Luke 16:19-31 Why are there only two fixed "States" in eternity mentioned here?

It was said to me that the above passage teaches only two fixed states in eternity.

It then occurred to me almost immediately :
(1)These were Old Testament saints illustrated not the New Testament saints; and

(2)That at least this is not doctrine relating to ones salvation !

To which points ,I received the following response :

(1) That although referencing Old Testament saints it was (a) Luke , a New Testament writer ‘s account of:
(b) Jesus’ very own portrayal of truth relating to punishment in eternity: intended for New Testament readers; and

(2) If one has got the ending wrong,what is the likelihood that they have got the beginning right either; and if wrong on these points you would not arrive at your preferred destination;
but would be in that fixed state where you "shalt by no means come out of "“until you have paid the uttermost farthing”.

How as a Catholic do you answer such a thing?

I’m not sure how it can be understood to only show two “states” in eternity. The Bosom of Abraham is not Heaven. And the rich man is not in Heaven. So there must be at least one more “state”.

And at the end of time, when the Second Coming of Christ happens, there will be only two “states” at that time. The Bosom of Abraham will be ended, death will be ended, hades will be ended, and Purgatory will be ended. (These could all be one and the same, or could be separate “states”). As Revelation says, death and hades will be thrown in the lake of fire.

So at the Second Coming, all those in Purgatory will be finally perfectly purified and will enter Heaven if they have not already done so.

Well. I would say Catholics also believe there are only two fixed states in eternity. :smiley: Heaven or hell. You either end up in one place or the other. Purgatory is just the process of purification that a soul goes through after death before it enters the beatific vision. It’s not a final destination or a fixed state at all. So no problem there.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus doesn’t mention purgatory, but it doesn’t disprove purgatory either. In Catholic theology it’s possible that a soul can be perfectly purified of all sin and attachment to sin before death, so that they have no need of purgatory. I would think Lazarus’ sufferings would have more than purified him. So the fact that Jesus in this one particular passage doesn’t mention purgatory doesn’t prove much, except that Lazarus possibly didn’t need it.

Elsewhere though Jesus DOES teach that there is sin that can’t be forgiven “either in this age, or in the age to come.” (Mt 12:32) Which suggests strongly that there must be some sin that IS forgiven in the next life. Especially since he was taking to a Jewish audience that already had the concept of some sort of forgiveness of sin and purification being available after death. (2 Macc 12:42-46) If he was trying to abolish or correct that understanding, that was a poor choice of words for him to use to say the least.

Actually, the text is not talking about a fixed state of eternity at all. It is talking about “Hades” or, as the New American Bible renders the word, “the netherworld.”

Neither the place at Abraham’s bosom nor place of the rich man represented heaven and hell, respectively. Both are in “Hades.”

As the commentary to Luke 16:19-31 in the* Ignatius Catholic Study Bible of the Revised Standard Bible, 2nd edition New Testament* brings out, the events take place in a state of “waiting” among the dead, some for Christ to release the righteous to eternity in heaven, others to await their final condemnation at the Last Judgment. When the story is told and where it is set in history the way to heaven had yet to be opened for the righteous.

The events of the Rich Man and Lazarus are viewed as illustrative. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia stating:

Catholic exegetes now commonly accept the story as a parable. It is also legendary that the sores of Lazarus were leprous. The purpose of the parable is to teach us the evil result of the unwise neglect of one’s opportunities. Lazarus was rewarded, not because he was poor, but for his virtuous acceptance of poverty; the rich man was punished, not because he was rich, but for vicious neglect of the opportunities given him by his wealth.

Even if one holds to the belief that Jesus was speaking literally, the bosom of Abraham and the place of torment are both located in the netherworld, both awaiting the time of Christ to change the eternal destiny of all the dead, one way or another.

Why then did Jesus say to the repentant thief to his side " that this day thou shalt be with me in paradise" that very day,eternal bliss was guaranteed to him.Before the second coming and indeed before even the risen Christ had ascended to his Father.
If it is argue that the thief was purged from his remaining sins by his own cross ,then what of the other thief with an equivalent purgation?

You are speaking of things according to limits of the temporal state, in which we live now. The “paradise” that Jesus promised is something that can only be experienced in eternity. Regardless of any need for Purgatory or not, since there are none of the limits of time in eternity the thief experienced as much immediacy upon entering Paradise as he did not.

There are no limits of time and space in eternity. There are no days, hours, seconds, etc, neither is there past or future. There is also nothing of the limits of “present” as we can understand it. On the very day of the thief’s death he entered eternity where the limits of time are not experienced.

While we often speak of the dead “awaiting” Christ’s death and resurrection to be released from Hades, we are speaking in temporal terms because we have no way of expressing them otherwise.

What we mean when we say this is that Christ made the exit of the righteous souls from Hades possible by means of his sacrifice on the Cross, but they no more waited in Hades anymore than anyone in Purgatory literally experiences the time associated with a wait. There is no time, delay, waiting, anything of that nature. There may not even be “states” as we know them now or are discussing them here.

Therefore there is little more the Church has to offer on this subject. We have to rely on what revelation has given us and take the rest on faith. It will make sense from the outside looking in, but for now we are in the inside without knowledge of any outside we are in.

Multiple possible explanations.

  1. You equate paradise with Heaven. That is an assumption on your part. The Bosom of Abraham might be what He is referencing here, or Purgatory, or another state of Paradise before entering Heaven. As can be seen in by Lazarus, he is not in Heaven, but is being comforted in a paradise, where he is afflicted no more.

  2. There is no punctuation in the original Gospel. It could be read as you have understood it, or it could also be read as

Luke 23:43He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Notice the change in meaning by moving the comma.

  1. Did Jesus go to Heaven that day??? Nope. He didn’t Ascend to Heaven until 40 days after the Resurrection.

  2. Maybe the Good Thief WAS purged of all sin during his crucifixion, and his good works may have contributed to not needing Purgatory. He did more works than many of us have even considered. He provided comfort to Our Lord at His most excruciating hour, he professed his belief in Christ publicly, when such belief would have seemed the most silly, he admonished a sinner, he acknowledged his own sin and expressed contrition, and he ask forgiveness of His Lord. That is a LOT of good works.

  3. The “bad” thief chose not to believe. He was admonished and still rejected Our Lord. His pain and suffering were not offered up to Our Lord. They would not have been efficacious as such. Now this isn’t to say that he is in hell, we don’t know. But if he made it to Purgatory, his purgation would have been much quicker if he chose better.

Another New Testament chapter I had difficulty explaining was in 1Thess 4-13-17 can you help me here as well please.
Concerning them that slept in Jesus (all the Old Testament and those of the New who would also sleep in Jesus) The Lord would “bring with him” and verse 14; those still alive at the time of his coming ,are caught up together,verse 17 to meet The Lord in the air and "so shall we ever be with The Lord ".

The points I could not answer were :(1) If everybody in the Old Testament were coming with The Lord in the air,never again to be separated,then all must have been perfected before this,if so was there a purgatory not mentioned at “Abraham’s bosom”?
If those alive at this time join the resurrected saints in the air and also “shall ever be with The Lord”
how is it that these people alive at this time ,caught up together with the resurrected sleepers in Jesus,how do they escape without a need for purgatory ?
which would,obviously mean ,being separated from The Lord since he would not be there with them in purgatory .Also for those who have slept in Jesus before this point I would say have already been in purgatory ,am I at least ,correct in saying this?

At the Second Coming, we will see some of the events of Revelation, where death and Hades are destroyed. Purgatory will be ended. The saints in heaven have already been purified (if they needed any purifying). Those in purgatory at that time will have their purification ended. Those on earth who remain faithful to Christ until the Second Coming will have received their purifying on earth instead of purgatory. The last few years on earth before His Coming are not going to be pleasant for Christians.

One must remember that terminology regarding the “Abraham’s Bosom” is not indicative of anything specific in Catholic eschatology. It’s an illustration meant to help us understand greater truths, but it is not literal. Therefore attempting to identify “a purgatory” with it would be to go beyond what the Church sees in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

It seems you are trying to do the same thing with your reading of 1 Thessalonians 4 in attempting to read St. Paul’s words as a verbatim description of the parousia. A lot of Protestants do this, but the Church doesn’t share this view for very important reasons.

The Bosom of Abraham: Not So Literal, Not So Good

On the first note about “Abraham’s Bosom,” the Catholic Encyclopedia explains that we are dealing with an illustrative device, a metaphor to explain the condition of those in the grave as part of the parable’s setting:

The metaphor “to be in Abraham’s Bosom” is derived from the custom of reclining on couches at table which prevailed among the Jews during and before the time of Christ. As at a feast each guest leaned on his left elbow so as to leave his right arm at liberty, and as two or more lay on the same couch, the head of one man was near the breast of the man who lay behind, and he was therefore said “to lie in the bosom” of the other. It was also considered by the Jews of old a mark of special honour and favour for one to be allowed to lie in the bosom of the master of the feast (cf. John 13:23).–The Bosom of Abraham, Catholic Encyclopedia, New

A plain way of translating “Abraham’s Bosom” is to say that Lazarus was “sitting in the most honored place,” as at a feast. Of course this wasn’t a feast, but death, and it was a state wherein the Beatific Vision was not accessible. Thus the Catechism describes “Abraham’s Bosom” as a state of deprivation:

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:“It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.–Catechism of the Catholic Church, 633.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also explains that since the first century, among Christian writers “the Bosom of Abraham” has “gradually ceased to designate a place of imperfect happiness, and it has generally become synonymous with the Christian concept of Heaven itself, or the Intermediate state of existence” between one’s death and their Particular judgment and the upcoming General or “Last” judgment after the resurrection of the dead. But this latter definition is not dogmatically binding nor applicable to the direct reading from Scripture from which this expression derives.

Purgatory, though a Jewish concept of the time, is not mentioned in connection with the illustration in Luke 16. Since placed in the setting of Hades, Purgatory does not feature in the metaphoric Bosom of Abraham since the “Bosom” itself is in Hades or “hell.” Purgatory and Hell are not synonymous.–See CCC 1030-1037.

Since the illustration of Luke 16 is a parable, Catholics should not expect the metaphors to supply a literal window on death.

1 Thessalonians 4: A Teeny-Tiny Apocalypse

It would be unwise to take the metaphors used by Jesus in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and force-fit them into St. Paul’s words found at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

The main reason is that the Church asks us to read the Bible on its own terms, which includes accepting the genres or narrative devices used by the readers instead of demanding that every part of Scripture be as literal as an encyclopedia entry.

The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible explains that Paul was employing apocalyptic imagery in these verses, using terms from Exodus, Joshua, and Daniel to depict the coming of Jesus at the end of time. (See that volume’s commentary on these verses for more information.) Since, therefore, the parousia will not consist of a literal fulfillment of these verses, your questions don’t have a literal answer.

The context for these texts? The* Ignatius Catholic Study Bible* explains:

Apparently some were concerned that the faithful departed would be left behind when Jesus returns to bring the [living] saints to heaven. Paul insists otherwise: the righteous dead [those the Lord ‘brings with him’] will be raised in glory and gathered to Christ even before the final generation of believers still living on the earth in the last days [those ‘alive at Christ’s coming’].

Paul follows this up with imagery associated with the fiery cloud of Mount Sinai, the trumpet blast that brought down the walls of Jericho, and the Messianic Son of Man vision of Daniel to instruct readers using apocalyptic narrative that spiritual union of the faithful departed with the Lord precedes the parousia which occurs at history’s end.



  1. Paul was taken to Paradise when he went to the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12, so now that Jesus is in heaven, so is Paradise.

  2. A rubbish argument.

  3. See 1.

  4. Ephesians 2:8,9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
    Good works come because you are saved, not you are saved by your good works. The only thing that the thief that trusted in Jesus was admit he was a sinner and believe on Jesus. That is all you need to do to be saved, since he could do nothing up on the cross to cleanse himself of his sin. The other thief rejected Jesus and that is all you need to do to be condemned. Purgatory is never once mentioned in neither the Old or New Testaments. Whenever Jesus talks about salvation there only ever two option, never a third, believe in him or reject him, there are no second chances after you have died. Hebrews 9:27 And it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement.

Rubbish arguments

(See what I did there)

Consider that hell is total separation from God. Therefore, in hell there is no hope, charity, love, compassion, etc. What prompted the rich man to have concern for his brothers? Could it be that he was in a place where there is compassion?

To answer you (Sort of) I just want to help you understand more of Purgatory.

As a Christian (correct me if I am wrong) you would answer the following statements in the affirmative…

There is no more pain in heaven.

There is no more tears in heaven.

There is no sin in heaven.

We will be holy in heaven like God created us to be.

So how does this happen?

I believe you would say, by some miracle of God after death when he welcomes us into heaven.

I would agree, and simply add that the miracle of heaven that you would mention is what Catholics call Purgatory.

Purgatory is simply the transformation from sinner to righteous to be with God in heaven. It may take an instant, it may take some “time” but it is the coat room of heaven as opposed to some third place.

“Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into joy”? Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleansed first.” “It may hurt, you know”—even so, sir.”

-CS Lewis

It is necessary to explain that the state of purification is not a prolungation of the earthly condition, almost as if after death one were given another possibility to change one’s destiny. The Church’s teaching in this regard is unequivocal and was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council which teaches: "Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed (cf. Heb 9: 27), we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth’ (Mt 22: 13 and 25: 30)” (Lumen gentium, n. 48).

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.

-Pope Benedict XVI , Spe Salvi

I have written a lot about Purgatory from an Evangelical Perspective at my blog if you want more information.

No I would say you were not,because if the saints in the Old Testament were awaiting (I expect Abraham would have known during his lifetime of that literal Isaac still to come and that this “the lamb of God,” would be offered up in sacrifice on his behalf ;and so would have also known here at Abrahams’ “bosom”;and expected and awaited the Saviour to come here too) Jesus to arrive at the underworld and “preach to those” - the revelation regarding his cross- there culminating in the truth that now at last ,they would “for ever be” with “The Lord” not merely enjoying what Abraham was enjoying “in his bosom”
But always to be with The Lord of Glory in his Glorious bosom.
If so there is no mention of a further work of purification (purgatory) for these saints who simply waited.

Nor for those who Were said to have fallen asleep “in Jesus” either.

This to me is the common denominator and key fact “to ever be with The Lord” is an immutable truth.
Whether these saints of old or those after them,whose(body) slept in Jesus but whose souls where “forever” with him (or in him ,john 14) or even those caught up alive at his coming ,it is all the same:“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” Forever with him .

To this" forever with The Lord " category I would like to add all believers who know of a truth that there bodies are "the temple of the Holy Ghost " and that this same Comforter,not only gives enjoyments through His indwelling them in their temporal body (remembering here, John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb )
but much more now ,as "earnest of the inheritance " and as was guaranteed to all to whom Jesus died for ,He was given( as the Samaritan women,at Jacobs’ well was shown) and that this experience would well up as “rivers of living waters” within the soul.
Indeed the thought of Father ,Son and Holy Spirit not within would mean that veil of the temple had not been “rent in twain” but to all who know him we are assured (especially by The Comforter) that it has and all who have waited for his coming into his temple we have also entered in through the rending of his body ,into the most holy place of all. Never again to leave.

I agree that this text alone doesn’t necessarily imply purgatory (though I disagree that to say so is sheer supposition.) But the point I was making, Bernard, is that if Jesus was really denying purgatory’s existence (as the OP said their friend was claiming) he wouldn’t have said there is a sin which cannot be forgiven * either* in this life or in the life to come. Why would he add that last clause? The Jewish people he was preaching to already had the concept that there was forgiveness and purification of sins after death. If this was something that was false, he shouldn’t have used that phrase and given the impression that it was right.

Do you at least see where I am coming from now? :slight_smile:

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