anyone who read the scripture in any language other than Latin, though Latin was not an original language of the scriptures.  (Hebrew and Greek is the original language of the scriptures).

In 1496, John Colet, another Oxford professor, and the son of the Mayor of London, started reading the New Testament in Greek and translating it into English for his students at Oxford, and later for the public at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. The people were so hungry to hear the Word of God in a language they could understand, that within six months there were 20,000 people packed in the church and at least that many outside trying to get in! (Sadly, the enormous and beautiful Saint Paul’s Cathedral today: typical Sunday morning worship attendance is only around 200 people and mostly tourists).  Fortunately for Colet, he was a powerful man with friends in high places, so he amazingly managed to avoid execution.

William Tyndale (1494-1536) was the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language taking advantage of Gutenberg’s movable-type press.  Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius having received his Masters degree in 1515 at the age of twenty-one.  He was so fluent in eight languages; Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, English, and German, that it was said one would think any one of them to be his native tongue. He is frequently referred to as the ‘Architect of the English Language,’ (even more so than William Shakespeare) as so many of the phrases Tyndale coined are still in our language today.

A clergyman hopelessly entrenched in Roman Catholic dogma once taunted Tyndale with the statement, “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope’s.”  Tyndale was infuriated by Roman Catholic heresies, and he replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws.  If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!

The authorities banned Tyndale’s translation.  A friend, Philips, who was the agent either of Henry VIII, or of English ecclesiastics, or possibly both, betrayed Tyndale.  Tyndale was arrested and tried for heresy and treason in a ridiculously unfair trial, and convicted. Tyndale was strangled and burnt at the stake in the prison yard on October 6, 1536 – two years after the ‘Church of England’ (Anglican Church) had been founded.  His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.

The ‘Church of England’ was founded in 1534 when the Parliament of England declared King Henry VIII the head of the church, not the Pope (Act of Supremacy).

Note: Title of ‘Pope’ usage commenced 607 AD.

The Roman Catholic Church placed the Bible on the index of forbidden books in 1229 AD.  Canon 14:

“We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless anyone from motive of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.”

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