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Anonymous Jomhar wrote:

Hi, guys —

What does the last portion of 1 Corinthians 3:13 mean when it states:

. . . "It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one's work"?

This passage follows right after the passage that our works will be judged on "the Day."

I'm drawing from the NAB St. Joseph version, and there is a note that states:

"The text of verse15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of Purgatory, though it does not envisage this."

Thank you for creating something like this where Catholics (or non-Catholics) could ask questions regarding the faith.



  { What does 1 Corinthians 3:13 mean and does 1 Corinthians 3:15 allude to Purgatory? }

Eric replied:


I would certainly argue that this refers to Purgatory.

I am not sure why the notes are so doubtful of this interpretation, but it's my go-to verse for Purgatory. In all honesty, I do not trust mainstream Catholic study bible notes. I recommend the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. It says:

1 Corinthians 3:15 as through fire: Some Christian workers, whose efforts are shabby and imperfect, will pass through God's fiery judgment like a man who barely escapes a burning building with his life. This prelude to salvation will involve painful spiritual consequences, which, though severe, will spare them eternal damnation.

The Old Testament often depicts fire as a testing and refining agent (Sirach 2:5; Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 6:6-7; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3).  Catholic tradition interprets Paul's teaching in the light of Purgatory, a doctrine defined at the Councils of Lyon II (1274), Florence (1439), and Trent (1563).

Purgatory is a final stage of purification for those who are destined for Heaven but depart from this life still burdened with venial sins or with an unpaid debt of temporal punishment incurred from past sins (i.e., mortal sins already forgiven but imperfectly repented of). Passing through fire is thus a spiritual process where souls are purged of residual selfishness and refined in God's love (CCC 1030-1032).

III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. (cf. Council of Florence (1439):DS 1304; Council Of Trent (1563):DS 1820; (1547):1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336):DS 1000) The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 Peter 1:7):

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Matthew 12:31-32.

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore (Judas Maccabeus) made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." (2 Maccabees 12:46) From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. (cf. Second Council of Lyons (1274):DS 856) The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

(St. John Chrysostom Hom. in 1 Corinthians 41, 5: PG 61, 361; cf. Job 1:5)

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), pp. 288-89


Mike replied:

Dear Jomhar,

First, thank-you for the very kind words at the end of your question. I am fortunate to have a very knowledgeable team of faithful Catholics who make this Apostolate possible.

I totally agree with my colleague Eric and would encourage the authors of the NAB St. Joseph version of the Bible to make the appropriate footnote corrections to that footnote and any other footnotes related to Purgatory.

While we are on the topic of Purgatory, I also wanted to share one of my other website Apostolates:

I work on this apostolate with Brian Bagley. Seeing that we believe the work of praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory has been overlooked for way too long, we are trying to start Purgatory prayer meetings across the United States.

For those interested in starting a prayer program

Thank-you for your question and take care,


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