In the previous post, I discussed where we go after death, the place the Bible calls Sheol or Hades. One of the passages we looked at was Acts 2. In that passage, Peter talks of Jesus and His resurrection. Peter observes in verse 24, “God raised up (Jesus), having loosed the pains of death because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
When Jesus died, He went to Hades.
God raised Jesus up, He “loosed the pains of death.”
He did so because Jesus could not be held by death and Hades — “it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
I want to think some more about what happens after death and, more specifically, to think about the implications of Peter’s message for those who follow Christ: Because just as Christ could not be held by Hades, so too, those in Jesus cannot be held by it. I will also answer the question, “Is purgatory found in the Bible?”
In this passage, Jesus asks his disciples, “who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” What we learn is there was a lot of disagreement among the general public about Jesus. Some thought he was John the Baptist, some thought he was Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets risen from the dead. There was no consensus opinion on the identity of Jesus.
Jesus then asks His disciples, “Who do YOU say that I am?” Simon Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus blesses Peter for this because God revealed this truth to Peter. He then goes on to say:
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
First of all, note the gates of HADES will not prevail against the church. Some translations use “hell” for “Hades” — Hades and hell are not the same places. Hades is where the dead go between death and the resurrection. Hell is where the wicked are cast following judgment day. He also says the GATES of Hades will not prevail against the church. What does a gate do? It either keeps people out or keeps them in. The souls of the deceased must go somewhere following death; so it does not seem reasonable to conclude the gates of Hades keep people out. The gates of Hades will not be able to contain the church. Jesus promises His church victory over Hades and death.
The rock upon which the church is built is Jesus, the Son of God. Peter in 1 Peter 2:4 calls Jesus “a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious…”. Paul calls Jesus “the Chief Cornerstone” in Ephesians 2:20. We obtain the victory by believing what Peter confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” When we, like Peter, confess Jesus to be the Son of God, we become a part of His church and gain the victory over Hades which Jesus promises.
The resurrection is our victory over Hades
Notice also in :Acts 2:24, “God raised up (Jesus), having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” When Jesus died, He went to Hades. God raised Jesus up, He “loosed the pains of death.” He did so because Jesus could not be held by death and Hades — “it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
It was not possible for Hades to hold Jesus because He did not belong there. One of the consequences God established with Adam and Eve is death is the punishment for sin: “In the day you eat of (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), you shall die.” This is echoed by Paul in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…”
But Jesus died as an innocent man. Peter, who spent 3.5 years with Jesus, said “(He) committed no sin.” Paul says Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:20). By dying, Jesus broke the rules so to speak — He died as an innocent man and ended up where everyone goes, Hades. Hades could not hold Him because, quite frankly, He didn’t belong there. God could not leave Christ’s soul in Hades (Acts 2:31), so He raised Him from the dead.
Let’s put all the pieces together
Matthew 16:18, “…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Revelation 1:18, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
Remember the GATES of Hades will not prevail against the church.
Jesus has the KEYS of Hades and Death because He was raised from the dead.
Now link up Matthew 16:18 and Revelation 1:18 with Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead
And if you confess your belief in Jesus (just like Peter did)
What happens? “…you will be saved.”
Or, to put it another way, the gates of Hades will not be able to hold you.
The resurrection from the dead is the victory over Hades:
1 Corinthians 15:54-55: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
Is purgatory in the Bible?
Purgatory is a temporary place of punishment following death; once the wicked person has “served his time” he can go on to heaven.
Sheol/Hades is not depicted in this way by Jesus: Luke 16:19-31. There are two destinations for the dead: one for the righteous, another for the unrighteous. When the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus over with a few drops of water to quench his thirst, Abraham says this is impossible: “…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (verse 26). Once a person dies, his destiny is set; one cannot pass from torment to Paradise; according to Jesus, the gulf between the two cannot be bridged.
This is true for hell as well. An angel told the prophet Daniel, ”Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Jesus says hell was created to punish Satan and his angels; Jesus will condemn the wicked to hell alongside them. The wicked, “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41 and 46). Just as the righteous go on to “eternal life” or life without end, so too the unrighteous go on to eternal punishment or punishment without end. Hell, the lake of fire, is called by John, “the second death” in Revelation 20:14. Scripture offers no promise that those who are cast into hell will receive a reprieve; to believe otherwise is to believe something the Bible does not teach. So no, the concept of purgatory is not in the Bible; once we die, there are no second chances; our destiny is settled.