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Is There a Purgatory?
PURGATORY is a Roman Catholic doctrine. In the creed of Pope Pius IV the following definition is given for purgatory: “I constantly hold that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful.”
For the benefit of those unacquainted with the dogma, it is briefly this: That when a Catholic dies in venial sin he is not in fact dead, but his soul is conscious in a place of temporary punishment called “purgatory,” and the duration of his punishment in purgatory may be shortened, and the soul detained therein may be helped by suffrages, or prayers, and by sacrifices of the living.
For the doctrine of purgatory to be true, God’s Word, the Bible, must show (1) that every man has a soul that is separate and detachable from the body; (2) that there is no death of the human soul or creature, only the body dying and the soul continuing to live; (3) that the human dead are conscious in another world; and (4) that those in purgatory can be helped and benefited by money contributions made by their friends on earth and applied toward religious prayers and masses.
Does the Bible teach that man has a soul that is separate and, at death, detachable from the body? No! The Bible defines soul to mean both the human creature himself and also the conscious, breathing existence he enjoys when alive. The Bible teaching is that man IS a soul. Genesis 2:7 reads: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” The man’s body and the breath that God breathed into his nostrils to animate the body together constitute the soul, the creature, that lives. Soul also refers to the conscious, breathing existence of a living creature, but at no time is it a mysterious immortal something in man that lives on.
Is it true that the body dies and the soul lives on? No! Pagan nations that “sacrifice to demons [devils], and not to God,” teach that there is a soul inside man’s body and that it is immortal and so cannot die. Such teaching is therefore of the Devil. (1 Cor. 10:20) Jesus well said of the Devil: “He is a liar and the father of the lie.” Why? Because the sinner soul dies. Ezekiel 18:4, 20 (AS) reads: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Said God to the “living soul,” Adam: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.”—John 8:44; Gen. 3:19.
When a man dies, is the soul conscious anywhere thereafter? No! It is the living soul or creature that is conscious; and when a man or soul dies, his breathing, conscious existence ceases. Such is the indisputable Bible truth: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Eccl. 9:5) The dead man has no more thoughts anywhere: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground, in that day his thoughts do perish.” Where there is no conscious existence, no thought, there can be no pain or suffering, in other words, no purgatory.—Ps. 146:4.
It is well known by all those of the Catholic Church that money is continually solicited and received by the religious clergy upon the claim that such money contributed is used in connection with masses and prayers for the benefit of those said to be in purgatory. Millions of sincere, hard-working people have responded to clergy appeals and have contributed huge sums of money to help relatives and friends, under the impression that these were in purgatory. Will such contributions of money and prayers aid or benefit the dead and shorten their stay in purgatory? Not at all; for the reason that there is no one in purgatory, because there is no such place as purgatory. Neither Jesus nor his apostles located any dead in a purgatory. Instead Jesus said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28, 29) The dead are awaiting a resurrection. They are not being purged in a purgatory, neither are they waiting on masses.
Nowhere in any Catholic Bible translation is purgatory even named. No Scripture text makes mention of a soul in purgatory. Who, then, invented purgatory? From the years 590 to 604 Gregory, known as “Gregory the Great,” was pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first man to establish the doctrine of purgatory and to advance it as a place of fiery elements to torment souls. Under the title “Purgatory,” Volume VIII of the McClintock and Strong Cyclopædia says: “But whatever the views of some Church fathers on the subject, as a doctrine it was unknown in the Christian Church for the first 600 years, and it does not appear to have been made an article of faith until the 10th century. . . . ‘Purgatory as a burning-away of sins,’ said Doellinger at the Bonn Conference of Old Catholics in 1875, ‘was an idea unknown in the East as well as the West till Gregory the Great introduced it. . . . Gregory the Great added the idea of a tormenting fire.’”—Edition of 1879.
The purgatory doctrine finds basis only in the opinion and interpretation of religious men who lived centuries ago and whom religionists call “fathers.” Said Cardinal Gibbons concerning purgatory: “This interpretation is not mine. It is the unanimous voice of the Fathers of Christendom.” Is the fact that centuries ago men of religion taught certain things as to purgatory any proof of its existence? As to the value of traditions of religious “fathers,” Jesus answers: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. . . . It is in vain that they keep paying respect to me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.”—Matt. 15:1-9.
The Bible truth regarding the dead is this: The dead in the graves are in the condition of nonexistence. God’s promise concerning those in the memorial tombs is that they shall be awakened out of death. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a guarantee that those dead shall be raised up again, as Jesus himself promised at John 5:28, 29. Had any of such dead been in purgatory, Jesus certainly would have said so. Resurrection means a raising up again to life. If the creature or soul were in purgatory, there conscious and suffering, he would have to be alive. If alive, there could be no resurrection, because a live creature cannot be resurrected. Therefore religion’s doctrine of purgatory makes void the Word of God concerning the resurrection of the dead. The happy truth is that there is no purgatory and that the resurrection is God’s hope for the dead.