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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Purgatory, Indulgences, the Treasury of Merit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Originally posted in / by  John Samson on July 21, 2013 08:51 PM

As you may have heard in the news this week, the new Pope (Francis), wishing to make use of the new social media announced that indulgences would be granted not only to those who attend the upcoming Roman Catholic Youth Day celebration in Brazil (a week-long event which starts tomorrow, July 22), but also to those who follow the event online, and especially follow his tweets on twitter. Some people seem very surprised by this announcement and yet the only thing new about it is the twitter component. The doctrine of Indulgences remains a central teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

PURGATORY: (Latin: purgatorium; from purgare, “to purge”) - the condition, process, or place of purification. This is a place of PURGING or temporary punishment in which the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for heaven.

The doctrine of purgatory is an integral doctrine to the Roman Catholic understanding of redemption. It is the place where the vast majority of even professing Christians go upon their death.

As recently as the Roman Catholic Catechism, the Church declares that if a person dies with any spot or blemish or stain on their soul – any impurity – instead of going directly to heaven they must first go to this place of purging which is this intermediate state between earth and heaven. Rome makes clear that purgatory is not hell. It is not a place of the punitive wrath of God, but it is a place for the corrective wrath of God, as it were, where the sanctifying process is continued through the crucible of fire.

A person may be there for two weeks or they may be there for two hundred million years – as long as it takes for a person to become truly righteous – inherently righteous, and once that process is completed, they can be declared justified by God and released into heaven.

I’d now like to go through all the Bible verses that teach the doctrine of purgatory ________________________.

Ok.. well that did not take long, because there are none! That’s right, we do not find either the word or the concept of “purgatory” in the Bible. It is a tradition of the Roman Catholic Church that developed over a long period of time.

In 1095 Pope Urban II declared that the Crusades were God's will for His people to free the Holy Land from the Muslims. He granted a special dispensation to those who would take up the cross (an emblem placed on the soldier’s robes and shields) in the Crusades. Their sins would be forgiven though a penance (a non-Biblical word) being carried out called an INDULGENCE (again a non-Biblical word). For those who died in the Crusades, eternal life was assured. Purgatory would be shortened and heaven would be accessed a whole lot earlier.

THE TREASURY OF MERIT (Latin: Thesaurus Meritorum) According to Rome, just a drop of Christ’s blood would contain enough merit to save the whole world. Obviously Christ shed a vast amount of blood as He was crucified. What happened to all this excess merit? God stored this merit in a treasury (think of a treasure chest) in heaven.

Mary (according to Rome) was sinless. She gained far more merit than what was needed for heaven, and so the extra merit she acquired was added to the treasury, along with the merits of saints (who again had more than enough merit to enter heaven for themselves). All excess merit was stored in the treasury. Because of this, the more sinful believers could benefit from the merit of their more saintly brethren. (Mary was a wonderful sister in Christ, yet she herself was aware of her need for salvation. Luke 1: 46 And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior’…” Mary was saved by believing in her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ the same way anyone else is saved).

According to Rome, the Treasury of Merit is placed under the charge of the Pope, who alone possesses the keys , and he can dispense merit at his discretion in what is called INDULGENCES.

INDULGENCES - The Pope grants indulgences to those who fulfill certain conditions. These indulgences grant relief from the temporal punishments of purgatory and are measured in terms of time: hours, days, weeks, months and years in purgatory. Strictly speaking, indulgencies are not sold, but still the granting of a pardon was timed to coincide with a contribution of money by the sinner or the family.

THE SABBATINE PRIVILEGE - The privilege states that those souls who keep the necessary requirements of the privilege will be released from purgatory by Our Lady the Saturday after they die. The privilege was approved by Pope John XXII, and was later confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII, Pope Clement VII, and Pope St. Pius V. In the case of the scapular (worn like a necklace around the neck), the sacred sign is the scapular itself and the spiritual effect is the protection of one’s souls through the prayers of Mary, as she promised in the vision to St. Simon Stock.

The requirements are: 1. The scapular must be worn and the wearer must be enrolled in the scapular. 2. Chastity to one's state in life must be observed. 3. One must fast from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays. 4. You must recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin or the rosary every day.

Blessed Claude De La Colombiere said, “I wanted to know if Mary really and truly interested herself in me. And in the scapular she has given me the most tangible assurance; I have only to open my eyes. She has attached her protection to this Scapular: ‘whoever dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire?’” (Sermon Pour Les Fete du Scapuliare: Oevers. Lyon, 1701)

R.P. Laselve, O.F.M also stated, “In the same way that Jesus wished that something visible would reveal in the Sacraments the invisible effects of His grace, so also has Mary wished that the more particular protection which she accords to all those who serve Her with fidelity would be marked by an exterior sign, the Scapular.” (Haeffert, John Mathias. Mary in her Scapular Promise. Sea Isle City, N.J. 1942).

In my personal correspondence with Dr. James White, he made the following comment:

"Like so many other things, the Sabbatine Privilege is an embarrassment to some portions of the RCC today, just as Fatima is to others. But the proof is in the pudding: how many Popes preached it, practiced it, and profited by it? I have never taken the time to go back and put a list together, but it is self-evident that for literally centuries it was part of the 'sensus' of the church, practiced and accepted at the highest levels and across broad spectrums. It isn't a dogma, of course---but neither was the bodily assumption until 1950. It is still practiced, and, by all demands of logic, if you can gain indulgences from it, that requires the power of the keys."

BACK TO INDULGENCES - By Luther's time, the early 16th century, indulgences had become one of the most lucrative money raising schemes within the Roman Church. It was on the basis of the sales of Indulgences that St. Peter’s Basilica was built in Rome.

It was the preaching of this horrific doctrine that was responsible for sparking into flame the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. When John Tetzel, a Dominican monk, came into Germany selling indulgences, he so incensed Martin Luther, a devout Roman Catholic monk, that Luther lifted his voice in protest. When Tetzel would enter into a town, he would erect a cross bearing the Pope's own insignia, enter into the pulpit, and begin to harangue the congregation concerning indulgences. Here is a portion of the speech he would customarily make:

"Indulgences are the most precious and sublime of God's gifts. This cross (pointing to the emblem) has as much efficacy as the cross of Jesus Christ. Draw, near, and I will give you letters duly sealed by which even the sins which you shall hereafter desire to commit shall all be forgiven. I would not exchange my privileges for those of St. Peter! I have saved more souls with my indulgences than he has with his servants. There is no sin so great that indulgences cannot remit. And even if one should, which is doubtless impossible, ravish (rape) the holy Virgin, Mother of God, let him pay, only let his pay well for an indulgence, and all shall be forgiven him! Ye priests, ye nobles, ye wives, ye maidens, and you young men, hearken to your departed parents and friends who cry to you from the bottomless depths. 'We are enduring a horrible torment', they scream, 'a small alms from you would deliver us. You can give it now if you will'. Thus they cry to you from purgatory. The very moment that the money clinks against the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from purgatory and flies free to heaven. Now just pay off, 0 senseless people! Almost like the beasts who do not comprehend the grace so richly offered. This day heaven is on all sides of you. Do you now refuse to enter? When do you intend to come in? This day you may redeem many souls."

Again that was a distortion, but what was not a distortion was that the Roman Catholic Church then and now still has the concept of indulgences, where the Church (and specifically the Pope) has the power of the keys, TO OPEN THE TREASURY OF MERIT to shorten a person’s sentence or duration in purgatory and getting them into heaven sooner.

The more Luther heard of Tetzel’s preaching, the more he saw the evil of the practice. The famous “Ninety-Five Theses” Luther nailed to the Wittenberg church door opened got to the heart of the indulgences issue. His words still thunder through the centuries: “Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers” [Thesis 32]. “Any truly repentant Christian has a rich right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters” [Thesis 36].

Luther tacked his 95 objections in Latin hoping to initiate theological debate with his scholarly peers in the Roman Church. Some of his zealous students though (without Luther’s permission), took the words, translated them into the German vernacular and through the use of the newly invented Guttenberg printing press, these 95 theses became the talk of all Germany within two weeks.

Again, if you’ve been to Rome in our day, if you’ve been to the Lateran Church where the sacred stairs are, besides that staircase (which was supposedly the stairs Christ would have climbed as he appeared before Pontius Pilate) there is a bulletin on the wall that tells you exactly how many indulgences you can gain today by going up that set of stairs on your knees and reciting the our Father, the hail Mary, and so on. The doctrine of purgatory is still integral to the Roman Catholic Church.

In the Scriptures, we are told that it is appointed for man to die once and then the judgment (Heb 9:27). The Protestant view is that there is no intermediate state whereby somebody can improve their condition after this life. If someone is not ready to go to heaven at the time of death they won’t ever be. Again the whole difference between the doctrine of justification is that the Protestant view which was recovered by Luther is that the moment a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ, at that moment they have passed from death to life and their passing into heaven is a matter of certainty. They still go through the whole process of sanctification in this world, but when they die they will receive the benefits of the justification that they experience the moment they put their trust in Christ. Those who are justified (right now) have peace with God and access into His presence.

Later, Luther was to decry the “shameful outrage and idolatry of indulgences,” which he had come to see as a slander to the atoning work of Christ and a denial of justification by faith. The Reformation revealed the great divide between the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church on issues as central as grace, law, justification, faith, and authority in the church, but it was the practice of granting indulgences which sparked the explosion.

Against the background of a Europe filled with the traditions of men, including priestly absolution, penances, indulgences, pilgrimages, prayer to the saints, etc., Luther and the Reformers made the bold cry of "Faith alone." This did not mean faith in isolation, or a dead faith that produced no works. This referred to a vibrant, living faith, for only a living and not a dead faith would result in justification. Faith without works is dead, and a dead faith will not save anyone (James 2:17). Sola fide (Faith alone) then was the belief that faith alone is the instrument of justification without any meritorious works of man added to it.

Rome believed (then as it does now) that justification is by grace, through faith and because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by faith alone, or by grace alone, or by Christ alone. For Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; by Christ plus the sinner's contribution of inherent righteousness. In contrast, the Reformers called the Church back to the one true Biblical Gospel: Salvation is by God's grace alone, received through faith alone, because of Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone, to the Glory of God alone.

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