I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, if you’re a Christian, you probably believe that things will be much better in Heaven than they are in this life. I, for one, certainly hope we’re not going to spend eternity with more of…this. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of love and joy to be found down here. Even so, Heaven must have a lot more going for it.
I don’t expect to get to Heaven and find any arguments or disagreements. I don’t expect anyone to take advantage of each other or mislead each other. No more war. No more tears. No more pain or suffering of any kind. No more looking across the pews in church and asking, “Lord, please help me tolerate that person.” No more cursing or swearing. I don’t expect that I, or anyone else, will want to sin or be inclined to sin or experience sin anymore. I expect that we who are in Heaven will be very different from the people we are in this life. We will be perfect people. But we are Christians right now. Why are things not perfect right now?
Things are not perfect right now because, even though we have been saved, we still have concupiscence, which is the tendency to sin. If we are honest Christians, we all know that we still have some bugs in our software. However, we also know that nothing unclean can enter Heaven (Rev 21:27). So, now what?
Well, if we’re going to be different in Heaven than we are right now, “something” must happen to us between our death and our entrance into Heaven. Scripture tells us that we shall be changed, for we shall see him as he is (1John 3:2). It also tells us that our works will be tried by fire and all the weak stuff will be burned away, although we will still be saved (1Cor 3:12-15). Sounds like a purging, doesn’t it? Obviously, God has to do “something” or else we’re all going to be walking through the door of Heaven dragging our tendency to sin right along with us. And surely God doesn’t want to give our resurrected, glorified bodies to our cantankerous, imperfectly-behaving souls, now, does he?
I don’t know how long it takes, what it feels like or exactly when it happens. Some of this purging may even happen before we die as God works on our souls to perfect them for entrance into Heaven. The point is, we are cleaned up, washed up, disinfected, purged of all the gunk, whatever you want to call it. Otherwise, we’d be left standing at the door of Heaven with nowhere to go. There we would stand, a bunch of saved Christians, with our tendencies toward sin hanging out of our pockets and sticking to our imperfect hair. What a mess we would make of Heaven if we got in like that!
You might not call it Purgatory. Maybe you never even thought about it before. But if you believe you will likely be different in Heaven than you are on the day you die, then you believe in some kind of purging or “cleaning up” process. Catholics simply decided to call it Purgatory.
In Martin Luther’s day, there were lots of people abusing the idea of Purgatory. Consequently, some folks abandoned the idea completely. As with other Catholic doctrines, they threw the baby out with the bath water. However, the abuse of a doctrine does not make the doctrine untrue. Truth is truth. In the case of Purgatory, the truth simply went “underground” for many Christians, and they believe it without even realizing they believe it. We can’t escape the truth. If we’re going to get into Heaven, God’s not finished with us yet. We ourselves shall be saved, “yet so as by fire.” Some people might say, “God has a mud room, and Catholics call it Purgatory.”