Amongst the Christians of the second and third centuries there was a widespread belief that the soul when it leaves the body enters upon an intermediate state, to be exchanged at the resurrection for one of eternal duration, either of happiness or misery. Many believed also that for the righteous this inter mediate state would come to an end a thousand years before the general resurrection. This was the doctrine of the Millennium. It was supposed also that the souls of the righteous while in their separate abode, anxiously look forward to the time of their release, and it was for this release as well as for their refreshment during the term of imprisonment, that their surviving friends were accustomed to offer prayer.
An illustration of this belief is to be found in the narrative of Perpetua’s martyrdom. When she was in prison, as related in an earlier chapter, she prayed for her little brother, whom she saw tormented with thirst in a gloomy place: and in answer to her prayer the gloom gave way to light, and her brother, refreshed with abundance of water, ran off to play joyously after the manner of children. “By this,” she says, “I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment.”
Origen’s inquisitive mind often busied itself with speculations concerning the nature and destiny of the soul, and he came to the conclusion that no human being at the time of death is so entirely free from sin as to be fit for heaven, He held that every disembodied soul, even of the best of men, must undergo purification by fire, but he supposed that this was to take place, not immediately after death, but at the time of the final resurrection.
Thus did the doctrine of purgatory begin to spring up, an evil weed, which, nurtured by the Church of Rome, has done so much to keep men’s souls in darkness. It is a doctrine which may be safely said to have no foundation in Holy Scripture, nor is any allusion made to it by the writers of the sub- apostolic age. It is probable that the general belief at this period regarding the pardon and purification of the dead was of a much milder form than it took in the narrative of Perpetua’s vision, and very far removed from the purgatory of later times. It thus appears in the Apostolical Constitutions : “Let us pray for every brother who is at rest in Christ, that God the lover of mankind, who has received his soul, may forgive him every sin, voluntary and involuntary.” — Early Church History to the Death of Constantine, 1906, Pg 247.
Purgatory is an invention of the Church of Rome. In case one has ever wondered how it came into being, here we have the historical account. Why does one think this was invented? History tells us the answer to this question. But, what have you been told?
Some light can be shed on the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory by understanding that the number seven represents completeness in Judeo-Christian symbolism. For example, recall the story of David’s sin from the Old Testament: David sinned, God forgave him, and yet David still had to “pay the price” for his transgression, and so, God struck David’s son dead. (2 Samuel 12:13-18) In summary: God forgives, but God also demands expiation. This is no different than us forgiving someone from stealing from us but still insisting that the offense has not been completely eradicated until the offender has made restitution. But what does any of this have to do with the number seven you may be wondering…
Notice how David’s son “died on the seventh day.” (2 Samuel 12:18) The inclusion of the phrase: “the seventh day” is an extraordinary one because it symbolically suggests complete eradication of one’s sin is not truly met until expiation is made. This same suggestion of completion symbolized by the number seven is seen elsewhere in the Bible, for example: God only rested after his creation of the world was complete “on the seventh day.” (Genesis 2:2) In retrospect then, validation of what’s already been summarized can be demonstrated: God forgives: “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13) But God also demands expiation: “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.” (2 Samuel 12:14) By reading this Bible passage in light of the Judeo-Christian understanding of numerical symbolism, much light is shed on the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory by the remarkable inclusion of the number seven here to show that not until expiation is made is sin completely eradicated.
Granted, David’s sin is not the foundation to the doctrine of Purgatory. For that, a light is shined on prayers for the dead; Purgatory’s true basis: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Maccabees+12%3A40-45&version=RSVCE (2 Maccabees 12:40-45) Logically, praying for the dead supposes a soul not in heaven where it would not need the benefit of prayer, nor in hell where prayer would be no help either, and so, Purgatory is the explanation to this Bible passage.
Additionally, Paul writes to the Corinthians that a man’s works will be tried. If his works do not stand the test, then he will suffer loss… But he will still be saved, “but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15) Logically, this fire can not be the eternal fire of hell as no one is saved in hell, nor can it be heaven as there is no suffering in heaven, and so, Purgatory is the explanation to the this Bible passage.
Lastly, Jesus himself speaks of liberation from sin only after restitution, (Matthew 5:25-26) and also speaks of sin “not forgiven in this age or the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32) Logically, any remission of the effects of sin in the “age to come” can only mean Purgatory as sin is not remitted in hell, and there’s no one with sin in heaven.
Catholic Christians believe at death the body and soul separate. The soul then, independent from the body which kept it captive to this world and all of its distractions, will become aware of all of its imperfections from sin, and therefore find itself unfit to spend eternity with God and desire purification: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+6%3A1-7&version=RSVCE (Isaiah 6:1-7)
If it helps, think of this analogy: If you were to meet the president of the United States of America, but on the way to the White House you spilled a cup of coffee on your shirt or blouse, would you find yourself presentable to meet the leader of the free world, or would you want to change into new unsoiled clothing? Now imagine the condition of your unclean soul and how awkward it will feel in the presence of the Almighty…
For the record, this is the Catholic Church’s definition to the doctrine of Purgatory: All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their salvation, but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
In conclusion, understanding the Judeo-Christian symbolism of the number seven is a good place to start when shedding some light on understanding the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. Meanwhile, Purgatory’s true basis is in prayers for the dead, and additionally, more light can be shed on it by illuminating both Paul’s letters and the very words of Jesus. Finally, the Catholic Church is sometimes accused of inventing Purgatory, but as demonstrated, the belief and practice is taken right out of the Bible, and prior to the Protestant Reformation all Christians believed in it, and so, the only invention concerning Purgatory is the Protestant one that says it does not exist!
Keep the Faith my friend… May God bless you and love you, amen.
*For a more comprehensive explanation of numerical symbolism shared between Jews and Christians, see this post: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=429324097134703&set=pb.401508269916286.-2207520000.1359079435&type=3&theater
Rick, may I recommend a book called, “The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment” by Thomas Thayer…It will show you biblicly, the true meanings of all cited passages you gave. I applaud what you have put here. It takes courage to enter the foray and open yourself up. Well done and God Bless.