According to Catholicism, God went to "Purgatory" after his death on the cross. As the Apostles Creed says:

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead/hell. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Catholic.com says:

It is no wonder, then, that those who deny the existence of purgatory tend to touch upon only briefly the history of the belief. They prefer to claim that the Bible speaks only of heaven and hell. Wrong. It speaks plainly of a third condition, commonly called the limbo of the Fathers, where the just who had died before the redemption were waiting for heaven to be opened to them. After his death and before his resurrection, Christ visited those experiencing the limbo of the Fathers and preached to them the good news that heaven would now be opened to them (1 Pet. 3:19). These people thus were not in heaven, but neither were they experiencing the torments of hell.

Some have speculated that the limbo of the Fathers is the same as purgatory. This may or may not be the case. However, even if the limbo of the Fathers is not purgatory, its existence shows that a temporary, intermediate state is not contrary to Scripture. Look at it this way. If the limbo of the Fathers was purgatory, then this one verse directly teaches the existence of purgatory. If the limbo of the Fathers was a different temporary state, then the Bible at least says such a state can exist. It proves there can be more than just heaven and hell.

Some Fundamentalists also charge, as though it actually proved something, "The word purgatory is nowhere found in Scripture." This is true, and yet it does not disprove the existence of purgatory or the fact that belief in it has always been part of Church teaching. The words Trinity and Incarnation aren’t in Scripture either, yet those doctrines are clearly taught in it. Likewise, Scripture teaches that purgatory exists, even if it doesn’t use that word and even if 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a place other than purgatory.

The article says the idea of Purgatory is based on 1 Peter 3:19:

  1. For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.
  2. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
  3. who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20 NASB translation)

Does this mean God eternally existed as a spirit, then God became a man for a few years, then God "rose again" as a spirit for a few days when he descended to Purgatory, then God "rose again" to eternally be a man?

  • @KorvinStarmast, went to Hell per the Apostle's Creed is wrong English translation. In my language, we say "He descended towards the deceased" in the Creed. Can't wait when the English bishops will correct it for this translation. It's ridiculous to say he would go to Hell. Souls in hell can't be saved anymore.
    – Grasper
    Nov 18, 2016 at 15:21
  • @Grasper and what language is that? Nov 18, 2016 at 21:25
  • @KorvinStarmast, one of the Slavic lang. (Slovak). Even the catechism in Slovak doesn't say "he went to hell". I never been thought he went to hell. I was shocked when I moved to USA and all say he went to hell. It's believed even by the early fathers that he went to "limbo" not hell. biblelight.net/prison.htm
    – Grasper
    Nov 18, 2016 at 21:47
  • @Grasper The two most common renderings are "Descended to the dead" the "descended into hell." In Latin descendit ad infernos implies the latter. I can't parse this Greek παθόντα ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, Nov 19, 2016 at 14:05
  • 2
    @KorvinStarmast: παθόντα ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου is "suffered under Pontius Pilate"; The phrase you want it κατελθόντα εις τα κατώτατα, and the word for inferos (not infernos) is τα κατώτατα, which is a (neuter plural) superlative of κάτω "low." In other words, it's "the lowest [places]," and equivalent to Latin inferos "lower [regions]."
    – Wtrmute
    Apr 20, 2017 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


The short answer is the Resurrection of Jesus occurred only once, and it will not occur again in the future. (We only say “rose again” to emphasize that Jesus really died as a result of the Crucifixion.)

However, some important clarifications are in order:

  1. The Church does not teach that Jesus went to Purgatory. Purgatory exists in order for those who die in friendship with God to be purified of the effects of their sins, should that still be necessary, after death. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 1030-1032.) Jesus did not have any sins to purify.

    The Church does teach, however, that the righteous who died before the Resurrection of Christ awaited the Resurrection before they entered Heaven. Jesus visited them after his death on the Cross in order to release them and bring them to Heaven. (See CCC 631-637.)

  2. God by nature is pure spirit. He is utterly unchanging, and so He is not affected even by the Incarnation. We are not to think, therefore, that by becoming incarnate, the Son “left Heaven” behind. Rather, the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, assumed a human nature at the Incarnation. As the Catechism puts it:

    At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature. (No. 479.)

  3. By the Incarnation, the Son assumed a complete human nature: therefore, He has (in His human nature), a human body, a human soul, a human intellect, and a human will. It is important not to confuse Jesus’ human soul with his Divine Nature. Both are spiritual, but one is human and the other is Divine. (CCC 471-475.)

  4. Only a human being can die, go to the abode of the dead, and rise. Therefore, when Jesus did these things, he did so in his human nature only. Nevertheless, actions are always ascribed to the person who performs them. Therefore, since Jesus is a a Divine Person, we can legitimately say that God died, went to the abode of the dead, and rose. However, I reiterate, he accomplished these things in his human nature, not his Divine Nature. (CCC 470.)

  5. The Incarnation, by divine decree, is permanent. In the words of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, “his kingdom will have no end.” The Son has promised that will never annihilate His human nature (although He is, of course, capable of doing so.) So no, the Son did not become man “only for a few years.”

  • Thanks for the answer. I'm sorry I should have said "paradise" instead of purgatory. Are you saying that the Son, once he was incarnated, was permanently made human? So that when he "released the prisoners", he was fully man?
    – Cannabijoy
    Oct 18, 2016 at 20:16
  • @anonymouswho The answer is basically “yes.” At the Incarnation (i.e, at his virginal conception), he assumed a complete human nature. Human natures are not destroyed by death (death merely destroys the body), so yes, Jesus retained his human nature after he was crucified, and he certainly did so once he rose from the dead (i.e., when his human soul was reunited with his body). He freely chose to assume a human nature, and in so doing, committed to retaining it forever. Oct 19, 2016 at 5:39
  • Are you saying God the Son had a human nature and a divine nature for the two days he was dead? What is a human nature without a body, and how is it distinct from his divine nature?
    – Cannabijoy
    Oct 19, 2016 at 6:00
  • 1
    @anonymouswho Yes, Jesus had a human nature even when he was dead (just as we still have a human nature when we die). A human being is a not only body; he also has a human soul. Jesus was no different in this regard. So—like us—when he died, his human soul survived his death. Jesus’ human soul is very different from the Divine Nature, which is uncreated and preexistent. Oct 19, 2016 at 10:09
  • Okay I think I get it. So God the Son was eternally a spirit, then he became a flesh and blood man for a few years, then he became a "human soul" for a few days, then he became a flesh and blood man again for eternity?
    – Cannabijoy
    Oct 19, 2016 at 10:52

Commentating on 1 Peter 3:18, the Catholic Haydock Commentary says:

Ver. 18. Christ....being put to death indeed in the flesh, dying on the cross for our sins, but brought to life by the spirit. By the spirit here some understand Christ's divine spirit, and power of his divinity, by which he soon raised himself again from death to an immortal life by his glorious resurrection. But others by the spirit rather understand Christ's soul, by which he never died, which always remained united to his divine person, and which the third day he again reunited to his body. (Witham)

Thus, "spirit" is seen by some as being Christ's divinity, and for others "spirit" means His human soul.

  • Thank you for the answer. Does this mean that those who believe "spirit" is god's human soul believe he "rose again" twice, and never died? Also, does it mean that those who believe "spirit" is god's divinity believe he only rose once, and did not go to purgatory? One last question. Is this disagreement a Westside vs Eastside thing, or is the Catholic church divided on this issue?
    – Cannabijoy
    Oct 18, 2016 at 7:13
  • @anonymouswho Those questions may need to be asked on their own, rather than in a comment to an answer that answers your question. Nov 17, 2016 at 14:18

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