What Is Purgatory?

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In Christian theology, purgatory is a state of purification during which souls are purified from sins so that they may enter the presence of God. Discover information on how the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church believe that purgatory is necessary before entering Heaven from a retired United Church of Christ pastor and teacher in this free video on purgatory.

Part of the Video Series: Christian Facts & Beliefs
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What is purgatory? The question that is often asked between different faith traditions. Purgatory in Christian theology, especially Catholic church and Eastern Orthodox church, is a state of purification in which, according to the two churches, that the souls--after death--are purified from the sins that they have experienced, and even though they have been forgiven by it, there are still, in their belief, a need for purification so that one might enter into the presence of God. Which, in their theology believes that no one can be near God that has any taint of sin at all. Now, these are generalizations which really are steeped deep in historical facts and historical understandings and historical tradition in the two churches. In the Eastern Orthodox church, they believe that the state of suffering that one experiences is not defined in the scriptures. The Roman Catholic church believes that that purgation takes place by fire and then some areas. In Dante's great works of the Inferno, Purgatoro, and Paradiso, those three movements, has one whole book on purgatory which explains, in many ways, some of the beliefs of medieval Catholicism's understanding of purgatory. You must understand that all faith traditions in the Christian church basically believe that one is forgiven by Christ by their sins, that that does cancel out the sin, but there still is some taint as a result of that. If you go to the Catechism of the Catholic church, which is a book that's used within the Catholic church, it defines purgatory as a "purification, so as to achieve the holiness in order to enter the joy of Heaven." The purification is needed, as they understand it, because nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in Heaven, and they take that from Revelations 1:27. It notes that this final purification of the believer is entirely different that the punishment that people receive when they are separated from God after death. When we die, they don't believe that we undergo that particular judgment. Scripture says that it is appointed unto man to die once, and then comes the judgment. We are judged instantly and forgiven, but yet we still have that taint of sin that needs to be purged from our lives. I really want to encourage you, in those two faith traditions--the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church--to touch base with your priest in order to have a greater understanding of this topic. It is very important to your faith. It is very important for Protestants to understand this belief as well, so that there can be a mutual understanding and respect of each other.

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