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Purgatory

Purgatory is a Roman Catholic teaching. The idea is that there is a place where souls go when they die. It is neither heaven nor hell, but some place in between. Its purpose is to provide for the purification of the soul so that it will be fit for heaven.

Protestants find this idea heretical because it flies in the face of their teaching of Salvation by Grace alone. If we need the prayers of others and a time of purification then Jesus did not do it all on the cross.

While I prefer the Protestant notion there are a couple of reasons for me to consider some truth in the Roman Catholic position.

Whenever I hear the word “Purgatory”, my thoughts stray to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). It always seems to be like the line from the old song Hotel California. “You can check out anytime but you can never leave.”  Last summer I purchased a sailboat and trailer. It took me four trips to the DMV to get them licensed, registered and pay the taxes and fees.  There is just something about trying to get it right and coming up short that seems to be the exact definition of Purgatory. 

The other reason for me to consider the validity of Purgatory is more serious. Back in 1979 on Christmas Eve my late wife had a near death experience. It was just as you have heard from other such testimonies. She traveled down a long tunnel towards the light. Jesus was waiting for her at the other end. She spent a wonderful time with him. When she looked around to see where I was she awoke to find me kneeling beside her crying.

However, there was one thing different in her experience from other such testimonies. She said that as she moved along through the dark tunnel there was an area of foggy grey. In the fog she could see people who had died. Some of them were people she had known. They seemed to be stuck.  One or two she knew had committed suicide.

Now this is not enough evidence to postulate the reality of the teaching of Purgatory. I would never preach it from the pulpit. Many would even doubt the reality of the whole near death tunnel, light Jesus part. However, it is enough to make me just wonder a little bit.  It is especially meaningful when I am on my third trip back to the DMV hoping against hope that this time I’ve done it right. Oh and one more reason. There is a town in Massachusetts with the name Purgatory. Maybe they know something we don’t.