By Hank Hanegraaff

Roman Catholicism teaches that believers incur debts that must inevitably be satisfied in purgatory “before the gates of heaven can be opened.” While purgatory is not equivalent to a second chance for unbelievers, it is nonetheless decidedly unbiblical.

First, the doctrine of purgatory undermines the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement on the cross. Scripture declares that Christ, through “one sacrifice . . . has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14; see also Hebrews 1:3). Thus, we can rest assured that Christ received in His own body all the punishment we deserved, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 nkjv; see also Isaiah 53:4–6; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2). When Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), He was in effect saying, “The debt has been paid in full.”

Furthermore, Roman Catholicism clearly undermines the seriousness of sin by forwarding the notion that there are venial sins that can be atoned for through temporal punishment in purgatory. In reality, as the Bible makes clear, all our transgressions and iniquities are sins against a holy, eternal God (Psalm 51:4). And as such, they rightly incur an eternal rather than a temporal debt (Ezekiel 18:4; Matthew 5–7; Romans 6:23; James 2:10).

Finally, while purgatory was officially defined by the Council of Florence (1439) and officially defended by the Council of Trent in the late sixteenth century, nowhere is purgatory officially depicted in the canon of Scripture. As The New Catholic Encyclopedia readily acknowledges, “The doctrine of Purgatory is not explicitly stated in the Bible.” Thus, Catholicism is forced to appeal to human tradition rather than Holy Tradition, grounded in Sacred Scripture.

By one offering [Jesus] has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:14 NKJV


***Note the preceding text is adapted from The Complete Bible Answer Book: Collector’s Edition: Revised and Expanded (2024). To receive for your partnering gift please click here. ***