I am the true vine, says Jesus to His disciples, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples: (John 15: 1-8, A.V.).
During a brief conversation with a retired Presbyterian ministers brother, he said his brother found it unsettling because others believed in purgatory! - Presbyterian ministers I presume!!
I said there is no such place as Purgatory mentioned in the Holy Scriptures: but that they frequently mention the place of the dead - [in the heart of the earth. (Matt. 12: 40), where the souls are detained (Matt. 16: 18; Luke 16: 30, 31; Rev. 6: 9-11; Heb. 11: 39.) until the time of Resurrection] - called Sheol (in O.T. Hebrew Scriptures, Gen. 37: 35) or Hades (in N. T. Greek Scriptures, Acts 2: 27, 31.).
However dim Scripture may be in its portrayal of the intermediate state, it is at least explicit in negativing the current conceptions of Hades, both Roman and Protestant. Nothing short of a betrayal of the original Christian position has been the abandonment, through sheer unbelief, of the clauses in the Creed on Hades and the Ascension: if these clauses are merely figurative and pictorial (the Modernist legitimately retorts) so can be the clauses on the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. Thus also the modern obliteration of the doctrine of Hades has dislocated, and to a large degree nullified, the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead, which, when an intermediate world is eliminated, is made so unnecessary as to slip out of belief. The elimination of a single truth is a hurt done to all revelation (THYNNE AND JARVIS.)
It is my sincere wish and prayer to God that all who read this will examine their beliefs in the light of what the Bible has to say on the subject, rather than have a blind loyalty to contrary teachings and beliefs by any particular person or Christian denomination. Much will depends on what, or should I say who we believe: and my trust and faith are in the teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles.
It is a supreme peculiarity, of our Lords love to His own that it can never stop short of the perfection of the person loved. As many as I love, I chasten (Rev. 3: 19). He chastens us for our profit, that we may become partakers of His holiness (Heb. 12: 10). His holiness is perfection; so that our discipline, however drastic or prolonged, is never a proof of His enmity, but of His love; and is never a sign - either now, or at the Judgment Seat - of a disciples ultimate destruction, but of his ultimate perfection. Where others show their love by indulgence, Christ shows His by chastisement. Every branch that beareth fruit, He PURGETH it (John 15: 2).
The Roman doctrine of Purgatory* would have been impossible had the Church always held and taught the full Scripture truth of a believers purging. Only twice has the Roman doctrine been officially defined. If such as be truly penitent die in Gods favour before they have satisfied for their sins of commission and omission by worthy fruits of penance - i.e., assisted their own atonement their souls are purged after death with purgatorial punishments (Council of Ferrara); and the souls delivered there are assisted by the suffrages [prayers and devotions] of the Faithful, and especially by the most acceptable sacrifice of the Mass (Council of Trent).
[* I have recently been told that the Church of Rome no longer teach this doctrine!]
Errors of Purgatory
The manifest errors here apart from such fearful accretions as the sale of indulgences, or the efficacy of the Mass - are mainly three. (1) The doctrine of Purgatory locates the purging in Hades: Scripture locates it in this life, and at the Judgment Seat after resurrection, but never in Hades.* Paradise - [that is, that part of Hades called by our Lord Paradise and located in the heart of the earth, where He and the crucified criminal went immediately after death: (Luke 23: 43; Luke 16: 22; Matt. 12: 40)] - (for all believers, is the very far better of the immediate presence of Christ.**
[* The author has given no Scripture proofs to support this statement: and, because it is assumed by many, that all regenerate believers will be resurrected at the time of Christs return, it is therefore not surprising to find this clause in his writing.
Paul assures us (Phil. 3: 11) that he was seeking with all his spiritual energy to attain unto the out-resurrection out from the dead (Lit.). That is, he says there is an elect resurrection of reward from among the dead in Hades to which though he had obtained mercy, had been counted faithful, and had been called into the ministry (1 Tim. 1: 12, 13); though he had received a special and unusual call from God (Gal. 1: 15, 16); though throughout his ministry he had endured and suffered under unparalleled trials (2 Cor. 11: 23-33); though he had been given divine revelations beyond the ordinary (2 Cor. 12: 1-5); though his possession of divine gifts surpassed that of any in the church (1 Cor. 14: 18, 37) he yet was pressing toward the goal to win the prize. If Paul thus earnestly counted this out-resurrection a goal to be attained, the Christian, whose beliefs are unscriptural with his eyes earthward, like the man with the muckrake of whom Bunyan speaks, will surely not be considered worthy of taking part in that age [the millennial age] and in the resurrection from the dead (Luke 20: 35): for that requires CHRISTS JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD IN HADES, THE PLACE OF THE DEAD, BEFORE THE TIME OF THE FIRST RESURRECTION (Rev. 20: 4-6.).
if so be that (we) may lay hold, that if by any means (we) may attain. Mark it well; something to gain or lose; an inheritance to enjoy or forfeit; a goal to be reached or missed; a prize to be won or lost. That IF is spilled over all the page of Scripture; and the Saviour has been pressing in, so hard, yet so tenderly, the implication of this IF in all its bearings. Almost the tiniest word IF; involving almost the mightiest issues. (Gorge Banks.)
** Psalm 139: 8b. If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. See also Psa. 16: 10 - the basis and thrust of Peters sermon at Pentecost - 50 days after Christs Crucifixion and 10 days after His post-resurrection ministry and Ascension: but, says the inspired apostle, David did not ascend to heaven (Acts 2: 34); and yet multitudes of regenerate believers, think Hades is now emptied of all the holy dead; and, that at the time of death they ascend into the presence of God in Heaven!!]
(2) No power of Pope or Priest, and no prayers of fellow believers, can in the slightest degree modify the judgments due to any man, believer or unbeliever, after he has once passed into the other world. It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this - [i.e., after Death, not after Resurrection] - cometh JUDGMENT (Heb. 9: 27). Paul, most remarkably, does pray for a believer that he may receive mercy of the Lord in that day (2 Tim. 1: 18): but Onesiphorus was still alive; and there was still room for Pauls prayer to become operative in his life. Prayer for the dead is unknown in the Scriptures. This cuts away the root of all abominations (indulgences, etc.) that have grown around the Roman doctrine. *
doubt very much that history can yield a worse instance of gross and palpable
mockery both of God and man than the inhuman doctrine of purgatory,
says Terrance Magowan. Well do I remember
my boyhood days in
the vital error lies in confusing discipline with salvation. Chastisement is necessary and salutary: it is
inflicted by God in this life upon all believers without exception (Heb. 12: 8): it may, in extreme cases, be fearful
bodily disease (Ex. 15: 26), or even be mortal (1 Cor. 11: 30): since
death produces no magical change, converting the sinning into the sinless, and
since much less can - it cancels unrepented offences during discipleship,
chastisement may be equally necessary and salutary at the judgment Seat:- but
disciplinary suffering has no connection whatever with eternal life. There
are no atoning sufferings but the sufferings of
Purging by Blood
Now We turn to the Scripture truth. God has provided two purgings - one by blood, and one by discipline: and the purging by blood must precede the purging by discipline. According to the law, all
things are purged by blood (Heb. 9: 22): how much more shall
the blood of
Christ purge your conscience
from dead works - the deadly efforts of self-righteousness to serve the living God (Heb.
9: 14). For Christ has
affected the essential and fundamental purging once for all: who when He had purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high
(Heb. 1: 3): and this purging is the sole
basis, and predisposing cause, of all subsequent purging. For only a saved soul can be purged by
chastisement. No amount or degree of
suffering can improve into life a soul dead ill trespasses and sins, any more
than dead wood can be made to grow fruit by pruning: chastisement cannot purge
him: he can be purged, but not by
chastisement: and God is not habitually chastening the wicked at all. For if ye are without chastening, whereby all
[believers] have been made partakers, then
are ye bastards, and not sons
(Heb. 12: 8). Corrective sufferings are only granted and
effective to those already purged by the sacrificial sufferings of
Purging by Discipline
The second purging is discipline. Every branch that beareth fruit - i.e., living wood, set in the living Vine He purgeth it (John 15: 2). A soul which is born again, yet still having the flesh in him, can have his still fallible character corrected and elevated and cleansed by chastisement. Nor need this purging end with life. Some of the oldest Roman divines taught that all the remains of sin in Gods children are quite abolished by final grace at the very instant of their dissolution; so that the stain of the least sin is not left behind to be carried into the other world (Archbishop Ushers Answer to a Jesuit, p. 165). This ancient Roman doctrine is as unscriptural as the later Roman doctrine of Purgatory. For the believer who falls asleep unwatchful, wakes unwatchful - the servant who dies, slothful, appears before the judgment Seat slothful: their last look on this world is, morally, their first look on the next: they will be purged, but they are not purged: there is no magic in death, and no opportunity in Hades to correct a faulty discipleship: and the coming millennial day of Justice, dominated by the Judgment Seat, has for its essential characteristic the recoil of works in judicial retribution. For he that doeth wrong - the context is addressed solely to believers SHALL RECEIVE AGAIN FOR THE WRONG THAT HE HATH DONE: and there is no respect of persons (Col. 3: 25). But it is Divine Love that will not rest until all we who believe are become partakers of His holiness: no disciple ever involves our destruction; it effects, sooner or later, our perfection.
* * *
[The following is from APPENDIX 4 of the authors book, pp. 155-169.]
THE SPIRITS IN PRISON.
1 PETER 3: 18-20.
I know of no worse translated or interpreted passage in the New Testament. It has suffered in both these respects, in order to take it out of the hands of the Papists, who press it into the service of purgatory. We present the following as the literal translation:-
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but alive in the Spirit; in which he went and preached to the souls of men in safe keeping [or Paradise], who sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Nosh, while the ark was building, etc.
Touching the translation, we quote, with approbation, the remarks of Bishop Horsely:-
The Spirit, in these English words, seems to be put, not for the soul of Christ, but for the Divine Spirit; and the sense seems to be that Christ, after he was put to death, was raised to life again by the Holy Spirit. But this, though it be the sense of the English translation, and a true proposition, is certainly not in the sense of the Apostles words. It is of great importance to remark, though it may seem a grammatical nicety, that the prepositions, in either branch of this clause, have been supplied by the translators, and are not in the original. The words flesh and spirit, in the original, stand without any preposition, in that case which, in the Greek language, without any preposition, is the case either of the cause or instrument by which, of the time when, of the place where, of the part in which, of the manner how, or of the respect in which, according to the exigence of the context; and, to any one who will consider the original with critical accuracy, it will be obvious, from the perfect antithesis of these two clauses concerning flesh and spirit, that if the word spirit denote the active cause by which Christ was restored to life, which must be supposed by them who understand the word of the Holy Ghost, the word flesh must equally denote the active cause by which he was put to death, which therefore must have been the flesh of his own body - an interpretation too manifestly absurd to be admitted. But if the word flesh denote, as it most evidently does, the part in which death took effect upon him, spirit must denote the part in which life was preserved in him - that is, his own soul; and the word quickened is often applied to signify, not the resuscitation of life extinguished, but the preservation and continuance of life subsisting. The exact rendering, therefore, of the Apostles words would be, being put to death in the flesh, but quick in the spirit - that is, surviving in his soul the stroke of death which his body had sustained by which, or rather in which - that is, in which surviving soul he went and preached to the souls of men in prison, or in safe keeping.
The spirits preached to are expressly affirmed to be those which sometime were disobedient in the days of Noah, when the long suffering of God waited for them.
This word, sometime, is the same word that Paul uses when he said to the Ephesians (2: 13), ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ; and again to Titus (3: 3): We ourselves were sometime foolish, disobedient, etc., but now are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
It being thus declared that they were sometime disobedient, would imply, then, that they were disobedient only for a time - that being during the period when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.
The long suffering which then waited, is the same Greek word that Peter uses when he accounts* that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation; and which Paul used when he wrote** Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance. Peter also says that the Lord is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. The long suffering of God, therefore, in the days of Noah, was to give opportunity for repentance to the disobedient.
* 2 Pet. 3: 15. ** Rom. 2: 4.
The word rendered waited, occurs in the New Testament only in seven other places, as follows:-
John 5: 2: Waiting for the moving of the waters. Acts 17: 16: While Paul waited for them. 1 Cor. 11: 33: Tarry one for another; 16: 11: I look for him. Heb. 10: 13: Expecting till his enemies; 11: 10: He looked for a city. James 5: 7: The husbandmen waiteth, etc.
The Greek word is defined by Robinson as meaning to receive from any quarter; or, in the New Testament, inchoatively, to be about to receive from any quarter - i.e., to wait for, to look for, to expect.
The import of the passage, then, would be that those in prison that Christ preached to were those for whom the long suffering of God, in the time of Nosh, waited in expectation that they would become heirs of salvation, which God would not have done unless they were to become such; and that they did so become is intimated by the remark that they were sometime disobedient i.e., that they did not thus continue, but were recovered from their disobedient condition.
Is there not reason then, to hope that a portion of those who sat under Noahs preaching, repented and became subjects of grace? For one hundred and twenty years did the long suffering of God thus wait; and would it have thus expected, if there were to be no results conformable to the expectation? It is not necessary to suppose that all who heard Noah died in hardened impenitence.
What, then, became of those subjects of Gods waiting salvation? Gods purpose to remove the race, and to re-people the earth, did not demand that more than Noah and his family should survive the flood, any more than it did that more than a pair of each kind of bird and animal should survive. The one hundred and twenty years, then, gave time for the removal of all who believed before the waters came upon them. Even Methuselah died only a year before the flood; and so many have died, all who were only disobedient during that waiting of Gods long suffering. Thus, merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.*
* Isa. 57: 1, 2.
The word rendered prison in the text, is the same that is rendered watch in Matt. 24: 43: in what watch the thief would come; and it is defined by Robertson as a watch on guard.
A person thus under watch or guard may be said to be guarded, or in prison. The word is also used to denote a watch-post, station; and is thus used by the Seventy in Hab. 2: 1: I will stand upon my watch, etc. By the spirits being in prison, therefore, it is not necessary to understand that they were culprits, but that they were in safe keeping [Paradise], until the day of their final resurrection.*
* The English word prison, as Lord Coke observes, was only a place of safe custody; but now, by a change of use, we use it only in its bad sense - a place of degrading confinement - which has obscured the sense of the passage.
While the spirits to which Christ preached are thus designated as those who were sometime disobedient, when Gods long stifrering waited for their conversion during the building of the Ark, and which, because they did not continue disobedient, are now in safe keeping, as they were at the time when Peter wrote, it remains to be considered: when did Christ in spirit go and preach to them? and what was the purpose of his preaching?
In answer to this, it will be noticed that Peter does not say that Christ preached to them when, but that he preached to those who were thus sometime disobedient; but when he went and preached to them they were spirits in prison.
The place of the
departed is sometimes referred to as a prison, from which the righteous are to
be delivered. While it is gain for them
to die far better than to continue here - yet their condition in Hades (
And Paul quoting this (1 Cor. 15: 55), exclaims, 0 death, where is thy sting? 0 Hades, where is thy victory? In Rev. 20: 14, death, the last enemy of the redeemed, with hades, their intermediate abode, is to be cast into the lake of fire. Job speaks of the bars of sheol (17: 16); and Hezekiah said: I shall go to the gates of sheol* but God hath broken the gates of brass and cut the bands of iron in sunder.** He will say to the prisoners, go forth; and to them that are in darkness - [in the invisible or unseen] show yourselves, and then they shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.***
* Isa. 38: 10. ** Psalm 7: 16. ***Isa. 49: 9, 10.
The only prison in which those sometime disobedient but repentant spirits are, must be sheol or hades, which Christ will destroy, and from which he will ransom them; and to have gone and preached to the spirits in prison, he must have entered the place of the departed, and preached to them there - when he went with the thief to Paradise on the day of their crucifixion. And this is not only in harmony with Peters words, but is the precise sense expressed by them; for he makes the preaching to have been while he was in the condition resulting from his being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in the spirit, by which, or rather as Bishop Horsely remarks, in which he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, who were formerly circumstanced as is afterward described - that is while dead in the flesh, but alive in spirit, he went in spirit and preached to the spirits, who were prisoners of hope, and were looking for a future enlargement and deliverance.
By a perversion of this passage the Papists make this text subserve their views of purgatory; and hence others, to avoid that error, have gone to the opposite extreme and denied that the departed were thus favoured, as Peter affirms. This involves a consideration of the kind of preaching appropriate to those to whom the Saviour preached.
As they were only sometime disobedient, they must have been brought to repentance and faith in a coming deliverer before they died. Therefore the Saviour could not, when he went into Hades, have preached faith and repentance to them - the preaching of which, also, would have been of no avail to the impenitent, the eternal condition of all being determined by the present life. And this overturns the Papal dogma of purgatory. These spirits had repented during life, or they would not have been in that part of the unseen where the Saviour was; and the end of his preaching could not have been to any immediate deliverance from Hades; for they without us will not be made perfect. The preaching of Christ to them, then, was the proclamation, announcement or publication to them (for such is the meaning of the word preach) of the great fact that he had died for their sins, and should rise again for their justification. As the souls of the martyrs are represented, under the fifth seal,* as anxiously inquiring, How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth, so may we know that the pious departed are not uninterested expectants of future deliverance; and nothing could have given greater joy to the spirits in Paradise than the entrance of Christ, when his flesh was consigned to the tomb, and the announcement to them of the glad tidings that he had actually offered the sacrifice of their redemption, and was about to appear in the Fathers presence for repentant disobedients. This was an announcement fit to be made to the spirits of the just; and it could not fail to give new joy and animation to them to learn that what, not improbably, Moses and Elias had already proclaimed to them as about to be done, was already accomplished, and the consummation of their future happiness fully provided for.
* Rev. 6: 10.
There is a single difficulty
which should be noticed in this connection, viz.: why are the souls of the
repentant antediluvians singled out as the subjects of the Saviours
preaching? Were not those of later ages
equally interested in the message? These
considerations are pertinent, and yet by no means do they affect the time or subjects of Christs preaching. That he preached to them is affirmed, but
that he thus preached to all the departed just is also probable. Peter intimates as much in verse six of the next chapter, when he says: For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are
dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live
according to God in the spirit.
The same is thus rendered in Dr.
Murdocks version of the Syriac: For on this account the announcement is made also to the
dead, that they may be judged as persons in the flesh, and may live according
to God in the spirit. And
when was this announcement made to them, except as the Syriae
has it, when he died in body, but lived in spirit;
and he preached to those souls, which were guarded in
That this is no new interpretation, may be by the following. Thus Dr. Horsely says:-
The expression sometime were or one while, had been disobedient, implies that they were recovered from that disobedience, and, before their death, had been brought to repentance and faith in the Redeemer to come, to such souls he went and preached. But what did he preach to departed souls, and what could be the end of his preaching? Certainly he preached neither repentance nor faith; for the preaching of either comes too late to the departed soul. These souls had believed and repented, or they had not been in that part of the nether regions which the soul of the Redeemer visited. But if he went to proclaim to them (and to proclaim or publish is the true sense of the words to preach) the glad tidings that he had actually offered the sacrifice of redemption, and was about to appear before the Father as an intercessor in the merit of his own blood, this was a preaching fit to be addressed to departed souls. (Sermons, page 262.)
And Bishop Hobart adds:-
Christ went, says the apostle, and preached to the spirits in prison, to spirits in safe-keeping, to the sometime disobedient, but finally penitent antediluvians, in the days of Noah, who, though they were swept off in the deluge of waters, found, through the merits of the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, a refuge. While his body was reposing in the grave, he went in his spirit and preached - or, as the word signifies, proclaimed the glad tidings to the souls of the departed saints of that victory over death which the Messiah, in whom they trusted, was to achieve; and of that final redemption of the body and resurrection to glory, the hope of which constituted their enjoyment in the place of the departed. (State of the Dead, pages 7, 8)
If we would successfully meet the Papists, we must take this position; to deny the plain teaching of the original is to play into their hands.