Hellenism and Christianity, Part 4: Purgatory and Preexistence


The idea of purgatory as a physical place that people could enter after death became a Roman Catholic doctrine in the late 11th century. Medieval theologians concluded that the purgatorial punishments consisted of literal fire. The Roman Catholic Church purports that the living can help those whose purification from their sins is not yet completed by offering intercessory prayers and indulgences. With indulgences the suffering one can receive remission of part or all of the purgatorial punishment. The indulgences offered are financial gifts and/or purchasing mass cards, liturgical vestments, pews, and so on. The later Middle Ages saw the growth of considerable abuses, such as the unrestricted sale of indulgences by professional "pardoners" sent to collect contributions for projects such as the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. These abuses were one of the factors that led to the Protestant Reformation.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is esteemed as the greatest Italian poet, best known for The Divine Comedy, an epic poem that is considered one of the world’s most important works of literature. He was very educated in Greek philosophy, intimately familiar with Aristotle (Plato’s student).  The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “The power of the sacred poem in popularizing Catholic theology and Catholic philosophy, and rendering it acceptable, or at least intelligible to non-Catholics, is in the present day almost incalculable.” The first part of the poem is called “Inferno”, Italian for hell. The above statement shows how deeply embedded this false doctrine is in Catholicism.

Warren Prestidge in his book Life, Death and Destiny wrote the following about Dante’s poem: “During the Middle Ages, an elaborate fourfold doctrine of the death-state became standard for the Western Christian Church. This schema is reflected in Dante’s great poem, The Divine Comedy. (1) Souls of unbaptized infants and, perhaps, with the exception of pagans, go to “limbo”, a state of lostness but not actual suffering. (2) Souls of the lost go to eternal torment in “hell”. (3) Souls of most Christians go to a place of temporary suffering called “purgatory”, where they are cleansed, through suffering, of their sins and attachment to sin, preparatory to final bliss. (4) Souls of exceptional Christians (the “saints”) go immediately to heaven, or “paradise”, with God and Christ. The souls of those whose time in purgatory is finished go there also.”

This widely accepted non-biblical doctrine again, as stated before, had its roots in Greek philosophy. Plato believed and wrote about this nonsense! The word “purgatory” is nowhere found in the Bible nor is the concept of purging or cleansing of sins by suffering before entering heaven. The only record in the Bible that comes remotely close is centered on the Greek word Tartarus and the mythology connected with it. Therein, “Tartarus is the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titians.” It is the place where, according to Plato, souls are judged after death and where the wicked received divine punishment. The Bible has a very specific use of this word and concept that is much different.

Jude 1:6. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,  

2 Peter 2:4. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [Tartaroõ] and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

1 Peter 3:18-20. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in
the spirit;

in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.

The fallen angels responsible for the horrendous evil that caused the flood in the time of Noah, God put in Tartaroõ, a prison reserved for judgment at the end of the age. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he made proclamation to the spirits in Tartaroõ.  This prison is for spirit beings, not people. As stated earlier, Tartaroõ may be where the concept of purgatory developed but can be seen as a gross perversion of the truth.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation condemned indulgences in his “95 Theses.” Indulgences became a big money maker for the Roman Catholic Church preying on the loving concern of those who survive the death of a loved one. The lie was indulgences, monetary contributions, would relieve the suffering of those in purgatory and advance their arrival into heaven. Luther felt the church was essentially stealing from the people and that the pope could not know whether or not the pardon would be granted. Purgatory is out and out poppycock that has its origin in Hellenism and not the Bible.


Plato was influenced heavily by mythology and in particular Vedic texts from the east. This is seen in all of his dialogues, especially in the Phaedrus, a myth about how souls wander the universe and their relationship to divinity. He strongly believed the soul of a human existed before the body. (Vedic is the ancient religion of the Aryan people who entered northwestern India from Parsis from 2000-1200 BC.) This false assumption is the precursor of Hinduism in which reincarnation is central. Hindus believe the soul repeatedly takes on a physical body through being born on Earth. Ancient Scriptures of Hinduism teach that the soul, or immortal “self,” takes birth time and time again. The soul survives death of the body and continues its long journey until it is one with God.

Plato thought that we are born with knowledge from a previous life that is subdued at birth and must be relearned. He saw all attainment of knowledge not as acquiring new information, but as remembering previously known information. He writes about the transmigration of the soul, that is to pass into another body
after death.

This influence in Christianity is seen in the belief that Jesus was alive with God before he was born. With this view in mind, sections of Scripture are taken out of context, and the obvious meaning therein is ignored to support preexistence. Like we saw with death, we now see with birth. When God said “die” or “death”, He meant die or death; likewise, when the Bible says “birth” or “born”, it really means birth or born. Neither Jesus nor anyone else was alive with God before he was born. Jesus the Messiah was in the “mind of God” immediately after the fall of man with Adam and Eve, for Genesis 3:15 foretells of him.  God’s foreknowledge of His own plan regarding the Messiah by no means is the same as Jesus being present in person with God before he was born.

The proper way to read the Scriptures is with humility, putting aside your own notions, beliefs, and religious bias and allow the text to speak for itself. Such studying is called exegesis. The wrong way is the opposite — when interpretation of the text is determined by reading into it one’s own idea. Such studying is called eisegesis. The belief regarding the preexistence of Jesus is an example of eisegesis.

Genesis 1:26. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

With the preconceived idea that Jesus existed with God from the beginning, the conclusion of the above is the words “us” and “our” are referring to Jesus. However, this is the beginning of the book, and the reader has no reason to conclude that someone mentioned hundreds of pages forward in the book has anything to do with the first chapter. Do we read any book this way? The storyline covers the first three chapters, and the individuals included are God, Adam, Eve, the devil, and cherubim. Cherubim are spiritual beings described later in the book of Ezekiel.

Genesis 3:24. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

Context and honest reasoning conclude that the cherubim are included in the plural and not Jesus. Another example of reading a preconceived view into the Scripture is regarding “the Word” in John 1.

John 1:1-2 and 14. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [It] was in the beginning with God.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The pronoun “he” in verse two could also be translated “it,” (as it is in other translations); nonetheless, these verses do not say Jesus was existing in person with God from the beginning. They do say that “The Word” was with God in the beginning and it became flesh. Jesus always did and said what God wanted done and said, so indeed he was the Word of God in the flesh.

John 5:19 and 30. Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something, He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

The Bible does not explicitly teach the doctrine of preexistence; rather, one has to arrest verses out of context or attach interpretation to verses that are not intended. Tragically, eisegesis is more common than exegesis when reading the Bible.

Other examples of Hellenism’s influence on Christianity will be revealed when we  review immortality and the trinity in the next Glad Tidings’ issue.

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