Updated: Mar 19
By Luke Lancaster
Purgatory is a gross idea for some Protestants, for it implies that Christ didn't suffer enough for us - so they think. They will argue that Christ "SAT DOWN" at the right hand of the Father, so there is no punishment left over for us. Christ suffered for us, He underwent the punishment for us, so there is no need for purgatory. These words by our Protestant brothers and sisters are a bit misguided, though. For they are ignoring the temporal punishments of death and suffering, which even those saved by Christ undergo.
Due to the original sin of Adam and our own personal sins, we deserved Hell. We offended an eternal being, namely God, and needed to rectify our relationship to Him with eternal satisfaction. Realizing our inability to do this, Jesus came to earth and graciously underwent that eternal satisfaction for us. The gates of Heaven were then subsequently opened, and the path to Heaven was made available to us again. However, Jesus did not pay all the punishment due for sin. To understand this, we need to make a distinction between eternal punishment and temporal punishment.
Jesus paid for our eternal punishment, so now we are not all headed to Hell. But even after becoming saved by Jesus, God does not then refuse to punish us for sins we commit. For we still have some temporal (earthly) punishments due for sin. Jesus has reconciled us to the Father, but the Father still wants us to internalize our offense to Him. So, we receive sufferings on this earth as a type of "discipline" from God (Hebrews 12:7), the greatest of which is death. Our bodily death is a punishment for sin. How can a Protestant say that Jesus took away all punishment for sin, when we all still receive the punishment of death for our sins?
Adam and Eve were punished by God after their sin with the new concept of pain and suffering. Adam and Eve had not experienced those things prior to their sin. However, if Protestants are correct about Jesus taking away ALL punishment due for sin, then why do we still have pain and suffering? Shouldn't those punishments by God have gone away? The problem is that Protestants are not making a distinction between eternal punishment (which Jesus took away) and temporal punishment (which Jesus did not take away).
In the words of Lamentations 3:39, "Why should the living complain when punished for their sins?" Or Ezra 9:13, "What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this." This is temporal punishment for their sins. It was pain and suffering in this life sent by God, for He is a Father who disciplines His children (Proverbs 3:11).
St. Paul says, "Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24). According to Paul, there is something that is lacking in Christ's afflictions. And what is that? His individual participation in that suffering. Christ's suffering was for our eternal punishment, and then our individual participation in that suffering is for our temporal punishment.
As we have seen, Christ did not suffer for all punishment due to sin. We are supposed to participate in His perfect suffering, which He accomplished for the entire world! He took on our eternal and infinite punishment due to God. We take on our own temporal punishment for our own sins on this earth. It is vastly different from Christ's, but is undergone for the purpose of understanding our own sinfulness. God is a just Father, and, as Hebrews 12:10 says, "God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness."