Purgatory = comes from the Latin word, “purgatorium,” means to cleanse, or purify.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has 3 paragraphs on purgatory (CCC 1030-1032) and explains the following:

1. That there is a purification after death.

2. That this purification involves some kind of pain or discomfort.

3. That God assists those in this purification in response to the actions of the living.


Bible verses on purgatory:

Old Testament

1. In 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, we discover Judas Maccabeus and members of his Jewish military forces collecting the bodies of some fallen comrades who had been killed in battle. When they discovered these men were carrying “sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear” (vs. 40), Judas and his companions discerned they had died as a punishment for sin. Therefore, Judas and his men,

“… turned to prayer beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out… He also took up a collection… and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably… Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”

New Testament

1.  “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become manifest; for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire(1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

In Scripture, “fire” is used metaphorically in two ways: as a purifying agent (Mal. 3:2-3; Matt. 3:11; Mark 9:49); and as that which consumes (Matt. 3:12; 2 Thess. 1:7-8). So it is a fitting symbol here for God’s judgment.

2. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. (Matthew 12:32).

This declaration of our Lord implies there are at least some sins that can be forgiven in the next life to a people who already believed it. Matthew 12:32 is not only helpful in showing that some sins are remitted in the “age to come” (i.e. In purgatory), but it also illustrates that Christians can lose their justification (i.e. “right standing before God) through serious sin.

Now such a statement would not only be meaningless, but also misleading in the highest degree if in the next life forgiveness were a thing impossible. Likewise the saying in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:26, which we read just a minute ago, “Thou shalt then by no means come out until thou hast paid the last farthing” admits of a like interpretation.

3. Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last penny. (Matthew 5: 25-26).

Tertullian explained in 214 A.D. that: “it is most fitting that the soul, without waiting for the flesh, be punished for what it did without the partnership of the flesh . . . if we understand that prison of which the Gospel speaks to be Hades, and if we interpret the last farthing to be the light offense which is to be expiated there before the resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul undergoes some punishments in Hades, without prejudice to the fullness of the resurrection, after which recompense will be made through the flesh also.”

4.Follow peace with all men, and holiness: without which no man shall see God.” (Hebrews 12:14).

Forgiveness of sins is one thing, but this verse from Hebrews indicates we must attain a level of holiness to see the Lord. From Scott Hahn: If you suffer in the flesh, you have ceased from sin. If you don’t suffer in the flesh, Hebrew 12 makes it perfectly clear, that, you are an illegitimate child. Only God’s children does He inflict suffering on. He says the illegitimate children, He lets them go and have an easy time. We are disciplined because we are loved and if it hurts, if it burns, it’s because that’s because that’s the way God’s love is. It gives of itself. God’s whole essence is self-donation and He calls us to be imitators of God, Paul says. We imitate God when we become self- donators, self-givers and you can’t do that as finite creatures without self-sacrifice, and you can’t sacrifice self without pain. You can’t love without sacrifice.

5. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  (Revelation 21: 27)

6. For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges. … but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness. (Hebrews 12: 6,10)
7. The genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 1:7).

Early Church Fathers:

“We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries [the date of death—birth into eternal life]” (The Crown 3:3 [A.D. 211]). Tertullian

“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them” (Homilies on First Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392]).  St. John Chrysostom

“That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69 [A.D. 421]).  St Augustine

It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the Day of Judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord (Letters 51[55]:20 [A.D. 253]). – Cyprian of Carthage

Quotes on purgatory:

“I believe in Purgatory. . . . Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not beak the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.’ “It may hurt, you know’–“Even so, sir.'” – C.S. Lewis

 You can think of purgatory as a kind of divine emergency room for souls; the process through which God, the Divine Physician, removes all traces of venial sins unrepented of before death, and heals our self-inflicted wounds of serious sin that we accumulate in this life. In purgatory, our wounds are healed, the scars are erased, and our souls are scrubbed by God’s fiery love, washed white as snow by the shed Blood of the Lamb, made ready to enter into the eternal wedding feast we call heaven. – Patrick Madrid

“We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter heaven.” & “Consider then…the magnitude of these sufferings which the souls in Purgatory endure; and the means which we have of mitigating them: our prayers, our good works, and, above all, the holy sacrifice of the Mass.” St. John Vianney


Questions answered:

1. Is purgatory a place?

Taken from Jimmy Akin’s How to explain purgatory article:

The Church teaches that purgatory is the final purification, but not that it occurs in any special region in the afterlife. Just as we do not know how time works in the afterlife – meaning that purgatory may take no time – we also do not know how space works in the afterlife, especially for unembodied souls – meaning purgatory may not take place in any special location. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger describes purgatory as a fiery, transforming encounter with Christ and his love:

“Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i.e., capable of full unity with Christ and God] and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith… Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord <is >this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy.”

Thus according to Ratzinger’s way of explaining the doctrine, as we are drawn out of this life and into direct union with Jesus, his fiery love and holiness burns away all the dross and impurities in our souls and makes us fit for life in the glorious, overwhelming light of God’s presence and holiness.

2. Doesn’t purgatory infringe on Christ’s sacrifice for us?

Purgatory does not imply Christ’s sufferings were insufficient; rather it is because of Christ’s sufferings that we are given the final sanctification of purgatory in the first place. Purgatory is simply the last stage of sanctification. And sanctification involves pain, for “the lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.. and for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Hebrews 12:6, 11).

3. Is purgatory painful?

The souls in purgatory have an overwhelming number of reasons to experience greater joy than comparable on earth: [1] freedom from committing sin, [2] freedom from the desire to sin, [3] closer unity with God and Christ, [4] certainty of one’s final salvation in a way not possible in this life, [5] full appreciation of how gracious God has been with us.

4. What do we do in purgatory?

“Purgatory is not a place where the soul works or earns or in any way does something to cleanse himself — all purification that takes place in purgatory is done by God to the soul. Or, to put it a different way, in purgatory, the soul remains passive as the saving blood of Jesus Christ washes away the impurities and temporal effects due to sin from the soul. This is because those who go to purgatory are assured of their salvation; there is nothing for them to do – Christ does it all in his merciful act of preparing his beloved to enter into the wedding feast.” – Patrick Madrid


Final thoughts:

1. We continue sinning until the end of this life because of our corrupt nature. However, we will not be sinning in heaven because we will no longer have a corrupt nature. Thus between death and glory there must be a sanctification – a purification – of our natures.


  1. I agree with your point of view of this article. This is a good article. Very timely given us so much useful information. Thank you!

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