When a loved one dies, the emotional pain is so intense that one of the last things family members would ever think of is the expense for the funeral. This explains why funeral parlors can charge exorbitant prices for coffins, the production of which cost only 5% of their selling price. This also explains why the rent for a small room in a funeral parlor can cost more than three months rent for a much bigger apartment or house. Moreover, this explains why the most expensive piece of land or real estate is the land where the dead are actually laid. When emotional pain is intense, money is just not a priority.
Sadly, funeral parlors are not alone in taking advantage of this emotionally painful situation. Many religious leaders do this also. The Lord Jesus Himself spoke of this concerning the religious leaders during His day. He says, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38-40; emphasis mine).
Now, is it possible that what the Lord Jesus said about the deeds of religious leaders during His time here on earth is also what religious leaders are doing in our day? This question requires a good and honest answer.
I will never forget an elderly woman whose husband died because of cancer. She was traumatized by the event because they had a fight earlier that night, just before he died. She asked the Roman Catholic priest what she could do for her dead husband. The priest said, “Let many masses be made for him, to save him from the pains of purgatory.” Therefore, much of her money went the Roman Catholic Church so that little was left for her own needs and for the needs of family members. Did the priest take advantage of the woman because of the emotional pain she was going through? Did she do the right thing in giving that money in order to free her husband from the sufferings in purgatory?
To answer that question, let us first consider what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about purgatory. One Roman Catholic Encyclopedia defines purgatory in this way. “Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”
Growing up as a Roman Catholic, one nun gave an illustration that I will never forget. She said that sinning is like driving a nail into a smooth wooden post. The forgiveness God gives is like removing the nail from that wooden post. The removal of the nails, however, still leaves a hole on the post. So also, she said, God’s act of forgiveness does not completely remove the guilt of the sin forgiven. When a person dies, he will have to pay the penalty for his sins in purgatory that were not removed by God’s act of forgiveness.
According to Roman Catholic teaching, there is, however, a way to shorten a person’s time in purgatory. How? The primary ways are through the prayers of the living for the dead (novenas), and especially the offering of the Roman Catholic mass for the dead. There is, however, no way of knowing how long a soul will have to stay in purgatory. Prayers and masses for the dead love ones should, therefore, continue indefinitely.
Now this Roman Catholic teaching, whatever be the alleged basis for it, is against the clear and plain teaching of God’s word, the Bible. God makes it clear in His word that His forgiveness removes all the guilt and stain of sin. Isaiah 1:18 reads, “ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.’” You see? God promises that no matter how horribly red a person' sin or guilt might be, and no matter how many they are, God, in forgiveness, will make it as white as snow. No redness or stain will ever remain!
His forgiveness is complete.
Now, how can God do this? Is He not a God of justice? Does not God hate sin with an utmost hatred? Yes, He does! But God, in the riches of His kindness and mercy, provided a just basis so that He can freely grant complete forgiveness to hell-deserving sinners.
How did God do it? Even in the Old Testament religious practices that God instituted particularly through Moses, God has already made clear how He was going to provide a just basis for the complete forgiveness of sins. As the New Testament puts it, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (emphasis mine). Those animal sacrifices offered in the Old Testament, however, could never take away sin and that was why they were repeatedly offered year after year. These repeated offerings only reminded the people that those animal sacrifices could not really provide a just basis for forgiveness and that a more effective sacrifice was needed. And what was that sacrifice? The Bible is clear on that – the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary! He died on that cross in order to completely satisfy God’s justice and, therefore, provide a once-and-for-all just basis for the forgiveness of all sins for all time. This is the clear teaching of all of the Bible, and especially in Hebrews 10:1-18. I would urge you to read that portion of the Bible. It is no wonder, therefore, that when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
Therefore, any sinner who repents of his sins and believes in Christ and Christ alone for salvation will receive full forgiveness for all of his sins. As Peter, the apostle, puts it, “Of Him [Christ] all the prophets bear witness through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43).
In the Bible, it is clear that the souls of all true Christians at death will immediately go to heaven. This is categorically stated in the Bible by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Corinth. He wrote, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6-8; emphasis mine). Clear from this is that for a true Christian to be absent from the body [death, the separation of the body and the soul] means being present with the Lord. There is no third option. This is illustrated in the case of that dying thief with Jesus on Calvary. When he believed in Jesus and called upon Him, Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43; emphasis mine).
All these shows that the whole idea that people who die in grace will have to experience temporal sufferings in purgatory for sins that have not been fully paid or satisfied is contrary to the clear and plain teaching of God’s word. The Bible nowhere speaks of such a place as purgatory. It is an idea created by the minds of unbelieving men who cannot believe in the freeness and completeness of God’s forgiveness in Christ. And what is worse is that such a man-made concept is then exploited by cruel and heartless religious leaders to make money from people who are grieving for loved ones who have died. What compounds the cruelty and heartlessness of the practice is that the living would never know when the souls of those who have died will ever get out of purgatory. Therefore, the exploitation continues for as long as the living will allow themselves to be exploited. It is like paying for a house you want to own someday but not being told how much the house really costs or when you can stop paying and move into that house.
Purgatory – it is the biggest hoax. It is the biggest fraud or swindle. As long as people will not study God’s word, the Bible, this fraud will not be exposed for what it really is. People will remain in bondage.
My dear reader, have you been duped? Are you still in bondage to that error? It is the truth of God’s word that will set you free. As the Lord Himself puts it in to those who had some belief in Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (Joh 8:31-32 NAU)