The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, says the following about Purgatory:

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

CCC, 1030-1031.


What it says in a few words, is that those who are not perfectly free of sin at the moment of death, pass through a ‘purifying fire’ that will consolidate their salvation, making them pure before entering God’s presence. This imperfection is understood as being the accumulation of ‘venial sins’ and other minor faults that will be ‘forgiven’ after death.

Section 1031 speaks of ‘certain texts of Scripture’, and one of them is 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 that it is used to support this doctrine. 


The first letter to the Corinthians, says this:

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

1Corinthians 3:12-15


From the beginning of the letter, we see that Paul is speaking about divisions in the Church of Corinth.

By the third chapter, after explaining that himself was the one who planted the seed of the gospel (Paul was the first to preach there), and Apollos watered, meaning he continued the work through discipleship, but that they should give thanks to God who gave the growth of the faith in them (1Cor 3:4-9); Paul delivers a speech about the responsibility every Christian has to build with their own actions, over the foundation, Christ Himself, during their lives, because all work will be tested on ‘the Day’, meaning at the Day of the Last Judgement (1Cor 3:11-12)

1 - It is important to notice that this event is said to be for every Christian, as part of their judgement, including Paul, the Apostles and St Mary, and not only for the ‘not so holy’ or with ‘venial’ sins (1Cor 3:13).

2 – The event is a testing as part of the Last Judgement, not before it (on ‘the Day’ -1Cor 3:13).

3 – The event tests all work, meaning all our actions, good and bad, according to their worth before God, not sins (1Cor 3:12-13). See also Jesus speaking on the subject (Luke 8:17).

4 – This ‘fire’ is a symbolic expression of God’s Judgment, and not literal (‘as trough fire’ – 1Cor 3:15).

5 – The event is a testing, not a punishment or ‘purification’ (1Cor 3:13).


The passage of 1Corinthians 3:12-15, lacks all the elements Purgatory claims to be.

Purgatory claims to be a purifying fire that applies to the non-perfect before entering Heaven. It implies suffering, that is why their advocates elevate prayers for the souls in purgatory.

The event that Paul speaks about, it is a test, applied at the Day of Judgement to every Christian, regardless of their level of purity or holiness, and does not imply pain or suffering or purification of any kind.

Omar Flores.