Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Love and Condemnation

This post is about purgatory. I've been wrestling with this subject for quite some time now. Purgatory is neither heaven nor hell. Its somewhere in between. From what I gather, its a place of purification (based on the understanding that nothing impure will enter heaven). Its not for everyone & not every Christian will experience it. Its only for those who die in a "state of grace" with God & have some loose ends to tie up. Those of us on this side of life can apparently pray for those in purgatory & they can pray for us too. Its so outside my scope of reason that I still find it hard to believe, let alone understand. Still, I keep thinking of 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 where Paul says "...each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." [ESV]

Perhaps this is what happens in purgatory? But then I think, "Wait a minute, God loves His people & nothing can separate us from His love. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, so why would we have to go to purgatory?" Well, purgatory isn't a place of condemnation. Its a place of purification. It doesn't separate one from God's love, it prepares the soul to meet Him face to face. In a way, I suppose purgatory could be viewed as a kind of extension of His love. He will always love us. And when I say "us", I mean ALL of us, good & bad, Christian & "wicked" alike. How can I say that? Surely the wicked will be separated from His love & condemned to hell, right? I wonder how we came to believe this way- that God's love was only for us Christians? The wicked will be condemned, yes, but nothing can separate them from His love either. "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 [ESV] The next verse goes onto say "...while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." Who is us? Us is everyone. And nothing can separate us from His love. I've often heard the "no condemnation/ separation" verses used as proof texts for the 'once saved, always saved' spiel. Once a Christian is saved, they are 100% saved, safe & on their way to heaven from the very second they confess belief. There's no need for purgatory. But I've had a difficult time believing that as well.

In light of the New Testament's many encouragements & admonitions, I'm under the impression that Christianity is not about resting in the belief that we're on our way to heaven so much as it is a matter of stewardship, discipline, and perseverance. Why? Perhaps purgatory waits afterall...

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