Adapted from Complete Bible Answer Book by Hank Hanegraaff. 

Roman Catholicism teaches that believers incur debts that must inevitably be discharged 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, absolutely satisfying the justice of God on our behalf (Romans 3:25–26; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 21; 1 Peter 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 the traditions of the fathers rather than the testimony of the Father—who through his Word has graciously provided salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone (Romans 4:2-8; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Hebrews 10:14