What Does the Bible Say About Purgatory?

A friend of mine died. For eight nights his friends gathered to recite the rosary for the suffering soul in purgatory. On the ninth night they had the biggest rosary of all. Many people came, many rosaries were recited, and there was a lot of food. All the rosaries were for the deceased.

"We did it," they told me, "to ease his passage from purgatory to heaven."

I did not go to these rosaries. I did not go because I did not believe in purgatory. I believe in hell and heaven. I believe when a person dies he goes to either heaven or hell. And I believe there are no prayers we can offer, no rosaries we can recite, nothing we can do to affect a person's destiny.

Many people ask me: "Why don't you believe in purgatory? The priests teach it and . . . well, they've always said there's a purgatory. And you don't believe it?"

In this tract I will explain why I don't believe in purgatory. But first let's consider:

What Does the Catholic Church Say About Purgatory?

According to the Catholic Church, the souls of men who have died under grace but are not free of all imperfections go to purgatory. The Catholic Church teaches that "the soul in purgatory must be freed of certain defects: (1) the guilt of venial sin; (2) the inclination toward sin (inordinate desires); and (3) temporal punishment due to sin".1 "The Church also teaches that the punishment due to sin, whether mortal or venial, is not always and necessarily forgiven along with the guilt of sin; hence this punishment is to be paid by the sinner either in this life or in the next before he can enter the kingdom of heaven (Denz 1580,1712)."2

The Catholic church also teaches that: "Concretely, the souls in purgatory can be helped by works of piety, such as prayer, indulgences, alms, fasting, and sacrifices. These works are undertaken by the faithful on earth . . . and they are performed for the benefit of these souls."3 It says that "the manner in which this is accomplished is hidden in the mystery of divine wisom."4

With this teaching, the Catholic Church is saying that Christ's work was not sufficient to take away our sin. It only takes away our guilt. According to the Catholic Church, whether Christ died or not, we must go to purgatory to pay for our sins. But...

What Does the Bible Say?

The Bible says nothing about purgatory. Not one time does it refer to a place where the souls of men go to pay for their sins before going to heaven.

But yes, the Bible does speak of sin and of its results. It speaks of what people will face after death.

The Bible teaches that because of our sins we are condemned to eternal death (Ezekiel 18:4). Christ died for our sins, taking the curse of our sins upon Himself (I Peter 2:24; Galatians 3:13,14). The Bible says clearly that Jesus' death was enough to pay for all our sins: "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest [refers to the Jewish priests] standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.... For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:10-14).

Because of Christ's sacrifice, God promises in the same passage:

"And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (Hebrews 10:17,18). Through Christ Jesus we can have remission of sins. When He was sacrificed on the cross of Calvary, God made Him our eternal High Priest. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25).

Notice that the Bible says that Christ's offering was forever. It says that by one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified. And it says that beyond Christ's death, there is no more sacrifice for sin. By the sacrifice of Himself, Christ has saved forever those that come unto God by Him.

The Bible says nothing about us suffering the punishment of our sins if we receive salvation through Christ.

What Awaits the Wicked When They Die?

According to the Bible, it is those who reject salvation and continue in sin who will suffer for eternity. "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). The prayers of the saints can never gain them passage into heaven.

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

What Awaits the Righteous When They Die?

David, king of Israel, wrote: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me " (Psalm 23:4).

Solomon, another king of Israel, wrote: "The righteous hath hope in his death. " (Proverbs 14:32).

Lazarus, the sore-covered beggar, died. Of his death Jesus said: "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22).

The thief, dying on a cross for his sins, heard these words of Jesus: "Verily I say unto thee, To day shall thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

Stephen, dying because of stones thrown by furious Jews, saw—not the flames of purgatory—but "the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55).

And the Apostle Paul, who before his conversion had imprisoned and killed Christians, had this hope: "For to me ... to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21).

The Bible nowhere mentions any punishment that awaits the righteous after death. Instead, it describes a pure bliss that awaits them.

Why Don't I Believe in Purgatory?

I do not believe in purgatory because God mentions it nowhere in the Bible. And if God does not tell us about purgatory, who else has the authority to do so? Only God can tell us what is beyond death. If men, who have not seen what is beyond death, produce a theory of what will happen after death, their theory is not valid. And although they say it thousands of times over thousands of years, it is nothing more than a tradition of men. Paul warns: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men... and not after Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

Some Catholics admit that their doctrine is not based on the Bible. The New Catholic Encyclopedia says, "In the final analysis, the Catholic doctrine on purgatory is based on tradition, not Sacred Scriptures."5

This is true, because the Bible nowhere mentions purgatory. I believe what the Bible says in Colossians 2:13, 14: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."

I believe that when the Bible says "all sins" it means all of them.

Concerning eternal things and the invisible world, I cannot believe anything more than what the Bible says. I cannot add to it.

Friend, don't wait to be purified in purgatory. Seek purification today in Jesus. Without purification from sin you will not be saved.

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).

-Mark Yoder


  1. New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volumn 11, page 1037 Copyright 1967
  2. Ibid, page 1035
  3. Ibid, page 1039
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid, page 1034

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