Gnostic Doctrine

Monday, 21 December 2020

Gnostic Teaching on Purgatory

Traditional Gnostic Teaching on Purgatory 

Is there a purgatory ? 
And if so, can the priest by his masses bring the faithful out of it ?''

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the undying souls of men leave their bodies at death. The wicked (those who die in mortal sin) go to hell for eternal torment. The righteous, dying with unforgiven venial sin or undischarged temporal punishment, go to a painful purification before being fit for heaven.

Purgatory is a half-way house between 'heaven' and 'hell'. The Roman Catholic church teaches that Purgatory is a place of purging, in which the soul will suffer for a while before being fit to gain salvation in heaven. The prayers, candle-burning and financial gifts to the church of a person and his friends is supposed to shorten the length of time that the soul suffers in 'purgatory'.

The word Purgatory is not used in the Bible nor the nag hammadi texts 

Gnostic sects like the Bogomils, Pauliciani, Cathars rejected the doctrine of Purgatory

Ralph of Coggeshale goes into considerable detail of the doctrines of the Pauliciani in Flanders and England, and thereby establishes their complete identity with the Bogomils. They held, he says, to two principles-of good and evil; they rejected purgatory, prayers for the dead, the invocation of saints, infant baptism, and the use of pictures, images, and crucifixes in the churches ;

The Albigenses (also known as Cathari), named after the town of Albi, where they had many followers. They had their own celibate clergy class, who expected to be greeted with reverence. They believed that Jesus spoke figuratively in his last supper when he said of the bread, “This is my body.” (Matthew 26:26, NAB) They rejected the doctrines of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, hellfire, and purgatory. Thus they actively put in doubt the teachings of Rome. Pope Innocent III gave instructions that the Albigenses be persecuted. “If necessary,” he said, “suppress them with the sword.” 

Protestants, like Cathars, rejected the medieval Roman doctrine of transubstantiation and infant baptism. Like Cathars and Waldensians, Protestant Churches encourage laymen to read the scriptures for themselves. Most accept women as ministers, and most affirm the dignity of labour. Churchmen themselves are increasingly working for a living rather than living off tithes. Protestant theology is that of mitigated dualism, embracing predestination and rejecting the Catholic position on Free Will. Protestants, like Cathars, reject the medieval Roman Catholic notion of Purgatory, along with the practice of praying for the dead, and the entire system of indulgences.

The Jews had originally had no concept of an afterlife, but under Greek influence they had developed an ill-defined belief in an afterlife by the time of Jesus Christ. (The words translated as hell in the Old Testament actually mean grave or rubbish-tip). In the 2nd Century BCE the Jews had 
developed a  belief that there was a afterlife in heaven or hell. Ideas such as Purgatory and Limbo were developed much later. More conservative Jews at the time of Jesus still held ideas of an afterlife to be an offensive novelty. As they pointed out the many punishments promised by God in scripture are all punishments in this world. None is promised for an afterlife.

Man has conceived that there is such a condition as life separate from God, and obedient to man’s thought; he has produced such a state of mind. When man changes his mind he will find that he lives in heaven continually, but by the power of his thought has made all kinds of places: earth, purgatory, heaven, hell and numerous intermediate states

The righteous are never promised salvation in heaven. The granting of salvation will be at the judgment seat at Christ's return, rather than at some time after death when we supposedly leave 'purgatory' (Matt. 25:31-34; Rev. 22:12).

All the righteous receive their rewards at the same time, rather than each person gaining salvation at different times (Heb. 11:39,40; 2 Tim. 4:8).

Death is followed by complete unconsciousness, rather than the activities suggested by the doctrine of purgatory.

We are purged from our sins through baptism into Christ and developing a firm faith in his work during our present life, rather than through some period of suffering after death. We are told to "purge out therefore the old leaven" of sin in our lives (1 Cor. 5:7); to purge ourselves from the works of sin (2 Tim. 2:21; Heb. 9:14). Our time of purging is therefore now, in this life, rather than in a place of purging ('purgatory') which we enter after death. "Now is the day of is the accepted time" (2 Cor. 6:2). Our obedience to God in baptism and development of a spiritual character in this life, will lead to our salvation (Gal. 6:8) - not to the spending of a period in 'purgatory'.

The efforts of others to save us through candle-burning and other donations to the Catholic church, will not affect our salvation at all. "They that trust in their wealth...none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him...that he should still live for ever" (Ps. 49:6-9).

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