Do Catholics Have “Three Ending Points”?


Having finished our lunch that day, one of my non-Catholic coworkers and I decided to take a walk around the building for a few minutes, just to get outside and away from bosses, phones, meetings and the other myriad joys to be found in and around the carpeted cells known as our offices.

While on our walk, he indicated that his preacher has no real issues with Catholics by and large, but has a massive problem with the Catholic faith, since it is not and probably never has been Christian. He said, “For example, the preacher says you guys have three ending spots, while we only have Heaven or Hell.”

Anti-Catholicism Based on Misunderstanding

I told him that in the late 1930’s, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen summed up the hatred toward the Catholic Church—either in one of his books or on a broadcast—by saying that there are not a hundred people in America who hated the Catholic Church. There were millions of people who hated what they wrongly believed to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing.

I asked him, “Have you ever heard ‘Hocus Pocus’ as a term used to describe magic?” He indicated that yes, to him, all magic was little more than hocus pocus, smoke and trick mirrors. I told him that the term “hocus pocus” was first used as a criticism of the Catholic Church and is a misquotation of the words used in Consecration, “Hoc est corpus meum,” by which a simple piece of bread is transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ Jesus.

I told him, “You can check the Gospel of John in chapter 6, what we call the ‘Bread of Life Discourse’; after that, check the descriptions of the Last Supper and you will find what He said about His own body.  We can explore that on another walk, but, for the moment, we need to dispel the three end points that your preacher said we have.”

The Confusion of the End Points

I told him that, as with the bulk of the religions of the world, there were only two end points, reward or punishment, Heaven or Hell.  Where the confusion comes to be is actually in the Old Testament in a book not present in the KJV ( King James Version ).

I indicated that before we got to that point, we needed to explore a somewhat related topic.  Suppose that Billy is out playing with his bat and ball one afternoon, and he hits a ball that races towards and through Mrs. Brown’s window.  Knowing what he has to do, he goes to Mrs. Brown to apologize for the broken window.  Her response is that she is pleased by his admission and that she forgives him.

I mentioned that, while it was great that he had been forgiven, Mrs. Brown still had a broken window. Billy was back at play and she was sweeping up broken glass and taking measurements for the replacement pane, etc. Somehow, Billy has to atone or make amends for the cost of the window. I continued that this is where the concept of purgation for sin, otherwise known as “Purgatory,” comes in, and may lead many people to think that Catholics have three end points.  I told him that purgatory is not an end point, but simply a place to have impurities removed.

“O.K., maybe, but where do you guys get that from?” was his reply.

“In the Old Testament, both in a book we have in common and a few that are not in the KJV,” I responded.

I began by telling him that the second book of Samuel was written about 550 BC and that it was the same book in both the Catholic and Protestant Bibles.  I continued that in chapter 12, David is told that because he has asked for forgiveness, the Father would forgive him for the adultery and murder he had committed, but there would still be a punishment exacted. So, even though David had been forgiven, he would still have to atone for the transgressions, just like Billy with the window.

“O.K., maybe I can agree with that, but are there any more references I can check out?”

The answer was, “Certainly.”

I suggested he look at a non-KJV translation of the Bible and research 2 Maccabees 12. The part I made reference to was near the end of the chapter, but much of the chapter was useful to describe the nature of purgation. At the end of the chapter, a collection is taken up to be given to the temple to help to atone for the sins of the dead.

Next, turn to Revelation and explore chapter 21 where we are told that nothing unclean will ever enter Heaven.  I said, “Even if we have been forgiven, Mrs. Brown still has a broken window.” That broken window and the replacement of it may well be only a ghostly shadow on the robes we will wear, but it can still be seen and has to be dealt with and removed before we can move forward. I also reminded him of Matthew 5, where Christ was speaking of a fellow who would be imprisoned and not released until the last penny was paid back.

“There are only two final destinations, reward or punishment.  Purgatory is the place where sins, although forgiven, may be made clean.”

We were almost back to the doors of the building when I concluded, “If you have any further questions on the purgation of sins, please get back to me, and I will give you another few resources to check. Otherwise, it is time to go back to our carpeted cells.”

Are there three?

No, only two.  However, continue to aim for Heaven.  If you miss it, there may well be Purgatory to help you expunge and get prepared for Heaven.  If, on the other hand, you aim for Purgatory and miss, where does that leave you?

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8 thoughts on “Do Catholics Have “Three Ending Points”?”

  1. >in a book not present in the KJV ( King James Version ).
    It turns out that the deuterocanonical books are in fact in the actual King James Version, but have not been printed as part of the published versions since the mid 1800s.

    Despite the Protestant insistence on “sola scriptura”, Protestants have been tinkering with the text of the Bible since the time of Martin Luther, who blatantly and admittedly altered the text of his German translation to fit his theological outlook. And even though Luther wanted to remove parts of the New Testament (especially James and Revelation) and wanted to restrict “Scripture” to the Masoretic text of the Old Testament, he thought the deuterocanonical books were “profitable and good to read.” In other words, he thought the deuterocanonical books were better than some of the New Testatment!

    In ordering the translation of the KJV itself, King James ordered the committee to change portions of Scripture to be consistent with his own political and theological views. But even he desired to keep the deuterocanonical books.

  2. Pingback: THVRSDAY EXTRA – Big Pulpit

  3. Pingback: THVRSDAY EXTRA – Big Pulpit

  4. Dan-This is so clear. What you write – I am envious – has “readability.” What if Mrs. Brown tells Billy you don’t need to fix the broken window, and you don’t have to pay for it? This actually happened with one of our boys when they were young [it was a throwing knife, not a ball]. The one I use also has a counter argument: you rob a bank, get caught, bank forgives you [doesn’t press charges], and then – really use your imagination here – the bank says you don’t have to pay back the $3,000,000. Then I counter with: but Jesus in redeeming you, for all your sins, did not also say no payback needed when you break something or steal something.

    Another counter to some protesting folks is that there are some protesting denominations that have no problem with a member believing in purgatory. Others who say, based on my reading of the Word of God, I come to the conclusion that purgatory exists and is real. How do you determine who is right? [Sola Scriptura is of little help here].

    Thanks for the article; and thanks for letting that woman care for you for half a century. Maybe if Jorge B changes things so that the living can be canonized, you can attend her ceremony in Rome.

    Guy McClung, Texas

    1. Laurence Charles Ringo

      Sorry, McClung,but The Epistle to the Hebrews negates the concept of purgatory, as well as transubstantiation; also, here’s the question that I ask Roman Catholics that so far I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer:If I go to purgatory, will Jesus the Christ go with me? If not why not, or if so why so? I await your reply… (By the way, the New Catholic Encyclopedia claims that Purgatory is not explicitly taught in Scripture.) ???

    2. Ringo, please cite where Hebrews negates the concepts of purgatory and transubstantiation. I’d be interested in that.

      I suspect that Jesus, Our Lord and God, is in purgatory, although perhaps not apparent to the souls there in the way we might expect. Jesus is certainly here with us even now, but is not apparent to us in the way He will be apparent to us in heaven. God’s love is a consuming fire, purifying the imperfections of the holy souls. When their purification is complete, they are ready to behold the Face of God for eternity.

      I don’t anticipate being a perfect person at my death. I will be forgiven, but will probably still be attached to things like pride, etc. From 1John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” As John Paul 2 and others have speculated, purgatory is more a process than a place. Perhaps our purgation will occur in our particular judgement, at death. If you feel that you will be perfect at death with no attachment to sinful habits or attitudes, then God bless you! Actually, may God bless you anyway! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      BTW, I am not Dan, the author of this article. Just sayin.

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