Home » Tuesday: The Saints in Purgatory    

Comments

Tuesday: The Saints in Purgatory — 25 Comments

  1. A Seventh-day Adventist minister died and was suddenly confronted with the fact that the Catholics were right and there really was a purgatory. He ended up at the triage desk at the gates of heaven where the receptionist asked him to give an account of his life. In the course of the interview, he somewhat hesitantly admitted that he had been a Seventh-day Adventist all his life. The interviewing angel looked up and smiled. "Welcome to heaven! There is no need to go to purgatory. You have lived in purgatory the whole of your life!"

    I am sure that most readers of this column accept that the Catholic idea of purgatory capitalizes on the notion that we are not good enough to enter heaven and that we need the purging fires to purify us. There is no Biblical basis for purgatory and it has been used as a mechanism for extracting money and good behavior out of the living.

    The point of my story is that Seventh-day Adventists also have their own version of "not good enough" for heaven. We, in our own covert way, reinforce that idea. Even my own father-in-law in the final weeks of his life wrestled with the idea that he was not good enough to be saved. And I personally would like to thank those who gave him the assurance that being good enough was not the key to heaven. He finally made peace with himself and with his Saviour.

    The big lie that shapes both the Catholic view of purgatory and our perception of the requirement to get into heaven is that we have to be "good enough."

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV

    (59)
    • "Not good enough" reflects that humans are deeply conditioned to look on the outward appearance, the behaviours we do - mistakenly thinking that God is doing the same. But God is looking way deeper, seeing the trajectory of our heart's true desire - what we desire most deeply at our core (1 Samuel 16:7).

      I believe and find that all who do not have the heart condition described in Genesis 6:5 will be saved. Genesis 6:5 describes the condition of those who similarly 'perished' in the flood, despite being freely offered abundant opportunity for salvation. Why? This dynamic is also reflected following John 3:16 in John 3:19 - people "loved (desired it to their core) the darkness rather than the Light".

      (33)
    • The sheep and the goats parable that Jesus told is very instructive, because the two groups are sorted not by their actions, but by the motives of their heart. Both groups did “good” things for others. Jesus says to the goats “depart from me, for I never knew you”. It’s Jesus who sorts and Jesus who decides who has a relationship with him, and who doesn’t. The exact same action can be sin for one and righteousness for another.

      And this ties in to my response to the “pink box” questions at the bottom of today’s lesson…

      Eternal life is based upon WHO we believe in and listen to and follow. I’m sure there will be some in heaven who believed in purgatory, but are there because of their faithful relationship with Jesus. While it is important to know the truth about Jesus in order to deepen our intimacy and relationship with him (doctrine), salvation and eternal life is based solely upon Who we believe in (relationship with or without correct doctrine). Can’t you be married to somebody and deeply in love with him even if you don’t fully understand him?

      I personally don’t agree with a requirement of perfect alignment and agreement with the 28 SDA doctrines in order to be baptized and in order to enjoy harmonious fellowship together in SDA churches. We accept Jesus as Savior, and then we have a lifetime walk of going from truth to truth in learning more about Him, and we’re all at different stages and places. Like-mindedness should be like-minded in receiving Jesus (justification), not like-minded in reciting each doctrine in unison and being at the same point of Christian maturity (sanctification). We can share our understandings, but preventing someone from joining Christ’s Body until they’re in lockstep doctrinally? And excommunicating people who have different understandings?

      Romans 14:22,12-18 goes into detail about this. We need to beat the drums about WHO we believe in, not beating people up about WHAT to believe. Judas was one of the disciples until HE left. Jesus invited Judas to join His select group of believers and never forced him to believe, even though He knew Judas’s heart was not in the right place. God sorts wheat and tares, sheep and goats, not us.

      (37)
      • Are the Fundamental Beliefs truth? If so, then they are the truths that WHO we believe in, listen to, and follow have lead us into by His Spirit. If we refuse truth then we will be lead by error and wherever error exists it causes dissension, division, and separation.
        “Ye are the light of the world .” Thus He regards those who believe and practice the truth. When truth is mingled with error, its saving properties are destroyed.” Lt, 14 1901 (January 22, 1901) par. 18

        (10)
        • Dear brother Ralph, please look at this with me....

          It's of a naked man nailed to the cross. His face is so mangled, His body so bruised and beaten with barely any flesh left covering His skeleton, that He no longer looks like a human being. And His body is awash with blood and dirt. And He's dying under the scorching sun with not even a drop of water to cool His tongue. He says,"I thirst". He's utterly alone in the agonizing darkness that is the horror and guilt and pain of sin that is rapidly filling His mind and soul. He cries out, "My God, my God, WHY have You deserted Me?" He's dying under the curse of God. It's a vision of hell.

          My sins are coursing through His veins, mingling with His blood. And He is plunged into the hell that I deserve. In those hours on the cross He steps outside the stream of time, there on the cross He endures a seeming eternity of the infinite wrath of God against sin. Upon the infinite Son burns the infinite wrath until it burns itself out.

          Do you and I need any other truth than what we see here, dear brother?

          Jesus says, "I am the truth...". If we receive Jesus don't we receive the Truth?

          Jesus says, "I will send the Comforter to teach you all things." Do we believe Him enough to let Him lead His Body into a deeper understanding in His timing?

          The hymn swells into repentance and humility and a desire to obediently build our whole lives upon Jesus with the words,

          Christ is made the sure foundation,
          Christ, our head and cornerstone,
          chosen of the Lord and precious,
          binding all the Church in one;
          holy Zion’s help forever
          and our confidence alone.

          Do we need to change the lyrics to "The 28 SDA Fundamental Beliefs are made our sure Foundation..."?

          Is Jesus our confidence alone? Does building upon Jesus ever create dissension, division, separation?

          (12)
          • Hi, Esther. I appreciate the way you are putting first things first. To my mind, the biggest error in the purgatory doctrine is the idea that suffering alone will purify our hearts. There may be times when our sufferings can teach us a lesson, but without knowing and believing the love that God has for us, we'll never be saved. It is His goodness that leads us to repentance.

            That said, I don't think we need to set up a false conflict between the love of Christ and doctrine. As I see it, correct doctrine helps to truly reflect God's character, while error tends to slander Him. You asked:

            "Do you and I need any other truth than what we see here, dear brother?"

            My answer is YES! Otherwise, no additional truths would have been recorded in the Scriptures. We can never get too accurate a picture of what God is like. So, I am happy to let the Spirit fill in the details by any means available.

            Have a great day!

            (4)
            • I'm grateful for your response, dear R.G. It provides me and all of us an opportunity to go even deeper into this thread.

              I agree with you that "we can never get too accurate a picture of what God is like". Like you, I also delight in each new "aha" the Spirit gives me while I'm studying His Word. Probably that is what this forum is about, those of us here are so excited to share what the Spirit is revealing to us!

              If you look back at my initial comment, it was in response to Maurice's post in which he said,

              The point of my story is that Seventh-day Adventists also have their own version of "not good enough" for heaven.

              I was sharing that in my opinion, receiving Jesus is "good enough for heaven". We don't need to receive others' personal understandings of the Truth to be saved. The 28 SDA Fundamental Beliefs do not belong in our baptismal vow. They are exciting viewpoints to discuss as we seek to know God ever more intimately, and to allow to be fluid under the Holy Spirit's promptings.

              Richard Ferguson said this so well that I just have to quote his whole comment here:

              “Are the Fundamental Beliefs truth?” No, they are not the Truth. Instead, the Fundamental Beliefs are a statement of our collective understanding of the Truth and subject to change and refinement as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The one with whom we identify will directly impact our words and actions in the context of our “fundamental beliefs.” For example, Jesus and the Sadducees and Pharisees professed belief in the Sabbath truth; however, the words and actions of each on the Friday and Saturday of the crucifixion of the Lord were very different.

              As I have been prayerfully considering what you said and a reply I might give, at first I was going to leave it at that receiving Jesus on the cross is enough for salvation/justification, and that further study of Scripture is necessary for sanctification/perfection of character. But I am so grateful to have spent more time with this because the Holy Spirit is telling me that it really is just that simple, receiving Jesus, for everything. The thief on the cross beside Jesus, isn't that all he had? All of our analysis and discussions and each new revelation of Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit to see Him more clearly and follow Him more nearly, but truly, ALL we need to know is that Jesus bore our sins that weekend. The whole Hebrew Testament points forward to Jesus on the cross, the whole New Testament points backward to Jesus on the cross. There is no greater demonstration of God's Love. There is no greater revelation of who God is or better reason for why we want to follow Him wherever He goes.

              If we as a body of believers prayerfully focused on Christ and His earthly ministry and example, there would be no dissension among us. Arguing over doctrine and preventing people from joining Christ in baptism until they adhere to each of our understandings brings disunity. Lifting Jesus up as our Sacrifice brings harmony. Jesus is first things first (to use your beautiful phrase), and (if I might humbly add) last things last, and everything in between. And I'm sure you agree.

              Looking back at your comment I am also blessed to consider your sentence, To my mind, the biggest error in the purgatory doctrine is the idea that suffering alone will purify our hearts. The WOW here, for me, is that suffering alone DOES purify hearts...but not my or your suffering...it's God's suffering to that depth for us!

              (10)
            • Thank you, Esther. I do agree. We cannot make our "28 Fundamental Beliefs" into a test of fellowship. Otherwise, we have abandoned our historic position as a consensus doctrine community without a creed.

              Might it sometimes be necessary for us to use church discipline in order to limit the promotion of false teachings among us? I can see this possibility, but having to justify those disciplinary actions by citing the subversive behaviour as "persistence in open sin" would doubtless restrict this to only the most extreme cases.

              A renewed focus on the merits and person of Jesus would surely solve most of our problems as a community of faith.

              (2)
      • “Are the Fundamental Beliefs truth?”

        No, they are not the Truth. Instead, the Fundamental Beliefs are a statement of our collective understanding of the Truth and subject to change and refinement as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The one with whom we identify will directly impact our words and actions in the context of our “fundamental beliefs.” For example, Jesus and the Sadducees and Pharisees professed belief in the Sabbath truth; however, the words and actions of each on the Friday and Saturday of the crucifixion of the Lord were very different.

        (9)
      • Dear Esther – thank you for sharing your insights about who judges/decides the ultimate inclusion of who will be in God’s family. I am encouraged to find your voice represented among the many who share their comments on this SDA blog/discussion forum of believers which invites participants to share their personal understanding of God’s truths.

        I so very much agree with your conclusion that: “we need to beat the drums about WHO we believe in, not beating people up about WHAT to believe." Pointing out that Jesus included Judas in the group of disciples to whom He taught the Father’s truth and how He dealt with him as a person in light of his refusal to fully commit to the faith is also very much appreciated.

        (4)
        • Thank you so much for your encouragement to speak, dear Brigitte. I also really appreciate your phrase "personal understanding of God's truths" because to me it highlights an important point, that the divine truths coming out of our human mouths are filtered through personal understandings.

          Something I pray all the time is: (1) that what God speaks to me personally I will accurately hear; and (2) humbly and faithfully report; and (3) that we as groups of believers will encourage each other to share what God has spoken to us - in a peaceful way that edifies one another - and (4) that with the Holy Spirit's prompting we be open to, and delight in, seeing Him from each other's angles (like the blind men and elephant parable).

          (4)
          • Dear Esther - I join you in your prayer and know that our heavenly Father will reward your love for Him in many blessed ways! Jer.2:13; John4:14.

            (2)
          • Dear Borjana - Yes, Who and What go hand in hand. I think Esther's emphasis is on, figuratively speaking,: 'beating people up' about what to believe, contrasting this to 'beating the drums' about the 'Who' we promote. I do not think she meant to diminish the value of the 'What' contained in Truth.

            (1)
    • I appreciate your point. So where does our “not good enough thinking” come from? Well one place I believe it comes from is our understanding of sanctification as our “fitness” for heaven. We can equate our “fitness” with being “good enough”. Also, we can think of it in terms of “readiness” for Jesus to come as being “good enough” for Jesus to come.

      (2)
    • “Welcome to heaven! There is no need to go to purgatory. You have lived in purgatory the whole of your life!” – what an insightful statement! To bring about awareness regarding this self-imposed purgatory, I am curious to find out in which ways Christians create their own ‘purgatory’ and look forward to reading the different answers.

      Would one find it difficult to put the finger on the many ways one could conduct ‘self-flagellation’; would one approve or disapprove this conduct, be glad or be ashamed? Is the above statement related to SDAs' approach to religious life, recognizing and accepting the many ‘stipulations/restrictions/expectations’ about what constitutes a true SDA believer, or is it the broader “not being good enough” in the general sense, when Christians deal with faith vs. works?

      (1)
  2. What do errors like purgatory or eternal torment teach us about the importance of doctrine? Why is what we believe of importance, and not just in whom we believe?

    The importance of doctrine sets the foundational truths when studying the bible. If there is no doctrine then there is no guidance and direction when studying scripture. Importantly, if the members of the church don’t read the bible for themselves, but solely rely on a priest, pastor, or rabbi to feed them spiritual wisdom puts them in danger. The danger lies in not checking for themselves from the word of God if the doctrine is true or not. The church doctrines or leadership figures can misguide, misquote, or mislead their sheep's to follow a teaching that is not biblical or even dangerous like the doctrine of purgatory, rapture, or a set date of Jesus’ return. Foremost, it is important if the church doctrine is in agreement with the bible. If so, then studying the bible makes it easier to understand difficult bible passages when it comes to prophecy, death, and hellfire, etc. The SDA church has 28 foundational beliefs as key doctrines for guidance and direction when studying the bible and understanding our salvation. The sound doctrines help reveal the character of God and our relationship with Christ. Our faith in Christ is based on an incredibly specific message. If a church organization or popular religious leader modifies or distorts bible truths can have detrimental and eternal impact on those who belong to such religion or religious practices. The gospel is the basis for our salvation, therefore we need to watch [our] life and doctrine closely (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

    (12)
    • Reggie, while I agree with much of what you write, I wonder if maybe you have things backwards or upside-down when you write:

      The importance of doctrine sets the foundational truths when studying the bible. If there is no doctrine then there is no guidance and direction when studying scripture.

      That might be true from a Roman Catholic perspective, in which the church produces Scripture and thus has authority over Scripture.

      However, it seems to me that Bible study, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, allows us to see Bible teachings, aka doctrines. Studying the Bible comes first. Understanding of doctrines comes from such study when we submit to the Holy Spirit's guidance. Bible teachings are Bible doctrines. To understand Bible teachings, it is necessary to pull together material contained in various stories, histories, prophecies, etc. to get a full understanding. Superficial study results in false "doctrines" and false doctrines lead to wrong ideas about God - ideas that can turn people away from God and cause them to lose out on eternal life. In other words, doctrines are important because they form our picture of God.

      As far as they are correct, church doctrines reflect Bible teachings. Seventh-day Adventists never formally adopted a "creed," being afraid that such a "creed" might hamper Bible study. Our statement of fundamental beliefs is supposed to be a summary of Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Bible teachings. They are not necessary for Bible study, but they do help to keep a body of believers together.

      The expression of these concepts help provide an overall picture of what this Christian denomination collectively believes and practices. Together, these teachings reveal a God who is the architect of the world. In wisdom, grace and infinite love, He is actively working to restore a relationship with humanity that will last for eternity. See Official Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

      If our Bible study caused us to come to conclusions different from the stated beliefs, we should probably increase our prayer and study time to see if we might have reached false conclusions.

      For that matter, at this time in our world history, I think we should all increase our prayer time and our study time.

      (26)
      • Hi Inge,

        Yes, I agree with your response.

        The Holy Spirit is the most trustful source (the only source) when studying the bible for guidance, inspiration, revelation, and bible truths. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can understand bible teachings (doctrines) from our personal studies to question its validity and authenticity.

        Church doctrines shouldn’t be above bible truths because the majority of doctrines in many Protestant churches along with Catholic doctrines don’t harmonize or not in full agreement with the holy scriptures. You quoted,

        “If our Bible study caused us to come to conclusions different from the stated beliefs, we should probably increase our prayer and study time to see if we might have reached false conclusions.”

        I couldn’t say it any better. Thank you.

        (4)
    • Hi Reggie. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you are saying in your comment. Being raised for most of my life in the SDA church, I fully embrace our doctrines. But I don’t think doctrines lead to truth, scripture does. Jeremiah 29:13 is such a beautiful promise to all of us. When we clearly understand what it means to “seek Him with all our hearts”, this may lead to doctrine, but it really doesn’t work for me the other way around.

      (6)
      • Hi Karen,

        “But I don’t think doctrines lead to truth, scripture does”.

        Yes, I agree with your statement. Church doctrines don’t override the Word of God.

        God bless 🙂

        (3)
  3. Hebrews 9:27 is clear to me that Jesus was sent by His Father to live life without sin for every single soul that would ever live and has ever lived and also died for them too and resurrected for them too and that it is only our faith in that fact that will make the difference as to whether God gives us an entrance into His Eternal Kingdom. In Jesus parable of the marriage feast only one gets cast out of the reception hall even though the reception hall is full of "Good and Bad People." Only the one without the wedding garment gets cast out---only the one who would not believe in what Jesus did for him or her and for ALL.

    (2)
  4. Doctrines give us a framework by which to start searching the Scriptures. That's why God's people are commissioned to go and teach.

    Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

    Understanding the Bible, for someone new to the Scriptures, can be very confusing. Preaching and teaching gives them a framework to build upon. So now they can take a doctrine (as in what happens to a person when they die), look up the texts, read them in context, and compare them with other texts.

    Scientists learn this way; they look at what knowledge they have and state a hypothesis of what they think it means, then do research to see if this is true or false. Of course, in Biblical truths we need the Holy Spirit's guidance.

    So, in today's lesson we are presented with the Catholic doctrine of a supposedly biblical truth.

    "The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a 'purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,' which is experienced by those 'who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified/' ” (CCC 1030)

    It stimulates those, who want to know if this really is biblical, to open their Bibles to see.
    Why would anyone believe such a doctrine? What passages would they use?

    There is 1 Peter 3:19 where Jesus supposedly preached to spirits in prison.

    Matthew 5:25-26 mentions people in prison till they pay the last penny.

    First Corinthians 3:11-15 talks of the works of the faithful, which will supposedly be tested after death, by fire. Bad works will be burned; good will survive; person will be saved?

    You can find Bible studies on purgatory, and they do have biblical texts they use to support their doctrine.

    But here we see the Adventists have a doctrine that refutes the Catholic doctrine. Some of their texts are listed in the quarterly above.

    Now, we need to seriously study.

    Purgatory changes how one thinks on several doctrines.

    1. The state of the dead. Are they dead, or somehow alive in a state in which they can be cleansed by fire of their works of sin, and live and be saved?

    2. Who paid for our sins? Can we pay for our sins after we die, by suffering torment for a time, till the sins are all burned off? Or did Jesus pay it all on Calvary?

    3. Is there a second chance to obtain salvation after death?

    And there are other issues that affect the whole concept of salvation.

    Doctrines are written out to show how and why a certain group of people believe. They give biblical texts and reasons for their belief. Often a lot of texts and biblical passages that one probably wouldn't find on their own are brought forth on individual topics. They aid in helping people find concepts in Scripture on various issues. They aid in the unity of the church of believers.

    But church doctrines should not take the place of personal study and reading the Scripture to find truths. Each individual needs to compare and search the Scriptures to see what is true and what the abundance of Scripture teaches, so they won't be misled by a seemingly contradictory scriptural passage. It's probably not properly understood. The world offers contradicting doctrines; they are NOT all truth. Once we find a group of believers (a church) who have stated doctrines that agree with Scripture, we can meet together with that group and strengthen each other's faith and commitment.

    (3)
  5. A four committee on Hit The Mark, all agree that our 28 beliefs are our doctrine; so do I. Does doctrine spell out the Truth? I do believe so. Christ is the way, the truth and the life. Doctrine describes the way, the truth and the life.

    (2)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>