Both of these are Catholic doctrines, not held by Protestant denominations because neither can be biblically supported. We’ve addressed purgatory before (Read: Is Purgatory a Real Place?) We’ll address it again, along with limbo, by using a video that was sent to me by a dear friend. She was approached by a Catholic friend who tried to convince her that purgatory is real, it is the place some Catholics go before getting into Heaven, and therefore it’s important to pray for people in purgatory that they will get out and go to Heaven.
The teacher in the video is the head of an online Catholic “institute” that appears to be a website selling online classes and offering certificates of completion in Catholic studies. The site is consecrated to Mary “to honor her under her title Seat of Wisdom” and the teachings are based on the Catholic doctrines defined by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). The “institute” is not said to be a 501(c)3 ministry, nor does it give the names of any kind of governing board or advisory board. I will present what the teacher taught about Purgatory and Limbo and explain why Protestant denominations declare such teachings to be false and that these two places do not exist.
The Teacher’s Thesis
The teacher began by stating: “purgatory is where people go when they need that extra measure of sanctification. They need to be purified because in this life they were not fully sanctified. They weren’t fully made saints in this life.”
In this statement, we see three Catholic doctrines (teachings): 1. Purgatory 2. Incomplete sanctification for justification. 3. Sainthood being determined by works that one does in life. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on only the first.
The teacher referenced 1 and 2 Maccabees. He said these two books are part of the Old Testament. They are not. These are two books of a collection of ancient books referred to as the Apocrypha. These books are not divinely inspired, they are not canonical, and they are only used by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox Churches. They are inserted between the Old and New Testament, but they are not claimed to be a part of either. These books are no different than reading commentaries and should not be used to create teachings. All biblical doctrine must come from God, from His Holy Word.
In support of his claim, the teacher quoted 2 Maccabees 12:44, “For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,” using this “praying for the dead” to support the existence of a temporary place called Purgatory. The 66 books of the Holy Bible do not support any kind of praying for the dead.
The teacher also claimed that Paul, in 1 Cor 3, “talked about there will be some people, who will barely be saved, but they will pass through fire.” He gave the verse, “If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire” (1 Cor 3:15). He claimed this “fire” to be a reference to purgatory. However, he is wrong.
1 Corinthians 3:15
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, was not writing about salvation in terms of justification, which is our positional standing before God (Read: The Gift of SalvaTION: Justification & Imputation). Paul was writing about the lives we live after we are saved. He wrote that we are to labor with God because we already belong to God (1 Cor 3:9). He then wrote that the work we do, after we are saved, will be judged. And in Romans, Paul told where that judgment will take place — at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom 14:10). First Corinthians 3:15 is speaking of that judgment.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
The judgment seat of Christ cannot be a judgment for our salvation and our entrance into Heaven. The Bible clearly teaches that our sins were judged at the cross, paid for by Jesus, forgiven by God, and when a repentant sinner turns to Jesus in faith his sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus (Rev 1:5) and remembered no more by God (Heb 10:17). In this great salvation, we are given the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21) and that is what makes us worthy to enter Heaven.
The judgment seat of Christ is a judgment of our good works only. It is not a judgment of our sins. At the judgment seat of Christ, good works are judged to determine whether they were done in service to the Lord or in service to self. (Read: What is the Judgment Seat of Christ? Will It Be Painful?) Only the works that are done to glorify Jesus will remain and only for those we will be rewarded. Yes, it is a judgment of works, but it is not for our entrance into Heaven. Otherwise, it contradicts everything else about justification by grace alone through faith.
Not Fully Reconciled?
The teacher also said that people go to Purgatory because their life isn’t fully reconciled to God. Oh my. What Jesus did on the cross was not enough??? Without doubt, we can say that Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for our sins (He took our place) was sufficient. Jesus reconciled us to God by paying for all the sins of the world. None of our works can make us right before God. If they could, Jesus would not have had to die and we would have something of which to boast (Eph 2:9).
The teacher also said there is pain in purgatory because there’s a punitive element. That means they are experiencing pain because of their sins. That denies Jesus’ very words that we are to take on “His yoke” and He will give us “rest for our souls.” Where’s the rest that Jesus promised if purgatory is a reality. It’s not. Jesus gave us rest by paying for our sins and offering us salvation. Once we respond to His gift and receive it, we can “stand fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [bondage to sin]” (Gal 5:1).
Abraham’s Bosom was a real place. The teacher seems to get Abraham’s Bosom right but he calls it the “limbo of the fathers,” putting it into Catholic doctrine by using the Latin Vulgate rather than using biblical doctrine and the original language. In Greek, the word is “kolpos,” and it is defined by Strong’s Dictionary as the bosom, by anal. a bay, bosom, creek. It’s describing a place, not an edge of a garment as the teacher suggested.
The teacher does understand that Abraham’s Bosom was where the OT saints went and that Jesus emptied it and took them to Heaven. He also understands that Jesus didn’t go to the place of torment in Hell, but only to Abraham’s Bosom and he says that’s what Catholic doctrine teaches even though many Catholics think Jesus went to the place of torment to suffer.
The teacher also talked about a place called “Limbo of the Children.” He gave no biblical support for this place existing, referring only to Aquinas’s teachings. There is no place called Limbo. The Bible is clear that “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.” Even babies don’t go to limbo, as the teacher claimed. They enter into the presence of the Lord (Read: What is the Age of Accountability?)
In his final comments, the teacher supported what he was teaching with a quote from Thomas Aquinas:
Zechariah 9:11 is not about anyone during the time in which we live (after the cross) Thomas Aquinas did not rightly use this verse. Aquinas wrote saying, the power of the Passion (Christ’s death) is received through the sacraments. That’s what the Catholic Church teaches, but it’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches the power of Christ’s death (to forgive one’s sins) is received by grace alone, through faith — not by partaking of any church sacraments.
Aquinas also wrote that in a similar way this applies to the dead (those in Hell) because Jesus descended into Hell (Did Aquinas think Jesus went to the place of torment?). Aquinas then used a verse, pulled out of context, and wrote, “He sent forth prisoners out of the pit, in the blood of His testament,” and Aquinas concluded: “that is by the power of His Passion.”
“The power of Jesus’ Passion” is not applied (“through sacraments”) to the dead to “get the prisoners out of the pit.” Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), not church sacraments. And sadly, once someone has died it’s too late to repent and trust in Jesus.
Let’s now look at what the Zechariah verse really means, by reading it in context.
The historical context must be considered. God is speaking to the Jews under the Old Covenant, telling of the march of Alexander the Great in conquering Israel, and giving a promise of hope and restoration. The blood of the covenant (vs 11) would be referring to the Abrahamic covenant (cut with blood in Genesis 15). This is not the blood of the New Covenant, Jesus’ blood. In the Abrahamic covenant, God promised land, a great nation, and the blessing of a King/Messiah to come. These promises are yet to be fulfilled.
In a prophetic sense, we can only apply this to what the Bible teaches. These promises were made to the Jews and they will be fulfilled in Jesus’ second coming. This is not a church age doctrine. It is about the promise to restore Israel, which the Catholic church has historically not accepted because it is a-millennial (no belief in the Millennial Kingdom). Thomas Aquinas was a-millennial. At his time there was no Israel (the nation was dispersed in 70AD), so Aquinas made all Scripture about the Church. Since 1948, it’s easy to believe that God meant what He said. Israel is back in the land, a strong nation. Historically and prophetically, the words in Zechariah 9 are about restoring Israel.
What the Bible Says
Read the whole passage and it’s clear that Aquinas took a verse out of context to support what he wanted to teach. (all bracketed information in blue is mine)
Zec 9:1 The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD.
Zec 9:8 And I will encamp about mine house [the house of Israel] because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.
Zec 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. [He came the first time, but Israel rejected Him]
Zec 9:10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off [Israel was “cut off” when they rejected Jesus, but God has not forgotten them]: [now moves forward in a prophetic message] and he shall speak peace unto the heathen [God’s purpose of the Tribulation is to draw people to Jesus]: and his dominion [Jesus’ millennial reign] shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. [this did not happen in Jesus’ first coming. In His second coming “His dominion will be from sea to sea” Hab 2:14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.]
Zec 9:11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant [the blood covenant of old, Abrahamic Covenant] I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. [This is spoken to Israel. God did restore them to Jerusalem and He would have restored them, if they had received Jesus. He will restore them again in His second coming. Thereby fulfilling all the yet-to-be-fulfilled promises of the Abrahamic Covenant]
Zec 9:12 Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee; [This will happen in the Millennial Kingdom. It will be a very Jewish kingdom, with the King of the Jews on the throne]
Zec 9:13 When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man.
Zec 9:14 And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.
Zec 9:15 The LORD of hosts shall defend them; and they shall devour, and subdue with sling stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar.
Zec 9:16 And the LORD their God shall save them in that day [“In that day,” when used in the Old Testament is always a reference to the end times] as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land. [Israel will be the lead nation in the Millennial Kingdom, just as God promised]
Zec 9:17 For how great is his goodness [God is faithful to keep His promise to those to whom He has promised], and how great is his beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.
The Biblical Teachings on Hell
There are three compartments in Hell (the underworld).
- Abraham’s Bosom (also called Paradise), which held the Old Testament saints until Jesus’ paid for their sins and led them to Heaven. Abraham’s Bosom is now empty. Read: Where Did OT Saints Go At Death?
- The Place of Torment, which we, today, call Hell. It is the place where all unregenerate people go. It cannot be escaped from because they died in their sins and have already been judged (Heb 9:27).
- Tartarus: Very little is known about this place. It is the place where the fallen angels (those that rebelled with Satan) are held “in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4) Read more: Sheol, Hell, Torment, Abyss, Gehenna, Fire, Darkness? What & Where are they?
Limbo of the Children does not exist. While Catholics call Abraham’s Bosom Limbo of the Fathers (Old Testament saints), the Bible clearly teaches that when saints (all believers who have repented and trusted in Christ) die, they go directly to Heaven to be with Jesus. Hallelujah!!!
Purgatory does not exist. (read also: Is Purgatory a Real Place?) This early Catholic doctrine was created by men who confused the teachings of the Bible about the judgment seat of Christ. Yes, Jesus will judge the works of those who are His. He will do this in Heaven after the Rapture, and it will be a judgment for rewards, not punitive judgment. And the rewards we receive will determine how we will serve Jesus during His millennial reign on earth. Hallelujah!!! Read: What is the Judgment Seat of Christ? Will it Be Painful?)
Is Purgatory a Real Place?
Sheol, Hell, Torment, Abyss, Tartarus, Gehenna, Fire, Darkness? What & Where Are They?
Is Hell Real? What does the Bible say?
Did Jesus Descend into Hell?
Is Hell a real place?
What Did Jesus Say About Hell?
How Can a Loving God Send Someone to Hell?
What is the Judgment Seat of Christ? Will It Be Painful?
Do not be anxious about anything. (Phil 4:6)
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must rightly remember who is in control. Our God is sovereign over all things, including COVID-19. As Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, “The sovereignty of God is a soft pillow on which weary people lay their heads.”
Remember also God’s gracious promise, and that it is true and He is faithful to keep it: Hebrews 13:5 …”I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” The next verse remind us of the power that comes in trusting God and how we can live: Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man [or COVID-19] shall do to me.
God loves us, and in Christ we find confidence and calm in times of uncertainty and trouble. When we trust in God, fear is replaced with faith, stress is replaced with strength, anxiety is gone and hope abounds, problems become opportunities, and we are able to receive the blessings God has for us in the midst of difficult circumstances. Turn to Jesus. He will lead you to the still waters and give rest for your troubled soul.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…Hebrews 6:19
Be Ready Always...
to give a reason for the Hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). When you can’t share the gospel with your words, share it by leaving tracts that tell people about God's grace.
When leaving a tract, always be diligent to pray about the short gospel message. Pray that it be found by someone who is in need of Jesus’ saving grace, and pray that the person will have a tender heart and open ears to receive the gift Jesus desires to give them.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, even a small tract can help in turning a broken sinner from darkness to light.
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