Does 2 Timothy 1:16-18 teach Purgatory?

Catholicism differs in many respects from Biblical Christianity, including its belief in Purgatory. The Catholic church defines Purgatory as “a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating (i.e., atoning for) their sins before going to Heaven.” Catholicism teaches that even one unconfessed mortal (i.e., major) sin on the soul dooms a person to Hell, while venial (i.e., small) sins or any residual temporal punishment remaining after confession must be expiated in Purgatory. However, references to Purgatory can neither be found explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. Catholic apologists, of course, argue that the doctrine is based on Scripture.

The other day I was listening to my daily dose of Catholic talk radio via the “Called to Communion” radio show with host David Anders and a listener called in asking where Purgatory could be found in the Bible. Anders responded by saying the doctrine of Purgatory and praying for the dead can be found in 2 Maccabees 12:38-46. See here.

While the Roman Catholic church accepts 2 Maccabees and the other books of the Apocrypha (1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Wisdom (Wisdom of Solomon), Baruch, Tobit, Judith, and additions to Daniel and Esther) as Scripture, the Jews of ancient Israel never embraced those materials as Scripture and, likewise, Jesus and the Apostles never quoted from them. Besides, the dead soldiers cited in the passage had been participating in gross idolatry, a “mortal” sin according to Catholic dogma, so they would have been disqualified from Purgatory anyway.

But wait! Anders also claimed the apostle, Paul, refers to Purgatory in 2 Timothy 1:16-18. Let’s take a look at that passage:

“16) May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17) but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— 18) may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.”

But is this passage referring to Purgatory? Let’s look at John MacArthur’s exegesis of this passage from “The MacArthur Bible Commentary,” 2005, p. 1805:

1:16 Onesiphorus. One of Paul’s loyal coworkers who had not deserted Paul, but befriended him in prison and was not ashamed or afraid to visit the apostle there regularly and minister to his needs. Since Paul asks Timothy to greet those in his house (4:19), the family obviously lived in or near Ephesus.

1:17 when he arrived in Rome. Onesiphorus was perhaps on a business trip, and the text implies that his search involved time, effort, and possibly even danger.

1:18 that day. This is also called the “Day of Christ,” when believers will stand before the judgement seat and be rewarded (Phil. 1:6, Phil. 1:10, 1 Cor. 3:13, 2 Cor. 5:10, 1 Pet. 1:5).

Catholicism errs greatly by confusing the judgement seat of Christ (the Bema Seat), where the works of saved believers will be judged, with the Great White Throne Judgement where the unsaved will be judged in their sins and condemned to Hell.

Claiming from 2 Timothy 1:16-18 that Onesiphorus is dead and in Purgatory and that Paul is praying for him is forcing-a-square-peg-through-a-round-hole eisegesis. Onesiphorus was alive at the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy and the apostle was praying that Onesiphorus be rewarded at the Bema Seat for his service and was also praying for his family back in Ephesus for their sacrifice in his absence.

Over the centuries, Rome, with its works gospel of sacramental grace and merit, created an elaborate system with regards to Purgatory involving indulgences, the church’s treasury of merit, and prayers for the dead. But believers know that God’s Word mentions only two afterlife destinations for the dead; Heaven and Hell.

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” – 2 Cor. 5:6-8

There is no “middle place” for the punishment of small sins. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” – James 2:10. Purgatory is a man-made creation meant as a “safety net” for credulous works religionists. There is only Heaven and Hell. We are all sinners and none of us can merit Heaven. Repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

What does the Bible say about Purgatory?

14 thoughts on “Does 2 Timothy 1:16-18 teach Purgatory?

    1. Thanks, sister! I routinely hear Catholic apologists cite 2 Maccabees and 1 Corinthians 3:15 as “proofs” for purgatory, but the citing of 2 Timothy 1:16-18 was a new one on me. I checked several of my books that examine Catholicism and the doctrine of purgatory and, sure enough, the passage was mentioned by some. I guess I had glossed over it previously. I’m glad the post was helpful for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Good post; I pray the Lord would use this for those looking for the truth and are in Catholicism; I don’t know how you can extrapolate from 2 Timothy 1:16-18 the doctrine of purgatory. It isn’t there at all! There’s no mention of fire, expiration, the two category of sins, etc. The Papists on their radio show is reading too much into the word “day” and not exegeting that is drawing out from what the verse itself teaches!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As a result of this post I was thinking maybe I should write some posts looking at some other verses Roman Catholics use to try to argue for purgatory and responding to them…but this post here is good Tom

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would enjoy seeing that! Besides 2 Maccabees, the two Bible verses I see most often to justify purgatory are 1 Cor. 3:15 and Matthew 12:32.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I will slowly get to it! All those Bible contradictions I spend a long time looking again and again so I usually juggle a few in my mind before I finally get one post written. I just want to really handle the passage well and better an overkill than the critic keep on battling it out in the comments of the post if that makes sense

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  2. You’re wrongly interpreting scripture. Onesiperus was dead and is a saint in both Catholic and orthodox traditions. Protestantism is a 26th century invention and is not biblical.


    1. Paul George, your church proclaims that all religionists – Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.- and even atheists may also merit Heaven if they “sincerely” follow their “faith”/conscience and are “good.” This alone is enough to prove the RCC is totally apostate. Don’t even bother dickering about fallacious purgatory.


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