The Bible Answers Your Questions
Good News Magazine
September 1964
Volume: Vol XIII, No. 9
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The Bible Answers Your Questions
Good News Staff  

Some churches say I Peter 4:6 proves there is a purgatory. Will you please explain this verse?

   If we understand who "the dead" are and when they heard the Gospel preached it is immediately apparent there is no support for the false doctrine of purgatory in this verse.
   At the time I Peter was written Christians had been living according to the Gospel they had heard preached (I Pet. 4:1-4). Some had lived out their lives, died and were buried in their graves where they awaited the promised resurrection. Many of these had been martyred killed and were dead because of their religion. Prejudiced pagans had judged and sentenced them according to "the flesh." Nonetheless, the faithful were assured that they would be resurrected to "live according to God in the spirit" (I Cor. 15:16-54).
   When did these dead people have the Gospel preached to them? Why, when they were alive, of course!
   Notice! The word "preached" is in the past tense. These dead people had the Gospel preached to them while they were yet alive. This verse is NOT saying that dead people hear preaching. The Bible positively tells us that "the dead know not anything..." and "... there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave... If (Eccl. 9:5, 10). Nothing could be plainer! The dead simply can receive no communication whatsoever. The Gospel cannot be preached to a dead man.
   "The dead" of I Peter 4:6 may also refer to the spiritually dead. Jesus mentions such people in Luke 9:60. Paul explains further in Ephesians 2:1 where he says that such people are "dead in trespasses and sins." Some people are alive physically but dead spiritually because they reject the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Church has always been commissioned to preach the Gospel as a witness to the world (Matt. 24:14). The spiritually dead do not heed the Word of God and its judgment. They remain in their sin. They prefer to be judged according to the ways men devise in spite of the fact that God wants them to "live according to the spirit."
   With this understanding it is clear that this verse simply cannot be made to mean that men remain alive in hell, heaven, or purgatory after death as some try to teach.
   I Peter 3:19 is another scripture which some churches twist in an attempt to support the deceptive theory of purgatory. Our article, "Did the 'Thief on the Cross' Enter Paradise Immediately?" tells exactly what this verse means. If you wish a copy of that article just write for it. It's free.

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Good News MagazineSeptember 1964Vol XIII, No. 9