St. Irenaeus Ministries
Scripture Studies brought to you by the St. Irenaeus Center.
St. Irenaeus Ministries - a center of orthodox Catholic mission and renewal in Rochester, NY

Rev 21:27 says that nothing unclean shall enter Heaven, which is why it is necessary that there be a place where we are purified before we enter Heaven. 2 Maccabees explains that there must be a place, as there would be no sense in offering prayers for the dead otherwise. The Catechism, in section 1030ff, explains much about the doctrine of Purgatory. In Matt 12:31f, Jesus states that some things may be forgiven in the age to come, again providing evidence of forgiveness in the next life. Again, in Matt 5:23-26 and 18:18-35, Jesus tells us that we will never get out of our debt of sin until we have paid the last penny, implying that this place is not Hell, which no one will ever leave.

Aquinas tells us that the purgatorial fire is a purifying, rather than afflictive fire.  Mortal sin deprives us of communion with God, and this deprivation is eternal punishment in Hell. The suffering in Purgatory, on the other hand, is that of yearning for God, and it is not God's vengeance, and the Church has always commended almsgiving and prayers for those who are in Purgatory.

The Limbo of the unbaptized infants is something that scholars and saints have had myriad opinions on, with a variety of beliefs such as (1) unbaptized infants go to Hell, (2) that the infants go to Hell, but do not have the torments of Hell, (3) that they live on the edge of Heaven, a sort of limbo, or (4) that God will save unbaptized infants, and we should trust them to God's grace. It is not known for certain what the whole truth is, but even those who postulated Limbo believe that parents may save their children by desiring baptism for them.

Direct download: FourLastThings04.mp3
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Even from Old Testament times, there have been writings of an intermediary place between Heaven and Earth, such as Wisdom 3, Psalms 6:5, 88:12, 94:17, Job 10:21f, Job 14:21 and these are confirmed by the saints, like St. Irenaeus. We know that this place has no knowledge of the world, but it is clear from I Sam 2:6, Job 26:6 and Psalms 86:13, 139:8 that God is still present in this place, and from Christ's statement that God is the God of the living, not of the dead.

One of these intermediary places is often called hell, taken from the Old English word for the place of the dead, but it is not the Hell of damnation. We know from scripture that Christ rose from the dead, which indicates that He had descended as savior and Christus Victor to the nether world to proclaim the Gospel to the just imprisoned there (see Jn 5:25, 1 Pet 3:18-20 and 1 Pet 4:6 as well as Sections 632f of the Catechism).

This harrowing takes place in time, even though it may seem to us as though it takes place in an instant and after this, Christ holds the keys of death and Hades. Jesus came to Earth, took on the flesh of one of His creation, like us, died like we do, and then, through rising, saves us (see also Heb 2:14-18).

Direct download: FourLastThings03.mp3
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Immediately upon separation from our bodies in death, we undergo our own particular judgment, and the judgment and pronouncement of the sentence are given. The actual execution of the sentence occurs later at the Final Judgment when Christ comes again. Daniel 12 and John 5 give us evidence for this. We will know at the particular judgment the justness of the sentence, but not until the final judgement will we see the whole of God's plan.

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Wisdom tells us that ungodly people belong to death, but as Philippians 1 says, for the Christian, to live is Christ and death is gain. We would do well to remember that death, is the wages of sin, and that God's plan was to have man be immortal as God is. Death, however, has been transformed into a blessing by Christ. The saints also have much to say about the way to approach death.

Direct download: FourLastThings01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT