Christian Living

Spiritual Life

What Is The Difference Between Heaven, Paradise and Purgatory?

When Jesus was hanging on the cross between two thieves, one of the thieves railed at Him and made fun of Him. The other thief admitted they deserved to be punished, but said Jesus had done nothing wrong. Then he turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Jesus said to him, "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:39-43). So paradise must be where Jesus is, because the thief was going to be there with him. It also must be a place that those who have faith in the Lord will enter immediately upon death. Paradise is a place of bliss and happiness. But it would seem to be an intermediate place, as opposed to the final establishment of a new heaven and a new earth which we have referred to elsewhere (see 2 Peter 3:10-13, Revelation 21:1-7).

In certain instances heaven refers to the place where God rules. Heaven also refers to the final place where the spirits of the righteous dead will spend eternity after they have been joined with their resurrection bodies. Also, heaven can mean the space above the earth.

The wicked dead, as in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, go immediately to a place called Hades (see Luke 16:20-25). They are waiting for a final judgment when they will be cast into the lake of fire with the devil and his angels (see Revelation 20:11-15). So in a sense there is an intermediate heaven and an intermediate hell.

The concept of purgatory is not biblical. Purgatory is supposed to be a transition period of indefinite duration intended for the perfecting of those people who die in Christ. It is taught that they experience suffering to pay for the sins they committed in this life until they are ready to enter into heaven. The Bible does not teach that. The apostle Paul said, "I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you" (Philippians 1:23-24).

Paul knew only of two states of being. Either he was going to stay on earth, or he was going to be with Jesus. The concept of purgatory seems to have been unknown to the apostles and does not seem to have any biblical basis at all. The Bible teaches that there are levels of heaven, but there is no mention of a place of purging and torment that would bring us up to a point of being acceptable to God after death (see 2 Corinthians 12:2).

Excerpt taken from Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions, Copyright 1984 by Pat Robertson. 

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