Just for Catholics

Suffering in Purgatory

Question: Since we are sinners, we need to be cleaned so that the Justice of God is fulfilled according to the Law. In his mercy God gives opportunity for people to suffer for their sin in Purgatory instead of casting them to Hell. God shows that suffering is valuable. If suffering was not useful, why did Jesus suffer to redeem us? And if Jesus suffered for our sins, why shouldn't we suffer also?

Answer: I would like to make three observations.

1. I agree that there is great value in suffering. Sickness helps to remind us of the vanity of this life and to think seriously about God. Suffering can soften a hard and proud heart, and make it tender and humble. Yes, God uses suffering for our benefit. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Psalms 119:71).

However we should ask whether human suffering could atone for sin. The Scripture does not teach that a man is redeemed by personal sufferings. The payment for sin, according to the Bible, is DEATH (Romans 6:23).

2. I also agree that we need to be cleansed from sin, and that God's justice must be fulfilled. God is the righteous Judge of the world, and he will certainly require full punishment for every violation of his holy Law.

But we could never pay for our sins, since the punishment is death in Hell forever. Thank God for Jesus Christ, his Son. What we could not do, He did on our behalf...

3. Jesus had to suffer; he even had to die to redeem sinners. "I GIVE MY LIFE as a ransom for many." "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:8,9).

Christians acknowledge that "Christ died for us" - he died for our benefit. He died that we should be "justified by his blood."

'To justify' is the opposite of 'to condemn.' The divine Judge declares and pronounces the believer just and frees him from condemnation. God does so not on account of the believer's sinless life or because he had paid for his sins. God justifies the believer because Another died in his place on the cross. They are justified BY HIS BLOOD.

So on the Day of Judgment there shall be no wrath for them who were justified by His blood. They shall be saved from God's wrath THROUGH HIM, and not because they had personally suffered for their sins. Christians rejoice, "We shall be saved from wrath through Christ."

In brief:

  1. There is value in human suffering, but not to atone for sin.

  2. The wages of sin is death.

  3. The believer does not die (in Hell) for his sins because Christ died on the cross for him.

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A