THE TRUTH ON PURGATORY
D. M. PANTON, M. A.
The steady advance of the Roman Church throughout the world, with the ever-growing challenge of her claims, increasingly compels our mastery of all Scriptures that impinge on the Roman creed; and not the least important is the truth on Purgatory, since on this point the Scriptures she quotes need very careful handling and adjustment if they are not to be allowed to strengthen her position. Moreover, no doctrine is necessarily false because it is Roman, or we should have to condemn the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection, all of which are Roman doctrines; and it is only justice to the Church of Rome to examine her doctrines impartially. All Churches must be proved right or wrong SOLELY BY SCRIPTURE.
Now the fundamental truth on the purging of the Church, a truth on which all Christians are agreed and on which the Scriptures are perfectly explicit, is the fact of the chastisement of the believer. The Word of God could not state it more clearly. If ye are without chastening, whereof all [believers] have been made partakers, then ye are bastards, and not sons (Heb. 12: 8). That is, our discipline, however drastic or prolonged, is the proof of our Fathers love, and a sign, not of the believers destruction, but of his ultimate perfection; for afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit of righteousness. Our Lord, in stating this truth, introduces the very word from which the Roman doctrine takes its name: Every branch that beareth fruit, he PURGETH it - that is, prunes it with a knife that it may bear more fruit (John 15: 2). And this purging by chastisement can be disease or even death. For this cause - an improper use of the Lords Supper many among you are weak and sickly - diseased and invalided and not a few sleep (1Cor. 11: 30) - many actual deaths had been inflicted by the hand of God. So on the fact of a [regenerate] believers chastisement, sometime, somehow, somewhere, all Christians are necessarily agreed.
The cleavage between Christians now begins: on the mere fact of chastisement the sole difference of conviction is on the date. Evangelical theology confines chastisement to this life: the Roman places it mainly between death and resurrection: the Scriptures reveal it as both in this life and also (not in Hades* but) at the Judgement Seat of Christ. One word of God makes it extraordinary plain, and at once establishes the truth, Some mens sins are open beforehand, going before unto judgement; and some men also they follow after (1Tim. 5: 24): that is, judgement, in some cases, overtakes the believer in this life; in other cases, only* at the Judgement Seat. It is appointed unto men - whether believers or unbelievers once to die, and after this cometh judgement (Heb. 9: 27). So the truth is that chastisement is now, and, when necessary, also hereafter.
CHASTISEMENT NOT CONFINED TO THIS LIFE
It is most
remarkable to observe, and a fact almost unknown, that the current
Evangelical view is inherited from
*. Together with the emphasis on the sanctity of believers that hardly corresponds with fact. Bishop J. C. Ryle thus defines the Church of the regenerate: This is the only Church which possesses true sanctity. Its members are all holy. They are not merely holy by profession, holy in name, and holy in the judgement of charity; they are all holy in act, and deed, and reality, and life, and truth. They are all more or less conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. No unholy man belongs to this Church. It is obvious to anyone who looks about him that life has little to correspond with this golden band of imaginary saints; it could only mean - contrary to all Scripture and fact - that only those who have reached a very high degree of sanctification have ever been regenerated at all, and that no deathbed has ever held a gross backslider. The words of the Lord as to what will happen are decisive: That servant, which knew his Lord's will, and made not ready, nor did according to His will - for it is not a question of standing, but solely of walk shall be beaten with many stripes (Luke 12: 47). And when? When his Lord cometh (43). It is gloriously true that our standing in Christ is perfect, for it is Christ: nevertheless he who, concerning his walk, thinks himself sinless has a more defective vision than the world around that watches him.
** Isaac Taylor specially names Luke 12: 4, 5 - a passage of peculiar appeal to martyrs. We may add the testimony of a modern theologian. Dr. R. J. Campbell writes: From the very earliest times the Church has always taken a grave view of the state of lapsed Christians. The penitential discipline of the early Church was so severe in cases of what was held to be the forfeiture of baptismal grace, that usually the offender was not readmitted to communion for years or even until earthly life was ending. This was the reason why so many converts postponed baptism until the hour of death was drawing near. Constantine the Great, who made Christianity the religion of the Empire and presided at the Council of Nicaea, was not himself baptised until he was on his deathbed; like many more, he was afraid to incur the penalties attaching to post-baptismal sin. It is to be feared that we to-day have become too lax in this and other matters.
For the Scripture truth is perfectly clear, and it is no purgatory in an intermediate state. Our works follow us across the gulf of death, and are judged, not in Hades, but at the Judgement Seat, in resurrection. For we - believers, Paul even includes himself must all be made manifest before the judgement seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done - that is, it is solely a judgement of works whether it be good OR BAD (2 Cor. 5: 10); so that a believers unconfessed and unabandoned sins appear there for chastisement. For he that doeth wrong - and Paul says to Corinthian believers, YE do wrong (1Cor. 6: 8) shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done; and there is no respect of persons (Col. 3: 25) - that is, believers are not exempted because they are believers.* Death, on the contrary, so far from involving a purgatory, is for all believers a paradise, the very far better (Phil. 1: 23) of the immediate presence of Christ; so that the turning of the intermediate state into a purgatory is a pure fiction.
* So even for Onesiphorus, whom Paul praises warmly, he nevertheless most significantly prays that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day (2 Tim. 1: 18); and to a whole Church he says, YE are carnal (1Cor. 3: 3): not a few of you, or some of you, but YE ARE [as a whole] CARNAL and all carnality, unabandoned, must receive chastisement.
But the vital error in the doctrine of Purgatory is the characteristic Roman assumption that our chastisement contributes to our fundamental salvation. 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 - that is, before they have 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 [i.e., prayers and devotions] of the Faithful, and especially by the most acceptable sacrifice of the Mass (Council of Trent). Purgatory is merely a part of the Roman scheme whereby a believer supplements Christs righteousness with his own, and by his penal sufferings completes his fundamental salvation.
Now we turn to the
Scripture truth. God has provided two
purgings - one by blood, and one by discipline; and the
purging by blood (the fundamental purging) 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.
10: 14). For Christ has effected
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
For only a saved soul can be purged by chastisement. No amount or degree of suffering can improve
into life a soul dead in trespasses and sins, any more than dead wood can be
made to grow fruit by pruning it: chastisement cannot purge him:
he can be purged, but not by chastisement: and God, in the day of
grace, is not habitually chastening the wicked at all. For if ye are without chastisement, 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
* The following commentary by G. H. Lang will give the student a better understanding, relative to the time and place of the believers judgment and (if necessary) future chastisement:-
Enough has been advanced to show how much and how solemn is the teaching of Scripture as to judgement upon careless Christians. We wish only to deal now with the time of the judgement seat of Christ as to His people.
The most general opinion is that this judgement lies between the moment of the Lord's descent to the air, when they, dead and living, are caught up to him there, and that later moment when He is to descend with them to the earth to set up His kingdom. That is, the judging of His saints will take place during the Parousia.
(1) No passage of Scripture seems distinctly to place this judgement in this interval and in the air. It seems to be rather assumed that it must take place then and there since the effects of it are to be seen in the different positions and honours in the Kingdom immediately to follow.
(2) As regards the parabolic instruction Christ gave when here it is to be observed that it speaks only of people who will be found alive when the nobleman, the master of the house returns. Strictly, therefore, these parables tell nothing as to the time and circumstances of the judgment of dead believers. It must be allowed that the principles of justice will be the same for dead and living, but the details as to the judgment of the former cannot be learned from these passages.
(3) Some presuppositions held are:
(a) That every believer will share the first resurrection and the millennial kingdom.
(b) The opposite, that not every believer will do so.
(c) That the judgment of the Lord will result in some of His people suffering loss of reward because of unfaithfulness, but nothing more than loss. This involves that none of the positive and painful inflictions denounced can affect true believers.
(d) The opposite, that the regenerate may incur positive chastisement as a consequence of the Lords judgment at the time. Thus in Touching the Coming of the Lord (84,85. ed.1), upon Col. 3: 25, For he that doeth wrong shall receive again the wrong that he hath done (margin): and there is no respect of persons, Hogg and Vine apply this text to that judgment of Christ at His Parousia, and say: It may be difficult for us to conceive how God will fulfil this word to those who are already in bodies of glory, partakers of the joy of the redeemed in salvation consummated in spirit, soul and body. Yet may we be assured that the operation of this law is not to be suspended even in their case. He that knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgement (2 Pet. 2: 9), knows also how to direct and to use the working of His law of sowing and reaping in the case of His children also. The attempt to alleviate the text of some of its weight by suggesting that the law operates only in this life, fails, for there is nothing in the text or context to lead the reader to think other than while the sowing is here the reaping is hereafter. It is clear that if it were not for this supposed difficulty of referring the words to the Christian in the condition in which, as we know from other Scriptures, he will appear at the Judgment seat of Christ, the question whether that time and place were intended would not be raised.
(e) Some (Govett, Pember, and others - [and this appears to be the view held also by Mr. Panton also - Ed.]) - who hold that the millennial kingdom may be forfeited by gross sin, suppose that ALL believers rise in the first resurrection, appear before the judgement- seat of Christ, and being adjudged by Him unworthy of the kingdom they return to the death state to await the second resurrection and the great white throne judgement. Their names being then as believers found in the book of life, they have eternal life in the eternal kingdom, but they will have missed the honour of sharing in and reigning in the millennial age.
These two last ideas (d) and (e) seem alike utterly impossible. It seems wholly inconceivable that a body heavenly, spiritual, glorified, like indeed to the body of the Son of God himself, can be subjected to chastisement for guilt incurred by misuse of the present sin-marred body. Not only the manner of the infliction but the fact of it seems to us out of the question.
It seems equally so that a body that is immortal and incorruptible can admit of its owner passing again into the death state. The idea and the terms are mutually contradictory and exclusive. Of those who rise in that first resurrection the Lord said plainly : neither CAN THEY DIE ANY MORE (Luke 20: 36).
What then is the solution to these difficulties?
We turn to pages dealing with the subject.
(1) 2 Corinthians 5: 10. We make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto Him. For we must all be made manifest before the judgement-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done through the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad. This chief statement leaves unmentioned the time and place of the judgement.
(2) Hebrews 9: 27. It is laid up for men once to die and after this judgement (meta de touto krisis, no article). Thus judgement may take place at any time after death. Luke 16 shows Dives suffering anguish immediately after death, for the scene is Hades, the realm of the dead between death and resurrection, and his brothers are still alive on earth. But again, Revelation 20: 11-15, shows another, the final judgement, after resurrection, after the millennial kingdom. Both are after death.
Neither of these passages shows the Parousia in the air as the time or place.
(3) The statements of the Lord as to His dealing with His own servants at His return, contemplate that His enemies will be called before Him immediately after He will have dealt with His own household: But these mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me (Luke 19: 27). Hither, that is, to the same spot where He had just been dealing with His servants. This, as to servants then alive on earth at least, excludes the parousia in the air, for His enemies will not be gathered there.
(4) Luke 16: 19-31.
Dives and Lazarus are seen directly after
death in conditions the exact reverse of those just before known on
earth. The passing of the soul to
that other world, and the bringing about of so thorough a change of condition,
is too striking, too solemn just to happen.
Some one must have decided and ordered this reversal; that is, there must have been a judging of their cases and a
judicial decision as to what should be their lot IN THE
This judgement therefore may take place at or immediately after death, as Hebrews 9: 27 above. And in the time of Christ thus almost all men believed. See, for example, the judgment of Ani directly after death, before Osiris the god of the underworld, in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Or, as to the Pharisees, to whom particularly Christ spoke of Dives and Lazarus, see Josephus, Antiquities, 18. 3.
(5) 2 Timothy 4: 6, 7, 8. I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith; I have finished the course, henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not only to me, but also to all them that have loved His appearing.
Paul was now certain [before his death, - Ed.] that he had won his crown. When writing to the Philippians a few years before (3: 10-14) he spoke uncertainly: not that I have already obtained, for then he had not yet finished the course; but now he writes with certainty. How could this assurance have become his save by communication by the Righteous Judge? But this implies that the Judge had both formed and communicated His decision upon Pauls life and service, even though Paul had not yet actually died. In such a case, as it would seem, any session of the judgement seat in that day will be only for adjudication upon the race or contest, the latter having before taken place as to such a person.
(6) The expression I have finished my course is taken from the athletic world which held so large a place in Greek life and interest and is so often used by Paul as a picture of spiritual effort. In 1Corinthians 9: 24-27, it is used as a plain warning that the coveted prize may be lost. Philippians 3: 12-14 employs it to urge to intense and unremitting effort to win that prize. The Lord is the Righteous Judge, sitting to adjudicate upon each contestant in the race or contest.
Now of unavoidable necessity the judge of the games automatically formed his decision as to each racer or wrestler as each finished the course or the contest. The giving of the prizes was indeed deferred to the close of the whole series of events: Pauls crown would be actually given in that day; but not till then did the judge defer the decision as to each item or contestant. It could not be, for the most celebrated of the Greek games, the Olympic, lasted five days.
The figure, taken with the case of Paul, and in the light of Dives and Lazarus, suggests a decision of the Lord as to each believer BEFORE OR AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH. THAT DECISION ISSUES IN DETERMINING THE PLACE AND EXPERIENCE OF THE MAN IN THE INTERMEDIATE STATE, and may extend to assurance that he has won the crown, the prize of the high calling.
(7) Revelation 6: 9, 11, The Fifth Seal. As before shown, these martyrs under the altar [i.e., in Hades beneath the surface of the earth where they were sacrificed, - Ed.] are not yet raised from the dead, for others have yet to be killed for Christs sake, and only then will they be vindicated and avenged. But to each one of them separately a white robe is given. Now in chapter 3: 4, 5, shows that the white robe is the visible sign, conferred by the Lord, of their worthiness to be His companions in His glory and kingdom. This again makes evident that for these the Lords judgment has been formed and announced. No later adjudication upon such is needful or conceivable; only the giving of the crown in that day.
From these facts and considerations it seems fairly clear that the judgment of the Lord upon the dead of His people is not deferred to one session but is reached and declared either (a) immediately before death (as Paul), when there is no further risk of the racer failing, or (b) immediately after death (as Lasarus), or (c) at least in the intermediate state of death (the souls under the altar).
If this is so, then it will follow that the decision of the Lord as to whether a believer is worthy of the first resurrection and reigning in the kingdom is reached prior to resurrection, in which case the two insoluble problems above stated simply do not arise; that is, there is no question of one raised in a deathless state returning to the death state, nor of bodies of glory being subjected to chastisement. Believers adjudged not worthy of the first resurrection WILL NOT RISE, BUT WILL REMAIN WHERE THEY ARE UNTIL THE SECOND RESURRECTION.
(From the authors book: Firstfruits and Harvest - A Study on Resurrection and Rapture, pp 75-80.)
MASSES FOR PURGATORY
I 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. Well do I remember my boyhood
- Terence Magowan.