What Are Indulgences?

I was raised Roman Catholic.  When I was 16, I used my babysitting money to purchase a Catholic Missal from the church bookstore–a prayer book of indulgences.

We learned in catechism class that we were all sinners–I certainly knew I was!  We also learned we’d have our sins forgiven once we confessed them.  However, even with our sins forgiven, we’d still have to endure purgatory–a place of painful, fiery suffering to cleanse us from our sins–before we could enter heaven.

The missal I purchased would provide a way for me to reduce my time in purgatory.  I eagerly read through it and discovered hope at the end of each prayer!   It actually revealed the number of  weeks, months or years of indulgences I would gain each time I read that prayer!   That meant the number of weeks, months or years I would not have to spend in purgatory!

Upon further investigation,  I noted some prayers were long and some were short.  Then I discovered some long prayers only offered six weeks of indulgences, while a short prayer I found would give me seven years!   Wow! This was a great find!

But since it was unpredictable to know how many years I’d be required to spend in purgatory, it was difficult to know how many times I would need to say the seven-year prayer.  Nevertheless, I knew that short prayer was the only prayer I would ever need to say.

Years later at age 27,  I attended my first Bible study.   I still remember the day I learned there was no mention of purgatory in the Bible–that when Jesus died on the cross to purchase our salvation, He did it all!  No further punishment would be necessary!

Wait! What?  I thought I was hearing things!  If this is true, why haven’t I heard this before?  I even felt some anger, to think I had carried the guilt of sin and the fear of the fires of purgatory all my life.  This was the most wonderful news I’d ever heard!  I was not going to keep it a secret!  People need the truth!

Thank you, Martin Luther!   You had it figured it out back in 1517!   October 31, 2017 marked the beginning of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

  • Catholic Doctrine:  Suffering in purgatory is greater than all suffering on earth. Such is the doctrine of tradition, supported by theological reasoning. [402] http://www.catholictreasury.info/books/everlasting_life/ev24.php 
  • Biblical Doctrine:   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   1 John  1:9


[This life is temporary. This life is short.  When this life is over, our bodies will die and become empty shells, but our souls will continue to live forever.  Where will the “real you” live?  Will you live for all eternity separated from God?  Or will you spend eternity in the presence of God in heaven?   Learn more so you can make your most important decision:    http://www.whoisjesus-really.com/  and www.godlife.com

About Kathleen

God delights in working through His people as they submit to Him. Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone (Mark 16:15). No matter where we live on this planet, people are separated from God because of sin. We ALL need a Savior, and there’s only ONE. It brings me great joy to share Christ with the lost and lonely. Over the years I’ve learned a great deal while facilitating Bible studies. I’ve found myself on college and university campuses, the beach, the streets, the hospital, the jail and the juvenile facility for incarcerated teens sharing God’s message of love. I also serve as an online missionary with Global Media Outreach. I’ve seen countless lives transformed when people turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. The changes God makes are real and lasting. These are some of my experiences. NOTE: My stories have been altered, removing any and all identifying factors. This includes names and other particulars in order to protect confidentiality and anonymity.
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10 Responses to What Are Indulgences?

  1. Oh what freedom indeed….it is so easy many stumble, because it just makes more sense to be able to say we worked for it…or pride says it’s because of me I obtained so great a salvation….Never!! It is by grace we are saved, and not of ourselves, it is by faith, not by works, it is a gift of God!!! Yay!!

    • Kathleen says:

      Dixie, I’ve never thought of it as pride…we worked for it and obtained it! You are so right! Yes, it is by grace alone… “not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:9

  2. Jesus paid it all! What a simple, but totally liberating truth! Hallelujah! Thanks Kathleen!

  3. Larry Kent says:

    In John 19:30 Jesus said, “It is finished.”

    The Greek word used in the original text was translated into English as “It is finished”. It could have been translated “Paid in Full” because the Greek word was a common term used in commerce in Jesus time. It was often written on a customer’s invoice to confirm the debt had been paid in full.

    When Jesus died on the cross he paid for all of our sins in full. No further payment is required. This is truly Good News!

  4. T. Hicks says:

    Interesting to know that the Catholic religion has such worry and stress. I thank Jesus for the gift of salvation and peace. I couldn’t make it through the day without Him.

    • Kathleen says:

      Thank you for your comment. It sounds as if you know the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just give us peace, He IS peace.

  5. JoAnne Cole says:

    So many of us have a misconception about salvation, and God’s forgiveness. The Word of God is so clear, that with His sacrifice, we are saved from an eternal damnation…but many of us find that we still struggle with acceptance of His free gift, and we think we have to be good, or do good works for our salvation…and of course that nullifies His death, none of us are “good” enough, and there are no “works” that can earn us salvation, but only God can reveal that truth to us…Amazing grace a beautiful story, to know that Jesus loves us that much…we serve an awesome God! Thanks for sharing Kathleen!

    • Kathleen says:

      Great comment, JoAnne — I think we must read the same Bible! Truly, His sacrifice paid the full price. The full price! Nothing else is necessary.

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