On the Fire of the Judgment

Mal 4:1-2 For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Mar 9:49 For everyone will be salted with fire.

St. Mark of Ephesus 1392-1444
Let us take the passage from the first epistle of the Blessed Paul to the Corinthians, in which he, speaking of building on the foundation, which is Christ, of gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble, adds: For that day shall declare it, because it is revealed with fire; and the fire it self shall prove each man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15). This citation, it would seem, more than any other introduces the idea of purgatorial fire; but in actual fact it more than any other refutes it.
First of all, the Divine Apostle called it not a purgatorial, but a proving (fire); then he declared that through it good and honorable works also must pass, and such, it is clear, have no need of any cleansing; then he says that those who bring evil works, after these works burn, suffer loss, whereas those who being cleansed not only suffer no loss, but acquire even more; then he says that this must be on “that day”, namely, the day of Judgment and of the future age, whereas to suppose the existence of a purgatorial fire after that the fearful Coming of the Judge and the final sentence — is this not a total absurdity? For the Scripture does not transmit to us anything of the sort, but He Himself Who will judge us says: And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25:46); and again: They shall come forth: those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (Jn. 5:29). Therefore, there remains no kind of intermediate place; but after He divided all those under judgment into two parts, placing some on the right and others on the left, and calling the first “sheep” and the second “goats” — He did not at all declare that there are any who are to be cleansed by that fire. It would seem that the fire of which the Apostle speaks is the same as that of which the Prophet David speaks: Fire shall blaze before Him, and round about Him shall there be a mighty tempest (Ps. 49:4); and again: Fire shall go before Him, and shall burn up His enemies round about (Ps. 96:3). Daniel the Prophet also speakes about this fire: A stream of fire issued and came forth from before Him (Dan. 7:10).
Since the saints do not bring with them any evil work or evil mark, this fire manifests them as brighter, as gold tried in the fire, or as the stone amianthus, which, as it is related, when placed in fire it appears as charred, but when taken out of the fire become even cleaner, as if washed with water, as were also the bodies of the Three Youths in the Babylonian furnace. Sinners, however, who bring evil with themselves, are seized as a suitable material for this fire (cf. Isa. 1:31, 9:18-19 & Ps. 21:9, 68:2) and are immediately ignited by it, and their “work,” that is, their evil disposition or activity, is burned and utterly destroyed and they are deprived of what they brought with them, that is, deprived of their burden of evil, while they themselves are “saved” — that is, will be preserved and kept forever, so that they might not be subjected to destruction together with their evil. (Refutation of the Latin Chapters Concerning Purgatorial Fire, First Homily)

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