Hades and Purgatory

SpreadersQuestions and Answers

Dear John,

Last week you convinced me Hades and hell are two different things. After all, they are two different words. (See the bulletin for April 26th.) But my cousin says Hades and Purgatory are the same thing. What do you think?
Listening N. Backrow


Dear Listening,

I think Purgatory is a ski resort in Colorado. The word “Purgatory” isn’t found in the Bible at all. Roman Catholics believe:

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.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia


This is wrong on so many different levels. The Catholic Church teaches that even though your sins have been forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ, you still may have some unforgiven sins that must be punished. They believe even Christians must suffer an appropriate amount of time to account for those sins. Now the good news for Catholics is, they believe some people – the “saints” – were so good they had more than enough good credits to go to heaven. As a result there are some extra credits that the saints are willing to share. Therefore, for the appropriate contribution, the priests will ask the saints to give your loved ones some of that extra goodness so your loved one won’t have to suffer so long in Purgatory. Convenient (and profitable), but absolutely not taught in Scripture.

Their justification for their belief in Purgatory is Hades – the unseen waiting place of departed souls. Since there is an “unseen world,” Roman Catholics claim that place must be Purgatory.

The foundation of this belief is common enough. Many people – perhaps most people – believe we get what we deserve. Good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. The corollary of this belief is, if you do something bad you must do something good to atone for your sin. This is known as “salvation by works” and it is totally contradicted by the Bible.

While Christians believe we need to strive to be good, we are not saved because we are good. We are saved by grace. Grace is the free gift of God (Romans 3:24). It has to be that way because there is no way we can be good enough on our own. Once we sin (and we all sin, Romans 3:23), we become a sinner and sin separates us from God.

Now consider the practical implications of this belief. Salvation by works results in a paranoid lifestyle. We are always “balancing the books” – counting up our good deeds and our bad deeds. We always worry which way the scales are tipping.

On the other hand, Christians believe since we are saved by grace, we constantly try to be good, not because we have to, but because we are grateful. Our life becomes an “attitude of gratitude.” Now let’s grab our skis and visit the only Purgatory worth talking about!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *