This is the seventh in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
In the last column we defined the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory and argued that this long-held teaching finds no support in Scripture.
Perhaps the strongest argument against the doctrine of purgatory is that it undermines the sufficiency of Christ. Just before His death on the cross, Jesus declares triumphantly, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Among other things, this means the work of redemption is complete and that no more sacrifice for sins is required.
The wrath of God has been satisfied as the One who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
The writer of Hebrews echoes this truth: “After making purification for sins, He [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3b). Further, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified” (10:14).
This is the sixth in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
Do some Christians undergo purification from the stain of sin between death and entrance into heaven? Many who answer yes to that question embrace the doctrine of purgatory, which became official Roman Catholic dogma in A.D. 1438.
Simply stated, purgatory is a place or state of suffering where the dead bound for heaven achieve the holiness necessary to enter into the presence of God.
It should be noted, according to Catholic teaching, that some saints go directly to heaven upon death, needing no purification, while those who die in the state of unrepented mortal sin find themselves at once, and eternally, in hell. All those in purgatory ultimately make it to heaven.
This is the last in a four-part series on Roman Catholicism.
After Simon Peter makes his famous declaration that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus tells the apostle, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:16, 18).
Jesus further states, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven” (v. 19).
Is Jesus declaring Peter the first pope and thus establishing apostolic succession? The Roman Catholic Church says yes, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear:
“The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of His Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him the shepherd of the whole flock…. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope….
“For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”
Of course, not everyone agrees.
This is the third in a four-part series on Roman Catholicism.
Roman Catholics embrace at least seven doctrines that evangelical Christians reject as inconsistent with the Word of God. In the previous article, we explored five of these doctrines. This column examines two more.
The Bible reveals that salvation is a gift of God received by faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian partakes of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as acts of obedience, or ordinances, which have no saving value.
Roman Catholics, however, teach seven sacraments that are essential to an individual’s eternal destiny. Sacraments in Catholic theology do not merely symbolize grace; they are said to be containers of grace, which participants receive as they partake.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states plainly: “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.”
The Roman Catholic Church traces its beginning to the apostle Peter, claiming he is the rock upon whom Jesus built His church (Matt. 16:18). As the first pope, Peter is followed by an unbroken line of successors stretching to Pope Francis today. Non-Catholics establish the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church at A.D. 590 with Gregory I, who consolidated the power of the bishopric in Rome.
In any case, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian church, with 1.2 billion members. The Catholic hierarchy includes cardinals and bishops and is led by the bishop of Rome, also known as the pope.
The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true church divinely founded by Jesus Christ. In addition, it teaches that its bishops are the successors of Jesus’ apostles, and that the pope, as the successor to the head of the apostles (Peter), has supreme authority over the church.
Categories of Catholics
While the Catholic Church claims to be the one true church, Catholics worldwide hold to a diversity of beliefs. Researcher Ken Samples has concluded that there are six primary categories of Roman Catholics:
Ultratraditional Catholics defend historical Catholicism and are critical of recent changes such as those coming out of Vatican II in the 1960s.
Traditional Catholics resist liberalism and modernism within the church, yet they generally accept the reforms of Vatican II.
Liberal Catholics celebrate human reason over the authority of the church; they also question the infallibility of the pope, church councils, and the Bible
Charismatic/evangelical Catholics emphasize the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the importance of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit-filled life.
Cultural Catholics are “womb-to-tomb” Catholics – born, baptized, married, and buried in the church. However, they essentially go through the motions of their faith without much regard for its meaning.
Popular folk Catholics predominate Central and South America. They combine elements of animistic or nature-culture religion with traditional medieval Catholicism (Christian Research Journal, Winter 1993).