I do believe and confess that Christ’s condemnation is my absolution, that His crucifying is my deliverance, His descending into hell is my ascending into heaven, His death is my life, His blood is my cleansing and purging, by whom only I am washed, purified and cleansed from all my sins, so that I neither receive nor believe any other purgatory, either in this world or in the other, whereby I am purged, but only the blood of Jesus Christ, by which all are purged and made clean forever.
Deny that we are justified by faith alone, and you must devise an explanation of how we can make the transition from our imperfect state in this life to the perfect state of heaven. Purgatory is where Roman Catholics believe most people go after death to be finally purged of their sins and gain whatever merit they may be lacking to enter heaven. Catholicism teaches that this will involve intense pain and suffering.
Although Catholic doctrine denies that the imputed righteousness of Christ is sufficient to save sinners in this life, it does allow the imputation of righteousness from earthly sinners to those in purgatory. Candles are lit, prayers are prayed, and Masses are said for the dead. Supposedly the righteousness earned via the sacrament is imputed to the person in purgatory, and that shortens his or her stay there.
For all believers, because we are fully justified, there can be no condemnation. No post-mortem suffering is necessary to atone for remaining in sin; all our sins are covered by the blood of Christ. No merit is lacking that must be made up (Isa. 61:10).
If anyone were a candidate for purgatory, [the] thief [from Luke 23] would be. Moments before, he had taunted Christ along with the unrepentant thief (Mark 15:32). His repentance was a last-minute change – while he was literally in his death throes. Yet Jesus promised to see him that very day in paradise.
The Reformers correctly viewed purgatory as an insult to Christ’s saving work. On the basis of Scripture they held that all believers “have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). It is by His suffering on the cross, not our suffering after death, that sins are purged: “Jesus also suffered…to make the people holy through His own blood” (Heb. 13:12). The Reformers also noted how Scripture does not allow for a “third place.” Jesus and His apostles consistently speak of only two destinies for humans: heaven and hell (Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29; Rom. 2:6-10; Rev. 21:7-9; 22:14-15).