The 39 Articles, which are founding documents of the Church in England after its break from Rome, call the doctrine of purgatory “…a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture…” (Article 22). Purgatory is believed to be an intermediate state where the soul goes to be purged of its sins.

The abuse of this doctrine through the selling of indulgences was found to be particularly repugnantry our Church. “As soon as a coin in the coffer sings, a soul from purgatory springs.” This belief is
repudiated by the teaching of St. Paul that we are saved by faith through grace. It is a gift of God and not something that can be purchased. (Eph 2:8,9).

There are two more texts that show the doctrine of purgatory to be “vainly invented.” The first is when Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise (Lk 23:43).” This matches St. Paul’s statement that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor5:6-8). There is no indication in either of these verses that we go to an intermediate state to be further cleaned from our sins.

The second important text is Jesus’ story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man dying on the same day (Lk 16:19-31). Jesus said that the Lazarus went to the “bosom of Abraham” and the rich man went to “Hades.” Again there is no mention of an intermediate state.

In light of these texts the plain meaning of Hebrews 9:27 comes into focus and seems to rule out both purgatory and any concept of reincarnation. “Just as it is appointed to men to die once and after that comes the judgment…” It seems to be clear that we don’t get a do over.

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