WHO DREAMED UP THE IDEA of purgatory—a mudroom for cleaning off the dirt before walking into heaven?
The story is strange enough that I included it in my newest book: Strange and Mysterious Stuff from the Bible.
Here’s the scoop. This is Strange and Mysterious Stuff #148 of 250.
In Search of Purgatory
MOST PROTESTANTS reject the Roman Catholic teaching about purgatory because it’s not in the Protestant Bible.
The idea does appear in Bibles used by Catholic and Orthodox Christians. When a Jewish commander offered sacrifices for men killed in battle, “He made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin” (2 Maccabees 12:45).
Catholic and Orthodox Christians teach that purgatory – a word that can mean “purge” or “cleanse” – is a place where Christians go after they die to purify themselves for heaven.
One Bible writer, a man named John, who said he had a vision of heaven, wrote that: “Nothing unclean will enter it” (Revelation 21:27).
As some Christians put it, believers who die with only minor unconfessed sins are relatively quickly ushered out of purgatory and sent on to heaven. Christians who committed more serious sins have to undergo more intense cleansing. The most serious unconfessed sins, such as rape and murder, lead to hell.
About 1000 years ago, many Catholic leaders used the belief in purgatory to raise money. They sold indulgences, which were a bit like fast pass tickets out of purgatory. Fundraisers said if a person gave money to the church on behalf of a dead loved one that the loved one would go immediately to heaven. These donations funded what are some of the most beautiful buildings in what is now Vatican City in Rome, including St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pope addresses crowds.
Church reformers such as Martin Luther protested, saying the idea was exploitive nonsense. His protest jumpstarted the Protestant movement.
*Excerpt from Strange and Mysterious Stuff from the Bible