Views on Hell: Purgatory

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Welcome back! This is the final episode of our four-part series on views on Hell! In this episode, we’re discussing Purgatory.

Is Purgatory an Evangelical Belief?

If you’re listening to this, you’re likely coming from either a Protestant denomination or are non-denominational (though shoutout if you’re listening and you’re Catholic)! So, it might surprise you that we’d be breaking down Purgatory.

Purgatory can be argued from an orthodox, evangelical perspective. Recently, we’ve been familiarizing ourselves with this view.

We would argue that Purgatory should be grouped with views/theology of Heaven more so than hell. But it often comes up in discussions of hell since it’s a discussion of eschatology and life after death. So, it seemed fitting to address it in this series 

What is Purgatory?

So, what is Purgatory?

The traditional understanding of Purgatory is that it is a temporary place/stage on the way to heaven. It is a place only for people who die in a “state of grace” and who will eventually make it to heaven for eternity.

Naturally, this definition leads to the question of how someone dies in a “state of grace”? And how are they made “fit” for heaven?

Most Protestants believe “Purgatory” (the process of being made clean/fit for heaven) happens in an instant, at justification/salvation.

Points of Clarification

Let’s clarify some of the points that those who believe in Purgatory would argue:

  • It isn’t a place of probation, of being suspended between heaven and hell. If a soul enters Purgatory, it’s bound for heaven eventually. 
  • It’s not a “second chance” for people who die unrepentantly.

Sanctification vs. Satisfaction

Let’s talk about the difference between Purgatory in terms of sanctification & satisfaction.


Roman Catholics primarily emphasize sanctification when referencing Purgatory. Essentially, Purgatory “cleans you up” and makes you fit to be in heaven.

This belief is tied to the Roman Catholic doctrine of penance. Three things are required for a person to be made fully right from the Catholic perspective:

  • Contrition (guilty person truly feels sorry & repentant)
  • Confession (sin must be confessed to a priest)
  • Make satisfaction (accepting whatever punishment is imposed by the priest)

If these three things don’t happen, one must undergo the appropriate punishment in Purgatory.


The other concept of Purgatory is related to satisfaction. Those in Purgatory undergo punishment to satisfy the justice of God.

This model of understanding Purgatory holds that the punishment for Purgatory needs to be enough to satisfy the demands of justice of God.

The Reformers vehemently rejected this model of Purgatory. It just doesn’t align with our beliefs about the cross and the sufficiency of Jesus’s death for our justification. 

Protestants who believe in Purgatory would argue that the sanctification model is compatible with Protestant theology.

Biblical Support

So, where do those who believe in Purgatory find biblical support?

There is very little explicit biblical support for the doctrine. However, it can be considered biblical when considering other things that are clearly taught in Scripture. This principle is also applied to the doctrine of the Trinity. It is not explicitly taught or mentioned in Scripture but can be inferred. The same is true of the doctrine of Satan as a fallen angel.

1 Cor. 3:11-15: 11 – “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

There are those whose work is burned up, but are still saved “as one escaping through the flames.” Sanctification will occur through the punishment after death, but ultimately the soul will be saved into heaven.

Isn’t this about believers?

Those who argue against Purgatory point out that this passage illustrates believers’ works being judged. If our works are of good quality (“gold, silver, costly stones”) they will pass through the fire unharmed and we will be rewarded for them. If our works are of poor quality (“wood, hay, and straw”), they will be consumed by the fire and there will be no reward. It’s not about the actual believer’s soul passing through, but their works. They’re escaping through the flames, not being cleansed by the flames.

If you look up “biblical support for Purgatory,” most of it can be found in books from the Catholic Bible (Apocrypha) but not the Protestant Bible. So, we’re not going to go into those.

Protestant Argument Against Purgatory

Let’s look at the main Protestant arguments against Purgatory. Isn’t this a works-based salvation? Protestants would say that salvation is by faith alone.

Isaiah 53:5 – “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed.”

So, to say we also must suffer for our sins implies Jesus’ suffering wasn’t sufficient. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient. We don’t need to be cleansed through Purgatory, pay, or atone for our sins on our own. God is the one who sanctifies us and makes us clean.

One Degree Shift

Dive in and search the Scriptures for yourself! Don’t take our word for it, but decide what you believe Scripture teaches for yourself. But, if you want some help, we recommend the Counterpoints series book on hell: Four Views on Hell.

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