Question: "What does the Bible say about Limbo?"
Answer: The root of the word limbo is “the edge of a hem on a garment,” so the word itself is telling us that limbo is someplace which borders very close to another. A very broad definition of limbo is “a zone which exists between two definite places.” The Bible does not give the name “limbo” to any specific place or realm, but various people have used the word “limbo” in various ways.
One Roman Catholic tradition names a limbo for children who die before their baptisms or die outside of the Roman Catholic religion. There is no biblical support for this view. It is merely a religious opinion which has been handed down by Catholic theologians. For a study on the destiny of children who die, please read our article on the age of accountability.
The closest biblical account for a “limbo” concerns “Abraham’s bosom” and “paradise” in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Although it is a parable to teach a truth concerning prophecies declaring the kingdom of God, the places mentioned must exist or Jesus would not have used them. Parables are not based upon imaginary objects and locations, but on things which are real. So before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there were two places souls went upon death. One place is at the side of Abraham (often described as Abraham’s bosom); this would be for people who died in faith in God’s promised Messiah, just as Abraham did, and were declared righteous by faith (Genesis 15:4-6; Romans 4:13-24). Those who died in unbelief went to a place of torment. The Greek word used is hades and probably is the best Greek word for the Jewish sheol, literally “the lowest pit.” It is clearly a place of great torment.
But this is also a temporary limbo. These souls will appear at the second resurrection before the great white throne of Revelation 20:11-13. These people are not in the Book of Life because they do not have eternal life through faith in Christ, and they are cast into their final destination in the “Lake of Fire / Gehenna.” The idea of limbo as a realm in between heaven and hell, sort of another purgatory, is not biblical. If there is any sort of a limbo, it is the temporary holding place of the wicked (Hades / Sheol), which will eventually be emptied into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
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