This is one of the paintings from “Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry”. This shows purified souls in Purgatory showing souls trapped in water, fire, on rocky and grassy land where they are rescued by angels. Beasts (probaby demons, i.e. fallen angels) surround a soul.

Protestant denominations on the whole tend to reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, a state of being after death where a soul which has died in a condition of favour and friendship with God undergoes a process of purification for any remaining imperfections by means of spiritual suffering or mental anguish. Catholics believe that purgatory is necessary since no one dies without having committed a sin at one time or another during their lifetime (Colossians 3:25). The venial sins which do not merit everlasting punishment or hell must be purified in purgatory, as well as those mortal (i.e.damnable) sins which, provided the person who has committed them has repented of, have been forgiven by God (I John 5:16-17). Purgatory is therefore a place where atonement or reparation is made to those sinned against by the transgressor, especially where a person has received absolution from God but has not been forgiven by the victims of those sinned against. In other words, purgatory provides justice for the victims of sin when those who sinned against them have repented. An earthly example would be where a murderer expressed sorrow for his or her crime, but according to the dictates of justice would be required to make atonement to the the family of the murdered by means of a lengthy prison sentence. Repentance for sin can either be motivated by contrition (sorrow for the harm done to the victim of a sin), or by attrition (fear of God’s punishment). Attrition or the fear of God can also lead the way to salvation according to Proverbs 13:13, Proverbs 14:26-27, and Proverbs 19:23. The Ninevites repented out of fear towards the warning of the Prophet Jonah and thereby avoided God's punishment, at least until the fall of Assyria before the combined armies of the Iranian Medes and Babylonians in 614 and 612 B.C. The prophet Jeremiah taught that humans have free will in determining their future, for God's punishment or reward upon a nation depends on whether they choose to accept or reject His teachings (Jeremiah 18:7-10). Passages in the Bible that support free will can be found in I Timothy 2:3-4, II Peter 3:9, I John 4:8, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11, Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 24:15, and II Corinthians 5:15. Jesus said according to Matthew 10:28 that we should fear God, who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell, and the Apostle Saint Paul taught in Philippians 2:12 that we should work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Jesus Christ taught in Matthew 18:18 that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Jesus also told His apostle Saint Peter in Matthew 16:19 that he would have this power to bind and loose, what Catholics argue is the authority of the pope to grant indulgences for forgiven sins. Jesus told his disciples that any sins they forgave were forgiven, and any sins that they retained were retained (John 20:23). The Catholic Church says that this part of scripture supports the authority of clergymen to hear confessions and grant absolution for sins in God’s name. This may or may not be the case. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ did teach according to Luke 18:9-14 that a person who begs for God’s mercy by making a prayer in a house dedicated to God will be forgiven, as shown in Christ’s parable of the tax collector and Pharisee praying in the Second Temple of Jerusalem built by King Herod. Personally, I believe that Jesus meant that all Christians have the power to either forgive or retain the sins of those who trespass against them. However, Jesus also taught that if we do not forgive the sins of others, neither will God forgive our sins (Matthew 6:14-15). In Matthew 18:34-35 Jesus said by means of parable that if we do not forgive from our heart those who have trespassed against us, we too will have to suffer the psychological tortures of purgatory until the debt of our own sins have been paid in full. One may forgive a person's trespasses on the conscious level, yet fail to forgive them on the unconscious level. Jesus also taught by means of parable that we should come to an agreement with our adversary if we would like to avoid the prison of purgatory, where we will not be released until we have made full compensation to those we have sinned against (Matthew 5:25-26 and Luke 12:58-59). These last two mentioned biblical passages seems to preclude an early release from purgatory by means of prayers and indulgences for the dead, which is referred to in II Maccabees 12:43-46. The Protestant churches do not regard the Books of Maccabees as canonical, but regard it as part of the Apocrypha, those books of the Bible which are placed between the Old and the New Testament. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches accept the canonicity of the Apocrypha, calling those books Deuterocanonicals. Jesus Christ said by means of parable that whoever sins in the knowledge that they are sinning will be punished more severely than those who committed sins in ignorance (Luke 12:47-50). Saint Paul wrote about the chastening of God to save the souls of those who take the Eucharist in an unholy manner (I Corinthians 11:20-34) and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:5-11 writes that the chastening of God leads to salvation. These two scriptural passages might refer to the purification of repented sins in purgatory.

In I Corinthians 3:10-15, mention is made of a purifying process by fire, and salvation through fire. The Day of Jesus Christ will test each one’s work by fire, to reveal what sort it is. If anyone’s work survives the fire, he or she will receive a reward, but if anyone’s work is burnt, he or she will suffer loss, but will nevertheless be saved, yet so as through fire. The Day of Christ may refer to the disappearance of the current heavens and earth by means of fire when Jesus returns to judge the world (see II Peter 3:7-13 and Revelation 20:11). The fires of purgatory might be the same as the fire from the altar in heaven (Revelation 8:5). Personally I do not believe that the fires of purgatory produce physical pain, but psychological anguish for a guilty conscience. There is some scientific evidence for the existence of purgatory. This evidence concerns the accounts of life reviews which those who have had a near death experience (NDE) have given after they were resuscitated from clinical death, i.e. with a flatline for both the electrical heartbeat and electrochemical brainwaves on the electrocardiograph (EKG) and electroencephalograph (EEG) monitor machines. This is what Bruce Horacek, Ph.D. and the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) (2003) says about the life review: “During a predominantly pleasurable NDE (Near Death Experience), usually while in the light, the NDEr may experience a life review. In this review, the NDEr typically re-views (sees again) and reexperiences every moment of his/her life. At the same time, the NDEr knows what it was to be on the receiving end of his/her own actions including those that caused others pain. At this time, the NDEr usually reports feeling profound remorse, along with extreme regret that the harm cannot be undone. At the same time, the NDEr typically reports feeling consistent unconditional love from the light who communicates that the NDEr was still learning how to be a more loving person what NDErs tend to say is the purpose of life.” (see Impact of the Near-Death Experience on Grief and Loss in Google Search). This karmic life review seems to agree with Colossians 3:25 which says that whoever "does wrong will be repaid for what they have done, and there is no partiality." Some Protestant fundamentalists argue that the life review in a near death experience is a trick by Satan, but would Satan wish to make people more morally good as this process seems to do? In Richard Matheson’s novel What Dreams May Come, a newly dead character sees all the events of his life unfold in reverse, then later experiences the same thing more slowly, in a self-evaluation process that the novel equates with purgatory. According to Mark 10:27, what is impossible with men is possible with God, for nothing is impossible with God. Therefore, a person who is robbed of many years of life on earth by being murdered will be compensated for those lost years in a way which only God knows how to compensate. For example, God might allow the murdered person in the afterlife to experience what it would have been like to have lived out their remaining years had he or she not been murdered. Or an innocent person who was imprisoned could experience in the afterlife what it would have been like to have lived as a free person in the lost years on Earth. If God could not do the impossible by undoing the harm done by sin, then the impossible situation would arise where God would be damned with Satan in the lake of fire at the end of time because he allowed a situation to develop where the harm done by sin could not be undone. Those sinners who had not been forgiven their sins by their victims from their hearts would also be damned forever.

In Matthew 27:50-54 it is written that after Jesus was resurrected many of the buried dead saints came back to life body and soul, their graves having been opened by an earthquake which occurred after Christ gave up His spirit to His father on the cross. In the The Acts of the Apostles 2:22-36 the Apostle Saint Peter preached a sermon immediately after Pentecost to the multitudes in Jerusalem in which he said that the patriarch David prophesied that the Messiah will not be left body and soul in Hades, and neither that his own soul would remain there. Nevertheless, Saint Peter said that David's body lay in his tomb to this day. In Revelation 20:12-15 it is written that the sea and Death and Hades deliver up the dead for judgment, after which Death and Hades (purgatory) are cast into the lake of fire (hell), which is the second death.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) claimed that purgatory does not exist because after death the soul sleeps until reunited with it’s body at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Yet Jesus Christ in the parable of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man spoke of the rich man’s soul in hell pleading to God to let Lazarus warn his brothers still on earth to avoid his fate ( see Luke 16:27-31). Revelation 6:9-11 mentions the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held crying out to Jesus to be avenged, and being told to wait for justice until those still on earth who would be killed for the same reasons as they were were completed. King Saul was able to contact the soul of the prophet Samuel from the grave by contacting the medium of Endor (I Samuel 28:3-25). The possibility of a state of being that is neither heaven nor hell after death is shown by I Peter 3:18-20, where Christ after His death but before His resurrection, i.e. His soul, went to preach to the imprisoned spirits who had not obeyed God during the days that Noah was building his ark. The account of the flood in which Noah survived with his family is mirrored in the story of a great flood told in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. Babylonia used to exist in what is now Iraq and Kuwait. Scientific evidence from the deposits of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers which flow through Iraq show that a great flood occurred in the region around 3000B.C., possibly caused by the rapid melting of the snows in the mountains of what is now eastern Turkey, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have their source. The patriarch Abraham was born in the city of Ur, whose ruins are located in what is now southern Iraq.

Jesus Christ spoke about the sin against the Holy Spirit when the Pharisees or teachers of the Law or Torah from Jerusalem (i.e. the first five books of the Old Testament or Pentateuch), accused Him of being possessed by Satan and of casting out demons by the power of Satan, saying that the sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either on Earth or in Heaven (Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:28-30). Roman Catholic theologians interpret this to mean that unlike the sin against the Holy Spirit, the repentant sinner will be forgiven in the afterlife or in purgatory. A Catholic priest once told me that the only way to be forgiven the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to believe that Jesus Christ has a clean spirit and casts out demons by the power of God. Saint Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:3 that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and that no one can say that Jesus is Lord unless they are guided by the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul also wrote in Romans 10:9 that if one confesses with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believes in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead, they will be saved. Jesus Christ according to John 5:24 said that whoever hears His word and believes in God who sent Him will be saved. We all should pray that we believe, and that God should help our unbelief (Mark 9:23-24). Another unforgiveable sin according to Hebrews 6:4-6 is to abandon Christianity for another faith, i.e. the sin of apostasy. The only way for an apostate to repent as a Catholic priest once told me is to return to Christianity as the prodigal son (see Luke 15). Nevertheless, according to those who have had near death experiences, i.e. those people who have reported having visited the afterlife before they were resuscitated back to life from clinical death, morally good non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, animals, and plants go to heaven too. In addition, Christians of various denominations have reported having visited heaven in near-death experiences (Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife in Google Search).

The Calvinist and Lutheran predestinationist doctrine of eternal security, also known as "once saved, always saved", based allegedly on Romans 8:28-39 in The New Testament, which in my opinion really speaks about God's unconditional love rather than eternal security, is undermined by many Biblical passages which declare that people can lose God's grace if they grow weary in doing good for the glory of God. These biblical passages are Ezekiel 3:20, Ezekiel 18:24-26, Ezekiel 33:13, Ezekiel 33:18, Galatians 6:9, Revelation 2:10, Galatians 6:1, James 5:19-20, I Peter 2:10, II Peter 1:5-11, Acts 20:28 and I Timothy 4:1, Revelation 2:4-5, II Peter 2:20-22, Mark 4:16, Luke 8:13, Revelation 3:5, Luke 9:62, I Corinthians 10:12, Matthew 24:13, Matthew 7:21, Romans 2:13, I Corinthians 9:26-27, Matthew 10:22, I Timothy 4:1, Hebrews 3:13-14, James 1:12, I Peter 4:17-18, Romans 11:19-23, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 3:11, Revelation 3:21, Revelation 21:7, Matthew 18:24-35, Hebrews 10:38, John 8:51, Romans 11:22, Hebrews 3:14, II Timothy 2:12, I Corinthians 15:2, Colossians 1:23, I John 3:6, and I John 1:5-10. See Once Saved Always Saved-Fact or Fiction?-Preparing For Eternity and Scriptural Refutation of "Eternal Security"-Bible.Ca.

By Ardent Seeker