The Roman Catholic church teaches that the souls of God's people may go to a place called 'purgatory' after death, which is a half-way house between 'heaven' and 'hell'. They teach that it is a place of purging, in which the soul will suffer for a while before being fit to gain salvation in heaven. The prayers, candle-burning and financial gifts to the church of a person and his friends is supposed to shorten the length of time that the soul suffers in 'purgatory'. The gross error of such ideas should be established from the following:-
- The Bible is silent concerning the existence of such a place.
- We have shown that the soul refers to our body, rather than to some immortal element within us, and that 'hell' is the grave rather than a place of punishment.
- The righteous are never promised salvation in heaven. The granting of salvation will be at the judgment seat at Christ's return, rather than at some time after death when we supposedly leave 'purgatory' (Matt. 25:31-34; Rev. 22:12).
- All the righteous receive their rewards at the same time, rather than each person gaining salvation at different times (Heb. 11:39,40; 2 Tim. 4:8).
- Death is followed by complete unconsciousness, rather than the activities suggested by the doctrine of purgatory.
- We are purged from our sins through baptism into Christ and developing a firm faith in his work during our present life, rather than through some period of suffering after death. We are told to "purge out therefore the old leaven" of sin in our lives (1 Cor. 5:7); to purge ourselves from the works of sin (2 Tim. 2:21; Heb. 9:14). Our time of purging is therefore now, in this life, rather than in a place of purging ('purgatory') which we enter after death. "Now is the day of salvation...now is the accepted time" (2 Cor. 6:2). Our obedience to God in baptism and development of a spiritual character in this life, will lead to our salvation (Gal. 6:8) - not to the spending of a period in 'purgatory'.
- The efforts of others to save us through candle-burning and other donations to the Catholic church, will not affect our salvation at all. "They that trust in their wealth...none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him...that he should still live for ever" (Ps. 49:6-9).