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A Cruel Hoax Revealed

by Bruce W. Robida

Revised November 8, 2012


When asked, many people hope that they’ll go to heaven when they die.  Some people (myself included), know that heaven is where they’ll end up (1 John 5:13).  Others believe that there is no way to know the answer to that question and hope that because they lived a relatively good life, that they should go to heaven.  In the Roman Catholic Church, there is the sense that even if they were not so good, at least purgatory will cleanse them enough to get to heaven.  I used to believe this way.  It scared me to think that the only way to remove the black spots (sin) from my soul was to go through the fires of purgatory.  This necessary purging (or final purification) could take a short time or a long time to complete depending on how much sin you were involved in when you were alive.  There may also be a reprieve depending on how many prayers are said for you during mass.  This could significantly reduce the amount of time you spend in purgatory, but it usually comes with a price.  Indulgences as they were once called are usually paid to the priests to say the prayers for you during a mass.  The more you pay, the more they pray is the general rule.  This system fails to take many things into consideration.  Consider the following scenario as the false system called purgatory is unmasked.

Imagine taking your last breath.  Rather than immediately finding yourself being escorted by angels (Luke 16:22) to the presence of Jesus, (2 Corinthians 5:8), you find yourself locked up inside a gloomy dungeon. A long time passes, but you no longer have any concept of time. You consider every moment of your life and begin to realize that you must be waiting for judgment day (2 Peter 2:4), after all, you’re neither in heaven or hell, or even purgatory for that matter.  If you were in heaven you’d be happy.  If you were in hell, you’d be in agony.  And if you were in purgatory, well you might be in agony, but at least there would be hope of getting through it. You conclude that this must be the fate that awaits all of mankind while waiting for judgment day. 

Centuries pass and you’re extremely sad because nothing good has come since you arrived.  Suddenly, you are whisked away into the presence of Christ.  Finally you think, here is where Jesus wipes away every tear (Revelation 7:17, 21:4).  You look around and there are countless souls, waiting as you are.  And there is Jesus sitting on His throne as He begins to open books (Revelation 20:11-12).  He beckons you to come to Him, and immediately you fall to your knees crying, “Lord!”.  You tremble with fear as He opens the book of your life and recounts every deed (John 3:20-21).  You know that He has the power and authority to give you eternal life in heaven or hell (Revelation 12:10). In your mind you begin to rationalize your life.  You think, “I was a good person”, “I never killed anybody!”  “Sure I wasn’t perfect, but neither was anyone else.”  You begin to compare yourself to others and surely, you were better than most.  Jesus, who knows your heart and mind, not saying a word He stares at you as you contemplate these things.  You get the feeling that you may not have been that good since the look He’s giving you is not one of acceptance.  You think, “At least there’s purgatory.”  Jesus finally speaks.  “Away from me you evil doer, I never knew you!” (Matthew 7:23).  You see that your name is not written in the book of life. You protest reminding Jesus of your own goodness, even saying, “Didn’t I call you Lord?”  Again, He looks at you and you realize that you were putting your faith in your own goodness rather than rely upon His.  The lake of fire awaits you and suddenly you are carried off and thrown in along with countless others (Revelation 20:15). 

But you still don’t get it!  There, you burn in unbearable anguish, wailing and gnashing your teeth without relief (Luke 13:28).  But you somehow still have hope.  You don’t know that this is the second (and final) death (Revelation 20:14).  Somehow you think that this must be purgatory.  A hundred years slowly turns into a thousand and then ten thousand.  “Did no one pray a mass for me?” You wonder.  “Was I that bad that I have to spend so much time here?”  Your agony never subsides and you decide to curse God for sending you there.  But you realize your cursing must have added more time to the debt that you must pay.  You think that you now have more spots on your soul that must be cleansed. 

Another ten thousand years passes and still there is no relief.  The torment is unbearable as the flames lick at your soul and you can see that those spots remain as black as the day you arrived.  Finally you understand that you had been tricked. Your false hope dies as reality sinks in. There is no purgatory!  It was just a cruel hoax.  Purgatory was to be your trump card.  You think back to that day when Jesus stared at you.  He knew that your faith was not in Him, but instead it was in your own goodness.  And then if that was not enough, your faith was also in a system that doesn’t exist.  Jesus knew what was in your heart and mind and His grace was far from you, that is why He said, “Get away from me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23).  So now the torment continues forever and ever, without relief.  There is no hope.  Your trust was misplaced.  This will be your fate for all of eternity. 

You didn’t have to fall for the cruel hoax, but somehow you let others deceive you. No excuse could help you on that judgment day because while you were alive, God gave you the ability to know and trust Him.  In His Word He says that He tests us to see whether we love Him with our heart and soul.  It is Him that we must follow.  It is Him that we must revere (Deuteronomy 13:1-4). He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and He will not tolerate following anyone or anything else. 

God sent His Son Jesus (John 3:16) here to speak to us, revealing our Father in heaven and His kingdom.   Before Jesus came, God sent the prophets to let His people know what and Whom they should be looking for. Now it is Jesus that speaks to us today (Hebrews 1:1-2).  When He arrived, many people understood the signs and believed the prophets. They recognized that the Savior had indeed arrived.  It was the religious leaders of that day that denied His presence, just as some leaders of today deny His authority

When Jesus was here on earth, He spoke to the apostles and His disciples just as the prophets had spoken to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In these last days, Jesus speaks to His people through the teachings that He gave to the apostles and His other disciples (John 14:23-25).  After Jesus went to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to teach the disciples all that they needed to know and pass down to us even to this day (1 Corinthians 2:13, John 14:26).  All of those things that were necessary for salvation and good Christian living (2 Timothy 3:16-17) were written down and preserved until they accomplish all that God desires (Isaiah 55:11). 

The Bible; The Word of God, was written long before the Catholic Church came into being. When we read or hear contradictory teachings, the Bible vs. the preacher, we have to conclude that it is the preacher who contradicts the Bible, not the other way around. The Bible says of itself:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Romans 16:17-18

Remember, these words were written long before the Catholic Church was established and they say that "...the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." And to stay away from those who teach things that are contrary to what they (the apostles) were teaching.

Jesus warned His people against following rules taught by men (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7) and to watch out for false prophets and false teachers so that we would not be deceived (Matthew 7:15, 24:4-5, Mark 8:15, 12:38-40, 13:5-6, Luke 21:8, Romans 16:17-18, 2 John 1:7-8).  He said that His Word was sufficient for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, Psalm 119).  He warns us to accept and teach sound doctrine, and to hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that we can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (2 Timothy 4:1-4, Titus 1:9, 2:1).  He commands us to contend for (or defend) the faith that has been entrusted to us (Jude 1:3).  If we love Jesus, we will obey His commands (John 14:15, 14:23-24) and not the rules taught by men or demons (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7, 1 Timothy 4:1-5).  Cursed is the one that trusts in man, but blessed is the one that trusts in God (Jeremiah 17:5-8, Psalm 118:8, 118:9, 146:3, Proverbs 3:5).

The Roman Catholic Church teaches:

"Purgatory is the name that Catholics give to the final purification which occurs at the end of life. Because we still sin in this life, but will not be sinning when we are in glory, between death and glorification must come purification. This is something even Protestants admit.* Purgatory is thus the final rush of our sanctification. It is our transition into glory. All through the Christian life God is purifying our hearts, giving us greater holiness, but this sanctifying process is not complete (or anything like complete) until the end of life. Thus what God did not choose to give us in this life, he chooses to give us once we are dead. **

* Emphasis in bold is mine - If Protestants admit "...between death and glorification must come purification.", we differ in how that purification is administered.

** As you will see, God does choose to glorify and purify those that are His, in this life.

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders  nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses..." Acts 13:38-39

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...Romans 5:1

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! Romans 5:9

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 ***

***If you belong to God, if you are His, then He has already justified you and if you have already been justified, you have also already been glorified, therefore, purgatory is not necessary.

"The only additional points on which the Catholic Church insists concerning the final purification are that, like sanctification in this life, it can involve pain or discomfort, and that, as when someone is being sanctified in this life, we can pray for someone being sanctified in purgatory. The Church does not teach that purgatory occurs in a special region of the afterlife or even that it takes place over time, for we have little idea how time works in the afterlife, and purgatory may be instantaneous from our point of view." From How to Explain Purgatory to Protestants by James Akin

The Bible teaches:

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus has already provided purification for sins after his death on the cross.

In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:16-28

The first (old) covenant required that the blood of sacrificial animals be used to cleanse not only the articles that were used in the ceremony, but also to cleanse the sins of the people.  The New Covenant also required the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb, shedding His own blood rather than the blood of animals.  Unlike the sacrifices made under the first covenant, Christ’s one-time sacrifice was sufficient to purify the sins of the whole world. 

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:19-26

God makes us righteous in His sight, not by observing the law, but by having faith (trust) in the blood of Christ.  We become justified because of our faith in Him and His blood.  If it is possible to receive purification after our death, why did Christ have to shed His blood?  Why did He have to atone for our sins if there was another way to receive purification?  Justification, righteousness, and purification only comes by faith in the Sacrifice that Christ offered.  It is only through His blood that all of our sins may be forgiven.  After our death, we are made righteous through faith in Him.  This righteousness that God gives freely to those that have faith in His Son, entitles us to reside with Him without stain or blemish. We become pure because He makes us pure by an act of grace. 

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. Romans 4:13

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Romans 4:18-25

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

The righteousness that God credits us with is not our own righteousness, but it comes from Him because of our faith in Christ. This righteousness is already ours when we put our faith in Jesus, therefore no further purification is necessary.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:9-11

All that believe and trust in the blood of Christ have already been reconciled to God. 

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:9-11

Because of the righteousness that God gives, the Holy Spirit resides in everyone that believes in His Son, Jesus.  Since the Holy Spirit lives in the believers of Jesus Christ, just as He raised Jesus Christ from the dead, so He will also raise them from the dead.

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Romans 10:4

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Philippians 3:7-9

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

All believers in Christ, having received the Holy Spirit by faith, have already been sanctified, justified, and made righteous, not because of their own goodness, but because of their faith in the blood of Christ.  God made us righteous already, and final purification has already taken place.  This does not mean that we are no longer sinners.  We are all sinners and God gives us the means by which we might confess those sins.  Since we cannot be righteous on our own, those sins that will plague us until we die should be confessed and true believers will admit when they’ve sinned.  Those that refuse to confess are not true believers. 

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1 John 1:8-10

If your faith is in purgatory for final cleansing, you have insulted the grace of God.  He has provided a means for our justification, which required that Christ gave up His life and shed His blood.  This is where your entire faith should lie if you want to receive eternal life. Faith in anything else might only lead to eternal punishment.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:26-29

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