In the ancient world the afterlife was much more complex then the Christian view. Most of these religions divided up their heavens and their hells to create degrees of, or levels of.
This sort of view was quite prevalent around the ancient world. Christianity has two fixed places. An afterlife in the presence of GOD, and an Afterlife outside of GOD.
The old view crept into the new view for two simple problems. The first was about what happens chronologically after death. For example...are people in heaven now? or does the judgement happen at some point after the end of the world, if so...where are the people kept whilst they wait for Judgement.
The answer is they are kept nowhere, because they move outside of the temporal realm. In Chronological terms Noone is in heaven because Judgement hasnt happened yet, but if you pass outside of time, time has no meaning, and thus you dont perceive a very long wait. To those who have died judgement, whenever it happens in chronology, feels to them instantaneous.
But the ancients and early Christians did not understand the concept of a realm without time. Thus the writters began to use different words. They spoke of "the dead" those who had died and were asleep...these were not in heaven, they were awaiting judgement, and simply slept in an almost athiestic type sleep of nothingness until the trumpets (or if you happened to be burried in Jerusalem during the original Holy Week, Christs Resurrection) awakes them.
When the Roman Church took over from the Early Church they wanted to get an EXACT and measurable idea of terms. What did "dead" actually mean. Purgatory took on different meanings depending on what time you lived in. in the oldest sence of the word, it was a place before heaven where the naughty christians would have to "atone" for their own sin. How that happened is quite unchristian. Usually it was a case, of exactly, like with burrial, the Christian remained in limbo until the Church said otherwise. Just like you could buy atonement for your sin, you could buy atonement for someone stuck in purgatory so they could get to heaven quicker.
Not even the Roman Catholic Church really believe in Purgatory anymore...in the same way that they now dont speak about the billions of Christians who died but didnt get a catholic burrial and so are supposedly barred from Heaven. The biblical basis is all built on that one false assumption that the Roman Catholic Church had power over eternal life thanks to Peter. If it follows that the Church can stop people from entering Heaven, there must be a new bit of the heavenly realm created where those souls await the pontiffs pleasure. This shows how one false assumption can lead to entire doctrines being unsound because they have a bad base.
The Reformation cracked that base...the base is this, that on top of Peter holding power over eternal happenings, all of his successors also do. There is NO basis for assuming what Peter had was passed on...infact, its probably not, because we know spiritual gifts arent usually passed on Genetically, or provided for an office. The problem is, to default on anything that was built on that premise is to deny the power of the Catholic Church...Sooo when the records show one pope changing his mind against a previous Pope...you have to ask yourself, how can that be, if all of them represent an UNCHANGING GOD, how can they contradict themselves?? You have to adhere to the doctrine of Purgatory, or else where do you claim souls, that are in despute with the Vatican, like excommunicated for example, go, whilst the dispute is sorted out prior to Judgement. You have to believe the doctrine of Apostolic Succession, because if thats unfounded, the Pope has no right to speak directly on behalf of Christ, and unless he does, how can what he say do the things the church claim. You HAVE to believe that anyone who fails to get a Roman Catholic Burrial, is in purgatory at best, and Hell at worst...because to deny that is to take away the Churches authority...and without that authority they are unmasked in a fraudulent capacity...not a heretical capacity, but in over exagerating their own power, pride, boastfulness, and an awful lot of strife and death over the world because people accidently believed they were telling thr truth.
Since they were prooved wrong scientifically, they have slowly been dropping all of these things, but quietly, because they have to drop them so people dont notice, or risk fragmentation...a fragmentation that occured at the Reformation, and still happens with little break away groups of Christians who dissagree about the latest liberalizations within the Roman church.
Why just last week the Vatican sought unity with the society of Pope Pius, which were so pissed off about Vatican Two Council, that THEY excommunicated Rome and started ordaining themselves and creating what they believed was the true Roman Church and leaving John Paul to Excommunicate them back for defying his authority
The two sides presented each other with ordinariates...but suprise, suprise, they STILL couldnt aggree on the same issues...the Roman Catholics still demanded unswerving loyalty as GODs mouth piece, and the Lefebrevians still demanded the reversal of Vatican Two.
obviously neither would do either. I hasten to add that this attempt for unification came from the Vatican, NOT from the society, who turned down the offer of a special odinariate by John Paul, saying that the Catholic Church was no longer Catholic and thus they didnt want communion. Joseph Ratzinger happened to be prefect of the Congregation that dealt with the Churches official line on what was and what was not canon law. Ratzinger is about a traditional as you can get AND accept Vatican Two, so its noted that he has a soft spot for the traditionalistic group, he empathizes with them and lifted the excommunication on the remaining Bishops who were involved in the original consecration that led to the split. He has also tried to bring back the Pre-Vatican Two mass...unfortunately its in latin, and a lot of the priests in the last twenty years, dont even know latin thanks to Vatican Two. Joseph Ratzinger of course went on to replace John Paul as Pontiff, and is the present Holy Father of the Roman Church.
If anywhere is real Purgatory, it is life on Earth. Neither Heaven, Neither Hell, and the free will to sin, the circumstances to face the consequences of that sin, and the offer to grow and become more Christlike and be offered the gift of Eternal Salvation.
To me...The institution of Purgatory is non existant. Its an archaic construct of the Roman Church and a method they used to keep political and social control during the dark and middle ages....but it does aptly mention life on earth IMHO
To me, a Church that believes Purgatory, is as bad as one who denies that when Christ died on the cross he went to Hell. Lots of Christians try to belittle Christ, by denying one clear fact, IF he paid for our sin, he must have visited Hell, and he must have been their across from Good Friday afternoon, until Easter Sunday morning. The Truth is, that Christs going to Hell was actually what distroyed Hell, because Hells definition is a place outside of GOD...if GOD enters Hell then the whole domain ceases to Exist....or rather, it persists, but only under GODs will and his deliberate withdrawal
The ultimate idiots believe in Purgatory, and disbelieve the Christ was exhiled to Hell after his death.