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True concept of purgatory

True concept of purgatory


The word purgatory is from the Latin verb ‘’ purgo, purgare ‘’ which means ‘’ I make clean, to make clean’’. This is in the 1st conjugation of regular Latin verbs and it literally means to purge. Purgatives are imbibed in order to remove unwanted harmful substances from the bowels of animals. If not expelled, these toxic substances can lead to death.

Similarly, purgatory is meant to cleanse souls of the dead the remnants of forgiven sins or venial sins. These souls are in bondage and are unable to help themselves. They plead to mankind to pray for them to God in order to free them from this inglorious prison. Purgatory is a state or place, as some would like to call it, which is temporary. This is why Jesus did not mention it on what will happen on the final judgement of human race during his second coming (Mathew 25: 31-44). Moreover, nobody should aim to be in purgatory. A Christian soul and indeed all humanity long for God Almighty and to dwell with Him {Psalm 63: 1-8}. The danger of aiming purgatory is that one may end up being in hell where no prayers can bring salvation to one. It is not a pleasant state or place at all.

But, nothing unclean can enter heaven (Rev 21: 27). Then …surely you know the wicked will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6: 9-10). God is Holy indeed and center of all Holiness. Holiness then is a pre-requisite for going to heaven. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No one is righteous (Romans 3: 10)… Again, whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her (John 8: 7). The Islamic fundamentalists in Nigeria who stoned a Christian, Deborah Samuel to death because of alleged blasphemy should cue from the immediate preceding quotation. Furthermore, Isaiah 35: 8, 52:1 writes ‘’There will be a highway there called ‘The road to Holiness’. No sinner will ever enter that road. Jerusalem, no heathen will ever enter your gate. The Holy City of God, clothe yourself with splendor’’. Moreover…I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful {Psalm 51: 5). Some may speedily quote…salvation is by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2: 8}. Based on this, the condition attached is that one must have faith and this leads us to defining faith.

Faith in a lay man’s language is the trust in one’s ability or knowledge that he will do what has been promised. In other words, it is a feeling, conviction, or belief that something is true or real, without having evidence. The bible says that faith is fixing our attention not on the things that are seen but on things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4: 18). It further tells us that faith in God puts us right with him (Romans 5: 1}. But James opines that faith is proved by good deeds for faith without actions is dead (James 2: 14-17}.

So it is not just enough to be convinced that one is saved by the grace of God alone but is matched with our acceptable and Godly behavioral patterns. This is the problematic area as we trespass often in our interactions with God and fellow human beings. Of course, there are some saints that live up to God’s expectations and readily live with Him in heaven after death. However, He is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and ever quick to forgive. God does not wish any one to perish in hell but wants us to have life in abundance. This is where purgatory comes in.

The conception of purgatory can be likened to the proverbial tale in ancient Indian fable where an elephant came to town in a society that had not seen it before. There was an uproar about its gigantic size which later got to the ears of some blind men. They went to ‘see’ the animal that was causing such great upheaval. The first man touched its trunk and shouted ‘’ behold! It is a huge snake’’. The second touched its leg and cried out ‘’ aha! It is an enormous pillar like a tree trunk’’. Yet another felt the ear and yelled ‘’ I’ve got it! It is a big fan’. The fourth touched the side and exclaimed ‘’ alas! Surely it is a massive wall’’. The last handled the tail and said ‘’ It is a rope’’. They quarreled among themselves each viewing his perception as the utmost. It was only when one person suggested that they should sit down and consider one another’s views that they formed a picture of what an elephant looks like. The same thing is applicable to the Christians of all denominations instead of castigating, condemning and denouncing others’ beliefs. This is the spirit of ecumenism where Christians gather and discuss individuals’ opinions’.

It is good and consoling that purgatory is in existence because its absence leaves us hopeless in this world of ours that is filled with avarice, envy, covetousness, gossip, greed, self-centeredness, corruption, lying, cheating, backlashing, deception, stealing and indeed all vices in our contemporary societies. Some passages in the bible attest to its existence. It is inborn in man to fall into sin since the time of our fore parents, Adam and Eve. In the book of proverbs 24:16, we read ‘’ for a righteous man will fall seven times, and rise again: but the ungodly shall be without strength in troubles’’. This implies that a holy man will commit sins seven times but feels remorse and asks for forgiveness, while the wicked persists in his transgressions which will lead him to perdition. This appears to leave us with no hope for salvation; though there is hope. This why ever Merciful God made a provision for the purification of souls that have stains of venial sins in Purgatory.

Some may be quick to adduce that sin is sin; but in 1 John 5: 16 the bible says ‘’ If you see your brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray to God, who will give him life. This applies to those whose sins do not lead to death. But there is sin which leads to death, and I do not say you should pray to God about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which does not lead to death’’. This leaves us with two classes of sin: one that leads to death (mortal sin) and the other that does not lead to death (venial sin). Left for me, I would say, murder, adultery, fornication etc., are all mortal sins while telling somebody that you are at Onitsha on a mobile phone whereas you are at Awka in order to avoid meeting him; laughing at somebody who staggers because of being drunk etc. are venial sins.

Some inferences testify to the existence of purgatory abound in the bible. Reference can be made to Zechariah 13: 1-2 which states ‘’ A fountain will purify the descendants of David’’. Job 14: 14-17 can be paraphrased as ‘’ A dead man does not come back to life. He will wait for better time when trouble is over and ended. God will call him and he will answer. He will forgive his sins and wipe out all the wrongs he has done’’. Subsequently, Luke 12: 47-48 opines ‘’ The servant who knows what his master wants him to do but does not get himself ready and do it will be punished with a heavy whipping. But the servant who does not know what his master wants, and yet does something for which he deserves a whipping will be punished with a light whipping. In Luke 12: 58-59 it says – ‘’ If someone brings a lawsuit against you and drags you to court, do your best to settle the dispute with him before you go to the court. If you don’t, he will take you before the judge who will hand you over to the police and you will put you in jail. There you will stay, I tell you until you pay the last kobo of your fine. Again in Psalm 62: 12 we read ‘’you yourself, O Lord reward everyone according to his deeds’’. In Corinthians 3: 15 the bible posits ‘’ he will be saved as though he had escaped through fire’’.

In one of the South Eastern states of Nigeria, a popular Gospel band named Voice of the Cross in one of their songs titled ‘’ N’alata na otu na otu’’ meaning ‘’returning home one by one’’, a great river is to be crossed by all in death. Some will sail through with ease until they meet our Savior Jesus Christ. Some will be troubled by the waves of the stormy waters but eventually manage to reach out to our Redeemer. Others will encounter dark mighty river without knowing where to step foot. They grope in utter darkness in great fear till they see the light of Jesus Christ. The rest do not make it at all. What else can express the concept purgatory more?

In conclusion, there are two classes of sin namely mortal sin and venial sin. Three conditions exist which make a sin deadly: – 1. It is a grievous offence. 2. The conscience tells us that the sin is mortal or we are aware that it is deadly. 3. We willingly indulge in committing the sin. The sinner is condemned to eternal damnation which is Hell Fire. Sins like idolatry, murder. Armed robbery, adultery, fornication, stealing, and all major crimes belong to this category. On the other hand, venial sin has two conditions namely: – 1. The conscience does not tell us that it is a sin or we do not know that it is a sin. 2. We unwillingly indulge in committing it not knowing that it is a sin. The sinner goes to purgatory. Such sins like criticism, gossiping, too much gain in selling, conversing while church service is going on, swearing at an offender etc. fall into this group.
Everybody irrespective tribe, religion, denomination or race who deserves purgatory must go there. Acts 2: 38 reads ‘’Each one of you must turn away from his sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit’’. Again in Acts 10: 34 it asserts that ‘’I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis’’. Still in Acts 2: 39 it goes thus ‘’For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away’’. This includes The Jews and The Gentiles.

Credit :Ofomah E S writes from
St. David’s Catholic Parish
Azigbo. Nnewi South LGA Anambra Nigeria

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