As I said in my last post, the definitive doctrine of Purgatory did not exist before the 12th century, even though the basic *idea* had been around for a long time – the idea that even though Christ’s death brought salvation to the world, most people, except for the most holy saints, such as those who had been martyred for their faith, had still to pay for their sins. By the 13th century Purgatory had become an actual place of torment. Before then it was not so much a place as a condition of suffering to purge away sins.
The question is how early this idea existed. How long had Christians maintained that suffering was necessary for the sinner – even the believing Christian sinner – before they would be allowed into their eternal bliss in heaven? The idea is not part of the New Testament, although as we will see in a later post, there are some passages that could be used in support of the view.
The first place we find any reference to suffering in the afterlife that was incurred prior to being given an eternal reward is in the dream of the martyr Perpetua which I mentioned a couple of days ago. This dream is not exactly about a “purgatory.” But it is a dream about someone experiencing post-mortem torment before being blessed with a happy afterlife.
Perpetua is in prison, awaiting her execution for being a Christian. In the “diary” written in her own hand …
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