It has been Catholic doctrine that has most strongly advanced the idea of purgatory among Christians, though they did not conceive the concept, and Protestantism has pretty much sidelined the whole idea. Yet you don’t need to sit in a Protestant church very long before the you’ll notice that they advance a position that is very similar to purgatory, a place that is not a part of heaven and is not a part of hell. They call it the secular. “Who here has a secular occupation?” you might be asked. An occupation that is claimed by neither love nor hate, good nor evil, an occupation that lies between.
I am no fan of the word secular. Christ says that you sow or you scatter. You are for him or you are against him. Being a plumber doesn’t put you in some special state of inbetweenness. But even so…yes, Virginia, there is a purgatory, though you don’t get there by dying; you get there by being born. Purgatory, the state of secularism, is the world around us.
The Glory of Kings states that light brings sight and sight brings judgment. When Adam and Eve eat of the tree of good and evil, their eyes are opened, and they see that they are naked. This tells us a few things. Eating of this tree brings light; therefore, when God says, “Let there be light,” there is some association with the knowledge of good and evil. To be naked is to be without possessions, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will leave this earth,” says Job. Possession has a direct link with glory, (something we will look at later), so they knew they were not glorified – they had no resurrection life. And we are told that death entered the world when they ate of this tree. So, at this juncture, the judgment would have to come and they would have to be condemned. It is heaven or hell. But then God does something very wise, he covers them with skin. And this skin becomes an existence between heaven and hell, a state of secularism, a purgatory. We who are conceived in iniquity and born into sin can exist covered by skin and thus avoid judgment for a time. And during that time it is possible to be purified, to accept the resurrection life proffered by Jesus Christ, and so be lifted over the chasm of judgment and into the eternal.
In the beginning was the Word; this Word was with God, and this Word was God. This same Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This Word was not a book, not a scroll, not a PDF. Yet we receive this Word as a book, as a scroll and even as a PDF. So what is the relationship? These words are the skin, the thing that makes the inaccessible accessible, the thing that allows us to put that which is holy in our hands. Jesus Christ removed himself from his heavenly position and was bounded by human form. He was covered with skin, and that skin became a purgatory for the Word. And, because it is skin, it hides the real. This is the problem with literalism and it is the snare of context. If we get too absorbed with the skin, with the surface of the matter, we miss the depth.
Job also states, “After this skin is destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.” Skin is our purgatory, the veil between God and man. When the skin of a thing is gone, God is seen. We are told that Jesus was flayed, and his skin marred beyond recognition. Though the removal of his skin, God is seen. And, in seeing God, we can expect judgment. Judgment comes first to the household of God because the skin that prevents us from seeing him, the skin known as that which restrains, is removed.