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The imagery is drawn from Old Testament texts such as Isa. Numerous other New Testament passages use the symbolism of fire to speak of the punishment that awaits evildoers Mt. When we turn to the Pauline and Johannine literature, we find further admonitions regarding the possibility of eternal loss.

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For example, in Romans Paul warns: God "will repay according to each one's deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. The author of 2 Thess. Likewise, John sets the one who believes in the Son and who has eternal life in contrast to the one who disobeys the Son, who will not see life; on him the wrath of God remains. The frequent use of fire imagery in the New Testament in connection with the punishment of evildoers raises the question of its theological significance.

Since God himself can be called the "consuming fire" Heb. If the hope of eternal life means hope for the recovery of unending communion with God, the possibility of hell and eternal loss is the possibility that a human can, through sin, become fully and finally lost to eternal communion with God. The reality of hell was simply assumed through much of Christian history.

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Theologians discussed hell, but there were few doctrinal controversies. The most significant exception was the debate over the heritage of Origen within Eastern Christianity. Origen taught that the punishment for sin, the fires of hell, aimed at rehabilitation and purification, which raised the question whether all persons, including the fallen angels, may at some time be purified and enter blessed glory.


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  8. In the mid-sixth century, Origenist teachings about last things were condemned in a series of anathemas that originated with the Emperor Justinian. Explicitly condemned was anyone who taught that "the punishment of the demons and of impious men is temporary, and that it will have an end at some time, or that there will be a restoration apokatastasis of demons and impious men.

    What does the Catholic Church teach about purgatory?

    As seen in the above discussion of judgment, medieval teaching in the West assumed the possibility that judgment could lead to the damnation of some persons. That hell is eternal for those within it was explicitly taught by the Fourth Lateran Council The Lutheran Reformers accepted without debate the traditional teaching of hell and the possibility of damnation.

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    The Augsburg Confession asserts in Art. XVII that when Christ returns for judgment, along with giving eternal life to elect believers, he will "condemn the ungodly and the devils to hell and eternal punishment. In the Large Catechism he admonishes parents who do not bring up their children in godliness: "You bring upon yourself sin and wrath, thus earning hell by the way you have reared your children. Post-Reformation Lutheran theologians agreed on the existence of hell, the nature of its punishments, and, with few exceptions, its duration for all eternity.

    The punishments are both bodily and mental, being felt in different degrees according to the gravity of the person's sins. More recently, the German Lutheran Evangelischer Erwachsenenkatechismus understands hell as the self-enclosure of the human person against God, the life of the person who, "since he will receive nothing, rather wishes to live on the basis of himself. Hell is less a divine condemnation than a result of our own decision.

    To deny hell and affirm universalism would be incompatible with the teaching of Jesus and of the majority of the New Testament. The Council of Trent spoke once of fear of hell as a motive for imperfect contrition, but offered no account of hell and the punishment of eternal loss. First, to clarify Christ's descent into hell, the Catechism states that what is properly called "hell" is not the temporary dwelling of the pre-Christian righteous, to which Christ descended, but is instead "that most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned are tormented with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable fire.

    Then, in its account of Christ's return to judge the living and the dead, the Catechism dwells on the sentence with which Christ the Judge, according to Mt. Their heaviest punishment comes from being told, "Depart from me," to suffer an eternal pain of loss in banishment from the sight of God. Being relegated to "eternal fire" indicates the sense of pain that they will suffer without end.

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    Then, the punishment of hell was "prepared for the devil and his angels," showing that the lost lack kindly companionship since they are forever with wicked demons. The documents of Vatican Council II do not use the word "hell," but the reality is treated in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church , where it inculcates a spirituality of watchfulness, so as to be ready for acquittal by Christ the coming judge "and not be ordered, like the evil and lazy servants see Mt.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church treats hell in a section of the article of the Creed on life everlasting. From the consideration that union with God is incompatible with grave sins against God, our neighbor, or ourselves, it follows that hell is the condition of those who definitively exclude themselves from God and his mercy. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" 1 Jn. Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren Mt.

    To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire. In these recent texts, Lutherans and Catholics alike stress the possibility of hell as the result of a self-imprisoning of sinners in their own independent isolation.

    The seriousness of sin means that such a possibility cannot be excluded. While unqualified universalism, the affirmation that all persons will be redeemed, is rejected by the official teachings of the Catholic and Lutheran traditions, theologians continue to discuss the question of the breadth of Christian hope. Even if a firm belief that all will be saved does not accord with biblical and normative teaching, can the Christian nevertheless hope for the salvation of each individual and for the salvation of all? This question, vigorously discussed over the last century, can here be only briefly analyzed.

    Both Lutheran and Catholic traditions teach that God's saving will extends to all persons. In Catholic teaching, this assertion is made more than once by the Second Vatican Council. Within the Lutheran tradition, debate about the universal saving will of God arose in debates over election. The Formula of Concord affirmed that God "wants no one to be lost but rather that everyone repent and believe on the Lord Christ [Rom.

    Sinful human rejection, not insufficiency of the gospel or of God's will to save, is responsible for those who may be lost. The impetus for a discussion of a hope for universal salvation among Catholics and Lutherans came from the work of the Reformed theologian Karl Barth and, in particular, his Christocentric understanding of election. If God's election of Jesus Christ is the foundation of God's saving will and if that saving will is supreme, how is eternal loss possible? On the basis of a comprehensive analysis of relevant biblical texts, Barth concludes that the possibility of final loss cannot be ruled out, but also that the final reality that some will be lost also cannot be affirmed.

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    He emphasizes the universal divine will to save, the absence of New Testament teaching that any one in particular other than the Devil is lost, and hope for others as an aspect of love for others. God wants 'all. The church has always believed that such a universal salvific will on God's part has an ample efficacy. The Church has never once declared the damnation of a single person as a concrete fact. But, since hell is a genuine possibility for every person, it is not right. Debate over this question has been less vehement in Lutheran circles, but the idea of a universal hope has been common.

    Already in the s, Paul Althaus argued that one cannot exclude the possibility of the salvation of all. If I can hope for my own salvation, there is no one for whom I also cannot hope. Our churches affirm the possibility of eternal loss, that human persons could be removed from the presence of God for all eternity. The possibility of loss is not to be ascribed to any will of God to damn some while redeeming others.

    God wishes the salvation of all. The possibility of loss points to the importance of a living faith in God. Those who refuse God's mercy can only live in the hell of their own self-enclosure. What is opposed to God cannot enter God's kingdom. Our churches also pray for all people.

    click In accord with such prayer, this dialogue affirms the hope that no one will be lost from the community of the saints. We are confident in entrusting every person to the one Judge who died for their sins. The ultimate hope of Christians is the triumph of God's will to bless creation through unity with Christ and the Spirit. The day will come when all things are subjected to Christ and God will be "all in all" 1 Cor. Every tear will be wiped away; death shall be no more Rev. In the new heaven and new earth, the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven, God will dwell with humanity Rev.

    The advent of this final and definitive kingdom of God, its relation to history, the interpretation of the difficult biblical discussions of the "signs of the end," the nature of the resurrection, and other related topics have been matters of intensive theological discussion from the beginnings of the church, but have played little role in Catholic-Lutheran disputes. Lutherans and Catholics have a common doctrinal heritage on these questions and have permitted a broad range of freedom for varying detailed theological views. The discussion below will not attempt to cover these issues in their range and depth, but only note points where our traditions have made firm definitions and especially note the final and perfect communion of the saints, which forms the end of our fellowship in this world and the background for our discussion of other topics.

    In various places New Testament authors use the term "heaven" or "heavenly" to refer to the "place" or state in which the faithful achieve eschatological perfection. In 1 Cor.