This is the sixth in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
Do some Christians undergo purification from the stain of sin between death and entrance into heaven? Many who answer yes to that question embrace the doctrine of purgatory, which became official Roman Catholic dogma in A.D. 1438.
Simply stated, purgatory is a place or state of suffering where the dead bound for heaven achieve the holiness necessary to enter into the presence of God.
It should be noted, according to Catholic teaching, that some saints go directly to heaven upon death, needing no purification, while those who die in the state of unrepented mortal sin find themselves at once, and eternally, in hell. All those in purgatory ultimately make it to heaven.
Preparation for heaven
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “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.”
The Pocket Catholic Dictionary puts it this way: “The souls of those who have died in the state of grace suffer for a time in purging that prepares them to enter heaven. The purpose of purgatory is to cleanse one of imperfections, venial sins, and faults, and to remit or do away with the temporal punishment due to mortal sins that have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. It is an intermediate state in which the departed souls can atone for unforgiven sins before receiving their final reward.”
The amount of time one spends in purgatory depends on the degree of purging needed. Some proponents of purgatory, however, argue that because the afterlife is experienced outside the element of time, purgatory should be seen as a state or dimension rather than as a place.
Indeed, Catholic theologians speak of the great diversity of purgatorial suffering in both its intensity and duration.
Even so, the question for evangelical Christians is: Does the Bible support the doctrine of purgatory?Continue reading
This is the fifth in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
It seems the answer is yes, in a place the New Testament refers to as Tartarus.
Tartarus is mentioned only once, in 2 Peter 2:4. Many translations render it “hell,” including the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible, while others, like the English Standard Version and the New International Version, provide footnotes linking the English word “hell” to the Greek name Tartarus.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible simply transliterates the Greek word in this passage, which reads: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment …”
A footnote in the HCSB reads: “Tartarus is a Greek name for a subterranean place of divine punishment lower than Hades.”
In the apocryphal Book of 1 Enoch (20:2), Tartarus is used as a place where fallen angels are punished, an interpretation Peter affirms.
So, Tartarus seems to be a place separate from Sheol, the Hebrew term for the abode of the dead; Hades, roughly the Greek equivalent of Sheol; and Gehenna, the lake of fire created for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) where wicked people also spend eternity (Rev. 20:15).
Ancient Greeks regarded Tartarus as a place where rebellious gods and other wicked ones are punished. Peter refers to Tartarus as the abode of certain fallen angels.Continue reading
This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
The ultimate destiny of the wicked is the same habitation created for Satan and his demons – a place in English we call “hell,” and a place Jesus and the New Testament writers describe variously as Gehenna, “outer darkness,” “eternal fire,” “eternal punishment,” “lake of fire,” and “the second death.”
While Sheol and Hades generally depict the temporary abode of the dead, Gehenna and its associated terms describe the place of everlasting future punishment for those whose names are not written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).
The term Gehenna is derived from the Valley of Hinnom. Located southwest of Jerusalem, this steep, rocky valley is the scene of human sacrifices to pagan deities (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6) and is declared the “Valley of Slaughter” by Jeremiah (Jer. 7:31-34).
The picture of a place where fires are never quenched and worms never stop feasting on corpses became to the Jewish mind an appropriate representation of the ultimate fate of idol worshipers.Continue reading
This is the third in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
Hades is a Greek god whose name means “The Unseen.” He is depicted as lord of the underworld, the abode of the dead. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus and the New Testament writers borrow from this familiar term to describe the realm of departed spirits.
What’s more, they cut through the mythology to present an accurate picture of the afterlife.
The word Hades appears 10 times in the New Testament, forming a linguistic bridge that takes us from the Old Testament view of life beyond the grave (in Sheol) to the New Testament position.
In coming to a biblically faithful understanding of Hades, it’s important to state what the word does not mean.
What Hades does not mean
Hades does not mean death, because the Greek word Thanatos is used for death in the New Testament. Further, death (Thanatos) and Hades appear together in Rev. 1:18, so they cannot mean the same thing.
Second, it cannot mean grave, because the Greek work Mneema depicts the place where the bodies of the deceased are buried.
Third, it cannot mean hell, the place of final punishment for the wicked, because the Greek word Gehenna is used for hell in the New Testament. Further, Hades is cast into the lake of fire in Rev. 20:14.
Fourth, Hades is not the intermediate state of Christians between death and resurrection, because the Greek word Ouranos depicts heaven.Continue reading
This is the second in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
Is there conscious existence beyond the grave? Where did Old Testament saints go when they died? Do the wicked really suffer forever in hell? Should you believe in ghosts?
These are important questions about the afterlife and the unseen world. Most religions deal in some way with these questions and appeal to a variety of authorities to provide answers.
This series explores the manner in which God’s Word describes life beyond the grave and the unseen world. In this column we examine the Hebrew term Sheol. In future columns we address Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus, and other terms.