The Cross Cleanses Our Past, Present, and Future Sin

The blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

1 Jn 1:7 (NLT)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Jn 5:24 (NASB)

The Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory teaches that guilt remains for sin committed in this life. Something must be done for believers to rid them of sin’s stain before they enter in God’s perfected glory. A purging, cleansing fire is provided in purgatory to rid sinners of that impurity. These “punishments” are temporary and fulfill the needed payment for unrepentant sin. After an undesignated time in purgatory, the believer is released and allowed to enter heaven’s eternal bliss.

The Reformers of the church decried this doctrine as adding to Christ’s finished work on the Cross. Christ’s work on Calvary dealt with the guilt of all our past, present, and future sin (1 John 1:7). The doctrine of justification states that we are accepted by God through faith because of Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:21-26). Nothing more needs to be done for our forgiveness, Christ paid the price for all, repeat all, our sin. We cannot do anything that can adequately pay for our sins, even endure a fiery purging. However, the sinless Christ who died in our place bore our punishment and suffered our just judgement, he paid it all by his perfect life and death (Heb. 10:19-22).

I agree with the Reformers: the doctrine of purgatory diminishes the Cross. The doctrine of purgatory displays an incomplete understanding of the Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

The only purgatory wherein we must trust to be saved is the death and blood of Christ, which if we apprehend with a true and steadfast faith, it purges and cleanses us from all our sins, even as well as if He were now hanging upon the Cross.

Bishop John Jewel, “Homily Concerning Prayer,” quoted in Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 64.

I do believe and confess that Christ’s condemnation is my absolution, that his crucifying is my deliverance, his descending into hell is my ascending into heaven, his death is my life, his blood is my cleansing and purging, by whom only I am washed, purified and cleansed from all my sins, so that I neither receive nor believe any other purgatory, either in this world or in the other, whereby I am purged, but only the blood of Jesus Christ, by which all are purged and made clean forever.

Bishop John Hooper, quoted in Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 65.

HT: Ray Ortlund