What exactly is Purgatory?
Before I begin, just know that Purgatory is perhaps one of the most confusing and controversial Catholics doctrines, so it's okay to be confused.
Many well-meaning Protestants, or even Catholics, misunderstand what Purgatory is. Today, I will try to briefly cover what it is, and tomorrow I will refute some claims.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says about Purgatory that, "All who die in God’s grace, 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 (1030)."
First, we must understand the difference between salvation and damnation.
Those who die in a state of mortal sin without repenting go to Hell. It's over for them.
However, those who die in God's grace and friendship are saved. Now, they can have lived an excellent, saintly life, or they could have died with some venial sins, imperfections, or attachments to sin.
The former would most likely go directly to Heaven. However, in the case of the latter, Scripture tells us that, "Nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]" (Rev. 21:27). In fact, Jesus says that, "Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny" (Matthew 5:25-26).
But how can this make sense? There is only heaven and hell!, they say. Well, purgatory, like other states of death, is not defined necessarily as a place with time. It is outside of our universe, and therefore these would not be the best terms to describe it. Rather, it is a place where the Church Suffering are to make up for their venial sins/attachment to sins as their LAST purification.
It is all BECAUSE of God that we can do this. It is a GIFT to be able to do it. After all, Jesus's sacrifice allowed for us to be saved from hell, but it did NOT act as some sort of "get out of consequences free" card. For every sin, there is "guilt" and "debt." As long as the "guilt" of mortal sin is forgiven, you will be saved. However, you still MUST make up for your sins, and that is what Purgatory is. More on it tomorrow!
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