(Say the Jesus Creed morning and evening during Lent.)
I like this book by Tom Wright: Surprised by Hope. And here’s a chp (#11) you don’t hear many Protestants talk about these days: purgatory, paradise, hell.
Quick answers: no, yes, yes.
Traditionally, the Church has believed in the church triumphant (saints in glory), church militant (present, on earth), and the church expectant (purgatory). This leads Wright to a study of purgatory. Dante, Aquinas, and Newman represent tradition; Rahner and Pope Benedict XVI have each modified that view, with the Pope virtually severing purgatory from the intermediate state; and the liberal views waver between worrying about arrogance and universalism. Wright doesn’t believe in purgatory:
1. Resurrection is still future.
2. No category difference in NT between saints.
3. Bodily death is the punishment for sin; once one dies, all punishment is over. The present life is purgatory.
Leads to Paradise: communion of saints etc.. We can pray for them, but no evidence we should pray to them, that they pray for us, and this:
“Explicit invocation of saints may be, in fact — I do not say it always is, but it may be — a step toward that semipaganism of which the Reformers were rightly afraid” (173).
So, he believes in the Church triumphant and militant.
What about hell? Gehenna is the image of the burning pit and then the threat of what Rome would do to those who resisted his message (which is about what happened). That event, of course, anticipates some final judgment.
And here Wright squares up with an orthodox view with his own slight twist:
1. Judgment is necessary.
2. Some choose dehumanization.
3. For those who do, the dehumanization will lead to loss of the image of God.
The major framing issues for all of this teaching is God’s new creation of the cosmos.