Hear and live

25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. […] 28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.   —John 5

I don’t have the hang of Tuesdays yet. That is, the ‘hang’ that I’ve done these past two Tuesdays is not my favorite; I wish I wasn’t trying to pull my sleepy brain together to write when what it would prefer is Real Simple. (Mmmm, all those beautiful organizers!)

In my Monday-life (also a very full day!), however, one of my church-class friends asked: are the dead folk mentioned in verse 29 in Purgatory? Is that what Purgatory is for? Being Presbyterian, I have no clue—we dropped that belief in the Reformation. But do I have a lot of ‘satiable curtiosity!’

I made a note to look it up,
and so now I am.

I was going to ask My Sweetie about Purgatory, him being my Resident Catholic, but he’s Away. Besides, it’s likely not a fair question, since “what happens to dead people” is not commonly an interest of young persons and that’s when My Sweetie’s Catholic education tapered off. (Please don’t ask me about predestination—for the same reason!)

Instead I will reach out to our ever-present help in time of need—first Jesus, then The Interwebs. Jesus does not appear interested enough in doctrinal niceties to speak clearly in my ear tonight…given our deep-reading of Mark in my seminary-class today, I doubt He ever was…so Interwebs it is! A brisk search on “purgatory catholic teaching” yielded ‘What Do Catholics Really Believe About Purgatory?‘* from November 4, 2016 (not that a recent date would be essential for a centuries-old teaching). Here Nick Rabiipour promises to “cover the biblical foundation for purgatory, what purgatory is, and the history of purgatory in the Catholic Church.” Bingo! I love successful information retrieval. Makes me feel the two years I spent on my Master’s was more than worthwhile! (Joke. You know that’s a joke, because you know I love going to school regardless.)

So to answer my friend’s question: not really.

“According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), purgatory is a “final purification” (CCC 1031) which is afforded to “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” so that they might “achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC 1030).”

The idea seems to be that there is no condemnation from God, but at the same time we humans aren’t perfect even though we’re dead. That in fact, we’re a lot more aware of our imperfection at that point, because at death we see God more clearly…and see the gap even more. So Purgatory is where the dead undergo the last ‘refiner’s fire‘ until they can completely unite with God. For full Scriptural authority, one evidently uses First Corinthians 3:15 and Second Maccabees 12:45 (Catholics include First and Second Maccabees in their Bibles).

Since Purgatory is specifically for those who believe in Jesus as Christ, thus receiving the gift of God’s grace, there can be no ‘rising to condemnation’ from there. So the passage from John is not a precursor example.

Interestingly enough, though, Nick’s intuitive definition provides definite overlap with the John 5:29 passage: “I would think of purgatory as more of a state of being. A state of being post mortal death but before the final judgment of Christ at the Second Coming.” There’s that idea of between-ness that Jesus alludes to.

BUT I think Jesus’ words refer more accurately to the Jewish idea of Sheol, the non-place that is separated from God and from life. Sheol is without judgement, in some definitions; the righteous and the wicked alike wait there until…until God’s time arrives. As it is arriving in Jesus’ telling, causing him to separate the good from the evil.

At any rate, it’s been moot since the first century, since once Jesus came into our world as fully human and fully divine, everyone gained the opportunity to hear and live. The way those souls in Purgatory, should that be a thing, acted on their hearing and so will continue in the life everlasting.


This is why I continually return to my Monday class. Sure, we have good materials, but we ask each other even better questions.




* Like the accredited Information Professional I am, I dug deeper into the source site’s bona fides, and even though it’s an education arm of a store for Catholic-specific merchandise, it seems very firmly planted in “What We (Catholics) All Think.” Good enough for we goyim non-Catholics, then!

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