Heaven, hell and purgatory

Can someone please explain what Pope John Paul II meant when he said this, below?

Pope John Paul II

In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are STATES OF BEING OF A SPIRIT (ANGEL/DEMON) OR HUMAN SOUL rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him.

I think the point is that the “afterlife regions” are not, per se, places.

If they were, you could conceivably “get to” Heaven just by travelling. But Heaven is not a destination you can travel to; it requires a change of your being.

Likewise, even if someone in Hell had freedom of movement (which they might not), they could not escape from Hell, because it is a condition of their being more than a location.

(Think of it like this: A prison is a place; life and death are states of being; you can escape from prison, but not from being dead.)

Which does not mean that there are no places connected with the “afterlife”; there most certainly are, because there are bodies (pneumatikon soma); but place is not the definininv aspect of these realms.


Also, how can Jesus and Mary’s bodies be in Heaven isn’t a place, but instead a state of being of a spirit or human soul?

The three are not places as we understand places, they are states of being.

It’s beyond our ability to understand these things by corporeal terms.

I’ve posted about this topic before and I guess in still don’t get it. :shrug:

What does states of being mean, though, and how can Jesus and Mary’s bodies be in heaven if they aren’t places?

With God all things are possible. The rule is that they are states of spiritual being. God can accommodate things according to His Will. So who knows the mind of God ?

What exactly do you mean they’re in states of spiritual being?

Pax Christi!


God bless.

To be fair, many things after our lives we cannot truly understand as humans.

St. Faustina said she could not describe how Jesus looked as there was no colour or word to describe His beauty.

Jesus said many times in the Bible that there would be weeping and gnashing/grinding of teeth As far as I am concerned the weeping comes from the loss of God and their sins so the gnashing/grinding of teeth must come from some sort of pain, whether the flames are stuck to them or whether their sins are the flames who really knows.

Imagine someone from 2,000 years ago trying to explain to their friends what a mobile phone was by seeing someone read the news on it, they would struggle.

Can you please try?

Maybe I can try to get the foot out of my mouth by saying that these places now are ones that do not contain material things or human beings (seems God made exceptions for His Mother, Elijah, etc) A supernatural place is one where the natural is not materially there if this is of any help in understanding what I was saying. A supernatural place is one where there is no time and change whereas the material world has the opportunity to change and such is subject to time.
A state of spiritual being is a “place” or “state of being” that has no time and no material objects. I guess I would define a state of being as “that which is” or something like that.
Thanks for the observation.

From my understanding, I believe the key terms are essential characteristic because there are 3 states of being in living, wherever you are located in or out of the universe:

  1. heaven: The state of being in which one wants to follow the rules of Love, and always follows the rules of Love.
  2. purgatory: The state in which one wants to follow the rules of Love, but makes mistakes for various reasons and must be perfected in following the rules.
  3. hell: The state in which one does not want to follow the rules of Love, and therefore doesn’t follow the rules.

Therefore, the Pope is not declaring that Heaven isn’t a physical place, rather its fundamental nature isn’t a physical place.

The Pope continues to share that when we recognize that the essence of heaven, purgatory, and hell are really present in our earthly life, we can better fulfill our purpose.

Since the fullness of Heaven is the physical place where everyone wants to follow the rules of Love and always follows the rules of Love, Jesus’ and Mary’s physical bodies can be in Heaven.

Thank you very much for sharing such an intriguing question! I really enjoyed studying that teaching! I hope this helps, and I look forward to further discussion.

I’m still confused. Can you explain further?:blush:

Jesus said “In My Father’s house are many mansions–if it weren’t so I would have told you. I go to prepare a PLACE for you so that WHERE I am you will be also.”

Jesus says PLACE. Now maybe what John Paul II and St. Thomas Aquinas refer to as PLACE is different than what Jesus refers to as PLACE.

Are MANSIONS material or not? Is anything in Heaven material?

When Jesus told Thomas to touch his resurrected glorified body–was it MATERIAL or not?

I think that heaven is beyond our understanding–I DO though think that some people who state that heaven or hell are just “states” say so because they think that they’re smart or sophisticated in stating such a notion–I don’t think that John Paull II ot St. Thomas Aquinas were like that but I think that some unlearned people today and also some modernist theologians who never believe in anything anyway tend to fit that bill.

In the scriptures it speaks of John in Revelation seeing the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven and speaks of many of its physical attributes–now MATERIALITY may be different in heaven but I think it is a REALITY even if Heaven is a state.

The Lion will lie down with the Lamb the scripture says. How MATERIAL are those animals?

Just How MATERIAL will be the banquet that we will be at in Heaven with Jesus–will it have wine that can be drank as easy as the fish that Jesus ate with the disciples after His resurrection?

My point with all these questions is just to highlight how much we don’t know about heaven til we get there.

Perhaps consider your self as an analogy:

Although you are a physical person, you have some characteristics that are not physical, such as your kindness. Although several of your characteristics are physical, your essential characteristic is that you are Loved by God, which is not physical.

Therefore, the Pope is declaring that one of the characteristics of Heaven, namely the essential characteristic, is not physical.

Thank you for requesting further explanation! I hope this helps, and if it doesn’t, I definitely look forward to further consideration. :slight_smile:

Thanks Jerry, I didn’t know I thought of myself as smart and sophisticated. I will try to practice humility for Lent and not use the word “state” unless it is in politics.

But please enlighten us on these mansions you talk about if they are material are they subject to gravity? :confused: I wish I studied more biblical greek or had an interlinear bible to know the translations of the word meaning “mansions” in the text then I could talk more intelligently.

I did have an additional thought, which I think is a more direct analogy. Please consider the following:

Any physical place has both physical and non-physical characteristics. Its essential characteristic is its basic rules because the basic rules will determine whether it is a safe, enjoyable or dangerous place to be.

As an example, please consider a random place in the wilderness. Its essential non-physical characteristic is that there are no rules. Therefore, it will remain an unsafe place to be, until rules are established, enforceable, and followed by all.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

The Catechisms teach us about states, the state of happiness, the state of temporary suffering, the dreadful state of self exclusion:

BC Q. 1395. What is Heaven? A. Heaven is the state of everlasting life in which we see God face to face, are made like unto Him in glory, and enjoy eternal happiness.

CCC 1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

BC** Q. 1381. What is Purgatory?** A. Purgatory is the state in which those suffer for a time who die guilty of venial sins, or without having satisfied for the punishment due to their sins.

**BC Q. 1382. Why is this state called Purgatory?**A. This state is called Purgatory because in it the souls are purged or purified from all their stains; and it is not, therefore, a permanent or lasting state for the soul.

CCC 1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

BC Q. 1379. What is Hell? A. Hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned, and in which they are deprived of the sight of God for all eternity, and are in dreadful torments.

CCC 1033 … To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

BC = Baltimore Catechism
CCC = Catechism of the Catholic Church

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