Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist begins a new section on “The Last Things” as he attempts to counter Protestants’ objections to Purgatory as they cite Jesus’s words to the thief on the cross, “Today You Will Be with Me.”
The Roman Catholic church teaches that all those who die with unconfessed “mortal” (major/deadly) sin on their soul are consigned to Hell, but those with “venial” (minor/pardonable) sin or any remaining “temporal punishment” for sin are delivered to Purgatory for purification before they can advance to Heaven.
“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.” – CCC 1031
Broussard notes that Protestants often refer to Luke 23:43 in their objections to Purgatory, in which Jesus spoke to the repentant thief next to Him on Calvary:
“And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
Protestants insist that Jesus’s promise of Heaven to the repentant and born-again thief on the cross precludes the existence of an intermediate state of purification called Purgatory.
Broussard responds with four arguments:
(1) Broussard argues that the “paradise” Jesus refers to in Luke 22:43 may not necessarily refer to Heaven. Some theologians believe the “paradise” in this verse refers to a place (Sheol/Hades) where the Old Testament saints were consigned until Jesus’s atonement and/or ascension.
(2) Broussard then contends that God is not restrained by chronological time and that the thief could have theoretically been purified in Purgatory and entered into Heaven the very same day.
(3) Broussard continues by suggesting that since there were no punctuations in the original Greek text of the New Testament, Jesus could have possibly been saying, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise,” which would have then allowed for a lengthy purification in Purgatory.
(4) In his final argument, Broussard states that Catholicism teaches that not all souls require purification in Purgatory. RC theologians have historically claimed that the “good thief” made an “act of perfect contrition” while on the cross, i.e., he was sincerely sorry for sins simply out of love for God, by which God forgave all of his sins and restored “sanctifying grace” to his soul, enabling him to enter Heaven.
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
Broussard does his best to try to convince us the “good thief” may have gone to Purgatory when he died, only to concede at the very end that the RCC has historically taught the thief went directly to Heaven just as Jesus had told him he would.
It would be impossible to fully address Catholicism’s false doctrine of Purgatory in the remaining space allotted, but there are a few significant points I want to mention:
- Catholicism errs by dividing sins into mortal/major and venial/minor. Sin is sin. Catholicism differentiates sins and created an intermediate state of purgation for minor sins as a “safety net” in its works-righteousness salvation system. The Roman church concedes few individuals are able to achieve the alleged “holiness” of a Mother Teresa or a pope John Paul II and that the best most practicing Catholics can hope for is Purgatory. In actuality, Mother Teresa and John Paul II were not holy and misled millions of souls with Catholicism’s false works-righteousness gospel.
- Catholicism bases its doctrine of Purgatory on the apocryphal 2 Maccabees 12:39-45 and several Bible passages such as 1 Corinthians 3:15, which actually refers to the Judgement Seat of Christ/Bema Seat for the saved, where their works will be judged. In its misinterpretation of Scripture, Catholicism doesn’t distinguish between the Judgement Seat of Christ/Bema Seat for the saved and the Great White Throne Judgement for the unsaved.
- Catholicism used to teach that the length of time spent in Purgatory was chronological and that receiving various indulgences could reduce purification time by specified days and years. The Roman church once even sold indulgences, which sparked the Protestant Reformation in 1517.
- Catholicism once taught that the suffering in Purgatory was equal to the suffering in Hell (see here), although that view has fallen out of favor with modern Catholic theologians, who consider Purgatory to be something akin to a spiritual “rest stop.”
Purgatory, a spurious doctrine, is an integral piece of Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation via sacramental grace and merit.
What does the Bible say about Purgatory?
Next up: “At Home with the Lord”