According to Catholic doctrine, the
souls of dead Christians go to a state of
existence called ‘purgatory’, where they
suffer temporal punishment for their
sins before God will let them into heaven.
An indulgence is a letter authorized by
the pope to lessen the time people spend
there. The medieval Church in the West
developed a doctrine of “an infinite
treasury” of “the superabundant merits
of Christ and of the saints”, from which
“satisfaction can be applied to others”.i
However, there is not a single refer-
ence in the Bible to purgatory, indul-
gences, or any treasury of transferable
merits, including all Scripture dealing
with what happens after death.ii
On the Cross, Jesus said to the
repentant thief: “Today you will be
with me in paradise” (Luke 23: 43). The
Apostle Paul wrote: “There is therefore
now no condemnation for those who are
in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
It is not surprising that Protestants of
many different varieties, provided they
take the Bible as authoritative, see it as a
manifest heresy to suggest that Christ’s
death on the Cross is insufficient to
pay the full penalty for a person’s sins,
and that each person forgiven by God
for their sins still needs to pay a debt to
God for them after death. If there was
any way to peace with God, other than
through faith in Christ alone, then Jesus
died needlessly (Galatians 2: 21).
References and notes
i. Decreed by Pope Clement VI in 1343
(Catholic Encyclopedia: Indulgences, pp. 1,
ii. Especially 1 Thessalonians 4: 11–18, and the
entire book of Revelation.
References and notes
1. There is no mention of any such staircase
in the four Gospels. According to Catholic
tradition, these ‘holy stairs’ were brought
from Jerusalem to Rome about 326 by St
Helena, mother of Constantine the Great.
(Catholic Encyclopedia: Scala Sancta).
2. According to a letter written by Dr Paul
Luther (1533–1593) and preserved in the
Library of Rudolstadt, Germany.
3. According to Luther’s autobiographical
Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s
Latin Works, 1545, translated by Bro.
Andrew Thornton, © 1983 by Saint Anselm
4. Bainton, R., Here I Stand: A Life of Martin
Luther, pp. 75–77, Abingdon Press, New
5. English translation of the 95 Theses
from luther.de/en/95thesen. Used with
6. Kittelson J., and Wiersma H., Luther the
Reformer, 2nd Edition, Fortress Press,
Minneapolis, pp. 120–121, 2016. Quote is
an English translation of the words Luther
spoke in German and repeated in Latin.
7. From the 1516 Erasmus Greek-Latin
Parallel New Testament.
8. The Judgment of Martin Luther on
Monastic Vows (1521).
9. Christ’s death on the cross followed by His
resurrection is not only necessary but is
also sufficient to pay the penalty for our
sins in full (Hebrews 7: 25).
promises of God in the Old Testament, no
priests are now needed to offer further
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
Here are a few of the theses. 5
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