Purgatory, according to Catholic Church doctrine, is an intermediate state after physical death in which those destined for heaven "undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven". Only those who die in the state of grace but have not in life reached a sufficient level of holiness can be in Purgatory, and therefore no one in Purgatory will remain forever in that state or go to hell. This theological notion has ancient roots and is well-attested in early Christian literature.
The notion of Purgatory is associated particularly with the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church (in the Eastern sui juris churches or rites it is a doctrine, though it is not often called "Purgatory", but the "final purification" or the "final theosis"); Anglicans of the Anglo-Catholic tradition generally also hold to the belief, along with many Lutherans of High Church Lutheranism. Eastern Orthodox Churches believe in the possibility of a change of situation for the souls of the dead through the prayers of the living and the offering of the Divine Liturgy, and many Orthodox, especially among ascetics, hope and pray for a general apocatastasis. Judaism also believes in the possibility of after-death purification and may even use the word "purgatory" to present its understanding of the meaning of Gehenna. However, the concept of soul "purification" may be explicitly denied in these other faith traditions.
The word "Purgatory", derived through Anglo-Norman and Old French from the Latin word purgatorium, has come to refer also to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation, and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.
- 1 History of the belief
- 2 In Christianity
- 2.1 Catholicism
- 2.2 Eastern Christian churches
- 2.3 Anglicanism
- 2.4 Protestantism in general
- 2.5 Lutheranism
- 2.6 Methodism
- 2.7 Mormonism
- 3 Judaism
- 4 Islam
- 5 Purgatory and the Life Review
- 6 Cultural references
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
History of the belief
While use of the word "Purgatory" (in Latin purgatorium) as a noun appeared perhaps only between 1160 and 1180, giving rise to the idea of purgatory as a place (what Jacques Le Goff called the "birth" of purgatory), the Roman Catholic tradition of Purgatory as a transitional condition has a history that dates back, even before Jesus Christ, to the worldwide practice of caring for the dead and praying for them, and to the belief, found also in Judaism, which is considered the precursor of Christianity, that prayer for the dead contributed to their afterlife purification. The same practice appears in other traditions, such as the medieval Chinese Buddhist practice of making offerings on behalf of the dead, who are said to suffer numerous trials. Roman Catholic belief in after-life purification is based on the practice of praying for the dead, which is mentioned in what the Roman Catholic Church has declared to be part of Sacred Scripture, and which was adopted by Christians from the beginning, a practice that presupposes that the dead are thereby assisted between death and their entry into their final abode.
Belief in after-life "temporary punishments agreeable to every one's behaviour and manners" was expressed in the early Christian work in Greek known as Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades, which was once attributed to Josephus (37 – c. 100) but is now believed to be by Hippolytus of Rome (170–235).
Shortly before becoming a Roman Catholic, the English scholar John Henry Newman argued that the essence of the doctrine is locatable in ancient tradition, and that the core consistency of such beliefs is evidence that Christianity was "originally given to us from heaven". Roman Catholics consider the teaching on Purgatory, but not the imaginative accretions, to be part of the faith derived from the revelation of Jesus Christ that was preached by the Apostles. Of the early Church Fathers, Origen says that “He who comes to be saved, comes to be saved through [a] fire” that burns away sins and worldliness like lead, leaving behind only pure gold. St. Ambrose of Milan speaks of a kind of "baptism of fire" which is located at the entrance to Heaven, and through which all must pass, at the end of the world. Pope St. Gregory the Great says that the belief in Purgatory is “established” (constat), and “to be believed” (credendum), insisting however, that the Purgatorial fire can only purify away minor transgressions, not “iron, bronze, or lead,” or other “hardened” (duriora) sins. By this he meant that attachments to sin, habits of sin, and even venial sins could be removed in Purgatory, but not mortal sin, which, according to Catholic doctrine, causes eternal damnation. Over the centuries, theologians and other Christians then developed the doctrine regarding Purgatory, leading to the definition of the formal doctrine (as distinct from the legendary descriptions found in poetic literature) at the First Council of Lyon (1245), Second Council of Lyon (1274), the Council of Florence (1438–1445), and the Council of Trent (1545–63).
Some churches, typically those with a more "Catholic" structure, recognize the doctrine of Purgatory, while many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches would not use the same terminology, the former on the basis of their own sola scriptura doctrine, combined with their exclusion of 2 Maccabees from the Bible. The latter because the Orthodox Churches consider Purgatory a non-essential doctrine.
The Catholic Church gives the name Purgatory to the final purification of all who die in God's grace and friendship, but are still imperfectly purified. Though Purgatory is often pictured as a place rather than a process of purification, the idea of purgatory as a physical place with time is not part of the Church's doctrine.
Heaven and Hell
According to Catholic belief, immediately after death, a person undergoes judgment in which the soul's eternal destiny is specified. Some are eternally united with God in Heaven, envisioned as a paradise of eternal joy, where Theosis is completed and one experiences the beatific vision of God. Conversely, others (those who die in hatred of God and Christ) reach a state called Hell, that is eternal separation from God often envisioned as an abode of never ending, fiery torment, a fire sometimes considered to be metaphorical.
Role in relation to sin
In addition to accepting the states of heaven and hell, Catholicism envisages a third state before being admitted to heaven. According to Catholic doctrine, some souls are not sufficiently free from the temporal effects of sin and its consequences to enter the state of heaven immediately, nor are they so sinful and hateful of Christ as to be destined for hell either. Such souls, ultimately destined to be united with God in heaven, must first be cleansed through purgatory – a state of purification. Through purgatory, souls "achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven".
Mortal sin incurs both temporal punishment and eternal punishment, venial sin incurs only temporal punishment. The Catholic Church makes a distinction between these two types of sin. Mortal sin is a "sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent", and "if it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back".
In contrast, venial sin (meaning "forgivable" sin) "does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God" and, although still "constituting a moral disorder", does not deprive the sinner of friendship with God, and consequently the eternal happiness of heaven. However, since venial sin weakens charity, manifests a disordered affection for created goods, and impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good, it merits temporal punishment.
According to Catholicism, purification from our sinful tendencies can occur during life. The situation has been compared to that of someone who needs to be cleansed of any addiction. As from any addiction, rehabilitation from the "disordered affection for created goods" will be a gradual and probably painful process. It can be advanced during life by voluntary self-mortification and penance and by deeds of generosity that show love of God rather than of creatures. After death, a cleansing process can be recognized as a still necessary preparation for entering the divine presence.
The writings of Saint Catherine of Genoa explain: "As for paradise, God has placed no doors there. Whoever wishes to enter, does so. All-merciful God stands there with His arms open, waiting to receive us into His glory. I also see, however, that the divine presence is so pure and light-filled – much more than we can imagine – that the soul that has but the slightest imperfection would rather throw itself into a thousand hells than appear thus before the divine presence. Tongue cannot express nor heart understand the full meaning of purgatory, which the soul willingly accepts as a mercy the realization that that suffering is of no importance compared to the removal of the impediment of sin."
Pain and fire
Purgatory is commonly regarded as a cleansing by way of painful temporal punishment, which, like the eternal punishment of hell, is associated with the idea of fire. While "pain of the senses" (as opposed to "pain of longing" for the Beatific Vision) is not doctrinally defined as being a part of Purgatory, the overwhelming consensus of theologians has been that it does involve pain of the senses. Several Church Fathers regarded 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved. Fire was the Bible-inspired image ("We went through fire and through water") that Christians used for the notion of after-life purification. St. Augustine described the fires of cleansing as more painful than anything a man can suffer in this life, and Pope Gregory I wrote that there must be a cleansing fire for some minor faults that may remain to be purged away. Origen wrote about the fire that needs to purify the soul St. Gregory of Nyssa also wrote about the purging fire.
Most theologians of the past have held that the fire is in some sense a material fire, though of a nature different from ordinary fire, but the opinion of other theologians who interpret the Scriptural term "fire" metaphorically has not been condemned by the Church and may now be the more common view among theologians. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of a "cleansing fire" and quotes the expression "purgatorius ignis" (purifying fire) used by Pope Gregory the Great. It speaks of the temporal punishment for sin, even in this life, as a matter of "sufferings and trials of all kinds". It describes purgatory as a necessary purification from "an unhealthy attachment to creatures", a purification that "frees one from what is called the 'temporal punishment' of sin", a punishment that "must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin."
Prayer for the dead and indulgences
The Catholic Church teaches that the fate of those in purgatory can be affected by the actions of the living. Its teaching is based also on the practice of prayer for the dead mentioned as far back as 2 Maccabees 12:42–46, considered by Catholics and Orthodox to be part of Sacred Scripture.
In the same context there is mention of the practice of indulgences. An indulgence is a remission before God, through the mediation of the Church, of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. Indulgences may be obtained for oneself, or on behalf of the dead. Despite popular perception, the Catholic Church has never taught that indulgences forgive any sins, for this is God's jurisdiction alone. Any persons who have taught that acts of charity such as indulgences can forgive sins have been condemned as heretics by the Catholic Church. It is also a heretical position to suggest that indulgences are applied no matter how strong a Christian may be in his faith. An indulgence is dependent (or any act of charity for that matter) on the present faith of the individual Christian (see Johann Tetzel).
Prayers for the dead and indulgences have been popularly envisioned as decreasing the "duration" of time the dead spend in purgatory, an idea associated with the fact that, in the past, indulgences were measured in terms of days, "quarantines" (i.e. 40-day periods as for Lent), or years, meaning, not that purgatory would be shortened by that amount of time, but that the indulgences were equivalent to that length of canonical penance on the part of a living Christian. When the imposition of such canonical penances of a determinate duration fell out of custom these expressions were sometimes popularly misinterpreted as reduction of that much time of a soul's stay in purgatory. A prayer roll that once belonged to Henry VIII claimed that "this image of pity devotedly say 5 Pater Noster, 5 Ave Maria and 1 Credo..." gave a pardon and reduction of time in purgatory of "52,712 years and 40 days of pardon". In Pope Paul VI's revision of the rules concerning indulgences, these expressions were dropped, and replaced by the expression "partial indulgence", indicating that the person who gained such an indulgence for a pious action is granted, "in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church".
Historically, the practice of granting indulgences, and the widespread associated abuses, led to them being seen as increasingly bound up with money, with criticisms being directed against the "sale" of indulgences, a source of controversy that was the immediate occasion of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and Switzerland.
As a physical place
The envisioning of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory as places in the physical universe is not a Church doctrine. However, in antiquity and medieval times, Heaven and Hell were widely regarded as places existing within the physical universe: Heaven "above", in the sky; Hell "below", in or beneath the earth. Similarly, Purgatory has at times been thought of as a physical location.
In 1206, a peasant named Thurkhill in England claimed that Saint Julian took him on a tour of Purgatory. He gave precise details, including descriptions of what he called Purgatory's "torture chambers", and was widely believed, including by the Church historian Roger of Wendover.
In Dante's fourteenth century work La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy), Purgatory is depicted as a mountain in the southern hemisphere. It is apparently the only land there. Souls who loved God and man half-heartedly find themselves at Mt. Purgatory, where there are two levels, then Seven Levels representing the Seven deadly sins with ironic punishments. For example, on the first level for Pride the inhabitants are weighed down by huge stones which force them to look at examples of Pride on the pavement like Arachne. When they reach the top they will find themselves at Jerusalem's antipode, the Garden of Eden itself. Thus cleansed of all sin and made perfect, they wait in Earthly paradise before ascending to Heaven.
In 1999 Pope John Paul II referred to Purgatory as "a condition of existence", implying that it is most likely not an actual physical location or place, but is a state wherein "those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ who removes from them the remnants of imperfection."
In 2011 Pope Benedict XVI, speaking of Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447–1510), said that in her time the purification of souls (Purgatory) was pictured as a location in space, but that the saint saw Purgatory as a purifying inner fire, such as she experienced in her profound sorrow for sins committed, when compared with God's infinite love. She said that being bound still to the desires and suffering that derive from sin makes it impossible for the soul to enjoy the beatific vision of God. The Pope commented: "We too feel how distant we are, how full we are of so many things that we cannot see God. The soul is aware of the immense love and perfect justice of God and consequently suffers for having failed to respond in a correct and perfect way to this love; and love for God itself becomes a flame, love itself cleanses it from the residue of sin."
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, first published in 2005, is a summary in dialogue form of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It deals with purgatory in the following exchange:
210. What is purgatory?
- Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.
211. How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory?
- Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.
These two questions and answers summarize information in sections 1020–1032 and 1054 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, which also speaks of purgatory in sections 1472 and 1473.
Eastern Christian churches
The Eastern Catholic churches are Catholic churches sui iuris of Eastern tradition, in full communion with the Pope. There are however some differences between the Latin Church and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches on aspects of purgatory. The Eastern Catholic Churches of Greek tradition do not generally use the word "purgatory", but agree that there is a "final purification" for souls destined for heaven, and that prayers can help the dead who are in that state of "final purification". In general, neither the members of the Latin Church nor the members of these Eastern Catholic Churches regard these differences as points of dispute, but see them as minor nuances and differences of tradition. A treaty that formalized the admission of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church into the full communion of the Roman Catholic Church stated: "We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church", implying, in the opinion of a theologian of that Church, that both sides can agree to disagree on the theological speculations and opinions of what is called Purgatory, while there is full agreement on essential dogma. Between the Latin-Rite Catholic Church and some other Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, there is no variance about theological opinions of Purgatory.
Eastern Catholic Churches belonging to the Syriac Tradition (Chaldean, Maronite and Syriac Catholic), generally believe in the concept of Purgatory but use a different name like 'Sheol'. They claim that this does not contradict with Latin-Catholic doctrine.
The Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the term "purgatory". It admits an intermediate state after death. It believes in the determination of Heaven and Hell as stated in the Bible and that prayer for the dead is necessary.
"It is certainly not strange that the soul, having passed through the toll-houses and finished for good with earthly things, should then be introduced to the truly other world, in one part of which it will spend eternity. According to the revelation of the angel to St. Macarius of Alexandria, the Churches special commemoration of the departed on the ninth day after death occurs because it is up to then the soul is shown the beauties of Paradise, and only after this, for the remainder of the forty days, it is shown the torments and horrors of hell, before being assigned on the fortieth day to the place where it will await the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgement."
According to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:
The moral progress of the soul, either for better or for worse, ends at the very moment of the separation of the body and soul; at that very moment the definite destiny of the soul in the everlasting life is decided. ... There is no way of repentance, no way of escape, no reincarnation and no help from the outside world. Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge. The Orthodox Church does not believe in purgatory (a place of purging), that is, the inter-mediate state after death in which the souls of the saved (those who have not received temporal punishment for their sins) are purified of all taint preparatory to entering into Heaven, where every soul is perfect and fit to see God. Also, the Orthodox Church does not believe in indulgences as remissions from purgatoral punishment. Both purgatory and indulgences are inter-corrolated theories, unwitnessed in the Bible or in the Ancient Church, and when they were enforced and applied they brought about evil practices at the expense of the prevailing Truths of the Church. If Almighty God in His merciful loving-kindness changes the dreadful situation of the sinner, it is unknown to the Church of Christ. The Church lived for fifteen hundred years without such a theory.
Eastern Orthodox teaching is that, while all undergo a Particular Judgment immediately after death, neither the just nor the wicked attain the final state of bliss or punishment before the last day, with some exceptions for righteous souls like the Theotokos (Blessed Virgin Mary), "who was borne by the angels directly to heaven".
The Eastern Orthodox Church holds that it is necessary to believe in an intermediate after-death state in which believers are perfected and brought to full divinization, a process of growth rather than of punishment, which some Orthodox have called purgatory. Eastern Orthodox theology does not generally describe the situation of the dead as involving suffering or fire, although it nevertheless describes it as a "direful condition". The souls of the righteous dead are in light and rest, with a foretaste of eternal happiness; but the souls of the wicked are in a state the reverse of this. Among the latter, such souls as have departed with faith, but "without having had time to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance..., may be aided towards the attainment of a blessed resurrection [at the end of time] by prayers offered in their behalf, especially those offered in union with the oblation of the bloodless sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, and by works of mercy done in faith for their memory."
The Orthodox Confession of Peter Mogila (1596–1646), adopted, in a Greek translation by Meletius Syrigos, by the 1642 Council of Jassy, in Romania, professes that "many are freed from the prison of hell ... through the good works of the living and the Church's prayers for them, most of all through the unbloody sacrifice, which is offered on certain days for all the living and the dead" (question 64); and (under the heading "How must one consider the purgatorial fire?") "the Church rightly performs for them the unbloody sacrifice and prayers, but they do not cleanse themselves by suffering something. But, the Church never maintained that which pertains to the fanciful stories of some concerning the souls of their dead, who have not done penance and are punished, as it were, in streams, springs and swamps" (question 66)."
The Eastern Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem (1672) declared that "the souls of those that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to what each hath wrought" (an enjoyment or condemnation that will be complete only after the resurrection of the dead); but the souls of some "depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from there, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice benefiting the most; which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike. Of course, it is understood that we do not know the time of their release. We know and believe that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment, but when we know not."
Some Orthodox believe in a teaching of "aerial toll-houses" for the souls of the dead. According to this theory, which is rejected by other Orthodox but appears in the hymnology of the Church, "following a person's death the soul leaves the body and is escorted to God by angels. During this journey the soul passes through an aerial realm which is ruled by demons. The soul encounters these demons at various points referred to as 'toll-houses' where the demons then attempt to accuse it of sin and, if possible, drag the soul into hell."
Article XXII of the Thirty-Nine Articles states that "The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory . . . is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God." Prayers for the departed were deleted from the 1552 Book of Common Prayer because they suggested a doctrine of purgatory. The 19th century Anglo-Catholic revival led to restoring prayers for the dead.
John Henry Newman, in his Tract XC of 1841 §6, discussed Article XXII. He highlighted the fact that it is the “Romish” doctrine of purgatory coupled with indulgences that Article XXII condemns as “repugnant to the Word of God.” The article did not condemn every doctrine of purgatory and it did not condemn prayers for the dead. 
As of the year 2000, the state of the doctrine of purgatory in Anglicanism was summarized as follows:
Purgatory is seldom mentioned in Anglican descriptions or speculations concerning life after death, although many Anglicans believe in a continuing process of growth and development after death.
Although there is little talk about purgatory in Anglicanism, the Book of Common Prayer includes prayers for the dead, both that they may be “purged” of “defilements . . . contracted” in their “earthly life” and that they may increase in the “knowledge and love” of God.
Leonel L. Mitchell (1930-2012) offers this rationale for prayers for the dead:
No one is ready at the time of death to enter into life in the nearer presence of God without substantial growth precisely in love, knowledge, and service; and the prayer also recognizes that God will provide what is necessary for us to enter that state. This growth will presumably between death and resurrection.”
Anglican theologian C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), reflecting on the history of the doctrine of purgatory in the Anglican communion, said there were good reasons for "casting doubt on the 'Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory' as that Romish doctrine had then become", not merely a "commercial scandal" but also the picture of purgatory as a temporary Hell, in which the souls are tormented by devils, whose presence is "more horrible and grievous to us than is the pain itself", and where the spirit who suffers the tortures cannot, for pain, "remember God as he ought to do". Lewis believed instead in purgatory as presented in John Henry Newman's The Dream of Gerontius. By this poem, Lewis wrote, "Religion has reclaimed Purgatory", a process of purification that will normally involve suffering.
Protestantism in general
In general, Protestant churches reject the doctrine of purgatory. One of Protestantism's central tenets is sola scriptura ("scripture alone"). The general Protestant view is that the Bible, from which Protestants exclude deuterocanonical books such as 2 Maccabees, contains no overt, explicit discussion of purgatory and therefore it should be rejected as an unbiblical belief.
Another view held by many Protestants is sola fide ("by faith alone"): that faith alone, apart from any action, is what achieves salvation, and that good works are merely evidence of that faith. Salvation is generally seen as a discrete event that takes place once for all during one's lifetime, not the result of a transformation of character. However, most Protestants teach that a transformation of character naturally follows the salvation experience. Instead of distinguishing between mortal and venial sins, Protestants believe that one's faith dictates one's state of salvation and one's place in the afterlife. Those who have been saved by God are destined for heaven, while those have not been saved will be excluded from heaven. Accordingly, they reject any notion of a provisional or temporary afterlife state such as purgatory.
Some Protestants hold that a person enters into the fullness of its bliss or torment only after the resurrection of the body, and that the soul in that interim state is conscious and aware of the fate in store for it. Others have held that souls in the intermediate state between death and resurrection are without consciousness, a state known as soul sleep.
A 2011 book on Purgatory by a Protestant
As an argument for the existence of purgatory, Protestant religious philosopher Jerry L. Walls wrote Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (2011) The book evoked reviews and news stories. It received a positive review in the Roman Catholic University of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
Historically informed, philosophically competent, and theologically alert . . . as careful
and fair a discussion of the doctrine of purgatory as one is likely to find.
The book also generated a news story in Religion News Service about its impact on Protestant views of Purgatory. The Christian Century suggested that, if Protestants followed Walls’ logic, they might accept his view of an “intermediate stage” without calling it purgatory.
Walls’ book on Purgatory
Surveying religious history, Walls finds “ancient intimations of Purgatory” in its “precedents and parallels” in non-Christian religions. Within early Christianity, he finds “biblical hints of Purgatory” and examines them. In a survey of Christian writers whom he calls the “Fathers and Mothers of Purgatory,” Wall finds the beginnings of the doctrine of purgatory in their writings. These three sources led up to the “birth of Purgatory” in the 12th century. The 13th century saw the beginnings of Purgatory’s adoption and its adoption as doctrine in 1274.
Walls does not base his belief in Purgatory primarily on Scripture, the Mothers and Fathers of the church, or the Magisterium (doctrinal authority) of the Roman Catholic church. Rather his basic argument is that, in a phrase he often uses, it “makes sense.” For Walls, Purgatory has a logic as in the title of his book.
Walls’ logic of Purgatory begins with the fact that at least most Christians “die far short of perfection.” Given that fact “there are four broad possibilities”:
- They go to heaven with the sins, so heaven is not “essentially sinless.”
- They will be “lost” and not go to heaven.
- At the moment of death, God makes people “holy by an instantaneous unilateral act.”
- The “sanctification process continues after death” until it is complete.
Walls quickly rules out the first two possibilities and dismisses the third as the position of “most Protestants”. Walls accepts the fourth possibility as his, that is, he argues for the existence of Purgatory.
Walls documents the “contrast between the satisfaction and sanctification models” of Purgatory. In the satisfaction model, “the punishment of purgatory” is to satisfy God’s justice. In the sanctification model, Wall writes that “Purgatory might be pictured . . . as a regimen to regain one’s spiritual health and get back into moral shape.”
In Roman Catholic theology, Walls finds that the doctrine of purgatory has “swung” between the “poles of satisfaction and sanctification” sometimes “combining both elements somewhere in the middle. He believes the sanctification model "can be affirmed by Protestants without contradicting their theology and find that it “makes better sense” than an instantaneous purging of sin at the moment of death. 
Martin Luther, founder of the Lutheran Church, believed that it was of no avail to pray for the dead. Nonetheless, a core statement of Lutheran doctrine, from the Book of Concord, states: "We know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not prohibit; but we disapprove of the application ex opere operato of the Lord's Supper on behalf of the dead. ... Epiphanius testifies that Aerius held that prayers for the dead are useless. With this he finds fault. Neither do we favor Aerius, but we do argue with you because you defend a heresy that clearly conflicts with the prophets, apostles, and Holy Fathers, namely, that the Mass justifies ex opere operato, that it merits the remission of guilt and punishment even for the unjust, to whom it is applied, if they do not present an obstacle." (Philipp Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession). The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, however, believes in the doctrine of purgatory, as well as papal infallibility and all Roman Catholic dogma. Additionally, High Church Lutheranism, like Anglo-Catholicism, is more likely to accept some form of purgatory.
Methodist churches hold that "the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory ... is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God." Its founder John Wesley believed that there is "an intermediate state between death and the final judgment, where those who rejected Christ would be aware of their coming doom (not yet pronounced), and believers would share in the 'bosom of Abraham' or 'paradise', even continuing to grow in holiness there." Methodism does not formally affirm this belief, but maintains silence on what lies between death and the last judgment.
Mormonism, the group of beliefs espoused by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches of an intermediate place for spirits between their death and their bodily resurrection. This place, called "the spirit world," includes "paradise" for the righteous and "prison" for those who do not know God. Spirits in paradise serve as missionaries to the spirits in prison, who can still accept salvation. In this sense, spirit prison can be conceptualized as a type of purgatory. In addition to hearing the message from the missionary spirits, the spirits in prison can also accept posthumous baptism and other posthumous ordinances performed by living church members in temples on Earth. This is frequently referred to as "baptism for the dead" and "temple work." Mormons believe that during the three days following Christ's crucifixion, he preached his gospel to inhabitants of spirit prison.
The view of purgatory can be found in the teaching of the Shammaites: "In the last judgment day there shall be three classes of souls: the righteous shall at once be written down for the life everlasting; the wicked, for Gehenna; but those whose virtues and sins counterbalance one another shall go down to Gehenna and float up and down until they rise purified; for of them it is said: 'I will bring the third part into the fire and refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried' [Zech. xiii. 9.]; also, 'He [the Lord] bringeth down to Sheol and bringeth up again'" (I Sam. ii. 6). The Hillelites seem to have had no purgatory; for they said: "He who is 'plenteous in mercy' [Ex. xxxiv. 6.] inclines the balance toward mercy, and consequently the intermediates do not descend into Gehenna" (Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 3; R. H. 16b; Bacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 18). Still they also speak of an intermediate state.
Regarding the time which purgatory lasts, the accepted opinion of R. Akiba is twelve months; according to R. Johanan b. Nuri, it is only forty-nine days. Both opinions are based upon Isa. lxvi. 23–24: "From one new moon to another and from one Sabbath to another shall all flesh come to worship before Me, and they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched"; the former interpreting the words "from one new moon to another" to signify all the months of a year; the latter interpreting the words "from one Sabbath to another," in accordance with Lev. xxiii. 15–16, to signify seven weeks. During the twelve months, declares the baraita (Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 4–5; R. H. 16b), the souls of the wicked are judged, and after these twelve months are over they are consumed and transformed into ashes under the feet of the righteous (according to Mal. iii. 21 [A. V. iv. 3]), whereas the great seducers and blasphemers are to undergo eternal tortures in Gehenna without cessation (according to Isa. lxvi. 24).
The righteous, however, and, according to some, also the sinners among the people of Israel for whom Abraham intercedes because they bear the Abrahamic sign of the covenant are not harmed by the fire of Gehenna even when they are required to pass through the intermediate state of purgatory ('Er. 19b; Ḥag. 27a).
In Islam also, Muslims believe hell is a temporary place of punishment for some, eternal for others. Sinning believers who end up in Hell will stay temporarily but eventually will be removed only if Allah will permit them to enter to paradise, otherwise that's not the rule for those who will leave hell later on. And those who refuse to work God and submit to him (i.e. God) alone  will remain in Hell eternally.
Barzakh (Arabic: برزخ), a term that appears in the Qur'an Surah 23, Ayat 100, is the intermediate state in which the soul of the deceased is transferred across the boundaries of the mortal realm into a kind of "cold sleep" where the soul will rest until the Qiyamah (Judgement Day). This concept corresponds to that of soul sleep, not to that of purgatory.
Purgatory and the Life Review
The life review undergone by those who have had a Near Death Experience (NDE), can resemble a sort of purgatory. This is what Bruce Horacek Ph.D and the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) write about the Life Review: "During a predominantly pleasurable NDE, usually while in the light, the NDEr may experience a life review. In this review, the NDEr typically re-views (sees again) and re-experiences every moment of his/her life. At the same time, the NDEr fully experiences being every other person with whom the NDEr interacted. The NDEr knows what it was to be on the receiving end of his/her own actions including those that caused others pain. At this time, the NDEr usually reports feeling profound remorse, along with extreme regret that the harm cannot be undone. At the same time, the NDEr typically reports feelings consistent with unconditional love from the light, which communicates forgiveness because the NDEr was still learning how to become a more loving person. NDErs tend to say that this "learning how to love" is the purpose of life." In Richard Matheson's novel What Dreams May Come, a newly dead character sees all the events of his life unfold in reverse, then later experiences the same thing slowly, in a self-evaluation process that the novel equates with purgatory.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2014)|
Literary references to purgatory go back at least as far as Dante Alighieri. In his Divine Comedy story Purgatorio, Mount Purgatory is split into different terraces for those being made to be ready for heaven. At the top of Mount Purgatory is the Garden of Eden.
In the TV series Supernatural, purgatory is a place where the souls of monsters such as vampires and werewolves are sent to when they die, destined to hunt and feed on each other for eternity. It also serves as the prison for God's first beasts, the Leviathans, who escape during the show's seventh season due to the actions of the Winchesters' angelic ally Castiel, forcing the Winchesters to try and defeat them; the eighth season includes flashbacks to the time protagonist Dean Winchester spent in Purgatory after killing the Leviathans' leader.
It is also mentioned in the anime Samurai X as Shishio Makoto's Ship was named Purgatory.
In the 2015 film, Welcome to Purgatory, “the afterlife is in ruins”. Can new arrivals put things right?
In the TV series The Vampire Diaries, the Other Side was a purgatory-like dimension where all supernatural creatures went after they died, at least up until the Season 5 finale at which point the Other Side was destroyed.
In the 2010 video game Mass Effect 2, Purgatory is the name of a starship that was converted into a prison, infamous for the staff's brutal treatment of prisoners.
In one episode of the cartoon, Animaniacs, the three leads wind up in hell and take a boat to what the devil calls purgatory, after which they sing a short song about it.
In the anime "Angel Beats!", several teenagers find themselves in a purgatorial world. They believe that God gave them unfair lives, and they want to get back at him for it.
In the book series Incarnations of immortality by Piers Anthony, many of the characters reside in Purgatory.
In TV series Sleepy Hollow also use purgatory as the world of the dead and undead. The main character was stuck in purgatory.
In the film, Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006), only those who killed themselves inhabit the story’s purgatorial “afterlife way station”.
"Purgatorium" is one of the Final Dungeons in the 2013 videogame "Shin Megami Tensei IV". The Dungeon has 7 floors, having an unknown meaning up to now. The boss faced in the end is Merkabah instead of God. 
- Anima Sola
- Bosom of Abraham
- Dante's Purgatorio
- Future probation
- Garden in Eden
- Christian views on Hades
- Heaven (Christianity)
- Christian views on hell
- History of Purgatory
- Intermediate state
- Olam Haba
- Soul sleep
- Spirit world (Latter Day Saints)
- Spirits in prison
- St Patrick's Purgatory
- Venial sin
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030
- Olivier Clément, L'Église orthodoxe. Presses Universitaries de France, 2006, Section 3, IV
- "Purgatory," Oxford English Dictionary
- Purgatory in Encyclopædia Britannica
- Collins English Dictionary
- Megan McLaughlin, Consorting with Saints: Prayer for the Dead in Early Medieval France (Cornell University Press 1994 ISBN 978-0-8014-2648-3), p. 18
- LeGoff, Jacques. The Birth of Purgatory. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986, Pg 362–66
- Cf. 2 Maccabees 12:42–44
- Waterworth (editor), J. "The Council of Trent, Decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures". Hanover Historical Texts Project. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- Council of Trent. "Decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures". EWTN. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- "1032". Catechism of the Catholic Church. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades, paragraph 1
- Newman was working on An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine since 1842 (Encyclopædia Britannica 1911, i.e. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Edition, and sent it to the printer in September 1845 (Ian Turnbull Kern, Newman the Theologian - University of Notre Dame Press 1990 ISBN 9780268014698, p. 149). He was received into the Catholic Church on 9 October of the same year.
- John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, chapter 2, section 3, paragraph 2.
- Homilies on Exodus 6:4. See http://books.google.com/books?id=sLpDsFbzv2wC&pg=PA330#v=onepage&q&f=false#page=330
- Sermons on Ps. 117(116), Sermon 3, 14-15. See http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0339-0397,_Ambrosius,_In_Psalmum_David_CXVIII_Expositio,_MLT.pdf#page=16
- Dialogues, Book 4, Ch. 39. See http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/01p/0590-0604,_SS_Gregorius_I_Magnus,_Dialogorum_Libri_IV-De_Vita_et_Miraculis_...,_LT.pdf#page=159
- Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma (Enchiridion Symbolorum), 456, 464, 693, 840, 983, 998.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030–1031
- Audience of 4 August 1999
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1021–1022
- Cf. David L. Schindler, Love Alone Is Credible (Eerdmans 2008 ISBN 978-0-8028-6247-1), p. 222
- Cf. CCC 1030–1032
- CCC 1030–1032
- Purgatory is only for those destined towards heaven, and is viewed as a preparation for the Beautific Vision. CCC 1054
- CCC 1854
- CCC 1857
- CCC 1861
- __P6C.HTM CCC 1863
- CCC 1875
- Jack Mulder, Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition: Conflict and Dialogue (Indiana University Press 2010 ISBN 978-0-25335536-2), pp. 182–183
- Quoted in Benedict J. Groeschel, A Still, Small Voice (Ignatius Press 1993 ISBN 978-0-89870436-5)
- Catholic Encyclopedia on Purgatory
- Ps 66:12
- Jean-Yves Lacoste, Encyclopedia of Christian Theology (Taylor and Francis, 2004 ISBN 978-1-57958-250-0), p. 1322
- "Each one will be presented to the Judge exactly as he was when he departed this life. Yet, there must be a cleansing fire before judgment, because of some minor faults that may remain to be purged away. Does not Christ, the Truth, say that if anyone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit he shall not be forgiven 'either in this world or in the world to come'(Mt. 12:32)? From this statement we learn that some sins can be forgiven in this world and some in the world to come. For, if forgiveness is refused for a particular sin, we conclude logically that it is granted for others. This must apply, as I said, to slight transgressions." Gregory the Great [regn. A.D. 590–604], Dialogues, 4:39 (A.D. 594).
- "For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (1 Cor.,3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones; neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works." Origen, Homilies on Jeremias, PG 13:445, 448 ( A.D. 244).
- "When he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil." Gregory of Nyssa, Sermon on the Dead, PG 13:445,448 (ante A.D. 394).
- Catholic Encyclopedia on "poena sensus"
- CCC 1031
- CCC 1473. In his 2007 encyclical Spe salvi, Pope Benedict XVI applies to the purgation of souls after death the words of Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:12–15 about some being "saved, but only as through fire"; in the encounter with Christ after death, Christ's "gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation 'as through fire'. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God" (Spe salvi, 46–47).
- CCC 1472
- Cabrol and Leclercq, Monumenta Ecclesiæ Liturgica. Volume I: Reliquiæ Liturgicæ Vetustissimæ (Paris, 1900–2) pp. ci–cvi, cxxxix.
- CCC 1032
- __P4G.HTM CCC 1471
- CCC 1479
- Indulgences in the Church | Catholic-Pages.com
- Starkey, D. 2009. Henry Virtuous Prince p.202 Harper Perennial. ISBN 9780007247721
- Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences, norm 5
- Section "Abuses" in Catholic Encyclopedia: Purgatory
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Reformation
- King John by Warren. Published by the University of California Press in 1961. p. 11
- General Audience Talk, 12 January 2011
- Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 210–211
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 1020–1032
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1054
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 1472–1473
- Decree concerning Purgatory
- Denzinger 1304 – old numbering 693
- Treaty of Brest, Article 5
- Saint Alphonsa Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
- Answers from the Bishop
- Rose, Fr. Seraphim, The Soul after Death, St. Herman Press, Platina CA. 1995
- Death, The Threshold to Eternal Life
- John Meyondorff, Byzantine Theology (London: Mowbrays, 1974) pp. 220–221. "At death man's body goes to the earth from which it was taken, and the soul, being immortal, goes to God, who gave it. The souls of men, being conscious and exercising all their faculties immediately after death, are judged by God. This judgment following man's death we call the Particular Judgment. The final reward of men, however, we believe will take place at the time of the General Judgment. During the time between the Particular and the General Judgment, which is called the Intermediate State, the souls of men have foretaste of their blessing or punishment" (The Orthodox Faith).
- Michael Azkoul, What Are the Differences Between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?
- Ted A. Campbell, Christian Confessions: a Historical Introduction (Westminster John Knox Press 1996 ISBN 0-664-25650-3), p. 54
- Confession of Dositheus, Decree 18
- Catechism of St. Philaret of Moscow, 372 and 376; Constas H. Demetry, Catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Church p. 37; John Meyondorff, Byzantine Theology (London: Mowbrays, 1974) p. 96; cf. "The Orthodox party ... remarked that the words quoted from the book of Maccabees, and our Saviour's words, can only prove that some sins will be forgiven after death" (OrthodoxInfo.com, The Orthodox Response to the Latin Doctrine of Purgatory)
- What Are the Differences Between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?; Constas H. Demetry, Catechism of the Eastern Orthodox Church p. 37
- Orthodox Confession of Faith, questions 64–66.
- In both the Greek and Slavonic Euchologion, in the canon for the departure of the soul by St. Andrew, we find in Ode 7: "All holy angels of the Almighty God, have mercy upon me and save me from all the evil toll-houses" (Evidence for the Tradition of the Toll Houses found in the Universally Received Tradition of the Church). "When my soul is about to be forcibly parted from my body's limbs, then stand by my side and scatter the counsels of my bodiless foes and smash the teeth of those who implacably seek to swallow me down, so that I may pass unhindered through the rulers of darkness who wait in the air, O Bride of God" (Octoechos, Tone Two, Friday Vespers). "Pilot my wretched soul, pure Virgin, and have compassion on it, as it slides under a multitude of offences into the deep of destruction; and at the fearful hour of death snatch me from the accusing demons and from every punishment" (Ode 6, Tone 1 Midnight Office for Sunday).
- Death and the Toll House Controversy
- Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (2001 ed.). Wordsworth Editions. p. 62.
- Colin Buchanan, Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism (Scarecrow, 2006), 510.
- Colin Buchanan, Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism (Scarecrow, 2006), s.v. “Petitions for the Departed”, 356-357.
- Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, eds, An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church (Church Publishing, 2000), 427.
- Book of Common Prayer (USA), 488, http://www.bcponline.org/PastoralOffices/BurialI.htm.
- Leonel L. Mitchell, Praying Shapes Believing: A Theological Commentary on The Book of Common Prayer (Church Publishing, 1991), 224.
- C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (Mariner Books, 2002), 108-109.
- Robert L. Millet, By what Authority?: The Vital Question of Religious Authority in Christianity (Mercer University, 2010), 66.
- Alan Richardson, John Bowden, eds, The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (Westminster John Knox, 1983), s.v. sola fide, 545.
- Alan Richardson, John Bowden, eds, The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (Westminster John Knox, 1983), s.v. salvation 519.
- John Calvin wrote: "As long as (our spirit) is in the body it exerts its own powers; but when it quits this prison-house it returns to God, whose presence it meanwhile enjoys, while it rests in the hope of a blessed Resurrection. This rest is its paradise. On the other hand, the spirit of the reprobate, while it waits for the dreadful judgment, is tortured by that anticipation" (Psychopannychia by John Calvin)
- Martin Luther, contending against the doctrine of purgatory, spoke of the souls of the dead as quite asleep, but this notion of unconscious soul sleep is not included in the Lutheran Confessions and Lutheran theologians generally reject it. (See Soul Sleep – Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.)
- Keith E. Yandell, Review of Jerry Walls, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2012.08.13. Online at http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/32432-the-logic-of-total-transformation/
- David Gibson, Religion News Service, October 29, 2014, “Does purgatory have a prayer with Protestants?” online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/does-purgatory-have-a-prayer-with-protestants/2014/10/29/3dda34ce-5fa9-11e4-827b-2d813561bdfd_story.html. Accessed April 28, 2015.
- The Christian Century, August 2, 2012. Online at http://www.christiancentury.org/reviews/2012-07/purgatory-jerry-l-walls. Accessed April 28, 2015.
- For example, Jerry L. Walls, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford, 2012), 10-14, 17.
- For example, Jerry L. Walls, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford, 2012), 71.
- Jerry L. Walls, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford, 2012), 6.
- Jerry L. Walls, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford, 2012), 6.
- Jerry L. Walls, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford, 2012), 76, 90.
- Jerry L. Walls, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation (Oxford, 2012), 90.
- Question 201 of Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation (Concordia Publishing House, 1991 edition) answers the question "For whom should we pray?" as follows: "We should pray for ourselves and for all other people, even for our enemies, but not for the souls of the dead" The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
- Apology XXIV, 96
- "The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (Methodist)". CRI / Voice, Institute. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
- "What happens after a person dies?". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
John Wesley himself believed in an intermediate state between death and the final judgment, where those who rejected Christ would be aware of their coming doom (not yet pronounced), and believers would share in the "bosom of Abraham" or "paradise", even continuing to grow in holiness there. This belief, however, is not formally affirmed in Methodist doctrinal standards, which reject the idea of purgatory but beyond that maintain silence on what lies between death and the last judgment."
- "What happens after a person dies?". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
Purgatory is believed to be a place where the souls of the faithful dead endure a period of purification and cleansing, aided by the prayers of the living, prior to their entrance into heaven. Although John Wesley believed in an intermediate state between death and the final judgment, that idea is not formally affirmed in Methodist doctrine, which “reject the idea of purgatory but beyond that maintain silence on what lies between death and the last judgment.” (Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials by Ted A. Campbell)
- Robin Russell. "Heavenly minded: It’s time to get our eschatology right, say scholars, authors". UM Portal. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
John Wesley believed in the intermediate state between death and the final judgment “where believers would share in the ‘bosom of Abraham’ or ‘paradise,’ even continuing to grow in holiness there,” writes Ted Campbell, a professor at Perkins School of Theology, in his 1999 book Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials (Abingdon). That view has not been officially affirmed by the Church.
- "There are three categories of men; the wholly pious and the arch-sinners are not purified, but only those between these two classes" (Jewish Encyclopedia: Gehenna)
- 99 Names of Allah
- Gardet, L. "Jahannam," Encyclopedia of Islam.
- For detailed explanation of Human Lives according to Islam please check this lecture.
- Impact of the Near-Death Experience on Grief and Loss, by Bruce Horacek, Ph.D and by IANDS, 2003, lands.org
- Dante http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2310. Accessed April 30, 2015.
- Greg Garrett, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination (Oxford University, 2015), 179.
- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1643249/. Accessed April 30, 2015.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV. [Nintendo 3DS Game]. Irvine, CA:Atlus
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Purgatory.|
- “Is Purgatory in the Bible?”. A Catholic answer.
- “Is Purgatory a Biblical Concept. A Protestant answer.
- Church Fathers on Purgatory
- Purgatory. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2009.
- English c. 1200 wall painting with an image of a ladder, reminiscent of icons such as the Ladder of Divine Ascent, which has been interpreted as a "purgatorial ladder"