Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. If you are new to the program, we have been going through Dave Hunt’s book, In Defense of the Faith, and the value of that is that Dave, through his many years of ministry, has collected a lot of questions, and they are tough questions, Dave.
Dave: Some of them tougher than others, uh-huh.
Tom: Yeah, but the value there is that if the Bible can’t handle tough questions, then it’s not what it claims to be, which is God’s Word. So, I’m going to get right to the first question: “I recently heard some rather persuasive arguments by Catholics for purgatory. First Corinthians 3:12-15 teaches a purification by fire of believers after death. Hebrews:12:14 declares that without ‘holiness...no man shall see the Lord.’ Doesn’t that say we must be made absolutely pure to enter heaven? The same standard seems to be required by the statement ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’ (Matthew:5:8). My assurance of salvation has been shaken. What about such scriptures?” Purgatory, Dave.
Dave: Yeah. Well, it’s not a biblical concept, and the person, whoever it was, who asked this question, is a bit confused. First Corinthians, chapter 3—I recognize that this is a passage that is used to support purgatory However, it says nothing about the person being tried with fire.
Tom: Let me read it, Dave. This is 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, beginning with verse 12: “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire: and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
Dave: It is very clear that it is talking about the fire trying our works—not the person. There is a clear distinction between the man’s works and the man himself. You don’t put someone in a fire to see whether they can be purified, but our works will be tested. It’s a matter of reward—it’s not a matter of…
Tom: Also, this is figurative, more than literal. It can’t be literal.
Dave: It’s not a literal fire—the fire of God’s judgment, I would suggest. In other words, God is going to test our works. What were my motives? What did I do? And every work—well, the Bible says, “God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” So there again, we have the works—our works will be judged. And again, it says that “every man shall be judged according to his works,” okay? The idea that suffering in fire would purify a person—it’s neither biblical nor is it rational.
Tom: Sure, these are moral issues. What does fire—literal fire—have to do with moral issues?
Dave: The only means of cleansing a person from sin is through the blood of Jesus Christ. And the scripture tells us “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” If his blood cleanses us from all sin, then there is no other means of cleansing.
Tom: Dave, explain that a bit. How does that come about? You know what I mean, don’t you?
Dave: Because Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He died in our place. He took the judgment, Isaiah 53: “It pleased Yahweh to bruise him. Thou hath put him to grief when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” Or, “All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way, but Jehovah, Yahweh, has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Second Corinthians, chapter 5, tells us, “He was made to be sin for us, he who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” First Corinthians, chapter 1, [verse 30], says, “He is our righteousness.”
So, it simply is not biblical, and it is not rational. How would suffering in fire, morally, spiritually purify anyone? It simply isn’t true. Now, for any Catholics who may be listening out there, or others who say, “Well, wait a minute, you guys are bashing the Catholic Church.” Look, it’s not a question of bashing the Catholic Church; it’s a question of what does the Bible teach? And if you put your hope in what man has said—some church—a lot of people are not Catholics; they are in fact, trusting other churches. They are trusting some great spiritual leader, a guru, or…
Tom: …their own good works.
Dave: ...or a fine Bible expositor, and they are looking to them as their authority. It isn’t going to work! We have to go by God’s Word. This is why we call this program Search the Scriptures Daily. If God had not spoken, we just have the opinions of men. Where do they get their authority to make these statements, okay?
But let me read from Vatican II. This is where some of this teaching comes from. This is the Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences, and known as Indulgentiarum Doctrina, and it is signed by Pope Paul VI, who closed Vatican II, and this is chapter 1, paragraph 2, and the heading is: “Sin Must Be Expiated.” And this is what it says: “The truth has been divinely revealed [well, not in the Bible] that sins are followed by punishments. God’s holiness…” and, well, I’m sorry—it is divinely revealed that we are punished for sin but not in the way they are talking about or are going to tell us. “God’s holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done…[you see, they are talking about the person doing it]…this may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries, and trials of this life, and above all, through death. Otherwise, the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments, or purifying punishments. [That’s why it’s called purgatory.] This is why the faithful have always been convinced that the paths of evil are strewn with many stumbling blocks,” and so forth. It goes on and says, “Our souls need to be purified.” But you’re not going to be purified by your own suffering. You’re not going to be purified by fire in purgatory.
Now, suffering, as Job experienced, or as Paul talks about the thorn in the flesh—he says, “I prayed God three times that it would be removed from me. But Jesus said, My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” He says, “Therefore, I will glory in my infirmities, my suffering, and my weakness, okay? Because when I am weak then I am strong.”
We do, indeed, learn lessons in suffering and this is one of the problems with Christian psychology. I mean, we’ve got people who don’t have a real problem—some do, but it’s a psychological problem, or they think they have been wronged, or they have been rejected, or whatever it is. Instead of bearing it like Job, instead of bearing it like Joseph when he was thrown into prison, falsely accused, and learning from it, they run to a psychiatrist.
Tom: Looking for some kind of instant solution.
Dave: Yeah, some kind of a quick solution that doesn’t really confront the issues.
Tom: Dave, let me ask a question. As you know, and maybe many of our listeners who have been following our program a long time, my background is Roman Catholic. I was a Roman Catholic for 30-some years, and you stated earlier that this isn’t based on the Bible—the idea of purgatory. But as a former Catholic, we believed that it was based on the Bible, and I’m talking about 2 Maccabees, chapter 12, verses 39-46. Because for us as Roman Catholics, this was a part of the Canon of Scripture. Let me read from II Maccabees, just so you get an idea, for our listeners, what the Catholic Church would be basing this on.
Dave: This is prayers for the dead.
Tom: Right. The context here, 2 Maccabees, it was a battle that took place. Judas Maccabee was a Jewish general, and he, after a battle—and it was a fierce battle—the Jews who had died in this battle, they were on the field, and they went out to bury them, and that’s where I’ll pick up: “On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge, who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. [There’s a big problem there.] The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He took up a collection among all his soldiers amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this, he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view. For if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death, but if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.”
If they were in hell, according to the Catholic Church, this couldn’t have been, so they must have been some place between heaven and hell.
Dave: Yeah, Tom, a lot of problems of course. Number one, you said if they were in hell—well, in fact they would have been, because idolatry is a mortal sin. So, you don’t go to purgatory for a mortal sin.
Tom:According to the Catholic Church…
Dave: They would be in hell, and even according to Catholics themselves, you don’t get out of hell; there is no way to do that. Furthermore, to make an expiatory sacrifice, how would you do that? The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. Furthermore, Maccabees 1 and 2, First and Second Maccabees, it very clearly says in there that there were no prophets among the people—that God was not speaking to His people. Therefore, First and Second Maccabees, on their own word, are not inspired of God—should not be considered a part of the Canon of Scripture.
But they look to this. It is not biblical. In fact, the Bible contradicts it. It says, Hebrews chapter 9, verse 27: “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment.” Not “forgiving sins,” not expiating anything, not purging anything in purgatory, and so forth—judgment, God’s judgment, comes after death. With death, you have had it.
Now let me quote from the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent: “If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged, either in this world or in purgatory, before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.”
Tom: Which means cut off, excommunicated, condemned.
Dave: Right. Tom, there are other problems involved, and if there are any Catholics listening, and, you know, we are trying to reason with people. God says, “Come now and let us reason together.” We are reasoning about eternal life. This is too serious. You don’t just take a chance because a group of bishops—and that was what the Canons and the Decrees of the Council of Trent—that was what Trent was all about. They met to consider the concerns of the Reformers, rejected every one, and pronounced more than 100 anathemas upon them.
But, you see, there are some very serious contradictions. Not only contradictions with the Bible, but contradictions with Catholicism itself. We have the statement that the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross—very clearly it says it—is not sufficient to pay the penalty for temporal sins, and therefore, you yourself, although Christ paid the penalty for eternity for you, that ultimately will give you eternal life, but before you can get into heaven, you yourself must expiate—either in this life, or in purgatory, through the flames of purgatory to purge you—you must expiate these sins yourself. Understand that Christ, the Scripture says, “He suffered once for sin; he, the just for us the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” This is 1 Peter, chapter 1—not “bring us to purgatory,” okay?
Now, if they say Christ’s suffering was not sufficient, you still must suffer yourself…Wait a minute! Tom, as a former Catholic, you know that you could say prayers for the dead. They get this out of 2 Maccabees…
Dave: ...and you, in fact, could suffer—if I can find it here in Vatican II—this is not my copy of Vatican II, Tom; this is your copy.
Tom: I’ve got it highlighted, Dave.
Dave: You certainly have, but it’s a different one. Okay, let me read…this is chapter 3, in Indulgentiarum Doctrina: “From the most ancient times in the Church, good works were also offered to God for the salvation of sinners, particularly the works which human weakness finds hard. Because the sufferings of the martyrs for the faith and for God’s law were thought to be very valuable, penitents used to turn to the martyrs to be helped by their merits to obtain a more speedy reconciliation. Indeed, the prayers and good works of holy people were regarded as of such great value that it could be asserted that the penitent was washed, cleansed, and redeemed with the help of the entire Christian people.”
Now you know this section says that the Church has a treasury, and in the treasury are Christ’s merits, and then the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been added to Christ’s merits. “They are truly immense, unfathomable, even pristine in their value before God, and in the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of the Saints—all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ their Lord, and by His grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation… [That’s very clear—salvation by works] …and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the mystical body.” And it goes on, and it says that “it is from this treasury, which contains the merits of Christ, the prayers and good deeds of Mary, and the merits of the saints, above and beyond what they needed for their own salvation,” the surplus goes into this treasury, and it’s out of this treasury that the church dispenses forgiveness of sins to get people into heaven out of purgatory. It tells you that you can suffer for someone who is in purgatory. Your prayers will be efficacious for someone in purgatory.
Now, let us understand very clearly the contradiction. The Catholic Church says Christ’s sufferings were not sufficient. You must suffer. But, someone else could suffer for you when you’re in purgatory; someone else’s prayers, or this treasury, can work off….You know, Tom…
Tom: Or this scapular, Dave.
Dave: Right, well, but if you are wearing a scapular when you die, that will get you out, providing you’ve done certain other things. But, Tom, you know what it used to be in the Catholic Church—this is the Revision on Indulgences, by the way—and it used to be…and I have old Catholic Bibles, I have old Catholic prayer documents, and so forth…and you would get so many months or years off of purgatory for reading the Bible for fifteen minutes a day.
Tom: Plenary indulgences.
Dave: Right. You would get partial indulgence or plenary indulgence. I mean, the pope, in the year 2000, he opened four holy doors in Rome. Pilgrims came by the millions from around the world to walk through those so-called holy doors to get a plenary indulgence. In fact, in the year 2000, if you gave up cigarettes for one day, you got a plenary indulgence if you were a smoker and gave up cigarettes.
Okay, the point I’m trying to make is this: they changed it! They had a revision. For so many years people would do these certain things to get a plenary indulgence or to get so many years knocked off of purgatory. What did they do when they revised it? And you know that there are seventeen pages on indulgences in Vatican II; there are twenty rules, rather strict and detailed rules, how you can get an indulgence knocking off suffering in purgatory.
I’m trying to say, Christ’s suffering, which the Bible says is sufficient—it cleanses: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who bears away the sin of the world.” The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. But His blood is not sufficient to keep you out of purgatory, and yet you can get indulgences, and someone else can do indulgences for you; they can say Masses for you after your death. If the original sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross was not sufficient, but a Mass, now, will knock off a certain amount of time—you don’t know how much time it will knock off, so Mass after Mass after Mass is said.
But Tom, they changed the indulgences, and now it says, “We no more talk about so many months or so many years knocked off of purgatory, because we don’t know what that means.” For what—1,400 years, or however long, people were trusting in this, and then they said, “No, we can only talk about plenary or partial indulgences!” Tom, it’s a tragedy, because people are trusting in some rules that the Church has laid down—and what does that do? It undermines their trust in Christ. They are not trusting fully in Christ. If they were, they wouldn’t need all of this other stuff.
Tom: Dave, as a practicing Catholic, I ceased to believe in purgatory. It didn’t make sense to me. Then, when I left the Catholic Church, became an evangelical, guess what? I turned back to purgatory. But here is how I turned back to purgatory. Hebrews:1:3: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he by himself purged our sins.” Jesus became…
Dave: That’s not purgatory, Tom, a little bit astray…
Tom: No, it’s not, but He has purged, that’s what I believe in, and, as you were saying, that’s all that we need.
Dave: Okay, Tom, you said that as a Catholic you ceased to believe in purgatory, and there are…and indulgences therefore, because indulgences get you out of purgatory. There are a number of Catholics, many Catholics, probably millions of them, who no longer believe in purgatory. I want to read an anathema for them right out of Vatican II.
Tom: From their church—an infallible statement of their church.
Dave: “The church teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences, approved by the authority of the Sacred Council, should be kept in the Church, and it condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them.” Now, some Catholics may say, “Well, so what! I disagree with a lot that the Church says.”
Okay, let me just warn you of this: If you do not fear your Church’s indulgences, why do you trust her promises for heaven?