Purgatory: How Catholics Prove It Exists


The history of purgatory in ab0ut 805 words.

Ever wonder how Roman Catholics prove the doctrine of purgatory?

Yeah, me too.

That’s why I did a little digging recently.

Here’s what I found.

Purgatory: The Essentials

First, let’s define purgatory.

In a nutshell, purgatory is a place where redeemed souls go to purge their load of venial [forgivable] sins.

It’s a process of purification before they enter heaven.

Here’s what the :

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.

How long does a redeemed soul spend in purgatory? From what I can find, as long as it takes to purge those  sins.

Two days. Two millions years. Just depends.

See, your success in purgatory depends on you. That means you can fail purgatory. No one guarantees you’ll persevere.

Not even God.

However, the good news is that the living can affect your duration. They can pray for you. [See point below.]

So how does one get purged? Fire. It’s a good guess this is a metaphorical fire, but the point is purification–and pain.

Much of what we understand about purgatory originates from Dante’s –depicted as a mountain in the southern hemisphere with Jerusalem at the top, for instance [image above]–is sheer imagination.

Beautiful, but make believe. Which brings us back to our original question.

Purgatory: The Catholic Proofs

So, how do Catholics prove purgatory exists?

Well, for starters, it’s good to know that purgatory is inextricably wedded to the doctrine of . That means you can’t talk about one without talking about the other.

This is how it works.

Both doctrines have their seeds far back in certain pagan religions.

After that, a prayer for the dead can be found in the Old Testament. The catholic Old Testament. The  to be exact. In the context of Maccabeus leaders praying for the dead.

Then, early Christian church catacomb inscriptions bear witness to prayers for the dead.

Next, Catholics find proof in the New Testament. The two main texts used occur in  and .

After that, the doctrine gets it traction in the early church fathers–think Augustine, Bede, Jerome. This is the argument from tradition.

Protestants Reject Purgatory

The doctrine wasn’t seriously challenged until 1,000 years later–early 1500s–when the Reformers rolled up on the scene.

What was at stake? Justification by faith alone–Luther’s pivotal beef with the Catholic church.

The Catholics defended that justification was a life long process as demonstrated by the long history–from pagan to early church to present–of the doctrine.

But the Reformers disagreed.


Not to be rebuffed, the  affirmed that purgatory is necessary to blot out the full debt of venial sins.

What Luther and Co. argued was purgatory amounted to justification mingled with sanctification. Basically justification equals prayer and fasting in this life…fire in the next.

Purgatory: The Protestant Objection

With a formidable case for purgatory, why would any Protestant in his right mind reject it? Several reasons.

First, sola scriptura.

Affirming purgatory–with it’s rich, deep roots in tradition– otherwise compromises the very  as the Protestants rule of faith.

And what does that rule of faith teach? You guessed it: Justification by faith alone.

Take Paul’s defense in  as an example:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

Then there’s Jesus’ parable of the . Jesus states that the tax collector is “justified” before God.

Or what about the ? Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Instant justification by faith alone. There was no more work to be done. That’s why Jesus, on the cross, said, “It is finished.”

What was finished? The work of atonement and propitiation.

In essence, sanctification is a result of justification. Not a prerequisite. And justification is an event that occurs at the moment of faith:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Our justification is an accomplished fact. Not an unfinished project. That’s the Protestant stand. What’s your stand? And did I miss anything? Look forward to your thoughts.

This post was inspired by a reader question. Got a question? Email me.

2 thoughts on “Purgatory: How Catholics Prove It Exists

  1. Louis Gonzales

    Well, actually, you can’t fail purgatory. Catholics consider purgatory to be apart of Heaven. You can’t enter purgatory (fail out) and end up in Hell.

  2. George

    It sure is hard to be a Catholic. You read the Bible, and then the cathechism, and I cannot get out of my mind Jesus’ warning about the yeast of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. But Jesus promised the RCC will prevail over evil, and I may not see it in my lifetime, but you got to believe it. But right now, the RCC is a mess of false teaching. So many will burn for this disastrous theological situation. Satan jas splintered the churches, polluted the teachings in the RCC and caused Catholics to look suspiciously at others who read and ask questions based on the Bible. What a temporary victory for Satan. I pray to the Lord that the RCC prevails over evil sooner rather than later. All catholics need to take responsability to learn what they need know and believe for their personal salvation. But too many don’t question the teachings, and are loyal to the RCC, and will pay with their souls.


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