C.S. Lewis and Mere Purgatory

That’s right, C.S. Lewis seemed to have embraced a view Jerry Walls can accurately call “mere purgatory.” (See Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation) For many the logic looks like this: If C.S. Lewis believed it, and if C.S. Lewis is “mere” evangelicalism, then it is justifiable to believe in purgatory. Make no mistake about this logic: many evangelicals have courage to believe things unacceptable to their peers and congregations because they know Lewis believed something similar.

One more time: Do you believe in purgatory? Do you think transformation will be instantaneous or gradual? Is moral (total) transformation required to participate in God’s heaven?

Lewis, of course, was no saint. And neither was he a proper evangelical as we have come to know that term. Not long ago I was with a man who went to University with Lewis, and that man said to me, “We are all surprised that it is C.S. Lewis who has become the darling of evangelicals.” [By the way, those who have read Bonhoeffer's Ethics or his Letters and Papers from Prison often say the same of Bonhoeffer.]

C.S. Lewis, for instance, prayed for the dead (found in his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer). The standard view is that the dead are sealed — either glorified or damned. Praying for the dead at least implies something can happen to the dead that could change their status, and so his imagined questioner asks if he is bringing in the idea of Purgatory. Here are the words of C.S. Lewis (Walls has this quote; I am copying this from Letters to Malcolm, p. 108):

Well, I suppose I am. Though even in Heaven some perpetual increase of beatitude, reached by a continually more self-surrender, without the possibility of failure but not perhaps without its own ardours and exertions — for delight also has its severities and steep ascents, as loves know — might be supposed. But I won’t press, or guess, that side for the moment. I believe in Purgatory.

Straight from Lewis’ own mouth: he believed in Purgatory. I have no compulsion to say that because Lewis believed it, it is either OK or evangelical. But it is a bit of an instinct for many of us who think Lewis tapped into the core of the Christian faith in his Mere Christianity to give the man a cupped ear, if not at least a nod.

Walls then sketches how Lewis talked about his deceased wife, Joy, in A Grief Observed, and how he connected her to purgatorial sufferings and cleansings. The view was held by Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Dorothy Sayers. Walls makes a case for seeing Lewis’ purgatory flowing naturally from Lewis’ theology. That is, purgatory is not incidental or casual for Lewis.

Lewis, truth be told, was not evangelical in his atonement theory either. We are in a big hole because we are rebels, and to get out we have to lay down our arms — this is what he means by repentance. But we can’t perfectly repent so, in an Anselmian kind of logic, sees Christ as the perfect penitent (I argued this a bit in Jesus Creed in the chapter on John’s baptism). He substitutes for us in that he surrenders perfectly to God. (Walls observes that Lewis wasn’t into a justification worldview.)

Walls quotes from Lewis, the famous one about there being many people in the world who are slowly becoming non-Christians, and some of them are clergymen; there are also many who are slowly becoming Christians, though they don’t know it. In this Lewis is being a virtue ethicist where character is what makes us fit for heaven: that is, we will find ourselves at home in heaven or find ourselves unable to stomach the place. And a higher level of faith, for Lewis, was when the person, well down the road in his or her journey, comes to the disposition that we are unable and that the person trusts Christ to do it all for them. That is, the person becomes Christlike.

And Christ will finish the job. What complicates it is our freedom. We can push Christ away. But the job will not be — cannot be — completed in this life. Which means it is completed postmortem. Lewis does not teach imputation of Christ’s righteousness; but gracious transformation into Christlikeness. Salvation, for Lewis, was participation in the dance of the Trinity.

Purgatory then is natural to Lewis because salvation is about total transformation, and it requires human reception. It will be finished, that’s a given; but when is the issue. For Lewis, since it isn’t finished here, it will be finished there. Ergo, purgatory is an entailment of salvation as transformation.

For Lewis, purgatory is about sanctification/purification (not retribution); it entails the pain of growth into the deeper reality of joy; and Lewis never minimizes human freedom. But it is the work of God: hence, Walls insists this view of purgatory is very much a matter of grace.

OK, time for me to state where I am:

1. Method is of colossal significance here: there is no biblical warrant for purgatory.

2. Walls, in my view, has made a case for a view of purgatory that is compatible with genuine Protestant thinking, though I cannot imagine the monergist or Calvinist would believe in his view of purgatory. But Walls argues the satisfaction models of purgatory are contradictory to Protestant thinking but the sanctification models are not.

3. I believe those who are committed to virtue ethics ought to believe in purgatory.

4. Walls is right in pushing this discussion into human freedom: if perfection is required, and if perfection for the saint is a matter of growth into perfection because it requires freedom, then purgatory is a reasonable (even Protestant) entailment.  Which takes me back to #1 above. How do we frame these sorts of doctrines? What warrants do Scriptures provide?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Luke

    1 Corinthians 15:29 is pretty mysterious. And 2 Timothy 1:16-18 can be interpreted as Paul praying on behalf of a dead man. So I think there’s some support for praying for the dead (the early church clearly did) but I’ve no idea about purgatory.

    It seems that in Judaism people prayed for the dead and it’s clearly not something that is ever openly banned or discouraged in the NT.

  • Michael Mills

    While I basically agree with your personal conclusions, the question is not answerable — in the same way other questions are. I have often found myself wondering if when I die, will I be completely and utterly transformed in the blink of an eye…or will there be a “process” of change? I don’t know. Do any of us?

    One thing I do know (with a bit more certainty) is that most of us come to this question — and many others — from within a context of time. We view eternity with that lens. But God is outside of time. He is not governed by it as are we. I suspect we’ll all find the eternal life will be much different than what we now imagine….

    Blessings,

    Michael

  • http://www.thinveil.net Brandon Vogt

    In regards to #1 (and therefore #4), I would ask say two things:

    1. There is biblical warrant for purgatory, specifically in 1 Cor. 3:11–15 and Matthew 5:25–26 and 12:31–32. It’s also inferred in Revelation 21:27.

    2. Even if there was scant Biblical evidence, your point begs the question: must something be explicitly defined in the Bible to be true? If so, where in the Bible does it say that? Speaking as a Catholic, purgatory does have biblical roots but it is also one of the earliest doctrines defined in Tradition. It was espoused by several Church fathers:

    http://www.churchfathers.org/category/salvation/purgatory/

  • Sherman Nobles

    I too believe there is biblical evidence for post mortem remedial purification, some type of purgatory where we all encounter the fire of truth and it burns the hell out of us. We must face the truth concerning our lives, how we’ve actually lived, so as to repent and recieve forgiveness. This is what I believe judgment is all about, not separating the saved from the unsaved, but separating our good actions and attitudes from our bad actions and attitudes so that we might be fully reconciled to God. This is what the “day” of judgment is all about. For some that “day” might go on a long time, for others it will be relatively short. And I believe that God in judgment takes all things into consideration, brings all things to light, even whether we’re rich or poor as in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

    Those of us who are privaledged to have the Lord revealed to us in this life begin experiencing judgment in this life and repent, embracing the life and forgiveness of God. Tears, weeping in repentance, grinding of teeth in regret are natural byproducts of experiencing judgment. Many scriptures link judgment and salvation. I especially appreciate Isa.57:16-19.

    16 I will not accuse you forever.
    I will not be angry with you forever.
    Otherwise, the spirits, the lives of those I’ve made,
    would grow faint in my presence.
    17 I was angry because of their sinful greed,
    so I punished them, hid from them, and remained angry.
    But they continued to be sinful.
    18 I’ve seen their sinful ways, but I’ll heal them.
    I’ll guide them and give them rest.
    I’ll comfort them and their mourners.
    19 I’ll create praise on their lips:
    “Perfect peace to those both far and near.”
    “I’ll heal them,” says the LORD.

    Salvation is a work of God in our hearts. It is He that gives us new hearts, creates praise on our lips. It is He that saves us, not we ourselves!

    God does not stay angry forever, but delights to show mercy! Weeping my last for the night, but there is joy in the morning!

    The passages on judgment give me great hope for all humanity, even me; but they also scare the hell out of me! In the light of judgment let us live passionately loving God and loving people!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I find great comfort in praying for the dead and asking them to intercede for me. I find great comfort in talking to Peter, and Paul, and others. At some point we have to say that it is not prohibited.

    In short, purgatory give hope to those of us that have a natural bias toward works righteousness, since I know that I can never be righteous enough.

    And while non-existence of purgatory may be technically correct, I think it may be true that it exists in the same vein that the creation story is true. The temporal components are not what is important.

  • http://bobcharters.blogspot.com Robby Charters

    Before I ever considered Purgatory as a possibility, I read C.S.Lewis’s THE GREAT DIVORCE. I suppose that’s not so much about purgatory as it is a second chance after death. However, at the time, I took it more as an allegory about Christian life while on Earth. I have heard various Evangelicals, including Ralph Mahony, state a belief that Heaven has an “outer perimeter”, similar to that C.S.Lewis describes in THE GREAT DIVORCE. Since adopting the belief in a possible Purgatory, I’ve come to appreciate J.R.R.Tolkien’s LEAF BY NIGGLE. However, that seems to take the “satisfaction” approach rather than that of “purification”. I still appreciate the picture he presents, in much the same way as I do the scene from THE MISSION, of Rodrigo Mendoza doing penance by dragging his “tools of his old life” up the mountain to the tribal people he once hunted as slaves. When the other priests think he’s done enough penance, Father Gabrael countered, “HE doesn’t think so.”

    I’ve also got my own short story, titled, ALLEGORY, which is a free download at Amazon Kindle Store. That takes the “purification” approach.

  • Bev Mitchell

    The ideas that some kind of spiritual development continues post-mortem fits well with views that see creation as ongoing. Scientific advances certainly give us a dynamic view of creation, especially for living creatures. Theologically, this becomes the idea that the Spirit of God continues to create, as well as sustain. Theologically, we easily see creation as spiritual, as well as material. As N.T Wright is fond of pointing out, we don’t know the distance between the material and the spiritual, but Christians do know that God is very close at hand. It would be very surprising if Creation, of both the spiritual and material sort, did not continue after our personal demise. God is building a perfect Kingdom for Christ to rule, and this is clearly a long-term project, if there ever was one.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: Method is of colossal significance here: there is no biblical warrant for purgatory.

    There’s no biblical evidence *against* it either, and it is, at the very least, *strongly* implied in Matthew 5:26 and the parallel in Luke 12:59, and also in Matthew 12:31-32.

    If those passages aren’t referring to purgatory, then what are they referring to?

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: But we can’t perfectly repent so, in an Anselmian kind of logic, sees Christ as the perfect penitent (I argued this a bit in Jesus Creed in the chapter on John’s baptism). He substitutes for us in that he surrenders perfectly to God.

    Atonement theory is not really my thing, but I assume this would fit into the Recapitulation model?

    Lewis recommended very highly ‘On the Incarnation of the Word’ by Athanasius, and he was definitely into the Recapitulation theory. Jesus as the second prototype of Man, succeeding where Adam failed, etc.

  • http://embodyingourfaith.com Tim Morey

    Great post Scot – thanks.

    As I’ve read Lewis I’ve noted his leanings toward Purgatory too, though it seems to be a different view than the traditional Catholic one.

    As I read him it seems he found it too much to think one’s transformation could be finalized all at once – that we would burn up from the heat of it is I believe the image he uses. Rather, he sees people finishing their transformation over time (think of the image in The Great Divorce of people in heaven venturing further and deeper into the mountains, which represents personal knowledge of God).

    But what I haven’t found in Lewis is the punitive or real “purging” aspects of traditional teaching on Purgatory. I know Lewis said he believes in Purgatory, but in context I think that is better understood as shorthand for believing in a process-esque post-death transformation.

    Do I have this wrong? Happy to stand corrected if someone can point out aspects of Lewis’ thought that I’m missing.

  • Richard

    so… love wins?

  • Brian

    Richard’s (11) question is a good one.

  • D. Foster

    Richard (#11),

    I’m starting to believe more and more that it does.

    Has anyone read George MacDonald’s “Unspoken Sermons”? I started it because Lewis regarded it so highly, and I think Lewis’s ideas about Purgatory are derived most heavily from this work.

    For anyone who may not be aware of MacDonald’s influence on Lewis: (a.) Lewis wrote of MacDonald, “I’ve never hidden the fact that I regarded him as my master,” (b.) Lewis’s favorite book ever written was MacDonald’s “Phantastes,” (c.) Lewis said that he never wrote a book in which he didn’t quote from MacDonald, (d.) George MacDonald is Lewis’s guide in “The Great Divorce,” (e.) Lewis compiled an anthology of 365 passages/quotes from MacDonald’s writings, the vast majority of which come from “Unspoken Sermons.”

    I’ve read a lot of MacDonald’s fantasy, but never dove into his theology until recently. I have to say I’m coming around to see my whole faith–including the Heaven/Hell/Purgatory question–in a totally new light while reading “Unspoken Sermons.” I’m curious how others who have read it reacted to it. You can get it for free on the Kindle.

    –Derek

  • Richard

    @ 13 MacDonald has been a good change of pace for me over the last year (gotta love Kindle collections). If you’re interested in some resources dealing with some similar lines of thought I’d recommend All Shall Be Well (a survey of universal salvation in Christian theology from Origen to Moltmann) or The Evangelical Universalist both written/edited by Gregory MacDonald (aka Robin Parry). His pen name is a tribute to Gregory of Nyssa and George MacDonald.

  • Luke

    I read the Unspoken Sermons a while back in college when I was struggling with the concept of hell and my Dad recommended it to me. I thought it was really beautiful and profound and deeply logical. But I struggled with it (at least the first part about salvation after death) because his scriptural bases for some of his key arguments felt weak.

    Regardless it was a much better read than “Love Wins.”

  • Chris White

    We know that when he appears we will be like him because we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure.

    To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
    the Lord will cone down from heaven with the signal of a shout by the head angel and a blast on God’s trumpet. First those who are dead in Christ will rise…then we who are living and still around will be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet with the Lord in the air…That way we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words.

    All of us won’t die, but we will be changed–in an instant, in he blink of an eye, at the final trumpet. the trumpet will blast and the dead will be raised with bodies that won’t decay, and we all will be changed…the dying body has been clothed in what can’t die.

    Is this not the resurrection? Forever with the Lord in new bodies–when can we squeeze purgatory in here?

    What is perfection? Is it not being complete? What is not complete? The old man–the flesh–which shall be changed at the return of King Jesus. Does that mean we will not grow while in the new heaven and the new earth? I hope we do. But why go through purgatory? For our sins–Christ paid them. For character development? Huh?

    We know trouble produces endurance, endurance produces CHARACTER, and character produces hope.

    Hope for what? Hope to make it out of purgatory? No.

    The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters…(after they wade through another trial of sorts=purgatory?).

    We ourselves who have the Spirit…also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We are saved in hope…if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it in patience.

    Our bodies will be set free at the resurrection–isn’t this what we hope for? Isn’t this the goal? (Phil.3:11) Again,where does purgatory fit in?

    Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there–the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body.

    To the one who is able to protect you from falling, and to present you blameless and rejoicing before his glorious presence, to the only God our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, belong glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, now and forever. Amen.

    Peace.

  • Merv Olsen

    Chris White’s list of Scriptures in (16) is refreshing – especially: “We know that when he appears WE WILL BE LIKE HIM, because we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure.”

    No purgatory there! Perfect likeness to the Master in an instant – can’t wait for that Day! Makes me want to become more like Him, however, the longer I live. The pure in heart see God … both now (though somewhat blurred) and obviously totally as He really is in the Glory. Even so come Lord Jesus!

  • Fred Smith

    This is a thoughtful, well written piece. There is no warrant in scripture for purgatory as it says above. And yes, Lewis believed in it. In his context—Anglicanism—Catholic doctrines abound and Lewis was caught up in much of that.

    It is, in a sense, surprising that Lewis has become “the darling of evangelicals.” Much of his belief and practice is very different from ours:

    –He believed there were errors in the Bible—although he did not press the point since his attitude toward the Bible was one of faith, not doubt and attack.

    –He smoked.
    –He drank.
    –He could be rather ribald in speech when he felt like it.

    –He was open to the possibility that God might save people in other religions.

    –He was certainly open to the possibility that God might save people after death—a “second chance” to accept Christ.

    (It has been said that the average C. S. Lewis fan in America would have been rather put off if he could actually have spent a weekend at Lewis’ home—The Kilns at Headington Quarry, Oxford. The time with Lewis and his brother Warren, and Mrs. Moore, smoking like chimneys, telling salty jokes, and drinking ale would be, for them, “an eye opener.”)

    However, there is much in Lewis for evangelicals to like:
    –he was an excellent writer—and this at a time when good writers are rare among Christians.
    –he obviously and deeply loved Jesus Christ.
    –he sought to live wholly for the glory of God—and encouraged others to do the same.
    –he saw Christian faith as a matter that touched every area of life.
    –while he did not believe that the Bible was free or errors, he approached the Bible in an attitude of faith, for the most part, never attacked it, and sought to relate his life and teaching to it.
    –he was viewed by the liberals who were in charge at Oxford as something of a wild-eyed fundamentalist. And he paid a price for it. His colleagues regarded his faith as naïve and foolish, and saw him as a “Bible thumper.” In the context of Oxford of the 1940s and 50s he certainly was far more conservative than the rest of the English Literature faculty, not to mention the theology faculty.
    –He argued for many of the basic teachings of Christian faith in an articulate manner. Evangelicals have been fed a steady diet in our churches, for over a century now, of “relevant” sermons—practical sermons devoid of doctrine but filled with pop=psychology type “applications.” Lewis came onto the scene giving evangelicals a readable, imaginative, yet logically sound defense of the existence of God and the deity of Jesus Christ and the primacy of faith in Christian living. Evangelicals “ate it up” being nearly starved for a strong dose of TRUTH.

    So, in the end I suppose it is NOT surprising at all that Lewis is “the darling of evangelicals.” He is more “one of us” than he is anything like “the liberals” and we forgive him his lapses of doctrine. In his context—ultra liberal Oxford of mid-twentieth century—he came a long way toward us. And we gladly welcome anyone who takes that first step down “the sawdust trail.”

  • Sherman Nobles

    One of my favorite passages where a man encounters God is Isaiah 6. When Isaiah saw the Lord he was terribly convicted of his sin. The Lord took a burning coal (brimstone?) from the altar and purged him of sin and iniquity. How long was Isaiah’s encounter? At the moment it likely felt like forever; in actual time though, who knows? And yes, some day we shall all see Him and be like Him. And every knee shall bow in worship and every tongue shall proclaim allegiance to the King of kings! I believe!

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: But what I haven’t found in Lewis is the punitive or real “purging” aspects of traditional teaching on Purgatory.

    I think the purging/punitive/satisfaction aspects are folded into ‘moral transformation’. You can’t become morally transformed to the degree that is necessary to enter heaven, without expiating your sins.

  • http://embodyingourfaith.com Tim Morey

    @ 20 – I hear you on how those purging aspects are folded in to the idea of transformation, but did Lewis expound on this aspect at all? I can’t remember coming across anything like that in his writings on heaven/hell, and the picture in The Great Divorce does not carry an especially purgative (is that a word?) tone, at least for those wanting to be in heaven and not return to hell.

  • Naturallawyer

    What I find interesting and lost in all this is Lewis’ concept of time. From what I understand (which indeed could be error), his view of God’s creation is that all of it, from beginning to end, was created “at once” (from His perspective, if that makes sense), meaning that God stands outside of it and is not bound by time. That’s why Lewis expressed an issue with the “pre” in predestination, because while God does one thing after another in our perspective, there is no “pre” for His singular creative act.
    In that view, our prayers in 2012 were heard in 2010, 1970, and even in 30 A.D., just as our existence was somehow established at those times. Our prayers are participation in the divine creation. Thus, prayers for the dead may not be much different than prayers for the living. A prayer for the soul of a dead friend in 2012 may even have been answered in 2010 when he was still alive, though you are unaware of his heart change at that point.
    I also seem to recall Lewis once saying regarding the death penalty as relates to the potential for the convict to one day come to Christ, (paraphrasing) “if more chances were necessary, I believe they would have been given.” That sentiment seems contrary to a view that people can become Christians after they die, but Lewis’ views (like all of ours) may have evolved over time one way or another.

  • mjk

    Walls and Scott Burson explore this, and other, theological disagreements between Lewis and an avowedly Evangelical theologian, Francis Schaeffer, in a book imaginatively titled, C.S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer.

    http://www.amazon.com/Lewis-Francis-Schaeffer-Influential-Apologists/dp/0830819355/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346158157&sr=8-1&keywords=schaeffer+and+lewis

  • Chase

    The most common refutation of Purgatory is that it does not pass the test of Scripture. That is to say, the Bible nowhere tells us of such a place and, some would say, even teaches against it.

    What’s awkward for this objector, given he should take instantaneous sanctification instead, is that his alternative is never found explicitly in Scripture either! In the case of such a scriptural stalemate, so to speak, it seems to me we are perfectly capable of using reason to fill in the blank. Our ability to think and reflect is one of the most important ways in which we are made in the image of God and makes us distinct from the rest of creation. Why should we be dehumanizing and refuse to use the minds God has blessed us with? Why should we think of scripture as being the ultimate cheat sheet with all of Truth neatly laid out for us?

    That said, when it comes to going with the more biblical position, it seems to me that in reality Purgatory actually is the more biblical option. How so? Well not in the sense that particular passages of scripture can be found which clearly refer to such a place. In his chapter on Protestant objections and alternatives to Purgatory in Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation, Dr. Walls concludes appropriately that

    “…the debate over whether Purgatory is taught in the Bible is finally a debate about fundamental theological convictions involving the nature of salvation and the role of human freedom and cooperation in this matter. Even more fundamentally, this dispute hinges on differing accounts of God’s goodness and his love for all persons. Since Purgatory is never explicitly mentioned in Scripture, addressing it intelligently will require far more than citing isolated texts, either to prove or disprove it. This debate will inevitably be a profoundly theological one that will involve one’s reading of the whole biblical narrative and of the nature and purposes of the God who drives it.”

    From this, I take it that the best way I can say that Purgatory is the more biblical option is by suggesting the scriptures support my own view of the nature of salvation as it pertains to sanctification and the way we can expect God to treat it in the afterlife. As I’ve said there is no clear teaching in scripture of instantaneous sanctification. However, the process of becoming sanctified is biblical (Romans 6:16-23, Hebrews 12:9-16, James 1:2-4 & 3:17-18, 1 Thess. 4:1-8, Philippians 3:8-17). In addition, that the Lord is our Lord even in our death, being master of the grave, is also biblical, so that there is no reason to think death should somehow serve as some sort of barrier to keep God from doing as He pleases in our lives by the means He so chooses (Romans 14:8-9, Hebrews 2:14, 1 Cor. 15:20-28). With that, it seems to follow most naturally that we should think, in the absence of any indication otherwise, that God proceeds to act through the same methods He used from before our death. In other words, so far as biblical consistency is concerned, continuing sanctification is to be favored because it is found in scripture to be the way in which God sanctifies, whereas instantaneous sanctification is not a method found in scripture, but is instead a possibility constructed independently from the Bible to avoid Purgatory.

    In this case, Purgatory is no more too grand an extrapolation from the Bible than the dual nature of Christ (well, maybe that’s a little strong, but you get the point). That Christ is both fully God and fully man, in that He has two natures, is not taught explicitly in scripture. Instead it is the quite natural and most rational understanding to be drawn from what the Bible and early Church tradition do tell us. In the same way, I can be perfectly comfortable in holding to Purgatory as just such a best possible understanding from what the Bible does say about being sanctified, over speculating about instantaneous sanctification which is a notion I find to be absent in Scripture.

    Attempts to Use Scripture to Disprove Purgatory

    2 Corinthians 5:8- The way this is usually quoted is something as “…to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” But when you take the verse in whole what you get is “ Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Paul, then, is not suggesting that an absence from your body entails being with the Lord, just that we should

    prefer to be with the Lord. If it had meant what the misconstruction suggests, then this would also be a problem for the doctrine of Hell. Another thing to keep in mind is that saying you want to go/are going somewhere does not preclude the need for time and travel to get there. For example, if I say I’m going to Florida next Saturday, you understand the trip takes time even if I don’t mention the travelling. Remember this with Philippians 1:23.

    Luke 16:19-31- The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus- Keep in mind that this was a parable (fiction) and had a specific point to make, namely, those people who were rejecting Christ did so despite His fulfillment of the words of Moses and the Prophets, and so they would not follow Him in the face of a miracle like the Resurrection either. Given this, it would be a dubious endeavor to try to use the details of this fiction to draw doctrinal guidelines for the afterlife.

    Luke 23:32-42- The Thief on the Cross- At the Crucifixion one of the criminals condemned to death believed in Jesus, saying, “…we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong… Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” To which Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus confirmed this man was saved by his faith and would be in “Paradise”. So what does this mean in light of Purgatory? Well, consider what “Paradise”, in a general sense, is? It seems to me that Paradise can be understood as God’s kingdom for the saved (followers of Christ). If that’s the case, then Purgatory, being only for those who follow Christ, is actually included within the overall description of Paradise.


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