Purgatory - God's Justice and Mercy Part Two from St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians
John Gregory continues with part two on 1 Corinthians 3 and the existence of Purgatory for we must be purified before we can ever enter the immaculate climes of the heavenly regions and, to truly be so cleansed, we must be purified by fire; not the fires of hell which, through the merits of Jesus Christ we can escape by compliance to God's holy Will and, therefore, we may have to pass through the fires of Purgatory. While this is definitely a suffering far worse than any on earth, there is the knowledge that one's time in this nether region of the Church Suffering will end and then the soul will be worthy to stand before the indescribable Beatific Vision for we too will finally be robed in eternal bliss. But there is a price to pay to attain such and, through the mercy of God, we have the opportunity while still in the employ of the Church Militant to shorten our time that we might spend in Purgatory.
Continuing with the second of a three part series on the subject of Purgatory as St. Paul addresses in chapter three of 1 Corinthians with the theme as stated in the Douay Rheims Bible that "they must not contend about their teachers, who are but God's ministers, and accountable to Him. Their works shall be tried by fire." In part two I lay out the discernment of the Church on the words of St. Paul and the necessity of purification by fire before one can worthily enter the immaculate realm of Heaven.
As noted before, the motivation behind my putting this together is to make purgatorial proofs accessible to Protestants and to motivate Catholics to avoid venial sin to the best of their ability. The commentaries in green are from the Haydock commentary, while the commentaries in blue are from Saint Thomas Aquinas. I took the Aquinas commentary from the internet and the Scripture used there appears to be a mishmash of true versions and new versions of the Bible. Perhaps the one who put the commentaries together used an old translation and added some modern words as he saw fit.
9 For we are God's coadjutors: you are God's husbandry; you are God's building. Verse 9. We are God's coadjutors, laboring in His service, as He hath employed us. --- You are God's husbandry, the soil, where virtues are to be planted. You are God's building, the edifice, the house, or even the temple of God; we are employed as builders under God. (Witham)
10 According to the grace of God, that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation: and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
Verse 10. I have laid the foundation well, as a wise architect, not of myself, but according to the grace of God, and the gifts He bestowed upon me: and another, or several others, build upon it, continue the building. --- But let every man take heed how he buildeth, and that it be always upon the same foundation, which is Christ Jesus, his faith, and his doctrine. (Witham)
11 For no one can lay another foundation, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble:
13 Every man's work shall be manifest: for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire: and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon: he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
Verses 12-15. Now if any man build, &c. This is a hard place, says St. Augustine. The interpreters are divided, as to the explication and application of this metaphorical comparison, contained in these four verses. St. Paul speaks of a building, where it is evident, says St. Augustine, that the foundation is Christ, or the faith of Christ, and his faith working by charity. The difficulties are 1. Who are the builders. 2. What is meant by gold, silver, precious stones, and what by wood, hay, stubble. 3. What is meant by the day of the Lord. 4. What by fire, how every one's work shall be tried, and how some shall be saved by fire. As to the first, by the builders, as St. Paul had before called himself the first architect, who had laid the foundation of the faith of Christ among the Corinthians, interpreters commonly understand those doctors and preachers who there succeeded St. Paul: but as it is also said, that every man's works shall be made manifest, St. Augustine and others understand not the preachers only, but all the faithful. As to the second difficulty, if by the builders we understand the preachers of the gospel, then by gold, silver, &c., is to be understood, good, sound, and profitable doctrine; and by wood, hay, stubble, a mixture of vain knowledge, empty flourishes, unprofitable discourses; but if all the faithful are builders, they whose actions are pure, lay gold upon the foundation; but if their actions are mixed with imperfections, venial failings, and lesser sins, these are represented by wood, hay, stubble, &c. 3. By the day of the Lord, is commonly understood either the day of general judgment, or the particular judgment, when every one is judged at his death, which sentence shall be confirmed again at the last day.
4. As to fire, which is mentioned thrice, if we consider what St. Paul says here of fire, he seems to use it in different significations, as he many times does other words. First, he tells us, (ver. 13.) that the day of the Lord...shall be revealed; or, as it is in the Greek, is revealed in, or by fire; where, by fire, is commonly understood the just and severe judgments of God, represented by the metaphor of fire. Secondly, he tells us in the same verse, that fire shall try every one's work, of what sort it is. This may be again taken for the examining and trying fire of God's judgments: and may be applied to the builders, whether preachers only or all the faithful. Thirdly, he tells us, (ver. 14. and 15.) that some men's works abide the fire of God's judgments, they deserve no punishment, they are like pure gold, which receives no prejudice from the fire: but some men's works burn, the superstructure, which they built upon the faith of Christ, besides gold, silver, precious stones, had also a mixture of wood, hay, stubble, which could not stand the trial of fire, which met with combustible matter, that deserved to be burnt. Every such man shall suffer a loss, when his works are burnt, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Here the apostle speaks of fire in a more ample signification: of a fire which shall not only try, and examine, but also burn, and punish the builders, who notwithstanding shall also, after a time, escape from the fire, and be saved by fire, and in the day of the Lord, that is, after life (for the time of this life is the day of men).
Divers of the ancient fathers, as well as later interpreters, from these words, prove the Catholic doctrine of a purgatory, that is, that many Christians, who die guilty, not of heinous or mortal sins, but of lesser, and what are called venial sins, or to whom a temporal punishment for the sins they have committed, still remains due, before they can be admitted to a reward in Heaven, (into which nothing defiled or unclean can enter) must suffer some punishments for a time, in some place, which is called Purgatory, and in such a manner, as is agreeable to the divine justice, before their reward in Heaven. These words of the apostle, the Latin Fathers in the Council of Florence brought against the Greeks to prove purgatory, to which the Greeks (who did not deny a purgatory, or a third place, where souls guilty of lesser sins were to suffer for a time) made answer, that these words of St. Paul were expounded by St. John Chrysostom and some of their Greek Fathers (which is true) of the wicked in hell, who are said to be saved by fire, inasmuch as they always subsist and continue in those flames, and are not destroyed by them: but this interpretation, as the Latin bishops replied, is not agreeable to the style of the holy Scriptures, in which, to be saved, both in the Greek and Latin, is expressed the salvation and happiness of souls in heaven. It may not be amiss to take notice that the Greeks, before they met with the Latins at Ferrara, of Florence, did not deny the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. They admitted a third place, where souls guilty of lesser sins, suffered for a time, till cleansed from such sins: they allowed that the souls there detained from the vision of God, might be assisted by the prayers of the faithful: they called this purgatory a place of darkness, of sorrow, of punishments, and pains, but they did not allow there a true and material fire, which the Council did not judge necessary to decide and define against them, as appears in the definition of the Council. (Witham) --- The fire of which St. Paul here speaks, is the fire of purgatory, according to the Fathers, and all Catholic divines. (Calmet) --- St. Augustine, expounding Psalm 37: 1, gives the proper distinction between this fire of purgatory and that of hell: both are punishments, one temporary, the other eternal; the latter to punish us in God's justice, the former to amend us in his mercy.
Below, once again, I provide commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas:
After describing the status of God's ministers, the Apostle now discusses their reward. First, he discusses the reward of good ministers; secondly, the punishment of evil ones (v. 16). In regard to the first he does three things: first, he mentions the reward reserved for ministers; secondly, he assigns the reason (v. 9); thirdly, the variety of rewards (v. 10).
He says, therefore: I have said that neither he that plants is anything nor he that waters; nevertheless, he does not plant or water in vain, but each man will receive his wages, according to his own labor. For although God alone gives the increase and he alone works from within, He gives a reward to those that labor outwardly: "Let thy voice cease from weeping, and thy eyes from tears: for there is a reward for thy work" (Jeremias 31: 16); this reward is God Himself: "I am thy protector, and thy reward exceeding great" (Genesis 15: 1). It is for this reward that the laborers are praised: "How many hired servants in my father's house have plenty of bread" (Luke 15: 17). On the other hand, if he works for any other reward, he is not worthy of praise: "But the hireling, (...) whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep" (John 10: 12).
But this reward is both common to all and peculiar to each: It is common, because what they all see and enjoy is the same God: "Then shalt thou abound in delights in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face to God." (Job 22: 26); "In that day the Lord of hosts shall be a crown of glory, and a garland of joy to the residue of his people" (Isaias 28: 5). This is why in Matthew (c. 20) all the laborers in the vineyard receive one penny. But the reward will be peculiar to each, because one sees more clearly and enjoys more fully than another according to the measure established for all eternity." This is why it says in John (14: 2): "In My Father's house there are many mansions." For the same reason he says here: each shall receive his wages.
But he indicates the basis for the various rewards when he adds: according to his own labor: "For thou shalt eat the labors of thy hands: blessed art thou, and it shall be well with thee" (Psalm 127: 2). But this does not mean an equal amount of reward for a corresponding amount of labor, because as it says in 2 Corinthians (4: 17): "For our present tribulation, which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory."; rather, it means a proportional equality, so that where the labor is greater the reward is greater. Now there are three ways in which the labor can be considered greater: first, by reason of charity, to which the essential aspect of the reward corresponds, i.e., the enjoyment and sight of God; hence it says in John (14: 21): "He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." Consequently, one who labors with greater love, even though he endures less difficulties, will receive more of the essential reward. Secondly, by reason of the type of work: for just as in human enterprises a person gets a higher wage for a higher type of work, as the architect gets more than the manual laborer, although he does less bodily work, so too in divine matters; a person occupied in a nobler work will receive a greater reward consisting in some special prerogative of the accidental reward, even though he might perhaps have done less bodily labor; hence a special crown is given to teachers, to virgins and to martyrs. Thirdly, by reason of the amount of labor, which happens in two ways: for sometimes a greater labor deserves a greater reward, especially in regard to lightening punishment; as when a person fasts longer or undertakes a longer pilgrimage: and even in regard to the joy he will experience for the greater labor: "And she rendered to the just the wages of their labors" (Wisdom 10: 17). But sometimes there is greater labor because of a lack of will; for in things we do of our own will, we experience less labor. In this case the amount of labor will not increase but lessen the reward; hence Isaias (40: 31) says: "They shall take wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint"; but prior to this he said (1: 30): "Youths shall faint and labor."
Then when he says, You are God's, he assigns the reason for what he had said: first, he gives the reason; secondly, he applies a simile (v. 9).
He says, therefore: It is only right that each of us shall receive a reward, for we are fellow workers for God, namely, by their labors. But his seems to be contradicted by Job (26: 2): "Whose helper art thou? is it of him that is weak?" And by Ps 40 (v. 3): "Who has helped the Spirit of the Lord?" The answer is that one helps another in two ways: in one way by increasing his strength. In this way no one can be God's helper; hence after the above Job continues, "and do you hold up the arm of him that has no strength?" The other way is by serving in another's work, as when a minister is called a master's helper or an artisan's helper, inasmuch as he does some work for him. In this way God's ministers are His coadjutors, as 2 Corinthians (6: 1) says: "And we helping, do exhort you." Therefore, just as men's ministers receive a reward from them according to their labor, so, too, God's minister.
Secondly, he makes use of a simile referring to simple works, namely, agriculture and building. For the faithful are a field cultivated by God, inasmuch as through God's action they produce the fruit of good works acceptable to God: "that you may belong to another, who is risen again from the dead, that we may bring forth fruit to God" (Romans 7: 4); and in John (15: 1) it says: "my Father is the husbandman." And this is what he says first: You are God's field, i.e., like a field cultivated by God and bearing His fruit. The faithful are also like a house built by God, inasmuch as God lives in them: "You also are built together into a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2: 22). Therefore, he continues: you are God's building, i.e., an edifice constructed by God: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." (Psalm 127: 1). In these, ways, then, God's ministers are coadjutors, inasmuch as they labor in cultivating and guiding the faithful. Then when he says, according to the commission of God, he discusses the varieties of reward; and because rewards are distinguished according to the varieties of labor. First he deals with the varieties of labor; secondly with the diverse reward (v. 12). In regard to the first he does two things: First, he distinguishes the varieties of labor; secondly, he sounds a warning (v. 10).
In regard to the first he does two things: first, abandoning the simile based on agriculture, he describes his own labor under the likeness of a building, saying: according to the commission of God given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid a foundation. Here it should be noted that an architect, especially of a building, is called the chief artisan, inasmuch as it is his duty to comprehend the entire arrangement of the whole work, which is brought to completion by the activities of the manual laborers. Consequently, he is called wise in building, because he considers the principal cause of the building, i.e., its end and arranges what is to be done by the subordinate artisans to realize the end. Now it is obvious that the entire structure of a building depends on the foundation; consequently, it pertains to a wise architect to lay a solid foundation. But Paul himself laid the foundation of the spiritual edifice for the Corinthians; hence he said above, "I have planted," for planting is related to plants as the foundations to buildings, because both signify expressly the first preaching of the faith: "And I have so preached this gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation" (Romans 15: 20). This is why he compares himself to a wise architect. But he attributes this not to his own power but to God's grace; which is what he says: "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have labored more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me:" (1 Corinthians 15: 10).
Secondly, he describes others' labors, saying: and another man, i.e., whoever labors among you, is building on the foundation laid by me. This can be done in two ways: in one way so that each person builds on the faith produced in him by growing in charity and good works: "Be you also as living stones built up" (1 Peter 2: 5). In another way by doctrine, whereby one explains more clearly the faith produced in others: "to build, and to plant" (Jeremias 1: 10). In this interpretation the building up signifies the same thing as watering signified.
Then when he says, let everyone take care, he gives a warning, saying: I have said that it pertains to others to build on the foundation: but let everyone take care, i.e., pay careful attention to how he builds upon it, i.e., what sort of doctrine he adds to the faith already existing in others or what sort of works to the faith existing in himself: "Let thy eyes look straight on, and let thy eye-lids go before thy steps" (Proverbs 4: 25).
Secondly, he answers a tacit question: why he warns them about the superstructure and not the foundations; or rather, he states the reason why he said that the task of others is to build on the foundation. He says: for no other foundation can any man lay, but what which is laid, which is Christ Jesus, Who dwells in your heart by faith: of the foundation it is said (Isaias 28: 16): "Behold, I will lay a stone in the foundations of Sion, a tried stone, a corner stone, a precious stone, founded in the foundation."
On the other hand it seems that Christ is not the sole foundation, because it says in Apocalypse (21: 14): "And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." The answer is that there are two kinds of foundations: one is solid of itself, such as the rock on which the building is constructed. This is the foundation to which Christ is compared; for He is the rock mentioned in Matthew (7: 25): "For it was founded upon a rock." The other is the foundation, which is not solid of itself but rests on a solid object, as the stones placed on solid rock. This is the way the apostles are called the foundation of the Church, because they were the first to be built on Christ by faith and charity: "Built upon the foundation of the apostles" (Ephesians 2: 20).
Then when he says, Now if any man builds, he discusses the variety of rewards accordingly as some receive a wage without any loss and some with a loss. In regard to the first he does three things: first, he teaches that a variety of works is revealed by the wages; secondly, when this is revealed (v. 13); thirdly, how it is revealed (v. 14).
As to the first it should be noted that the Apostle, in order to point out the varieties of superstructures, mentions six things, i.e., three against three: on the one hand, gold, silver and precious stones; on the other hand, wood, hay and stubble. The first three have a striking brilliance, as well as being indestructible and precious; but the other three are, easily consumed by fire and worthless. Hence by gold, silver and precious stone are understood something brilliant and lasting; but by wood, hay and stubble something material and transitory. Now he stated above that the superstructure can refer either to the works everyone builds on the foundation of faith or to the doctrine which a teacher or preacher builds on the foundation of faith laid by an apostle. Hence, the variety the Apostle mentions here can refer to both superstructures.
Therefore, some, referring this to the superstructure of works, have said the gold, silver and precious stones mean the good works a person adds to his faith; but wood, hay and stubble mean the mortal sins a person commits after receiving the faith. However, this interpretation cannot stand: first, because mortal sins are dead works: "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the Holy Ghost, offered himself without spot to God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9: 14), whereas only living works are built onto this building: "Be you also as living stones built up" (1 Peter 2: 5). Consequently, those who have mortal sins along with faith do not build up, but rather destroy or profane. Against such persons he says: "But if any man violate the temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3: 17). Secondly, because mortal sins are better compared to iron or lead or stone, since they are heavy and not destroyed by fire but always remain in the thing in which they exist; whereas venial sins are compared to wood, hay and stubble, because they are light and easily cleansed from a person by fire. Thirdly, because it seems to follow from this interpretation that a person who dies in mortal sin, as long as he keeps the faith, will finally attain to salvation after undergoing punishment. For he continues: If any man's work is burned up he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire, which is obviously contrary to the Apostle's statement below (6: 9-10): "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, Nor the effeminate, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God." And to Galatians (5: 21): "I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things, shall not obtain the kingdom of God." But one possesses salvation only in the kingdom of God; for everyone excluded from it is sent into eternal fire, as it says in Matthew (25: 41). Fourthly, because faith can be called a foundation, only because by it Christ dwells in us, since it was stated that the foundation is Christ Jesus Himself. For Christ does not dwell in us by unformed faith; otherwise He would dwell in the devils, of whom Jamess (2:19) says: "Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble." Hence Ephesians (3: 17) says: "That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts:" This should be understood of faith informed by charity, since 1 John (4: 16) says: "he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him." This is the faith that works through love, as it says below (13: 4): "Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up," Consequently, it is obvious that persons who commit mortal sins do not have formed faith, and so do not have the foundation. Therefore, it is necessary to suppose that the person who builds upon the foundation gold, silver and precious stones, as well as one who builds upon it wood, hay, stubble, avoids mortal sin.
Therefore to understand the difference between these two sets of things, it should be noted that human acts are characterized by their objects. But there are two objects of a human act: a spiritual thing and a bodily thing. Now these objects differ in three ways: first, spiritual things last forever, but bodily things pass away; hence it says in 2 Corinthians (4: 18): "For the things which are seen, are temporal: but the things which are not seen, are eternal." Secondly, spiritual things are brilliant in themselves: "Wisdom is glorious and never fadeth away" (Wisdom 6: 13), but bodily things on account of their matter are dingy: "Our time is as the passing of a shadow" (Wisdom 2: 5). Thirdly, spiritual are more precious and nobler than bodily things: "She is more precious than all riches" (Proverbs 3: 15); "All gold in comparison of her, is as a little sand: and silver, in respect to her, shall be counted as clay" (Wisdom 7: 9). Therefore, the works that engage a person in spiritual and divine things are compared to gold, silver and precious stones. By gold are signified those by which a man tends to God Himself by contemplation and love. Hence it says in the Canticle of Canticles (5: 11): "His head is as the finest gold": for the head of Christ is God, and the gold is that mentioned in Apocalypse (3:1
: "I counsel thee to buy from me gold tried by fire", i.e., wisdom with charity. By silver are signified those acts by which a man clings to spiritual things to believe, love and contemplate them; hence in a Gloss the silver is referred to love of neighbor, and in Psalm 68 (v. 13) the wings of a dove are described as covered with silver and its pinions with green gold. But precious stones signify the works of the various virtues with which the soul is adorned; hence it says in Ecclesiasticus (50: 10): "As a massy vessel of gold, adorned with every precious stone" or they signify the commandments of God's law: "Therefore have I loved thy commandments above gold and the topaz" (Psalm 118: 127). But the human acts by which a person aims at acquiring bodily things are compared to tinder, which is worthless; for although it has a sheen, it burns easily. Yet there are various kinds, some of which are stronger than others are some are more easily burned. For among bodily creatures men are the more noble and conserved by succession; hence they are compared to wood: "The trees went to anoint a king over them" (Judges 9:
. But man's flesh is easily destroyed by sickness and death; hence he is compared to grass: "All flesh is grass" (Isaias 49: 6 [?]). Again, the things which contribute to the glory of this world quickly pass away; hence they are compared to stubble: "O my God, make them like a wheel; and as stubble before the wind" (Psalm 82: 14).
And so when one builds thereon gold and silver and precious stones, he builds upon the foundation of faith those things which pertain to contemplating the wisdom of divine matters, to loving God, to performing devout exercises, to helping his neighbor and performing virtuous works. But to build upon it wood, hay and stubble is to erect on the foundation of faith things which pertain to arranging human affairs, to caring for the flesh and for outward glory.
However, it should be noted that there are three possible attitudes, when a person intends these latter things: first, he might make them an end. Since this would be a mortal sin, a person with such an attitude would not be building upon the foundation by laying another foundation: for the end is the foundation for the desirable things sought for its sake. Secondly, a person might tend toward these things, directing them entirely to the glory of God; and because they are qualified by the end one intends, a person with such as attitude will not be building wood, hay and straw on the foundation but gold and silver and precious stones. Thirdly, a person could have the attitude that although he is not making these things an end or would act contrary to God for their sake, nevertheless he is drawn toward them more than he ought, so that he is kept back from the things of God by them; which is to sin venially. And this is what is meant by building wood, hay and stubble on the foundation; not because they are, properly speaking, erected on the foundation, but because acts of caring about temporal things have venial sins attached to them due to a stronger attachment to them. This attachment is compared to wood, hay or stubble, depending on how strong it is.
Yet it should be kept in mind that those who tend after spiritual things cannot be altogether freed from caring for temporal things, any more than those who tend after temporal things from a duty of charity are altogether free from tending toward spiritual things. The difference is one of emphasis: for some emphasize spiritual things and make no provision for temporal things, except as the needs of bodily life require; others place the emphasis in their lives on procuring temporal things, but use spiritual things to direct their life. The first group, therefore, builds gold, silver and precious stones; but the second hay, wood and stubble on the foundation. From this it is clear that the former have some venials but not a notable amount, because they are only slightly concerned with the care of temporal things; but the latter have something stable, precious and brilliant, but only a small amount, namely, to the extent that they are directed by spiritual considerations.
They can also be differentiated on the basis of doctrine. For some, by teaching sound, true and clear doctrine, erect gold, silver and precious stones upon the foundation of faith laid by the apostles; hence it says in Proverbs (10: 20): "The tongue of the just is as choice silver." On the other hand, those who add to the faith laid down by the apostles doctrines that are useless, unclear or not supported by true reasons, but vain and empty, erect wood, hay and stubble, hence Jeremias (23: 28): "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream: and he that hath my word, let him speak my word with truth. What hath the chaff to do with wheat, saith the Lord?" Finally those who teach falsehood do not build on the foundation but subvert it.
He says, therefore: If any man builds by his works or teachings on this foundation, i.e., upon the formed faith in his heart or upon the faith founded and taught by the apostles, gold, silver or precious stones, i.e., spiritual works or sound, clear teachings, or wood, hay stubble, i.e., corporal works or silly teachings, each man's work will become manifest, i.e., its quality will be made known in the divine judgment: for man's ignorance of it will not keep it hidden forever. For some appear to be erecting woods, hay and stubble by looking for temporal benefits, such as profit or human favor, from spiritual things. Others, however, seem to be erecting wood, hay and stubble, but are really erecting gold, silver and precious stones, because in administering temporal things they have their eye on spiritual things alone. Hence it says in Sophonias (1: 12): "I will search Jerusalem with lamps" and in Luke (12: 2): "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed:"
Then when he says, for the day for the Lord, he shows when these things will be disclosed. Here it should be noted that the time and day of a thing is said to be present when it exists in its best state and in the fullness of its power. This is the sense in which "All things have their season" (Ecclesiastes 3: 1). Therefore, when a man is fulfilling his will even contrary to God, it is man's day. In this sense Jeremias (17: 16): "I have not desired the day of man." But it is the day of the Lord, when His will is accomplished in regard to men, who are rewarded or punished according to His justice: "At the set time which I appoint I will judge with equity" [Give to the king thy judgment, O God: and to the king's son thy justice (Psalm 71: 2)] [Ps 73:2 ?]. Hence the day of the Lord can be taken in three senses, depending on the three times the Lord will judge.
For there will be a general judgment of all man, as it says in Matthew (12: 41): "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment." In this sense the day of the Lord will be the last day-judgment day-alluded to in 2 Thessalonians (2: 2): "That you be not easily moved from your sense, nor be terrified, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle, as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand." This is the interpretation of the statement that the day of the Lord shall disclose it, because on the day of judgment the differences among men's merits will be disclosed: "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, by Jesus Christ" (Romans 2: 16). Another is the particular judgment, which takes place for each person at his death. Luke (16: 22) says of this judgment: "And it came to pass that the beggar died, and he was carried by the Angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell." In this sense the day of the Lord refers to the day of death, as in 1 Thessalonians (5: 2): "The day of the Lord shall so come like a thief in the night." The day of the Lord will disclose it at that time, because every man's merits will be plain at his death. Hence it says in Proverbs (11: 7): "When the wicked man is dead, there shall be no hope any more" and in (14: 32 ?): "The just hath hope in his death" The third judgment takes place in this life, inasmuch as God sometimes proves a man by the tribulations of this life; hence it says below (11: 32): "But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord; that we may not be condemned with this world." In this sense temporal tribulations are called the day of the Lord: "the voice of the day of the Lord is bitter, the mighty man shall there meet with tribulation" (Sophonias 1:1 4). Therefore, the day of the Lord shall disclose, because during the time of tribulation a man's affections are tested: "The furnace trieth the potter's vessels, and the trial of affliction just men" (Ecclesiasticus 27: 6).
Secondly, he shows the means by which it will be disclosed, namely, by fire; hence he continues: because it shall be revealed with fire, namely, the day of the Lord: for the day of judgment will be revealed in the fire which will precede the face of the judge, burning the face of the world, enveloping the wicked and cleansing the just. Psalm 96 (v. 3) says of this: "A fire shall go before him, and shall burn his enemies round about" But the day of the Lord which occurs at death will be revealed in the fire of purgatory, by which the elect will be cleansed, if any require cleansing: Job (23: 10) can be interpreted as referring to this fire: "But he knoweth my way, and has tried me as gold that passeth through the fire" Finally, the day of the Lord, which is the day of tribulation permitted by God's judgment, will be revealed in the fire of tribulation: "For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation" (Ecclesiasticus 2: 5).
Thirdly, he mentions the effect of the disclosure when he says, and the fire will test what sort of work each man has done, namely, because each of these fires will prove a man's merits or demerits: "Thou hast proved my heart, and visited it by night, thou hast tried me by fire: and iniquity hath not been found in me" (Psalm 17: 3). In these three events mentioned by the Apostle, the first is the conclusion of the two which follow: for if the day of the Lord will be revealed in fire, and if the fire tests the quality of a man's work, the consequence is that the day of the Lord will disclose the differences among men's works.
Then when he says, if any man's work, he indicates the manner in which the above disclosures will be made: first, in regard to good works when he says: if any man's work, which he erected, survives the fire, he, i.e., the one who erected it, shall receive a reward: "Behold, his reward is with him" (Isaias 40: 10).
One's work is said to abide unharmed by the fire in two ways: in one way on the part of the worker, because the one performing the work, say of good teachings or any good work, is not punished for such works by the fire of purgatory or by the fire which goes before the face of the judge or even by the fire of tribulation. For a person who has not loved temporal things immoderately is not excessively saddened at their loss, because sadness is caused by one's love of a thing which is lost; hence superfluous love produces sorrow. In another way on the part of the work itself: for no matter which of the above fires tests a man, the work of good teachings abides as does any other good work. For when the fire of tribulation comes, a man does not depart from his good teachings or from any good work of virtue; rather, each of these abides as to its merit both in the fire of purgatory and in the fire which goes before the face of the judge.
Secondly, he shows the same thing in regard to evil works, saying: If any man's work burn because of any of the above fires, he shall suffer loss for doing them, but not to the point of damnation; hence he adds: but he himself shall be saved with eternal salvation: "Israel is saved in the Lord with as eternal salvation" (Isaias 45: 17), but only as by fire, which he previously endured either in this life or at the end of the world; hence it says in Psalm 65 (v.12): "We have passed through fire and water, and thou hast brought us out into a refreshment" and in Isaias (43: 2): "When thou shalt walk in the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, and the flames shall not burn in thee"
Now a man's work is said to burn in two ways: in one way on the part of the worker, inasmuch as he is afflicted by the fire of tribulation on account of the immoderate attachment he has to earthly things and by the fire of purgatory or by the fire which goes before the face of the judge on account of venial sins, which he committed by caring for temporal things or even by the frivolous and vain things he taught. In another way a work burns in the fire on the part of the work itself, because when tribulation comes, a person cannot find time for foolish teaching or worldly works: "in that day all their thoughts shall perish" (Psalm 145: 4). Furthermore, the fire of purgatory or the fire which goes before the face of the judge will not leave any of these things to act as a remedy or as merit. Similarly, he suffers a loss in two ways: either because he is punished or because he loses what he accomplished. On this point Ecclesiasticus (14: 20 - 21): "Every work that is corruptible, shall fail in the end: and the worker thereof shall go with it. And every excellent work shall be justified: and the worker thereof shall be honoured therein." The first of these refers to the person who erects wood, hay and stubble, which is the work that burns in the fire; but the second refers to the person who erects gold, silver and precious stones, which is the work that abides in the fire without any loss.
Part three will cover verses 16 through 23 of 1 Corinthians 3 where we'll see there are consequences to violating the temple of the Holy Ghost and those who do not realize it are foolish ones who will trip themselves up by following the lures of the world, the flesh and the devil and unless we take care and commit to Christ, we cannot be sure we will be saved, let alone face the fires of Purgatory. The alternative fire of hell is something each needs to seriously consider in making choices and decisions that can have everlasting effects.