My question is on purgatory. I was raised Catholic back in the early 60’s and we were told there was purgatory. I have since then been born again and read the Bible from cover to cover and it is not mentioned one time. I was just curious as to where that teaching might have come from.
That’s a great question. I was raised Catholic as well. I always thought
there was a purgatory. And I would at least make it to there and then try to
work my way up. The fact is that I was pretty upset when I got born again. I
thought, “man, how can you teach stuff like this? This is not in the Bible.” I
was like you. I searched cover to cover and I couldn’t find anything about
purgatory in the Bible. Then I realized there are a lot of things that men do
and that churches and denominations do that started as a biblical principle, but
they turned it into a religion or made it something more than what God intended
it to be, or more than it actually was.
I have learned to have patience with not only my Catholic friends, but myself as
well because there are things I have said that I would later like to go back and
say, “You know what? I shouldn’t have said that.” As I have studied the Bible, I
have found that the legitimate place from where Catholics derive the teaching on
purgatory from is in Luke 16 when the rich man died and he went to Hades and the
poor man died and he went into Abraham’s bosom. There was a holding place, if
you will, that people went to who were believing in the Messiah to come, but
Jesus had not yet died for our sins and risen from the dead. So, there was a
place called Abraham’s bosom in Luke 16. I think that is probably where the
Catholics got the teaching of purgatory from.
It is not an accurate teaching that it is a place that everybody goes to and
then God decides, people pray for you, the saints pray for you, and you can make
it into heaven. That’s not it at all, but they got it from that teaching where
it was Abraham’s bosom. Ephesians 4 also talks about how Jesus went and led
captivity captive. I believe He took those were held in that holding place, in
Abraham’s bosom, after He rose from the dead, He took those souls into heaven
with Him and presented them before the father sprinkled by the blood of His own
body. That’s where I believe that came from.
How do you encourage an unbeliever who has lost someone close to them that was definitely not a believer either?
Well, first of all, if you’re talking to an unbeliever, the only thing you
can do to encourage them when somebody dies is to let them know that God is
there for them. And that God is ready to hear from them and God is ready to have
them pour out their heart to Him and God is available to them. God is love and
God loves them. And whether they believe in Him or not, let this unbelieving
person know that God believes in them. Even if they don’t believe in God, God
believes in them.
There’s no use in speculating about their friend and their death and if they
were an unbeliever or not or whether they’re in heaven or hell. The best thing
that you can do is to let them know, “Look, let’s not be concerned about the
condition of our friend who has died. But rather, let’s be concerned about the
condition of your soul right now and about what’s going on in your life and that
God is available to you, that you can cry out to Him right now.
You don’t have to get into the issue of whether your friend is in hell. You need
to get into the issue of “God is a loving God.” And God wants to save everybody.
And God doesn’t want anybody to go to hell and let us not have another death
without somebody having absolute assurance that they’re going to heaven. This is
the best approach that I would encourage you to take when it comes to somebody
who is not a believer. Let them know God loves them. Give them a reason to
believe for God in their life. I believe that when you do that, you get the
emphasis off of their friend and on their soul and on God’s love for them.
Is it right for a Christian to be an organ donor or to be cremated?
Well, there’s nothing wrong with it. Because if God’s going to need our old
body to do His work after we die, then we’re all in big trouble. We’re going to
get a new glorified body, and He’s not going to need any bit of the old one.
After all, we’re going to turn to dust anyway. From dust you came, Genesis says,
and to dust you shall return. So whether you turn to dust immediately, through
cremation, or over time in a grave, you’re going to go back to dust. There’s
absolutely nothing wrong, in my opinion, with being cremated.
The real question, to return to a core perspective, is your reason for doing it.
If it’s just your personal preference, no problem, If it’s because you want to
scatter your ashes over the sea because you were in the navy, no problem. Organ
donation is actually a very good thing because you could save someone’s life. If
that person is not saved, not born again, your donated organ might give him or
her a few more weeks, months, or years to live and have the opportunity to be