Tag Archives: intermediate state

Is it Possible that My Loved Ones are Suffering in Purgatory?

We believe that death brings the redeemed immediately into the presence of God (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23).

The concept of purgatory conflicts with biblical teaching regarding the sufficiency of the work of Christ (Heb. 10:1-18). If Christ has made full atonement for our sins, there is no need for people to suffer in purgatory. The doctrine of purgatory makes our salvation depend to a large degree on our own good works rather than on the merits of Jesus Christ. It implies that we are to remain in a state of suffering until our works or the works of others are sufficient to allow us to pass on to heaven. In our perspective, this belief violates a basic truth of the gospel—the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:12-17 refer to the judgment seat of Christ and rewards, not to a continuing state of punishment and purification.

The word purgatory comes from the Latin purgare meaning “to cleanse.” According to Roman Catholic theology, purgatory is “the state or the abode of temporary punishment for those souls, who having died in the state of grace, are not entirely free from venial sins or have not yet fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions” (Catholic Encyclopedia Dictionary). The article acknowledges that the word itself is not expressly mentioned in Holy Scripture but implies that the Scripture “presupposes it, and refers to it clearly enough, for example, 2 Maccabees 12; Matthew 5 and 12; 1 Corinthians 3; Philippians 2; 1 Peter 3.”

Of the above references, the only one that truly supports the idea of purgatory is 2 Maccabees 12:39-45. But this is an apocryphal book, and the Apocrypha aren’t accepted as part of the biblical canon by either Jews or Protestants. In fact, even Catholics didn’t recognize the Apocrypha as fully canonical until the Council of Trent in 1546.

 

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Is There a State of Existence Between Death and Resurrection?

The New Testament doesn’t give a detailed description of what has been called “the intermediate state” of those who die as Christians. The focus of the apostle Paul is on the wonder and joy of the resurrection ( Romans 8:18-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ). However, he said that to die is gain because it is to “be with Christ” ( Philippians 1:21-23 ), and that to be away from the earthly body is to be “at home with the Lord” ( 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ). Another significant passage is Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross that when he died he would be with Him in “paradise” ( Luke 23:43 ).

It’s likely that even in the intermediate state we will have some kind of body. Paul said that at death “we have a building from God” ( 2 Corinthians 5:1 ). Man was created to be whole only as a being with a body.

These strong assurances that death brings us into the immediate presence of God are comforting. They clearly imply that Christians who have passed on are enjoying a conscious state of blessedness in God’s presence.

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