Where is purgatory mentioned in the Bible?

What is purgatory? Is it in the Bible?

What's this?


The Catholic Church gives a double answer to the question “Where is a person after his death?”: His body lies in the grave, but his soul stands before God. Either a person is then in love - then he is in heaven. Or he's completely denied love - then he's in hell. Or he has led a life too weak for heaven and too good for hell. Then he is in purgatory: “The Lord looks at us full of love - and we feel burning shame and painful remorse about our bad or ´only´ loveless behavior. Only after this purifying pain will we be able to meet his loving gaze in unclouded heavenly joy. "(YOUCAT 159)

What does the scriptures say?

Scripture says little about a purifying fire. At one point in the Old Testament there is talk of an “Atonement for the dead, so that they may be set free from sin.” (2 Makk 12:45) In 1 Cor 3:13 it says of “God's collaborators”: “That The work of everyone will be revealed; for the day will make it visible because it reveals itself with fire. And the fire will test what the work of everyone is like. ”In the first letter of Peter there is talk of steadfastness in faith,“ which is more precious than gold that has been tested in fire ”(1 Pet 1,7) There really is something like a cleansing fire between heaven and hell, but it was not until the 6th century that it became accepted as a certainty of faith in the church.

The YOUCAT little catechesis

Under fire

When you're young, you do a lot of things; you fight and tease each other and then raise your index finger in deep indignation. In jokes of this kind we had a standard saying: “This is what you get on fire for, my friend!” With the word “burn” an old idea came up that I basically didn't know what to do with: purgatory. Medieval painters enjoyed the rewarding motif of souls roasting in fire. “That's what makes you burn” - that should probably say: You will atone for this forever! And that won't be fun!

Forgot purgatory?

Later, when I was studying, I heard all sorts of derogatory sayings about purgatory. It is not so important, even biblically badly justified. The churches from the Reformation would deny its existence, etc. That purgatory does exist became clear to me in a conversation with Protestant theologians, of all things. They asked their Catholic counterpart a strange question: “Are you sure of salvation?” - with undertones that signaled the importance of this question to me. Because I didn't respond right away, they exacerbated the question, “Are you absolutely sure that you are saved?” I can't remember how to answer this verbatim, but something like this: “I'm very sure that Christ is for me too died and that he redeemed me. But will I ever go to heaven? How am I supposed to know that today? I could do a few more hellish things that are guaranteed not to get you to heaven. "

Dante's Purgatory Painting, by Gustave Dore.

Why there must be more than heaven and hell

The following night I realized why purgatory really exists. And why it might be my fate to get right there after my death. If it were only black or white, heaven or hell, redemption or damnation, grace or cursed - we would live in a cruel universe. Islam only knows this radical alternative. Once I drove from Cairo to the Red Sea. I never saw a sadder world. Mile after mile we drove through charred, stinking worlds littered with plastic scraps, in which gray people and gray animals were vegetating. "Why is it all so infinitely sad?" I asked a Coptic Christian who accompanied me. “It's their belief. Because they are not on the sunny side of life now, because their life is so sad, they believe they are cursed now and forever! It makes no sense for them to do anything about it. "

In any case, during the night, after the day when the Protestant theologians asked me about my “certainty of salvation”, I brooded over my own hope for eternal life. I thought of my death and the moment when I will look the living God in the eye. Of course I hoped that the merciful God would then also say the one liberating sentence to me: “Enter into the joy of your Lord!” (Mt 25:23) Suddenly I also realized: When this moment comes, it will be my whole Biography lies in the glaring light of truth, I will also be overwhelmed by a completely different feeling - namely, by deep shame. Coming into the endless clarity of God does not mean fading over and being swallowed up by the abundance of light - so that we are no longer there as a person. We will come into perfect God and perfect self-knowledge at the same time.

Before joy: shame

Then there will be shame about all the moments when I carelessly passed love, all the little moments of wickedness and betrayal. YOUCAT 159 recalls such a moment of deepest shame: "When Peter betrayed Jesus, the Lord turned and looked at Peter:" And Peter went out and wept bitterly "- a feeling like in purgatory." That night became I realize that there is purgatory and that it is part of my hope in God and Eternal Life. I can say about what is in YOUCAT 159: “Anyone who dies in the grace of God (that is, in peace with God and man), but still needs purification before he can see God face to face - is in purgatory . “I am happy to be looked at (and seen through) by Jesus one day. “His gaze,” writes Pope Benedict XVI, “the touch of his heart heals us in a certainly painful transformation 'like through fire'. But it is a blissful pain in which the holy power of his love penetrates us with ardor, so that we finally become completely ourselves and thereby completely God