Pondering Purgatory


Evening all,
Had a rather interesting discussion last night which raised a question I had no answer to - worse, a question I’d pondered on my own, but never sought out a resolution. The group were largely ‘anglo-catholic’ protestants, most of whom I suspect would be in full communion with the Church if it weren’t for the fact that some of them had congregations to tend to. But I digress…

One of them raised the subject of the after life - her question was: “Hell is outside of time, so we say people are there eternally; heaven also is outside of time, so again people are said to be there forever… but purgatory also is outside of time - why aren’t people there eternally also?”

I have to admit it had me stumped - I had always thought of purgatory being a place you stay for a period of time before ‘graduating’ to the eternal reward, but hearing the likes of Father Pacwa and others on EWTN describe limbo as being timeless and a mystery did get me wondering how that works.

Anyone have thoughts on this, or a good resource they can point me to?



I don’t believe purgatory is “out of time”.

The four last things are death, judgement, heaven and hell. They are irreversible, and once Judgement Day comes, there will only be Heaven and Hell.

Since purgatory will not exist at the end of time, it it not out of time, it is temporal. Souls will spend time in that state until they are purified.

Limbo would be eternal only b/c it iis the outer fringe of Hell. Hell b/c souls there are denied the beatific vision, but not a place of actual suffering.

God bless


It is speculation by some over time, and not a Church doctrine or dogma, that Limbo even exists. The Church teaches that there are only two possible destinations – heaven and hell.


There is an eventual Heaven after being purified for Heaven by Purgatory so there must be an end to Purgatory. Since that is at the end of the world that would make a definite end time for Purgatory and an existence right now which makes it distinctively different from Heaven and Hell.

Regardless if there are clocks or people noticing the passage of time, there will be different amounts of purification those who are going to heaven will require, some need more some need less.

It cannot be pleasurable since sin\attachment to sin is bad and we don’t get rewarded for sin. So each of us who go to heaven, gets a different amount of Purgatory if we need it. I am pretty sure this has never been defined as time but mostly as amount of purgation.

I don’t see why there cannot be time, since there definitely is an end time for Purgatory, but maybe someone smarter than I can answer that.

God Bless

(time to invite them to become Catholic and their congregations too, out of fidelity to God, rather than man)


That is correct. I was just pointing out that, if limbo exists, it is not a separate state, merely the outer edge or “hem” of Hell.

God Bless


We just cant describe what we have not witnessed or experierced…period! ‘Time’ is what…when we have a toothache it is endless till we have some kind of relief…when we are with loved ones…it kinda stands still and we luv it all. Hell must be like the sit-con.‘cheers’ …your locked in a room full of fellow losers,cheaters,forever. Heaven is the opposite,now your with those who have gone thru the heat of life…fighting the good life and come out tempered steel…but for those of us who are not all good or all bad there is a half-way house.ie purgatory…where we are purged of our sins. I recall a twilight episode where in this nazi concentration guard had to go thru the torments that he put the prisoners thru…mmm that hurt!!! When we play with our adopted grandaughter from Colombia…time stands still,for we marvel at her and enjoy life with her…when we dont have her that day,every tick of the clock is like a mournfull sound of a lonely heart…concentrate on the here and now…your up next…take your cut…remember its first base,then second etc…lets roll!..Nino


There is certainly an end to Purgatory, but who said that end was measured in time?

It is measured, that is all we know. It could be measured in time. Maybe it’s measured in some sort of impact.

Using a geological comparison, perhaps the impact could be a small speck of dust from outer space that gets burned up immediately upon entry into the atmosphere. Or, perhaps it is like a huge boulder the size of Texas that actually hits the Earth dramatically altering the surface. Both the speck and the boulder took the same amount of time. But in this case, it is the impact that is measured, not the time. I hope that made sense.


I am wondering what “out of time” in this discussion mean? At any rate, I will try to explain how I understand Heaven, Hell, Limbo and Purgatory.

Of course, most of us will have no agruments on the eternal duration of Heaven and Hell. So whatever we become after we die, that is, if we become good children of God while we live, we inherit heaven forever, but if we become bad, we inherit Hell forever.

But of course, Limbo is also eternal. The question is who will go to limbo. If the elect will certainly go to Heaven as a prize. And if the damned will go to Hell, then who will go to Limbo? What about the pagan babies who were spotless, pure, angelic who died at infancy? What about the non-catholic children who were not even had the chance to choose their faith. What about all the aborted babies, the children who were born good but were not baptized? They don’t deserve the fires of Hell, but also do not qualify Heaven which is for the elect. I guess they are the souls who will go to limbo, because our God is infinitely good, just and fair.

Having explained limbo as eternal, then there is no doubt that purgatory is only temporary. It will exist only until the last punishment for the sins of the elect (no matter how little) have been cleansed, so they would qualify the presence of the Lord God.


One of the things that I think you have forgotten is that baptism by water is not the only type of baptism. There is baptism of blood and baptism of desire. The baptism of desire can be very broad and can apply even to those who have never heard of Christ or His church. It is the baptism of blood and desire that will save the aborted and unborn from limbo and usher their souls to Heaven
All of this talk about time made me wonder. If God always lives in the present, whether it is our earthly past, present or future, will we live in a time line throughout eternity or will we always live in the present as God does?

In Christ name, I wish you peace.


Do you mean we might experience a never ending timeline in our heavenly existence and still retain a concept of past and future albeit in an infinite environment? Or that our heavenly observations of the earthly timeline will still be bound by its chronological nature? The latter is intriguing as it suggests the possibility of (for example) Marian apparitions in 3000 bc, or visions of saints in the present that have not been born yet (our Calvinist friends are going to love this one).


What I am wondering, Prayer Warrior, is, if when we enter either heaven or hell, will we perceive time as we do now or will we perceive it as God does (all time being the present), that of course would negate any time line. And if that is the case needless to say we would know of and exist with past, present and future events simultaneously. This is too weird.

In Christs name, I wish you peace.


Ah, thanks for the clarification - a mind bending concept to be sure,

And also with you.


Here’s what Pope Benedict said about it (then Cardinal Ratzinger) in Eschatology:
The transforming “moment” of this encounter cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of “short” or “long” duration on the basis of temporal measurments derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The “temporal measure” of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. …


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