Dear Pastor, Prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, where did the souls of those who died go? When I was a Catholic, I remember being told that the gates of Heaven were closed until the death and resurrection of Jesus; therefore, the souls of those who died went to sort of a “Limbo-like” place. Is this true according to the Bible? Also, I was told by a Catholic relative that even though Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he didn’t really pay the full penalty for our sins. He simply opened the gates of heaven, so that now we can work our way to Heaven. I was told that through the sacraments (communion, penance, etc.), we can merit the graces necessary for salvation. What does the Bible say about all of this? How do I answer questions from Catholic relatives concerning this?
Before the Death, Burial, & Resurrection they went to a place called Paradise. Paradise was the place of waiting. Torment on the other hand was the place where disobedient and lost souls waited for judgment. Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Paradise was the place to wait for the Saviors completed work. “Limbo” would be an improper description of Paradise. To be in Limbo means to be stuck, a better term would be the place of waiting!
As for Jesus not paying the full price, that is totally un-scriptural! Below are some very simple ways to reason using the truth of the scriptures to answer such questions:
- Isiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed. This prophecy of the Savior says “and by his stripes we are healed.” It doesn’t say by His stripes we are still healing! Nor does it say that we are still needing healing!
- 1st Corinthians 6:19: What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. If we were still earning salvation after we accept Jesus as our Savior, how could the Holy Ghost dwell in us if we aren’t sanctified and cleansed? Also notice that in verse 20 it say’s “For ye are bought with a price:” not we are being bought!
- John 8:34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 8:35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 8:36 If the Son therefore shall set you free, ye shall be free indeed. This is the Savior telling us that if He set’s us free, we are definitely FREE!!! Not going to be free, but already FREE!!!.
- Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. This one should help you to see that there is absolutely no way any sacrament or act or work can save you.