I was at a dinner meeting with several ministers of various denominations recently, when a discussion of the doctrine of “purgatory” took place. I listened attentively, and finally the question was posed to me: “Rev. Wigton, what is the view of Baptists regarding purgatory?”
I did not hesitate to answer that Baptists believe the words of the Apostle Paul, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (II Cor. 5:8) Furthermore, I answered, the Apostle Paul says, “For me to live is Christ; to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
There is no Scriptural basis for purgatory, which makes the teaching of purgatory a false doctrine. The Christian doctrines that we believe today come from the Bible and have been articulated for some 2,000 years. The doctrine of purgatory became popular in the 12th century and became official in 1245 A.D. It is a man-made doctrine, not pretending to come from Scripture but from the authority of the “Church.”
In recent years some have tried to find vague Scriptural foundations for purgatory, but there are none. The verses cited have so little to do in establishing purgatory that it is not worth our time to refute them. There is simply no biblical basis for purgatory.
The concept of “purging” or washing away our sins is biblical – but always such purging is based upon our faith in the completed work of Christ on the Cross and the effectiveness of His blood. The Apostle John tells us, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) And if we confess our sins, He cleanses us. (I John 1:9)
To believe one must face further penance or purging of sin after death is to deny the sufficiency, authority, and completeness of Christ’s death and shed blood. John tells us Christ is the “propitiation” (or satisfaction) for our sin. (I John 2:2)
The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgement.” (Hebrews 9:27) We will be judged, John says, on whether we are in Christ. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:12) And there is no second chance – no purgatory. We die once – in Christ or not in Christ.
We are not in Christ through the church nor through baptism. We are in Christ by voluntarily putting our faith in Him as one’s only Savior. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power (right) to become children of God.” (John 1:12) Every sinner needs a Savior, and only Christ qualifies to cleanse away our sins and save us.