Purgatory and limbo


We briefly discussed the two during RCIA this week, and purgatory/limbo discussion ensued.

Could you please tell me more?

Are either in the Scriptures?



First, welcome! :wave:

There are two "Limbo"s that you might have heard of. One was the “abode of the dead” mentioned in Scripture (remember when Jesus told the parable of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man, and Lazarus died and was in the bosom of Abraham?). Before the Resurrection, Heaven and Hell were closed. Dead people were in the abode of the dead – sometimes referred to in Scripture as Hades or Sheol. That place is also called Limbo.

The other Limbo was a speculation by theologians about what happens to unbaptized babies who die (“Hey, what happens to unbaptized babies who die?” “I dunno; maybe they go to some other place.” “What’s it called?” “I dunno; Limbo?”). It was never taught as doctrine by the Church, though if you search hard enough you will find plenty of Catholics, even today (including some priests), who think that there really is such a place. After all, this is the one that gets all the publicity, because everyone knows someone who knew someone who died before being baptized; and the idea that there might be some other paradise for them is comforting. But it is not part of the Church’s teaching.

Purgatory is different. First, it isn’t a place. When you die, you go to one of two places: Heaven or Hell (the abode of the dead no longer being needed). But Scripture teaches us that nothing unclean can enter Heaven. So we know that, after we die, those of us going to Heaven will be cleansed first. This “purgation” or “purging” process is called purgatory. It might be instantaneous; it might last a really long time; we just don’t know. All we know is that our sinful tendencies will be removed from us prior to entering Heaven, rather like having an abscessed tooth removed. It’ll be painful, but it’s for our own good.

Of course, we tend to be careless in our descriptions of Purgatory. I’ve made the joke many times “Well, that’s several fewer minutes I’ll have to spend in Purgatory!” after doing something nice for someone. And we tend to talk about the people “in” Purgatory, as if it were a place. But the Church has always been very clear: Purgatory is not a third option for the afterlife (“A” students go to Heaven, “B” students go to Purgatory, everyone else can go to Hell). It’s just a (for lack of a better word) anteroom on your way into Heaven.

And, yes, Purgatory is referenced in Scripture (though not by that name). Jesus said that anyone blaspheming the Holy Spirit could not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come – implying that some other sins can be forgiven in the age to come. Paul wrote that, at the judgment, all of our works will be tested, and some (but not all) of us will only be saved as through fire. There are other references, but this should be enough for a basic introduction.

Hope this helps!


I’m sure you can find a lot about it at catholic.com/library/ or for scriptural evidence scripturecatholic.com/ or New Advent
Short explanation:

Puragtory - Dogma
*]People are destined for heaven or hell
*]Nothing not perfect can enter heaven
*]When most people die they aren’t perfect, they need to be purified or purged (root word for purgatory)
*]This purification is a process
*]Prayers for the dead are prayed in scripture. In Heaven what use have the saints of our prayers and in Hell what good will prayers do anyone?
*]Paul talks in Corinthians about purification through fire
*]Other biblical comments about it can be seen in the links[/LIST]Limbo of the Fathers (Limbus Patrum) - Dogma
*]No one could get into Heaven without the death of Jesus
*]What happened to those who died before Christ but were faithful to God in whatever means they were capable of?
*]Limbo was where the souls of those who died before Christ’s passion death and resurrection waited
*]Even protestants believe it, although they may not use that term
*]Christ descended to the dead to preach to those in Hades, now thats in the bible
*]That limbo no longer exists because Jesus came[/LIST]
Limbo of the Infants (Limbus Infantium) - Theological Speculation
*]Based on Augustinian theology, speculative, not part of the deposit of faith
*]Based on the idea that only the baptized could get into heaven, those without original sin
*]Unbaptized infants have made no active choice to reject God so it would be awful unfair in our human view for them to suffer the same punishment as the damned
*]Limbo Infantium was a theological speculation, most commonly theorized as a place of natural happiness, without the punishments of hell, but lacking the beatific vision
*]Recent theologians pose the issue as “leaving the children’s souls to God’s mercy” or some other polite way of saying “we don’t know”[/LIST]
I hope I made things succinct and clear. If you have any other questions please ask.


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