1. What is purgatory?

This is a teaching of some religious groups, particularly the Catholic Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Purgatory comes from the Latin word  “purgare” which means  to make clean, to purify. Purgatory, according to  Catholic teaching,  is 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.

Catholicism teaches that  God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin.  He therefore administers temporal punishment, even after the sin itself has been pardoned.  The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works is necessary for pardon.  Therefore, the church believes  that the sinner  must do penance in this life. If he or she does not do penance in this life, punishment may be administered in another world, in order to prevent the sinner from  being cast off eternally from God.

2. Venial sins

Catholicism teaches that all sins are not equal before God. Therefore, punishments meted out for the daily faults of human frailty are less severe than those meted out for serious violation of God’s law. However, whosoever comes into God’s presence must be perfectly pure for in the strictest sense since His “eyes are too pure, to behold evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). The Catholic Church has always taught the doctrineof purgatory to take into account the sinner who has unrepented venial faults for the payment of temporal punishment due to sin at time of death.

3. Praying for the dead

Catholics therefore hold to the practice of praying for the dead in order  to afford solace to those who are excluded from the sight of God after they die. Intercession is therefore  made for the purification of the spirit of the departed. Believing that God has hears the prayer, Catholics teach  that  He allows the spirit  to pass into a place of light and refreshment.”

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm

4. Scriptural anecdotes about hell

One of my first responses to this question is to resort to anecdotal experiences of spirits in scripture who went to hell. Here  is what I found so far:

  • Hell was reserved for the devil and the  angels that rebelled. Apostle Jude says that they are “…reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” This is also the fate of those unbelieving human spirits that join them there.
  • The unbelieving Jew in Luke  16 who went there was not allowed to escape to heaven even though he was repentant. In fact, Abraham told him that there was a gulf between hell and heaven and that there was no way that he could traverse it.
  • Jesus was the only Spirit that escaped from hell because as Lord of heaven and earth, it was not possible that death should hold him.
  • Apart from Jesus, the unbelieving who had died in the flood of Noah’s time were taken captive and translated to heaven. In fact, they had spent all of those centuries in the prison until Jesus preached to them. No provision had been otherwise made for their escape.
  • Apart from this there is no other scriptural example, to the best of my knowledge, of anyone being moved from hell to heaven. In fact, Rev 20: 13 says that on the day of Judgement, “death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”  This clearly shows that hell is an eternal punishment.
  • When the Apostles Peter and Paul prayed for the dead Dorcas and Eutychus, they resurrected them back to physical  life.
  • Scriptures teach about the sanctification of the spirit while the person is alive to make us fit fof the kingdom of heaven. No sin will enter there.  

Blessings and more to come!

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