- When you die do you expect that God will already have finished His work in you?
- Will you be perfect with no selfishness or faults?
- Do most Christians die in a state of grace where fellow Christians would only see Christ when they see that person?
You have probably answered as most would: none of us is perfect but Christ covers our sins.
The problem with that answer is it really doesn't credit the complete work that Christ is doing and sells Him short.
You know that in Heaven no one has any baggage: there is no:
- sloth, and
- the list goes on.
. . . but you also know that many good folks who have been saved by Christ hadn't quite eliminated all of these things from their life perfectly when they died so they need to get from one state to the other: from imperfection to perfection.
In other words, they need a total transformation from the inside out. It doesn't happen because God waves some magic wand either. It is the power of the Holy Spirit cleansing, healing and making that individual into the total likeness of Christ — what God intended from the beginning.
God isn't covering up our faults in Heaven. By then, He has rooted them out of us completely and if that hasn't happened by the time you die, He will finish it as He is drawing your soul to His Very Self, purging you of all your imperfection so Purgatory is less a place than a state or condition of being purged.
Consider what St. Paul said:
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — 13 each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15
Reflect on this passage and you will see an ancient analogy to Purgatory: God burns away what doesn't belong in the kingdom, and in that process we feel a loss. Sadly, we often cling too tightly to our sins, even though we have been redeemed. Every Christian knows this to be true. Thank God that our death does not prevent him from finishing what He started in us. He will take us from glory to glory, even when it hurts.
Lastly, there has always been the idea that we have a responsibility for our sins, particularly for those who have been adopted into the family of God and are being saved. Jesus didn't give us salvation as a free pass to commit sin with no accountability. He expects us to be conscientious and just and, should we fail, He forgives us but according to the measure in which we repent — again there could be some stuff we hold on to. In this sense atonement is like penance, trying to rectify the wrong or at least acknowledging the wrongdoing and feeling the sense of shame and regret that goes with it. I suspect that Purgatory may have some of that if we don't let go of our junk. The good news is that we can get beyond that even in our life, as Peter said,
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers. 8 Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:7-8