Friday, February 1, 2013

An Argument against Purgatory

These are some old comments I left on a blog discussing whether a Protestant version of Purgatory really works out biblically.

Here’s Paul on the rapture/second coming:

1 Cor 15:51-52: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

Now, either the Christians in Paul’s day are perfect already, something only someone who has not read the rest of the letter could claim, or glorification is instant and the process of sanctification is ended in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

One could also say that purgatory lasts only until the second coming, but this would also mean that Paul believed the Corinthians had no need to go through it. The best explanation? There is no purgatory.

Paul assumes that the Corinthians, being in the immature and awful state they are in, with all of their imperfections, have no need of further sanctification once the trumpet sounds. They are glorified immediately. If an intermediary time was needed for the purpose of sanctification then what he says here would make no sense. Now, one can say that there is a difference between resurrection and the state of the soul between death and resurrection, but my point would be that if this is necessary, why is it immediate for those resurrected and not for others?

Furthermore, the dead are immediately raised imperishable. Now, are we to conclude that those who die two seconds before the final trumpet, and were not completely sanctified, will not be changed in the twinkling of an eye, or does the passage assume that there is no intermediary state and that the Christian goes immediately from what is corruptible to what is incorruptible? In other words, both those who are alive when Christ returns and those who died are all instantly glorified in their bodies. They cannot sin any longer. They cannot be corrupted. I think the inference works one way and not the other, so the best explanation is that there is no such thing as an intermediary state that is necessary for “less sanctified” Christians to enter before they are perfected. The question that needs to be answered by those who believe in purgatory is why it is necessary for one group and not the other. The concept of purgatory makes sense to us, so that is why it is believed. What doesn’t make sense is to believe that it is only necessary for one group of wayward Christians and not another group of wayward Christians.

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