Is there really a place called Purgatory?
Logically thinking, it is hard to imagine that there is only Heaven or Hell. That is, if you know your Bible. Countless Bible verses speak of the narrow gate and how few will enter. While countless other verses speak of God’s bountiful Mercy, Grace, and Love; where all are saved through Jesus’ saving Power. For Protestants, it’s even more difficult to understand as the Protestant Reformers removed many books of the Bible that refer to praying for the dead and the souls in purgatory. So, first we need to take a look at why books were removed from the Bible some 1500 years after the Apostles preached from them. Read Books of the Bible? for more information.
“If the work which any man has built on the foundation [which is Christ] survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3: 14-15).
Mere reason suggests there must be a Purgatory. So many people seem to be good, but not so greatly good that they should be fit for heaven at once. Again, not nearly all are so evil as to deserve hell. So there should be a means of purification and paying the debt of temporal punishment for those not fit for hell, nor for heaven at once. (Of course Luther would say we can sin all we want and still go to heaven at once, if only we believe it is all covered by Christ’s merits: Epistle 501 to Melanchthon).
There is not much in Scripture on Purgatory except that in Second Maccabees 12:45, Judas sends a collection to the Temple for those fallen in battle, found with amulets on, “that they might be freed from this sin.” Luther saw so clearly that this referred to Purgatory–which he rejected–that he rejected this book too, declaring it not part of Scripture.