Posts Tagged ‘purgatory’

The Erroneous Practice of the “Blessing of the Graves”

June 12, 2016

Spring 2016 Android Pictures 113

Around this and other times of the year here in Ireland I have noticed various newspapers proclaiming an event known as “the blessing of the graves.” Relatives of the deceased are encouraged to tidy their graves in preparation for the event and although this ritual may vary in rural and urban areas throughout Ireland, in all places where it is held the priest will bless those graves and pray for all the deceased within that graveyard. May I say that I sincerely hope that no one ever prays for me when I am dead! However, whether they do or not will make absolutely no difference to my eternal destination for the Bible says: “And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9v27) How wonderful to have that assurance in your heart… that the very moment your soul is separated from your body, it will be in the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! “Absent from the body… present with the Lord!” (2Corintians 5v8)

With regard to the afterlife, the Bible makes it very clear that there is only a choice of two destinations for the soul… heaven or hell. Roman Catholic theologians invariably refer to the book of Maccabees to support an ‘in-between’ destination which they refer to as ‘Purgatory’ but the book of Maccabees and other books of the Apocrypha were never referred to by Jesus or the apostles. In fact, these spurious books were not even accepted by the Roman Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546 AD. Also, these books were never acknowledged as sacred Scriptures by the Jewish Church, it was not written in Hebrew and furthermore teaches immoral practices which could never be conceived to be the Word of God.

As is the case with this and other ordinances of Roman Catholicism, there is usually a sum of money involved in having your graves blessed. At this point I must relate something which I witnessed quite a few years ago. I was once visiting a monastery in Northern Ireland when I stumbled upon a “blessing of the cars” ceremony. Before me was an interesting scene… I saw a priest hovering over a car with some “holy” water, while a lady was simultaneously searching her open handbag to pay him for this dubious privilege.

I often wonder how poverty stricken parishioners have felt throughout the years, when they could not afford to pay the priest for blessing the graves of loved ones and for praying that they will eventually be released from Purgatory, which is said to be a place or state of suffering where sins are reputedly cleansed, in preparation for Heaven.

The very thought that a soul may be bought a place in Heaven with filthy lucre is surely the height of blasphemy. In Psalm 49v6&7 we read… “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever).

Praise God, the great price has been paid, for “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1John 1v7)

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1Peter1v18-21)

So graves, while they may be kept tidy, cannot be “blessed” and deceased souls should not be prayed for, for the Lord Jesus Christ was “once offered to bear the sins of many” and the great sacrifice has been paid once for all, giving living souls the opportunity to repent of their sins and put their trust in His redeeming blood, so that they may have that assurance in their hearts of a home in Heaven.

“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10v11-14) Praise God that we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10v22) And praise God we can be cleansed from our sins in the ‘here and now’ in preparation for Heaven – which, unlike  the fictitious place of Purgatory is a destination of pure light, love and joy; a destination which is in God’s will for every soul who is alive today. (1John 2v2)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 15v55-57)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3v16)

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16v31)

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Testimony of a Dying Catholic Girl

March 10, 2014

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“Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…

but with the precious blood of Christ.”

(1Peter 1: 18-19)

 The following tract was recently sent to me by a friend and I have felt led to distribute it locally. It would appear to have been written in a much earlier era but is as relevant today as ever.  In reading it, I also thought on these words with regard to the issue of purgatory: “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) Psalm 49v6-8

 “Mother,” said a dying girl, “It is hard to die and leave this life.”

“Yes, my dear, and I would gladly give my life for yours, but you have seen the priest, and you have confessed and received absolution and you need not fear.”

“Tis true,” said the dying girl, “I confessed all the sins I could think of, and the priest gave me absolution. But with all that, I shall soon be in purgatory, and you know, dear mother, that you are so very poor that you cannot have masses said for my soul.”

The unhappy mother felt the truth of her words and said: “Yes, my dear child, I am very poor but I’ll work day and night and earn money to get your soul out of purgatory. Do you think your mother could rest until she knew you were delivered from purgatorial pains?”

“Mother, I so often think of my cousin Catherine. She was so happy before she died and she never confessed to a priest nor received absolution, and she did not believe in purgatory, yet she believed she was going straight to heaven.”

“Catherine was a heretic, my child; she was not in the true church. It is better for you to be troubled than to die in error like she did.”

“I often think of the beautiful words she said when she was dying; they were like this Mother:

“When I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

“Tell me, Mother, what did she mean? I have no rod or staff, and oh! I have nothing that comforts me, and I can only think of the flames that await me in purgatory.”

“My dear child, don’t think about it: disease is weakening your spirit. Leave all that to the priest. Try and rest, and don’t think of your cousin Catherine any more.”

“I will try for your sake dear Mother, not to think about it, but I can’t help thinking how much better it would be if we could go straight to heaven when we die, and not go to purgatory at all.”

“People like us do not go straight to heaven. We must follow the way the priest has taught us.”

“But, Mother that way is so difficult, and it frightens me to think that suppose I were there and they could not get me out.”

“Hush my dear child, for if the priest heard all you say, he would surely ask for so many masses that I could never get money enough to have them all said. But here comes your brother; he will talk to you while I go to my work.”

The brother had come some distance to see the dear sister he so much loved. He perceived there was no hope and sitting beside her, he said, “Sister, what were mother and you saying about Cousin Catherine?”

“I was saying how glad I would be if I was as happy as she was. She had not confessed to the priest or received absolution. She said that it was not necessary and that she had no fear.”

“Dear sister, it was because she loved God and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. She had no reason to fear. Jesus Himself spoke to her soul and comforted her by the assurance of His love and of forgiveness of her sins. What need had she of a priest to assure her of all this?”

“What, brother! Are you also a heretic?”

“Sister, do not alarm yourself. I do not deny the truth. I have read the Word of God for myself and I found it so full of love for poor sinners that it has become more precious to me than all the world.”

“Have you then a Bible? How did you procure it? Did you ask the priest for it? Does he know that you have it?”

“No, no! I assure you, I did not ask him for it. I met a Bible reader, and I thought I would like a Bible for myself and I asked for one, and the good man gave it to me and I read it and saw how sinners could be saved. I have found pardon and am happy.”

“Oh! My brother, why did you not come sooner to tell me this? But tell me, brother, quick, is there anything in the Bible about purgatory?”

I have searched from beginning to end of the Book and I could not find one single word about purgatory; the priest knows it is not there, and that is the reason he will not let us read it. I assure you, dear sister, there is but one thing that will make you as happy as Catherine.”

“What is it, brother?” I would give all the world to be sure that my sins are forgiven.”

“It is this,” said the brother as he drew from his pocket the Bible which had been the means of bringing salvation to his soul; and he read:

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And again he read 1Tim 1:15:

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

And Chapter 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”

He also read: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.”

“Those are beautiful words,” said the dying girl, but how can I know they are for me?”

“But sister, you do not believe I would deceive you?”

“Oh no, dear brother, you were always kind to me.”

“Then will you not have confidence in Jesus who died for you? Listen to what he says to all who, like you, are burdened with their sins and need pardon: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11v28)

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37)

“Could you think for one moment that Jesus would have suffered half the chastisement and leave us to suffer the other half? That is the teaching of the priest, but not the Word of God. To those who believe in Jesus, death has no terror. O, my sister, look to Jesus, the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. When you leave this world, you will go straight to Him.”

The brother ceased speaking, but blessed and happy were the moments spent with the dying sister, who but a few minutes before was the victim of ignorance and superstition. But blessed be God, the Holy Spirit penetrated the soul of the dying girl and helped her to see by faith, Christ, the Lamb of God, who died to save her.

“Oh, brother now I understand it all, I too, am happy. Jesus has forgiven me my sins and given me peace and joy. Glory to His Name.”

And in that blessed assurance, after a few days of suffering, she left this world to be forever with the Lord in Heaven.

 Joyful News Publications

The Bungalow, Foremass, Lisnaskea, BT92 5FH

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Why Beatification is Blasphemous and Contrary to Scripture

May 2, 2011

Yesterday, as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims congregated in St. Peter’s Square in Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul 11, I felt saddened by the knowledge that vast numbers of people throughout the entire world believe in the validity of such a ceremony as this. Firstly there is absolutely no scriptural foundation for the notion that men (whatever position they have been elected to) have the power to decide the destiny of a soul who has passed into eternity. Hebrews 9v27 tells me that “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…” Who judges us? Surely only God has the power to decide my spiritual standing, or yours – or that of any pope who has ever walked this earth? According to the Roman Catholic Church, “beatification is the last step on the road to sainthood.” How contrary to scripture this is, for whenever I read of ‘saints’ in the New Testament, they are indeed living followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example Paul writes to the living not to the dead in Ephesians 1v1… “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus,” and “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” (Philippians 1v1.) The saints then (and today!) are ordinary men and women who have come by faith to a living relationship with the Lord.

The fact is… only saints can enter heaven and only saints can go to heaven! In Jude 14 we read that Enoch prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.”

John 1v12&13 tells me that … “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Saints are therefore born by the will of God and not by the will of men – and although their bodies die, they live on in the spirit and are elevated to heaven; not by the will of man, but by God the Creator, Saviour and indwelling Holy Spirit of all who come to Him in repentance and faith in His finished work for them at Calvary.

My prayer is that souls would come to see the “spiritual wickedness in high places” and these “doctrines of devils” that are prevalent in such ceremonies as beatification. The Bible tells me that the “love of money is the root of all evil” and I am inclined to think that prayers for the dead, beatification and great ceremonies in the Vatican bring in much needed finance at times like this. May my Lord and Saviour speak to those souls who are sincerely searching for truth and questioning the validity of such practices, beliefs and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. Oh that they would see clearly the simplicity and wonder of this truth… that sainthood is totally God’s will for each one of us and that this has been made possible for us here and now in this life – by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ… “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins…” (Colossians 1v14)

The Virgin Mary – and the Bible versus Roman Catholicism

April 30, 2010

May is normally one of the most beautiful months in our Irish year. We live in a rural area and I recall one particular morning in May when the fields were alive with birdsong, butterflies – and ladybirds which are said to be the promise of a lovely summer ahead! As I stood there alone that early morning, happily pegging out the wet washing, I heard the cry of a cuckoo far away across the dewy meadows – something that I have never heard since. In May our hedgerows and apple trees are cloaked with pink and white blossom, with the special radiance of Cherry Blossom gracing urban and rural gardens alike. However, May is also a month which is traditionally associated with Mary – mother of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Most of us are aware that May is a month which the Roman Catholic Church has set aside to pay special tribute to her. It is on the subject of this unique person, Mary, that I now wish to turn.

God’s Word reassures us that Mary was indeed a blessed person. In Luke 1v28 we read the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary… “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee:  blessed art thou among women.” Without a doubt Mary would have to have been a virtuous woman to have been chosen by God for such a wonderful calling. In Proverbs 31v10 we read… “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Mary was surely such a woman, and yet she too, like every other human being born into this world, needed a Saviour.

Of the fact that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, the Bible leaves us in no doubt, for the angel of the Lord reassures Joseph in Matthew 1v20 & 21… “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” In Matthew 1v24&25, we also learn that Joseph had no marital relations with Mary until the birth of Jesus. “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” Note the little word “till” here, for the little words in the Bible are every bit as significant as the big ones! 

Therefore it is evident that Mary remained a virgin until after the birth of Jesus. Now there are many who believe that Mary remained a virgin for her entire marriage and for the remainder of her life. Furthermore they also believe that Mary (like Jesus) was immaculately conceived, and that eventually (like Elijah of old in 2Kings 2) she was taken up into Heaven. This doctrine, known as the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary,” is celebrated on the 15th August. Let us now look at what the Bible has to say about each issue in turn. 

Firstly there is the matter of Mary’s “perpetual virginity.” Does the Bible support this doctrine? In Matthew 13v53-58 we read the familiar account of how Jesus taught in the synagogue, in the place where he had grown up. We can see clearly from this account how ‘familiarity can breed contempt,’ and why Jesus “did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13v58)  “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” (Matthew 13v55-57)

The Bible clearly shows us in this account how, after the birth of Jesus, Mary went on to have more children. We learn that His brothers’ names were James, Joses, Simon and Judas and that He also had sisters, although these are not named here. Now, some would say that “brethren” can also mean “cousin” and this is so. Nevertheless, further confirmation that they were His brothers and not His cousins can be seen in Galatians 1v19. “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” Apart from these clear references which indicate to the contrary, there is no evidence anywhere in scripture to support the doctrine of “perpetual virginity.”

In 1854 Rome declared the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception,” which is celebrated on December 8th. This commonly held doctrine holds that Mary, like Jesus, was born without sin. However, nowhere in scripture can we read anything which supports such a view. On the contrary, there are many portions of scripture which reveal that only Jesus was born and lived without sin in this world. In Romans 5v12 we read… “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Also Romans 3v23 declares: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Note again, an important little word… “all.” With David, the psalmist, each individual born into this world (with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ) can say: “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51v5) So we see that because of one man, sin entered into the world – but thank God for the Person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, of whom we read that He… “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Peter 2v22-24) The Bible makes no such claims for any other person in history. Only the blood of the perfect Son of God “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pet. 1v19) was (and is) able to take away sins. 

Note too, that in God’s Word we are exhorted to pray to no one, but the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Tim.2v 5&6) Here too the little word “all” is important, as is the word “one.” This verse clearly dispenses with the view that Mary is a “mediatrix,” according to a lady I spoke to on one occasion. Jesus is the One and Only Mediator between God and men!

As for the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” which was declared by Rome as recently as 1950, there is no scriptural foundation for this doctrine either. In 2Kings 2 we may read that unique account of how Elijah and Elisha conversed, and how Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (Verse 11) In Genesis 5v24 we learn of Enoch, that he “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Again, in Hebrews 11v5 we read: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” The latter are unique accounts of two individuals who did not see death, but no account exists to tell us that Mary, unlike most people, did not see death. If she had been taken up into heaven in such a manner, then I have no doubt that the infallible Word of God would have recorded such an important event.

Therefore, having viewed scripture in association with man’s declarations on the subject of Mary, that unique (but misrepresented) lady, we must conclude that man would wish to draw attention away from the greatest Person who ever walked the face of this earth – the sinless Person of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

In Luke 1v46-55 we read Mary’s famous words… “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.”

These are the words of a woman of faith – faith in her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ the promised Messiah of old. Although Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Elijah and many others did not live to see those days of grace, they too would be justified by faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11v6)

And so, in this, the ‘Day of Grace,’ we are most honoured to have an Advocate and sole Mediator, the risen Saviour, who now sits with His Father in Heaven, awaiting that day and hour which no man knows, when He will return “as a thief in the night” (1Thess. 5v2) to “judge the quick and the dead” (2Tim 4v1). But time is running out, and many today are being deceived. As each hour brings us closer to eternity are you ready for that Day of Judgement and is your name written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” (Rev. 21v27)

Somehow that glorious May morning (which I have described earlier) stands out in my mind, and my thoughts very often return to it on a bleak winter’s morning! Life too, can often be bleak, but if we have repented of our sins; put our trust in the shed blood of Jesus alone for salvation; and are walking in the light, as He is in the light – then Heaven will be our destination. In God’s Word we find no such place as ‘Purgatory.’ As someone once said “there is a Heaven to be won – and a Hell to shun.”

Was Purgatory (a doctrine proclaimed by Rome in 1438)   introduced as a means of extracting money from the vulnerable at a time of bereavement? Surely these people, for whom the Lord died, really need the love and comforting arms of the Saviour, as they grieve for their loved ones? Jesus said: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I am come not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12v46-48) If His words are to judge us in the last day, it is imperative that we read them – and obey them.

In 1545 Rome decreed that man’s tradition was to be equal in authority to the Bible. Please do not be deceived. Pray directly to God today, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to show you the truth in its entirety. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8v32)

If you turn to Him now, repenting of all that previous life of sin (and no matter how seemingly good and respectable we are, we all have sinned) He will come into your life with His presence and deliver you from that sin. His presence in a life floods that life with joy and a reason for living; you will have someone to confide in; someone you can trust with every problem, as well as decisions, large and small. Above all His Word, the Bible, will take on a whole new meaning. The best place to start reading is in the New Testament and then read the Old Testament – and the best version to read is the Authorized Version. (1611) 

While many today are only interested in the material, they neglect their soul’s salvation – but what could be more important than the issue of where we spend eternity? May God bless you as you search the scriptures and may you experience that joy and assurance of knowing that your sins are forgiven and that you will have a home in Heaven. Jesus said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5v39)

©Elizabeth Burke 2007