By Larry Ray Halfey
Even though Ezekiel 33:12,13,18, says it is not true, Catholicism teaches that at death erring children of God go to Purgatory, but afterward they are admitted into heaven. But if the “righteous” who die in sin are purged and punished and then allowed into heaven, what about the “wicked” who slip up and actually do some good? Could we not say taht the wicked enter into a pre-heaven paradise because of the good they did? If the righteous are punished in Purgatory and then sent to heaven, why not reward the wicked for a little while for the few good deeds they did, and then send them on to Hell for the duration of their condemnation? If we may have one, why not the other?
1 John 2:1, 2, is a death blow to the Catholic Confession booth – “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous,” “We” included John, the apostle. Even those who sinned in John’s day were not pointed toward the apostles, nor to any other group of men. Our “advocate,” “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession (is) Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). There are no Catholic toll booths on the highway to heaven.
To “see” or “enter the kingdom of God” is to be saved (Jn. 3:3,5). At least, the Lord and the apostles thought so. In Matthew 19:16, the rich, young ruler asked about “eternal life. ” Jesus told him how to “enter into life, ” and how to “have treasure in heaven.” When the rich man went away, Jesus discussed how difficult it was for a rich man who trusts in his riches to “enter into the kingdom. ” When the disciples heard it, they asked, “Who then can be saved?” To be saved, to enter into life, to have eternal life, to have treasure in heaven, is to be in the kingdom.
One error that blinds many to the truth is the concept that conditions equal merit. If a blessing has terms or conditions that must be obeyed, it is considered as being earned, deserved, merited. But conditions do not equal merit! Our “daily bread,” our food, “is the gift of God” (Eccl. 3:13; Matt. 6:11). Yet, there are conditions to be met before we receive it. Eating, drinking and enjoying the benefits of “labor” are called “the gift of God” (Eccl. 3:13; cf. 2 Thess. 3: 10).
Note another example of the point above. God gave Jericho to Israel, but there were conditions attached (Josh. 6:2-5; Heb. 11:30). Israel had to be obedient in order to be blessed (Deut. 28-32; cf. Matt. 7:21-28). God said, “I have given into thine hand Jericho,” yet “they took the city” (Josh. 6:2,20). After meeting the terms, the conditions necessary to secure it, the land was not earned. Conditions do not equal merit. Years later, God said:
We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them. . . . Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou has saved us from our enemies (Psa. 44:1-3,5-7).
Despite required acts of obedience, the blessings were not earned. So, too, of spiritual blessings. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jon. 2:9); “It is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8,9; Rom. 6:23). Though one must believe, repent and be baptized in order to be saved (Heb. 11:6; Jn. 8:24; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38), these terms of pardon do not nullify grace. “Conditions equal merit” is a monstrous lie!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 18, p. 553
September 17, 1992