The questions of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise are quite delicate in our time and in particular because of the preconceptions and clichés that such notions possess. For a Christian, Hell is a notion that must be absolutely known, because in order to completely avoid it, you must obviously know what constitutes it and what its substance is, the same goes for Purgatory which unfortunately is quite unknown among some Christians. even though it is of capital importance! As for Paradise, it is often the subject of greater understanding and knowledge among Christians but a little reminder never hurts!
In this article, we will try to explain to you, obviously using sources from the Church and obviously the Bible, what Christianity means by Hell, Paradise and Purgatory, what defines them, differentiates them and what they are. their objective.
So here we are and let's start at the beginning, what happens directly after death?
What happens directly after death?
The Catholic Church teaches that directly after death man receives his retribution and judgment for his past life. " “Each man receives in his immortal soul his eternal retribution upon his death in a particular judgment which refers his life to Christ, either through purification, either to enter immediately into the beatitude of heaven or to immediately damn himself forever.” "
From then on, the man or woman is faced with 3 possibilities:
- His soul is pure and does not need purification, this is particularly the case for men and women who die directly after their baptism without having sinned between the time of the sacrament and their death. In this case, if the man or woman will go directly to Paradise with God
- His soul needs to be purified due to a certain number of sins committed during his earthly life and here it is Purgatory which will be his destination. Please note, we will come back to this soon but it must be remembered that Purgatory is not intended to be a final destination, it is only a transitional destination which leads either to Paradise or to Hell.
- His soul is so far from God that the latter voluntarily refuses divine love, in full freedom and in full awareness of his actions. So why go to a place you don't want? This will take the soul to Hell.
Now, we will successively return to these 3 points starting with Purgatory, because as we said it is the only one which is not doomed to be a final destination.
Purgatory in Christianity
As said before, Purgatory is not a final destination in itself, it only serves as a place of transition and purification. The purpose of Purgatory is simple, it is to purify the soul. Man will have to recognize his sins in order to purify his soul and enter into the full contemplation of God in Paradise. This time in Purgatory can be longer or shorter depending on three major factors; the seriousness of the sins committed, the number of sins committed, and the capacity of man to recognize himself as a sinner.
All of Purgatory is based on the fact that man leaves his ego aside, does not fall into pride and recognizes his sins, Purgatory does not seem to be subject to time so we do not know what a man passing through a period feels like. long duration in Purgatory, as previously said this time spent will be relative to the 3 previous factors, the seriousness of the sins committed, the number of sins, and the ability of man to ask God for forgiveness for his sins.
But then comes an obvious question, is Purgatory biblical, this is what our Protestant friends strive to deny but yes, Purgatory is indeed recorded in the Bible in a Book however not recognized by Luther but by Catholic Church The Book of Maccabees which designates Purgatory as a purifying fire! In the Second Book of Maccabees (12, 46) it is written "This is why he [Judas Maccabeus] had this atoning sacrifice made for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin." We recognize here the prayer for the deceased often used by Catholics so that the souls in purgatory recognize their sins and go to Heaven.
But the Book of Maccabees is not the only source attesting to the validity of Purgatory, so in 1 Corinthians 3:13 we can read: "Everyone's work will be made manifest; for the Day will make it known, because it will be revealed in the fire, and the fire will test what each person’s work is.” Here we find the idea of the purifying fire which cleanses the soul of the sinner.
Thus Purgatory seems very real and completely Biblical, this temporary place would therefore serve as a purifying fire for sinful souls before they can enter into the full contemplation of God in Heaven cleansed of all sins committed during their life and obviously of their sin. original by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary!
Paradise in Christianity
Heaven is what all Christians aspire to; live for eternity in peace and the infinite love present in God with him. Paradise in Christianity, unlike the Islamic paradise in particular, is not subject to space-time and our human experience with it. Thus, an eternity filled with happiness with God in Paradise cannot be experienced as a temporary joy which could bore souls after a certain time, the latter not being subject to time. Furthermore, it is also important to note that this feeling of happiness with God is in no way comparable to the ephemeral happiness that a man might experience during his earthly life. The Catholic Church insists on this by defining Paradise as “a state of supreme and definitive happiness”
Paradise is therefore much more a state than a true place, a participation of man in divine nature. Obviously, the fact that Paradise is more a state than a real place does not remove any physical reality from the latter in the sense that as the Bible affirms and in particular experienced thanks to God Saint Teresa of Avila the soul of the deceased in Paradise finds the beings she loved in her life such as her family and loved ones but also those she loved less but devoid of all anger and hatred so that everyone together fully participates in the full contemplation of the face of God for eternity in eternal joy and bliss.
Paradise must be understood as accessible during one's lifetime and not as something distant; it is our actions during our carnal life that will determine whether we are deserving enough to enter Paradise in the full contemplation of God. The Lord promises his paradise to the poor, to men of peace, to little children and to many others who in this current world do not seem to be those who direct the actions of the many.
Faith in Christ Jesus as true savior and true God is obviously the primordial necessary condition for returning to Paradise, the soul in order to enter into the full contemplation of God for Eternity must obviously recognize Christ as its savior and recognize its divinity. This soul cleansed of all sin either via a sacrament before its death or via purgatory will therefore be able to be totally freed from sin and obviously from original sin through the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, live for eternity in joy and peace. joy with God.
Hell in Christianity
In Christian belief, hell is a place of eternal suffering where the souls of people who have lived their lives rejecting God and refusing to repent of their sins are condemned to punishment. This idea of hell has been developed over the centuries by the various religious traditions that have developed within Christianity, and it is widely considered to be one of the main core beliefs of the religion.
According to the Bible, hell is described as a place of darkness and eternal fire, where the souls of sinners are punished by God. It is often associated with images of corporal punishment, such as eternal torture or the punishment of burning eternally in flames.
However, it is important to note that this materialization of Hell is to be interpreted, on multiple occasions the Bible has used the image of Fire to describe what men do not know, the image of the burning bush in the Old Testament is a very good example of this. Finally, the fathers of the Church agree in attesting that Hell is not a real fire; it is the personification of the pain that the soul feels from being separated from God for 'eternity. Indeed, the soul of a living person does not know, even for the greatest Saints, what it feels like to be eternally reunited as close as possible to God and to see him Face to Face in his Paradise.
So, if we do not know what it feels like to be happy for eternity we cannot understand without images what a soul feels when it is separated from God for Eternity. Thus God used the image of the Eternal Fire to make us understand this immense pain of being far from him because dying burned is surely one of the most atrocious pains that a man can bear, the unfortunate episode of the The collapse of the twin towers where victims preferred to throw themselves from the top of the building instead of burning to death bears witness to this unfortunately.
In conclusion, Hell is the fact of being distanced from God for eternity because we refuse him, this act bruises the soul and makes it feel eternal suffering.
Is Judgment eternal?
Is God's judgment eternal? This question is asked by many, however the Catholic Church answers it very clearly, first of all for the question of Purgatory, Purgatory being once again not a final destination it does not enter into this subject of reflection. So, only Hell and Heaven remain. For Paradise, there is no doubt that once the soul enters Paradise and is cleansed of all sin, God in His infinite mercy and love will not make it leave, this is easily visible in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus- Christ on the cross of Calvary who suffered so much to show men the love of God. As for Hell, the catechism of the Catholic Church clearly explains that a soul asking God to leave Hell would have their request accepted. Indeed, God makes all the prayers that are requested of him come true and that are good for souls, so a request aimed at getting closer to him for eternity can only be accepted.
We therefore understand all the mercy and love of God in his judgment and that those who are distant from him for eternity are only so because they did not fully want it, in their earthly life obviously but even afterwards. their death.
If you are interested in Bible verses our article entitled "50 Bible Verses to Memorize for a Christian" should greatly interest you.