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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Is there hope for unbelievers after death?


Purgatory - Is it real (biblical)?

Doctrine Of Purgatory

Inside the Catholic Catechism

Is there hope for unbelievers after death?

Posted by Dennis D. Muhumuza

on Sunday, April 3 2011 at 00:00

When the coffin containing the corpse of Silian Byamukama was lowered in the grave and covered with earth soon after, it made me stop and reflect. Sil, as fondly known, was a good-natured, energetic, hardworking and compassionate young man that for him to die so sudden, moreover at the blooming age of 32, was almost unbelievable as it was unacceptable! It was a terrible experience that gave me real empathy for Meyer Wolfsheim (of Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby), who on getting the dolorous news of Jay Gatsby’s demise, says: “I hardly know where I am when I hear about a thing like this and I am completely knocked down and out!” And it made me nod with the old man James Gatz when he tells Nick Carraway that if his son Jay had lived, “He’d have been a great man…he’d have helped build up the country.”

That’s how sobering death is. It’s now a couple of weeks after Sil’s burial, but I can’t stop asking why the good die so young. I keep wondering whether I shall ever see him again. Did his goodness on its own save him from the ugly reality of hell? Did he, in his dying moments, encounter Jesus? Could he be smiling down on us from heaven, praying that we stay the course and join him in eternal paradise?

Such is the oddness of death that even the oldest person living would rather shy away given chance, even with the promise of heaven. Indeed, it’s because of the promise of a life of everlasting bliss beyond the grave that many, particularly the Pentecostals, have embraced Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, while committed catholics spend a lot of their time on their knees reciting the rosary.

You leave your mother’s womb only to realise that your tomb is beckoning. Every passing day brings you closer to that pit, whether you creep or gallop. Small and great, young or old, holy and heathen, there’s no escape. Our yesterdays, today and tomorrows are all lighting the way to dusty death. As Macbeth soberly puts it, “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” Shakespeare’s description is in fact corroborated by the Bible that says man’s life is like mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14).

The subject of life and death has, as it is, continued to obsess writers, artists and filmmakers alike for centuries. The most popular question is: what is the meaning of life? And the most heated discussions on the Internet are concerned with what happens after death. The Bible itself explores this question meticulously and in the Anglican Church, the doctrine of purgatory gives hope to those not as committed in replicating the example of Jesus Christ.

Purgatory is defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as “a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” It simply is a place where souls are sent to have their sins expiated before they are allowed in heaven.

But this purgatory is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. In fact, theologians have dismissed purgatory as misleading and unbiblical, arguing that Jesus paid for all our sins on the cross (Romans 5:8) and is a sufficient propitiation for the sins of the world (1John 2:2).

Also, the fact that the scriptures say all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God would imply that all of us would enter purgatory if it was real. But Jesus assured Nicodemus that the only ticket to heaven was being born-again (John 3:3). As the most quoted verse reads, “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.”

Clearly, those who accept Jesus are cleansed by His blood (Hebrews 9:28, Matthew 26:28) but those who reject Him are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). There is no middle place; there’s no purgatory!

Sadly, many, in the awareness of the ever looming “grim reaper”, have preoccupied themselves with amassing material wealth by which they hope to be remembered. They have ignored the poor and have not fought for the justice of the downtrodden, only to end up like that tormented rich man pleading helplessly in hell (Luke 16:24).

Isaiah advises: Shun your wickedness and seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6-7). In doing so in truth and faith, we can confidently say, like Paul, that nothing, not even death, shall ever shall ever separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38).