The children of God are comforted by the thought of the return of Christ. The fact that he stands at the door (James 5:9) gives encouragement to the weary to be patient and content in our lives here. I am reminded of this as I prepare to preach on James 1:12-18. We are given this promise:
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
This promise is for those who love God. This promise says, when the time of testing is over for the Christian (the one who loves the Lord), then the crown of life is received. This is a blessed truth for me because I was raised to believe something very different. As a Roman Catholic I was taught from my youth that purgatory was inevitably the next step for those whose sins were not sufficiently atoned for in this life. Loraine Boettner describes this view of the RC church:
“The great mass of partially sanctified Christians dying in fellowship with the church, but who nevertheless are encumbered with some degree of sin, go to purgatory where, for a longer or shorter time, they suffer until all sin is purged away, after which they are translated to heaven.”
What is purgatory like? It is a living hell…only retrofitted for Christians. Thomas Aquinas, who RC’s consider a Doctor of the Church and one of its greatest theologians, has this to say about the experience of the “just” (i.e. “Christians”) in purgatory:
“It is the same fire,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “that torments the reprobate in hell, and the just in purgatory. The least pain in purgatory,” he says, “surpasses the greatest suffering in this life.” Nothing but the eternal duration makes the fire of hell more terrible that that of purgatory.’”
I think this is one reason that the doctrine of Christ’s return was something that I never heard much about growing up as a Catholic kid. Can you blame them? The return of Christ was something that would instill fear in the faithful, not joy. This doesn’t exactly encourage a person to look eagerly for the appearing of his Savior if he knows his Savior is going to grab hold of him, thrust him into hellish torments and then watch him squirm there for an undetermined amount of time. Can a person trust, hope and love this version of God? Can a Christian think about what is waiting for him or her in purgatory and also be eagerly…
“…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)
I don’t think so.
Loraine Boettner points out:
“Under the shadow of such a doctrine death is not, as in evangelical Protestantism, the coming of Christ for his loved one, but the ushering of the shrinking soul into a place of unspeakable torture.”
Thankfully, this doctrine is not true. It is a figment of man’s religious imagination and supported only by misguided human traditions, not Scripture. Roman Catholicism, as it exists today, is a false religion and an apostate church. This is one of its many errors which should be pointed out to those who are still ensnared by this religious system. Those who truly trust in Christ and are saved know that the return of Christ means an end to our suffering, not an increase of it. We know that…
“…to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
“…we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
May our Lord fill you with this blessed hope today.
 Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, p. 218.
 ibid., p. 219.
 ibid., p. 220.