Christians believe in a literal Heaven and Hell. Those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior in this lifetime will go to Heaven to be with their Lord. Those who do not accept Christ will go to Hell, which was made for Satan and his demons.:
Roman Catholicism teaches a third after-life destination called Purgatory. Catholics are taught their salvation depends on participation in the sacraments, which bestow grace, which enables a person to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules so they can be in a perfect “state of grace” when they die, so they can merit Heaven.
People being people, the church teaches that most won’t be able to achieve a sinless “state of grace” – there’s all those pesky unconfessed “venial” sins and the residue of unmeted temporal punishment for “mortal” sins absolved in the confessional – so God allegedly created Purgatory so imperfect souls can be cleansed before they enter Heaven. The justification for Purgatory comes mainly from the apocryphal 2 Maccabees 12 where Jews offered sacrifices for the souls of dead soldiers. The problem is the dead soldiers were blatant idolaters, a mortal sin, which made them ineligible for Purgatory.
I don’t want to go too deep into this Purgatory business. It’s irresponsible exegesis and just another facet of a works salvation system. But what I do want to clarify is what exactly Catholicism teaches regarding the suffering involved in Purgatory. If souls must be purified in Purgatory, how much pain is involved? I was listening to the 7/3/14 podcast of the Calling All Catholics talk radio show (Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY) today and “father” Dave Baker dismissed the notion of suffering in Purgatory. “(Purgatory) is a rest stop on the way to Heaven…I don’t think they’re suffering pain. It’s more they can hear that there’s a big party down the hall in Heaven and they can’t get there yet. So that’s the source of suffering,” reasoned Baker. I’ve heard another priest, “father” Rick Poblocki, make similar dismissive statements on the show regarding the notion of painful suffering in Purgatory.
This comfortable “waiting lounge” version of Purgatory might appeal to post-modern sensibilities but I must protest. Wait a minute! Not so fast! In the past, Catholic theologians taught that the cleansing fires of Purgatory were EXTREMELY painful. Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the church, declared, “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. Nothing but the eternal duration makes the fire of hell more terrible than that of purgatory.” Many other notable Catholics of the past claimed the sufferings in Purgatory equaled those of Hell.
So when it comes to the alleged suffering in Purgatory, are Catholics supposed to believe saint Thomas Aquinas or fathers Baker and Poblocki? The Catholic church changes its mind on these kinds of details all the time but nobody seems to ever bat an eyelash.
Instead of trusting in man-made religious doctrines that forever change, put your trust in the Rock, Jesus Christ. I’m so grateful the Lord led me out of legalistic religion and opened my eyes to His Good News of salvation by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. My Jesus paid the penalty for ALL of my sins and covered me in His perfect righteousness. I have no plea other than Him!