Eternal Life in Christ or Despair in Roman Catholic Purgatory?

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By Richard Bennett and Stuart Quint

The Roman Catholic Church spells out its teaching on life after death with the heading “The Final Purification, or Purgatory”:

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”[1]

Is Purgatory really necessary for people to be “assured of their eternal salvation”? Did God actually invent this “Final Purification” with the goal “to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven”? Did Jesus truly die so that people could assist Him in preparing us for eternal life?

Christ’s Gospel Denies Catholic Purgatory

God never taught such a crude Papist invention as Purgatory. In fact, Purgatory denies the very essence of His mercy and the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement on the cross.

The Lord Jesus Christ willingly died once for the believer’s sins. He died in our place to pay the debt that we could never pay. As Scripture so clearly states “Who his own self bare the believer’s sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”[2]

How devastating it is that Catholics continue to trust in things that cannot save them from the Lord God’s wrath! Yet Catholics are taught not to trust in the one-time, sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Lord Christ Jesus appeared “to take away sins once for all”[3] by His sacrifice. Only Jesus can justify a believer: Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”[4]

The Roman Catholic Church still resists Christ’s atonement according to Vatican II:

“Sins must be expiated…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.[5]

Roman Catholic teachings also contradict another accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ: the purification of sins. The Lord in Scripture declares “when he had by himself purged the believer’s sins, [He] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”[6] The Apostle John also proclaimed that those who trust Christ are purified from all sin, by His blood.[7]
Purgatory: Another Instrument of Rome’s Oppression over Catholic People

What a terrible deception to impose on faithful Roman Catholics who look to their Roman Church for such a fabrication! The very reason and purpose the Lord Jesus Christ became man and suffered such an excruciating death was to expiate sin, once and for all, by His perfect sacrifice.

In contrast, being reconciled to God is difficult for Catholics to comprehend. The Roman Catholic Church indoctrinates them that the only way to make peace with God is through a life long journey of works, receiving the sacraments, going to Mass and doing penance.

L.H. Lehmann, a former Catholic priest who grew up in Ireland early in the 20th century, describes the spiritual and psychological condition of Irish Catholics:

“A sense of constant fear overshadowed everything. Ingrained fear is, in fact, the predominant note running through the life of all children born and reared in Catholic Ireland. Few ever get rid of it completely in this life, even in America. That fear concerns everything in this life on earth, and still more terrible is the fear of the terrors in the life beyond the grave.”[8]

The Roman Catholic Church has yet to define when Purgatory actually ends for suffering souls. The famous Jesuit Robert Bellarmine states:

“There is no doubt that the pains of Purgatory are not limited to ten and twenty years, and that they last in some cases entire centuries. But allowing it to be true that their duration did not exceed ten or twenty years, can we account it as nothing to have to endure for ten or twenty years the most excruciating sufferings without the least alleviation?”[9]

Indeed, the description of suffering in Purgatory vs. Hell is similar if not identical in terms of intensity and quality! Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas states:

“It is the same fire that torments the reprobate in hell, and the just in purgatory. The least pain in purgatory surpasses the greatest suffering in this life.”[10]

The Lord Christ Jesus reconciled believers to God, changing their relationship with God from hostility to harmony. The completion of the reconciliation of you as a human person to God occurs when you repent and trust the Lord Christ as your Savior: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”[11]

The only proper way to respond to Christ’s accomplishments and receive true reconciliation with God is a response of repentance and faith. We must put our trust in Christ and cease from trusting in anything else. The Lord made the will of the Father abundantly clear:

“This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”[12]

“Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”[13]

“Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness.”[14]

Roman Catholic Indulgences Lack Any Merit with Christ!

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes that her false doctrine of Purgatory creates problems for her adherents. Rome also exploits indulgences as yet another instrument of dominating the minds and hearts of Catholic people. Devout Catholics seeking to mitigate their time of suffering in Purgatory are eager to seek indulgences from the Pope.

Vatican Council II reaffirms the centuries old practice of indulgences:

“The conviction was present in the Church that the pastors of the Lord’s flock could set the individual free from the vestiges of sin by applying to him the merits of Christ and of the saints. In the course of the centuries and under the influence of the Holy Spirit’s continuous inspiration of the People of God this conviction led to the practice of indulgences.”[15]

Indeed, the practice of indulgences was unknown to the early church. The practice arose sometime in the Middle Ages. The first known Pope to grant a plenary indulgence – a total exemption from suffering in Purgatory for a temporary period – was Pope Urban II in 1096 at the Synod of Clermont. He offered plenary indulgence to those who would fight in the Crusades. Pope Clement VI (1342-1352) formally defined indulgences as the Roman church’s “treasury of merit” which can transfer the “excess merits” of one believer to another. Pope Sixtus IV in 1477 extended the application of indulgences to the dead and not just the living.[16]

Rome attempts to rationalize this absurd practice by citing as authority the apocryphal 2 Maccabees as supporting its doctrines of indulgences and Purgatory.[17] Rome’s arguments are baseless. Jews before and after the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ rejected the apocryphal books as inspired by God and worthy of inclusion in the Holy Scriptures. More importantly, portions of these books deny the clear teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.[18]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church omits one interesting detail in its citation of 2 Maccabees as authoritative for today’s use of indulgences. Just as for masses for the dead, indulgences also involve significant financial remuneration for an “expiatory sacrifice” of a Catholic priest.[19]

Yet in spite of the clear arguments debunking such absurd practices, Vatican Council II declares:

“It ‘teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences – a usage most beneficial to Christians and approved by the authority of the Sacred Councils – 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.'”[20]

Pope Francis Still Peddles Indulgences to the Catholic Faithful

The Catholic News Agency states that Pope Francis continues the business of rendering “time off” from Purgatory through granting indulgences. For those not observing the five hundred year commemoration of the Protestant Reformation in 2017, people would have had time to gain a plenary indulgence – by special veneration of Rome’s “Manufactured Mary” of Fatima:

“For the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Pope Francis has decided to grant a plenary indulgence opportunity throughout the entire anniversary year, which began Nov. 27, 2016, and will end Nov. 26, 2017.”[21]

The article lists three ways to gain a “plenary indulgence”. The obedient Catholic must attend a monthly mass in adoration of Mary for each of 6 months either at Fatima, another site, or simply paying homage to a statue if the Catholic were interred or shut in.

In Vain, Rome Commands Prayers and Masses for the Dead

“The Catholic practice of prayer for the dead is bound up with our belief in the reality of purgatory. Unless we die in a state of perfection, i.e., not only with all our sins forgiven, but also with all temporal punishment due to sin remitted, we cannot enter heaven. Nothing imperfect can enter the presence of God.”[22]

The Papacy enslaves Catholics who are struggling to merit salvation through their good works. What the Roman system offers with one hand, it takes away with the other. Rome offers indulgences to assuage Catholics’ consciences of their sins and gives false hope in a “kinder, gentler” version of Hell called “purgatory”.

Yet, Rome fails to deliver the true solution to the problem of man’s sin and his alienation from God. Catholic doctrine leaves people guilty in their sin, even as they seek relief in vain from God’s wrath.

Apart from the Gospel, Catholic men and women live under guilt. Thus, the Catholic Church persuades loyal Catholic people to pay for Masses to be said for their loved ones. Presumably their relatives will pay the same for them when they die.

This Roman Catholic teaching is one of the biggest money-spinners in the Catholic system. Once caught in the Catholic belief system, a person is enslaved with no true hope of relief in this life or the next. Regardless of whether they are rich or poor, Catholic people will pay for Masses for the dead. Such is the official teaching of the Catholic Church:

“From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.” [23]

Conclusion: Believe in Christ’s Gospel, Not Rome’s False Promises

What is your true hope for eternal life?

First, the most important truth is God Himself. God is infinite, eternal, unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. He is the all Holy One. His Holiness is the attribute that covers all attributes so that His righteousness is Holy, His truth is Holy, His justice is Holy. He is each of His attributes. Holiness is that which separates Him from all other beings. He is utterly different than us. This is why we are in need of salvation before the All Holy God. “There is none holy as the Lord there is besides thee neither is there any rock like our God.[24]Who shall not fear thee O Lord and glorify Thy name for thou only art holy and all nations shall come and worship before thee?[25]

The mediator between God and man is equally serious because it is only in the one who is truly the God-man, Christ Jesus that we can be brought into relationship with the All Holy God. Scripture says, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man the man Christ Jesus.”[26] The Apostle Peter elaborates: “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”[27]

In contrast, the Roman Catholic Church rejects Christ as the unique Redeemer and Mediator of our souls. Instead, Rome insists that its manufactured version of Mary also plays the role of mediator (“Mediatrix”). Pope Francis continues to endorse official Catholic doctrine:

“Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold

intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…. Therefore the

Blessed Virgin is invoked in the [Roman Catholic] Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”[28]

Before the All Holy God we are saved by His grace alone. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works as anyone should boast.”[29]

The utter disparity between grace and works is clearly shown in many texts in Scripture. “For if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.”[30] Only God through His grace has the power and the merit to save us. We cannot save ourselves by our own works.

In contrast, the Catholic Church has defined grace as merely a tool by which people attain their own salvation.

“Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.”[31]

“In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the 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 and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in unity of the Mystical Body.”[32]

Rome focuses peoples’ attention on faith in the church herself and her sacraments.

The Bible instead teaches us to trust in Christ alone: “‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and Thy house.’”[33]

However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.[34]


[1] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a12.htm accessed on January 6, 2018. Paragraph 1030.

[2] I Peter 2:24. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible verses cited from the King James Version on www.biblegateway.com.

[3] Hebrews 10.10

[4] Romans 3:25

[5] Paul VI, “Indulgentiarum Doctrina”, 1 January 1967, Chapter I, Para.2 in General Editor Austin Flannery, O.P., Vatican Council II The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, (1975: Scholarly Resources, Inc., Wilmington, DE, USA), 63. Italics in original.

[6] Hebrews 1:3

[7] 1 John 1:7

[8] L.H. Lehmann, The Soul of a Priest, (1944: Loizeaux Brothers, New York, NY) 34. Cited in Lorraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, (1962: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philipsburg, NJ, USA) 232.

[9] Robert Bellarmine, De Gemitu, Book 2, Chapter 9. Cited in Lorraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, (1962: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philipsburg, NJ, USA) 220. Authors’ emphasis.

[10] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Question 100, Acts 2, Number 3 cited in http://op54rosary.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-pain-of-fire-in-purgatory accessed on January 6, 2018. Authors’ emphasis.

[11] Ephesians 1:7

[12] John 6:29

[13] Mark 1:15

[14] Hebrews 3:7-8

[15] “Indulgentiarum Doctrina”, Para. 8.

[16] Lorraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, (1962: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Philipsburg, NJ, USA) 285-6.

[17] See Catechism, Para. 1032: “This teaching is based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: ‘Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.’… The Church also commands almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead…” Authors’ emphasis. What

[18] See Don Stewart, “Why Were the Books of the Old Testament Apocrypha Rejected as Holy Scripture by the Protestants?” on https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_395.cfm accessed on January 6, 2018.

[19] “He then 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 in mind… Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.” 2 Maccabees 12:43 on http://www.usccb.org/bible/2mc/12 accessed on January 6, 2018.

[20] Idem.

[21] Maria Ximena Rondon, “Three ways to obtain an indulgence for the 100-year Fatima anniversary”, C.N.A. Catholic News Agency, December 1, 2016 on https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/three-ways-to-obtain-an-indulgence-for-the-100-year-fatima-anniversary-78258 accessed on January 6, 2018. Authors’ emphasis.

[22] Bishop Michael J. Sheridan, “Prayer for the Dead, Part 1”, Catholic Herald Online, (November 2, 2007: Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO, USA) on https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7858 accessed on January 6, 2018.

[23] Catechism, Para. 1032.

[24] 1 Samuel 2:2.

[25] Revelation 15:4.

[26] 1 Timothy 2:5

[27] Acts 4:12

[28] Catechism, Para. 969

[29] Ephesians 2:8-9

[30] Romans 11:6

[31] Catechism, Para. 2021

[32] Catechism, Para. 1477

[33] Acts 16:31

[34] Romans 4:5