Luke 12:47-48 That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.
LK 12:4-5 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
This is spoken to Jesus’ friends. So there is reason even for Jesus’ friends to fear hell, apparently. But in the next breath he tells them not to fear (“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”). So apparently there is security here, despite the warning.
2CO 5:9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
A goal is not a guarantee! We may still have to wrestle with sin after death.
MT 18:8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
And this section of the Sermon on the Mount seems to be directed to those who were really saved:
MT 5:13,14 “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”
MT 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
MK 9:49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
And destruction of only the body (and not the soul), is mentioned in Mt. 5:30, which is reminiscent of Paul’s counsel in 1 Cor. 5:5.
Why is the time of ultimate perfection set at the Second Coming of Jesus, if at death all believers are made perfect instantly?
1CO 1:8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1TH 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If believers are purified immediately after death, why does the Scripture not select that point in time here in these verses? It seems that the concern (or rather confidence) that Paul has for the believers now, for purity in spite of pressure, continues until Jesus returns.
2TH 1:6-7 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…
Thus relief for all saints, for every saint, is not apparently immediate after death, there may be more pain, until Jesus is revealed from heaven, now Purgatory would be ruled out if there were some verse saying there will be no pain for believers in heaven, before Jesus returns, but statements instead indicate that this is not the case.
One possible picture of purgatory is the rich man in hell (Luke 16:19-31). Notice several aspects of this that are unexpected: Abraham addresses him as “son,” the rich man addresses Abraham as “father,” now this may simply refer to Jewish descent, yet the acceptance of this title by Abraham seems also to refer to a possibility of some spiritual relationship here (cf. Gal. 3:7). Also, the rich man is given a most unexpected reason for his being in hell: “In your life you received your good things,” issues of salvation are not addressed, it is not “you never had faith in God.” Now he didn’t repent! But do any believers die in some substantial measure of unrepentance in a particular sin? “Everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49) seems to be relevant here, so if there is no purifying fire in a person’s life, then perhaps it must happen after death.
REV 2:11 He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
“Who are the ‘overcomers’? Certainly it is those who are fully loyal to Christ as his true disciples, those who are identified with him in his suffering and death (1John 5:4-5). Compare those who do not overcome in 21:8 with those referred to in the letters, e.g., the ‘cowardly’ (2:10, 13), the ‘sexually immoral’ (2:14, 20), the ‘idolaters’ (2:14, 20), and the ‘liars’ (2:2, 9, 20; 3:9).” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
Are all Christians “fully loyal”? As far as I can tell, some are not. Are there any Christians who are cowardly, sexually immoral, idolaters, any who lie as a habit? Well, yes, I have seen such, people who I think are real Christians, but who have a sin problem that is habitual in one of these areas. Do some Christians die in this state? Yes, I think some do. But “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). So if a person is not completely pure when they reach the moment of death, there may be the possibility of being purified further, being touched by “the second death” some, before they can see the Lord.
“And as for the one who conquers and keeps my works until the end.” This promise-to-the-victor formula differs from the parallel formulas in Rev 2–3 in that the substantival participle “ho nikon” (“to nikonti” in 2:7, 17) is coordinated with an additional substantival participle, “ho taron”, “who keeps,” which serves to further delineate the specific meaning of “ho nikon”. Though both substantival participles are masculine singular, they clearly imply that *all* Christians (whether men or women) who conquer and keep the works of Christ will receive the promised reward.” (Word Commentary)
“To the man who perseveres to final victory Christ says that he will give to eat of the tree of life. After Adam’s sin the way to the tree of life was cut off and guarded by cherubim. Now it is given by Christ to his triumphant follower. But it is not to be taken for granted. Only some have the right to it, and it may be taken away.” (Tyndale Commentary)
“To him that overcometh, He says, that is, to him who overcometh and conquereth himself and all else, will I give to eat of the hidden manna, that is, an inward and hidden savour and celestial joy” (Richard Rolle) I think this sums it up pretty well. And the question is, when do believers overcome?
“The Spirit that indited the Scripture, did not think the great importance and absolute necessity of holy practice, in this respect, to be inconsistent with the freeness of grace; for it commonly teaches them both together; as in Revelation 21:6-7, God says, ‘I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely;’ and then adds, in the very next words, ‘he that overcometh shall inherit all things.’ As though behaving well in the Christian race and warfare, were the condition of the promise.” (Jonathan Edwards)
The promises for those who overcome are not automatic for all believers:
“No man may turn his back in the day of battle, or refuse to go to the holy war. We must fight if we would reign, and we must carry on the warfare till we overcome every enemy, or else this promise is not for us, since it is only for ‘him that overcometh.’ We are to overcome the false prophets who have come into the world, and all the evils which accompany their teaching. We are to overcome our own faintness of heart, and tendency to decline from our first love. If by grace we win the day, as we shall if we truly follow our conquering Leader, then we shall be admitted to the very center of the paradise of God, and shall be permitted to pass by the cherub and his flaming sword, and come to that guarded tree, whereof if a man eat, he shall live for ever. We shall thus escape that endless death which is the doom of sin, and gain that everlasting life which is the seal of innocence, the outgrowth of immortal principles of God-like holiness. Come, my heart, pluck up courage! To flee the conflict will be to lose the joys of the new and better Eden; to fight unto victory is to walk with God in Paradise.”
“Now, if by God’s grace we fight on to the end, and conquer in the glorious war, no second death can lay its chill finger upon us. We shall have no fear of death and hell, for we shall receive a crown of life which fadeth not away. How this nerves us for the fight! Eternal life is worth a life’s battle. To escape the hurt of the second death is a thing worth struggling for throughout a lifetime. Warrior of the cross, fight on! Never rest till thy victory is complete, for thine eternal reward will prove worthy of a life of warfare. See, here is perfect purity for thee! A few in Sardis kept their garments undefiled, and their recompense is to be spotless. Perfect holiness is the prize of our high calling, let us not miss it.” (C.H. Spurgeon)
But this poses a problem, for it is those who overcome who will not be “blotted out of the book of life,” whose name will be confessed before the Father by Jesus (Rev. 3:5). Thus all believers must overcome, and if they do not overcome before death, they must overcome after death. But “overcome” implies a struggle, even a process, not an automatic cleansing immediately after death.
From “Letters To Malcom: Chiefly on Prayer” (C.S. Lewis):
Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?
I believe in Purgatory.
Mind you, the Reformers had good reasons for throwing doubt on the ‘Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory’ as that Romish doctrine had then become…
The right view returns magnificently in Newman’s DREAM. There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer ‘With its darkness to affront that light’. Religion has claimed Purgatory.
Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would in not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ – ‘Even so, sir.’
I assume that the process of purification will normally involve suffering. Partly from tradition; partly because most real good that has been done me in this life has involved it. But I don’t think the suffering is the purpose of the purgation. I can well believe that people neither much worse nor much better than I will suffer less than I or more. … The treatment given will be the one required, whether it hurts little or much.
My favorite image on this matter comes from the dentist’s chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn and I am ‘coming round’,’ a voice will say, ‘Rinse your mouth out with this.’ This will be Purgatory. The rinsing may take longer than I can now imagine. The taste of this may be more fiery and astringent than my present sensibility could endure. But … it will [not] be disgusting and unhallowed.
“It was shown to Humanity that whoever would enter life eternal without passing through purgatory, must die to this world while yet in it; that is, that all the imperfections of the Soul must be so consumed that she may remain absorbed in God.” (St. Catherine of Genoa)
“His doctrine of Purgatory does not differ from that usually held by Catholics; but he regards it more as a place for the purging away of self-will than for the expiation of sin.” (Arthur Wollaston, speaking of John Tauler)
“Even the least imagination, willingly received, must be cast off in the unsufferable fires of purgatory, before man can appear before God.” (John Tauler)
“Ah, God help me! Lord, how Thou dost afflict Thy lovers! Yet all this is very little by comparison with what Thou bestowest upon them later. It is well that great things should cost a great deal, especially if the soul can be purified by suffering and enabled to enter the seventh Mansion, just as those who are to enter Heaven are cleansed in purgatory.” (St. Teresa)
“So, with Dante, the first terrace of the Mount of Purgatory is devoted to the cleansing of pride and the production of humility. ‘I saw full surely,’ says Julian of Norwich, ‘that it behoveth needs to be that we should be in longing and in penance, until the time that we be led so deep into God that we verily and truly know our own soul.’ Dante’s whole journey up the Mount of Purgation is the dramatic presentation of this one truth. So, too, the celebrated description of Purgatory attributed to St. Catherine of Genoa is obviously founded upon its author’s inward experience of this Purgative Way. In it, she applies to the souls of the dead her personal consciousness of the necessity of purification; its place in the organic process of spiritual growth.” (Evelyn Underhill)
“The death of selfhood in its narrow individualistic sense is, then, the primary object of mortification. All the twisted elements of character which foster the existence of this unreal yet complex creature are to be pruned away. Then, as with the trees of the forest, so with the spirit of man, strong new branches will spring into being, grow towards air and light. ‘I live, yet not I’ is to be the declaration of the mystic who has endured this ‘bodily death.’ The self-that-is-to-be will live upon a plane where her own prejudices and preferences are so uninteresting as to be imperceptible. She must be weaned from these nursery toys: and weaning is a disagreeable process. The mystic, however, undertakes it as a rule without reluctance: pushed by his vivid consciousness of imperfection, his intuition of a more perfect state, necessary to the fulfillment of his love. Often his entrance upon the torments of the Purgative Way, his taking up of the spiritual or material instruments of mortification, resembles in ardour and abruptness that ‘heroic plunge into Purgatory’ of the newly dead when it perceives itself in the light of Love Divine, which is described in the ‘Treatise’ of St. Catherine of Genoa as its nearest equivalent. As she, plunged in the divine furnace of purifying love, was united to the Object of her love, and satisfied with all he wrought in her, so she understood it to be with the souls in Purgatory.” (Evelyn Underhill)