Friday, November 2, 2012

Biblical Purgatory

"If you're going through hell, keep going."
~ Winston Churchill

If the Bible repeatedly speaks of Hell as an actual locale of the afterlife, it just as assuredly tells of another hell involuntarily frequented by mortals in this life. If afterlife Hell is defined by horrific and unending torment and flame (Luke 16:19-31), the hell of this life is defined by such intense human agony as to beg the question: why does a good God allow suffering?

Theology follows a progression from free will to sin to suffering, rationalizing the equation for affliction. But it proffers no pact to regulate pain. An athlete amiably shrugs, "No pain, no gain" and halts at the finish line. But the victim of dire straits becomes a quarry which gave no consent to the contest and may perceive an abyss of no return.

Meet biblical Purgatory, the place of purging.

Purgatory: The souls of those who have died in the state of grace suffer for a time of purging that prepares them to enter heaven and appear in the presence of the beatific vision [visible God].… It is an intermediate state in which the departed souls can atone for unforgiven sins before receiving their final reward.
~ From The Catholic Encyclopedia

This view of Purgatory has no foundation in Scripture. Its only connection to biblical truth is that the Holy Spirit indeed works continual purging of sin from our lives—a work that begins with the atonement of sins rather than completes atonement. The Bible contrasts the above definition with clear affirmations that Jesus completed, with His death, the work of atonement for all of our sins (Hebrews 10:10-14; John 19:30; Romans 5:8-11; 1 John 1:7). Chapters 9 and 10 of the book of Hebrews are particularly emphatic on this point.

Note that 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 refers not to Purgatory but to the testing by fire of our faith and works. A sure and strong faith is attested by works which are purified by fire and receive rewards in both this lifetime and the next. Faith that is just barely sufficient for salvation receives that salvation, but is accompanied by vain works that are shown worthless by fire, with the soul alone escaping the flames.

Fire testing, or fire baptism, is the purging—the biblical Purgatory—that we rightly call "going through hell."

"Why did I not die at birth? …
Then I would have been at rest …"
~ Job 3:11-13 (NKJV)

"Have I sinned? What have I done to You? …
Why have You set me as Your target … ?"
~ Job 7:20 (NKJV)

"Oh, that the Almighty would answer me!"
~ Job 31:35 (NKJV)

The "patience of Job" had its limits. Like so many people going through hell, Job also begged to question why a good God would allow suffering, with an edge of demand in his voice which the traveler through biblical Purgatory understands.

The Lord often answers our queries with His own, and Job received four chapters of them. The Lord concluded His lengthy interrogatories with none-too-casual observation about children of pride. And Job, purged of his pride, repented of his query with his face on the ground.

Job received not an answer but a purging. No mere pawn in a contest between God and devil, Job held a status as beloved of God. What the devil meant for evil, God used for good, adding multiplied blessings to Job's intense but brief suffering.

So it shall be for us, as the Holy Spirit continues His work of preparing a pure and glorious bride for her Bridegroom.

"If you're going through hell, keep going."
~ Winston Churchill

Faithful Father, whatever the fire, please carry us through it, beyond it, to the place of blessing.

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Copyright 2012, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Remember, Denise: "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

      Love you!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. It is such a delight to see your face, dear Nataša. I was thinking that my prayer could have asked to see the blessing IN the fire, instead of implying that the blessing is only AFTER the fire.

      Delete

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