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Elliot wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Isn't the doctrine of Purgatory (a place for purification of sins after death) conflict with the doctrine that Christ died once for all?

    18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;

    1 Peter 3:18

It seems like it is another part of our works in order that we may enter Heaven which differs from the doctrine of justification by faith alone. (Romans 3:28)

28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.

Romans 3:28

Thank you,


  { Doesn't the doctrine of Purgatory conflict with these two basic Christian doctrines? }

Paul replied:


You may be invited to the high class dinner, but you'd need to wash up first before attending.

"Christ died so that we may have an invitation to the "eternal feast" with the Father. When we accept that invitation with faith and works, we are guaranteed a place at the table.

You don't show up being soiled after a hard day's work in your dirty jeans and T-shirt. Proper cleansing of all attachment to sin that has been forgiven is needed in order to enter the fullness of the presence of God in heaven. That's what Purgatory is for.



Mike replied:

Hi Elliot,

Thanks for the question.

As you said, Purgatory refers to a temporary state of purification for those who have died in the state of grace but still need to get rid of any lingering imperfections (e.g. venial sins, earthly attachments, self-will, etc.) before entering the perfection of Heaven. (Revelation 21:27)

Purgatory has nothing to do with ones justification or salvation. Those in Purgatory are justified; they are saved by the Blood of the Lamb, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Purgatory has to do with ones personal holiness and the burning away of remaining self-love. I said personal holiness, and not holiness, because men and women have individual free will. The choices one person makes in life, are probably totally different than any other single individual.

Read Revelation 21:27, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, and (2 Maccabees 12:39-46: canonically disputed but a historic reality)

Purgatory is the application of Jesus' saving death on the Cross for us.

If you haven't seen it, a portion of my answer was taken from my Scripture Passages page :

AskACatholic Scripture Passages web page

This is a common question. It's even in our searchable knowledge base.

Here are some additional postings, related to your question, that will add to what I have said:

I hope this helps,


John replied:

Hi, Elliot —

My colleague, Paul, needs to clarify what is meant by "faith and works".

Romans 3:28 refers to Works of the Law which is a specific reference to the Old Testament ceremonial law including temple sacrifices and circumcision.

When Catholics talk about works, we mean works done in response to and empowered by grace. See Romans 8:13.

13 For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.

Romans 8:13

The operative phrase here is "by the Spirit". So when Catholics talk about good works, they are talking about God working through us, as we yield and surrender to Him.


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