The Pope has recently spoken about indulgences. How do you understand this? (Part 1)
You must be referring to the Vatican News report on August 2nd 2020 which we quoted in our weekly Update No. 936, dated August 7, 2020. It read, under the headline, “The Pardon of Assisi”:
“Pope Francis invited everyone to receive the ‘Pardon of Assisi’, which can be obtained from the evening of 1 August until midnight on 2 August… ‘It is a plenary indulgence that may be received by partaking of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist and visiting a parish or Franciscan church, reciting the Creed, the Lord’s prayer and praying for the Pope and his intentions,’ the Pope pointed out. He recalled that the indulgence can even be obtained for a deceased person…
“The ‘Pardon of Assisi’ dates back to 1216, when Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and angels appeared before St. Francis. The apparition took place in the tiny Portiuncula, the chapel Francis had built in the Italian town of Assisi. When Jesus asked him [what] he desired for the salvation of souls, St. Francis asked for God to grant a plenary indulgence for all those who enter the chapel. The indulgence was later extended to anyone who visits a parish or Franciscan church on 1 August or 2 August.”
We should bear in mind that according to Catholic teaching, an indulgence is partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin, or plenary if it removes all punishment. This wrong concept will be discussed in much detail later.
To respond correctly to the question in this Q&A, we do need quite a lot of background as indulgences include those who have died and are in purgatory, according to the Roman Catholic Church, and this is an extension to the belief that man has an immortal soul and the dead go to heaven or hell after death.
While this series contains much information, it is just a small sample compared to so much that is available. It also shows the people of God how blessed they are to have had their minds open to the Truth and not just an acceptance of what we are told, without biblical proof, by those in leadership positions in mainstream Christianity.
This series on indulgencies and underlying concepts is focusing on just one example to show how incredibly unbiblical certain Roman Catholic teachings are. It is so sad that millions upon millions of people believe these ideas without even realizing the absolute absurdity contained in them. Very soon, the Roman Catholic Church, which is described in the Book of Revelation as a fallen church which has rejected God’s Truth, will impose the “mark of the beast” on people readily willing to accept it. This will be the culmination of satanic blasphemy. Protestants have for a long time identified the Catholic Church as the “Babylon” of the book of Revelation, without fully realizing that they are thereby including themselves in that description, as the fallen church is depicted as the “mother church” which has “daughter churches” or “harlot daughters.”
When reading the following, those with open ears and eyes could easily become very angry at the blasphemous concepts depicted and believed in by traditional Christianity. But we must understand that ultimately, it is Satan, the god of this world and the prince of the power of the air, who has deceived the whole world and who has found an easy target in Roman Catholic and Protestant concepts which are really nothing else but pagan ideas which have been given a “Christian” mantle. We are not fighting against flesh and blood—people—but against wicked spirits in high places—the Devil and his demons.
For all text copied from Catholic websites, we will show this in italics so that it can be more easily recognisable as compared to the comments and information that we make.
On the website https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a12.htm, we can find the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” In this Q&A, we will be quoting selectively the appropriate sections from this Catechism as relative to indulgences and concepts related thereto. The numbers at the beginning of each section are their own reference as are other numbers within the text. The definition of “catechism” is “a text summarizing the basic principles of a Christian denomination, usually in question-and-answer form.”
We will use the Roman Catholic “In Brief” writings from their Catechism rather than the fuller version which will still convey their understanding.
“1051 Every man receives his eternal recompense in his immortal soul from the moment of his death in a particular judgment by Christ, the judge of the living and the dead.”
This presupposes that man has an immortal soul. In our booklet “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?,” we state the following on pages 4 and 5 under the heading “Orthodox Christianity Embraces the Idea of an Immortal Soul”:
“According to Catholic belief, the immortal soul enters a person at the time of conception, having been directly and individually created by God with free will and consciousness. The individual soul is present in its totality in each and every organ of the person. Proofs for the accuracy of the teaching of the immortality of the soul are mainly given in light of, 1) alleged appearances of dead people; 2) the universal belief in such a concept; and 3) the biblical statement [discussed herein] that ‘man cannot destroy the soul’ (Matthew 10:28). Originally, Catholics believed that the soul of a dead person enters heaven or hell immediately at the time of death—the idea of a purgatory only became dogma in A.D. 590. Most Protestant denominations, following to a large extent the lead of the Catholic Church in this regard, believe in the immortality of the soul as well.
“Orthodox Christianity adopted the concept of an immortal soul from pagan beliefs. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology points out in its 1992 edition, on p. 1037, ‘Speculation about the soul in the subapostolic church was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy.’
“Again, quoting from Funk & Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia, Vol. 24, article on ‘Soul’: ‘The Christian doctrine of the soul has been strongly influenced by the [Greek] philosophies of Plato and Aristotle… 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas… accepted Aristotle’s analysis of the soul and body as two conceptually distinguishable elements of a single substance.’
“One of the early proponents of the concept of the immortality of the soul was a Catholic church father by the name of Origen (c. 185–254 A.D.). Around 200 A.D. he claimed that ‘souls are immortal,’ stating at the same time that he was a ‘Platonist who believed in the immortality of the soul’ (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, pp. 314, 402).
“Further, as we point out in our free booklet, ‘Don’t Keep Christmas,’ followers of the Greek god Mythra believed in an immortal soul as well. Many of those pagan beliefs associated with Mythra were later adopted by, and absorbed into, Orthodox Christianity.”
As we explain in great detail in our booklets, and as it will be discussed later as well in this series, the concept of the immortality of the soul has no biblical foundation and became part of the body of beliefs of the Roman Catholic faith around 200 AD.
In the above-stated quote by the Roman Catholic Catechism, it is also remarked that a person will be judged by Christ in or from the moment of his death. This is erroneous as well. As true Christians, we are already being judged today (1 Peter 4:17), but we will also appear before the judgement seat of Christ at His return (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10; Matthew 25:14-46)… not prior to that. (For more information on this, see our free booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”) Others who have died will be judged when they are being resurrected; not at the time of their death. Death is a sleep without consciousness out of which one must be awakened. This is more fully explained below and also in our free booklets on the “Book of Revelation” and “Punishment for Sins.”
To continue with quotes from the Catholic Catechism:
“1052 We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ’s grace… are the People of God beyond death. On the day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies” (Paul VI, CPG § 28).
Quoting again from our booklet “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?,” we read that man became a living soul, showing that the human soul is not immortal. The Hebrew word for “soul,” “nephesh,” can refer to dead souls or dead people, and even to animals. We read on page 8:
“When God created man, He created him as a lifeless or a dead person. God then breathed into man’s nostrils and man became alive. Notice how this is described in Genesis 2:7, ‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [‘nephesh’].’
“When man was created, he was not yet alive, unlike the animals when they were created. Only when God breathed air into his nostrils did man become alive—he became a living soul. Before that, he was a lifeless soul.”
On page 9 we read: “The concept that persons ARE souls is expressed in many passages, when they are translated correctly. Genesis 12:5 reads, ‘And Abraham took… the souls [‘nephesh’] that they had gotten in Haran.’ Here the word ‘souls’ describes people.
“The same is expressed in Genesis 14:21, ‘And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons [lit. ‘souls’ or ‘nephesh’ in the Hebrew], and take the goods to thyself.’
“Note how Genesis 46:15–27 equates ‘souls’ with ‘persons’: ‘(15) These be the sons of Leah… with his daughter Dinah: all the souls [‘nephesh’ throughout] of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three… (18) These are the sons of Zilpah… even sixteen souls… (22) These are the sons of Rachel… all the souls were fourteen… (25) These are the sons of Bilhah… all the souls were seven. (26) All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six; And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.’”
Continuing with quotes from the Catholic Catechism:
“1053 We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in Paradise forms the Church of heaven, where in eternal blessedness they see God as he is and where they are also, to various degrees, associated with the holy angels in the divine governance exercised by Christ in glory, by interceding for us and helping our weakness by their fraternal concern” (Paul VI, CPG § 29).
This statement includes many errors and wrong concepts. First of all, it clearly shows that the Roman Catholic Church believes that people go to heaven after death. It also argues that the dead saints who are allegedly in heaven are interceding for the living. This last concept is clearly blasphemous. Mary is not in paradise (heaven), but she is dead and in her grave, awaiting the resurrection from the dead to eternal life at the time of Christ’s return. The idea that Mary bodily ascended to heaven is a fable derived from paganism. This is true for all the other “saints” (true Christians) who have died. They are not in heaven either, and NO ONE is interceding for the living except our only Mediator and High Priest—Jesus Christ. He is the ONLY “Man” who was resurrected by God the Father from the dead to eternal life, and it is He—and He alone—who intercedes for us. There is only ONE Mediator between God and Man—the “Man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 2:5).
The above-cited comment by the Catholic Catechism is a complete misunderstanding as to what happens after death.
In our Q&A, “What are the biblical proofs that we do not go to heaven when we die?”, we read the following:
“The idea that we will go to heaven after death is an entirely unbiblical concept. It is derived from paganism.
“As Lewis Brown explains in ‘This Believing World’:
“‘In very early times that idea flourished not alone among the Babylonians and Egyptians, but also among the barbaric tribes in and around Greece… these mysteries [came] down from Thrace or across the sea from Egypt and Asia Minor… they declared that for every man, no matter how poor or vicious, there was a place in heaven. All one had to do was to be “initiated” into the secrets of the cult.
“The Hebrews did not believe that we go to heaven when we die. Neither did the early Christians. But in time, the concept developed within the Roman Catholic Church that one will be saved and go to heaven when one has been baptized into the church as a little baby.
“The Bible does not teach this. Much confusion exists because many do not understand that the Bible speaks of more than one heaven.
“When the Bible speaks of ‘heaven,’ it may refer to any one of three different locations. [See https://www.globalchurchofgod.co.uk/q-a-3756/]. The first heaven is the atmosphere, surrounding the earth, where birds can fly and clouds move (Genesis 1:20; 27:28). The second heaven is the universe, with all its galaxies, suns, stars and planets (Psalm 8:3).
“It is possible for man to reach these two heavens—at least, to a limited extent. But man cannot reach the third heaven, where God dwells—where His angels live and where His throne is located. It is spiritual, not physical. Physical beings cannot enter it—except in a vision—and we won’t go there after our death, either.
“According to the biblical testimony, the only Being who entered the third heaven after death was Jesus Christ. Others saw the third heaven in a vision—such as Daniel (Daniel 7:9), Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2), Stephen (Acts 7:56) or John (Revelation 4:2), but they did not enter heaven in bodily form, or as spirit beings.
“Christ said in John 3:13 that no human being–except He Himself –has entered the third heaven. The original German Luther Bible wrote: ‘And no one goes to heaven except for the Son of Man…’
“… Most translations render the passage as, ‘No one has ascended up to heaven…’, but even then, it is at least clear that no one before Christ ever went to the third heaven. This means that contrary to popular belief, Elijah and Enoch did NOT enter God’s third heaven. [For further information, see: https://www.eternalgod.org/question-and-answer-75/; https://www.eternalgod.org/question-and-answer-85/; https://www.globalchurchofgod.co.uk/please-explain-2-corinthians-58/]
“The same must be true, then, for Abraham, the father of the faithful and a friend of God; Noah; Moses; Samuel; Job; the major and minor prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; as well as King David, a man after God’s own heart who will rule in the Millennium under Christ over the nations of Israel and Judah. The Bible stresses expressly that David did NOT go to heaven when he died (Acts 2:34, 29).
“The Bible compares death with a dreamless sleep without consciousness, out of which one must awake. Compare John 11:11-14; Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10; Psalm 6:5.
“Man is not nor does he have an immortal soul. Man IS the soul that can and will die (Ezekiel 18:4, 19-20), and that must be resurrected from the dead. In order to enter into eternal life and the Kingdom of God, man must be changed to immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Job 14:14-15; Philippians 3:20-21).
“The very fact that man is mortal and that he must be brought back to life through a resurrection from the dead PROVES that he does not go to heaven when he dies. Martin Luther asked the pertinent question, why there should be a resurrection from the dead if the dead are already living in heaven. He concluded: ‘The fact that there is a resurrection from the dead proves that man does not go to heaven when he dies.’ Sadly, today’s Lutheran Churches have totally rejected the words of their ‘founder.’
“God promised man the gift of eternal life (Titus 1:2)–here on earth (Matthew 5:5). Abraham was promised eternal life on the earth as an inheritance (Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:29). Until now, no one has inherited the promises of eternal life and rulership on the earth (Hebrews 11:13, 39-40).
“When the righteous enters into eternal life, he will reign under Christ during the Millennium. However, he will not reign from or in heaven, but he will reign ON the earth and over the earth (Revelation 5:8-10; 11:15; Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14, 21-22, 26-27).
“Christ will return to the earth—His feet will stand on that day of His appearing on the Mount of Olives—and He will sit on the throne of David… here on earth (Zechariah 14:1-2, 4, 8-9, 11, 16-19; Isaiah 9:6-7; 2:1-4; Jeremiah 23:5). We read that all nations will appear before the judgment seat of Christ… here on earth (Matthew 25:31-34; 41).
“… The biblical understanding is not complicated, but pure and simple, and very easy to comprehend: When a man dies, he is dead, but he will live again through the resurrection from the dead. Until then, he will sleep a dreamless sleep, without any consciousness. He will not go to heaven when he dies, nor will he suffer in a purgatory or ‘hell.’ Rather, he is asleep, until Christ awakens him out of his sleep. And He will, because as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).”
(To be continued)
Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link