There are about 34,000 different Christian groups in the world since AD 30. This is according to the World Christian Encyclopedia published in 2001. One thousand two hundred different Christian denominations exist in the United States alone. All these denominations claim to be based upon interpretations of the Bible. If there is only one correct interpretation, shouldn’t there be only one denomination?
The most important message that Fundamentalist preacher can proclaim is “salvation through Jesus Christ.” Sometimes in proclaiming God’s Justice, God’s mercy is overlooked. Some Christians understand the Bible as speaking of both justice and mercy.
“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:32) Is there forgiveness in the world to come?
“But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27) What about sins committed after you’ve been saved? Wouldn’t they have to be purified?
“If somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:11-12) Paul, who is saved, expresses doubts about his holiness. “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:4)
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw. 13 The work of each builder will become visible, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) What is Paul talking about? Is there a purification by fire?
Look at Jesus’s teaching in Luke 12:58-59. What happens after they’ve paid the last penny? They are released from prison. No one is released from Hell.
Devout Christians reflect upon these and other scriptures and see God’s mercy acting to purify us from sins committed after being saved. Purgatory expresses this idea. In the end, there is only heaven and hell. That is something to think about.
Father Patrick Toner is pastor at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, 140 West Ave., Plain City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 873-8850.