Is Sheol purgatory? (How is Sheol different from purgatory?)

Sheol and Purgatory have been thought to refer to the same place severally. In theology school, we brought this issue up in class, and our lecturer covered this topic in-depth. He even invited a Catechist to explain the issue of Purgatory to show the distinction between the two places. By the end of the lesson, the apparent difference between the two terms was clear. Last week was my most dramatic time as a theology lecturer. I have never experienced such a heated argument in class. During a study of Heaven and hell, I questioned whether there were other places the spirits of the dead went. The students suggested Sheol and purgatory, and immediately, a heated discussion ensued on whether Purgatory and Sheol referred to the same thing. After about 15 minutes of argument, I calmed everyone down and told them we also had the same argument back in theology school. With my knowledge, I had all the answers at my fingertips. So, is Sheol Purgatory?

Sheol is not purgatory. Sheol is a term used to describe where all the spirits of the dead go. All the good or evil spirits destined for Heaven or healing go to Sheol. Many religious traditions believe that sheol is a place in the underworld. They believed it was a place on the Earth, below the oceans. On the other hand, purgatory is where the spirits of good people go for cleansing before they enter Heaven. Good people who had elements of some few evil deeds are purified in purgatory before being allowed to Heaven.

In this article, we will discuss the biblical meaning of Sheol and what the Bible says about Sheol. To learn these and more, continue reading.

What is the biblical meaning of Sheol?

How is Sheol different from purgatory?
What is the biblical meaning of Sheol? Image source: Pixabay

Sheol means the realm of the dead or beyond the grave where the spirits of the dead dwell. The term is found in the Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible. It appears in Job 17:13-16, where Job wondered where his hope was if he could only hope for Sheol as his house. It also appears in Psalms 89:48, in which the Psalmist asks if a man can live and never die and whether he can take his soul from Sheol. Finally, it appears in Ecclesiastes 9:10, where the writer urges people to do whatever they can because such a chance is not available when they go to Sheol.

In all the places where Sheol is mentioned, there is no explanation of what kind of place it is. However, we can gather that it is where the souls of the dead go. There is no distinction of whether the soul is good or bad. It is the reason why some scholars believe that Sheol is the grave.

What does the Bible say about Sheol?

The Bible says that sheol is where one goes after one dies. For instance, in Psalms 89:48, the Bible affirms that every man will see death and their soul will go sheol and that no man has the power to work against it. Therefore, the Bible indicates that Sheol is a place beyond earthly life.

The Bible also says that sheol is a place where no man can escape. The Bible asks whether man can deliver himself from Sheol in the same Psalms. The questions are supposed to confirm that no man can come out of Sheol at will.

Finally, the Bible says that it is a place of rest. In Ecclesiastes 9:10, the Bible indicates that when one is in Sheol, one cannot work; hence one must work when he is still in the world.

Do Catholics believe in Sheol?

Catholics do not believe in Sheol and do not have any teaching about it. Catholics believe only in three afterlife destinations: Heaven, hell, and Purgatory. Good souls dwell with God and other saints in Heaven, while hell is where evil souls live with Satan. Purgatory is an intermediate place between Heaven and Earth where souls go for purification before entering Heaven. Sheol mainly exists in Jewish traditions, and because of the limited explanation of what kind of a place it is, no denomination understands or teaches about it.

What is the difference between Sheol and purgatory?

The difference between Sheol and purgatory is that Sheol consists of all souls, good or bad, while purgatory is where people who die in grace but have venial sins go for purification.

Another difference is that souls cannot leave Sheol, or there is no specific time when souls are expected to go. Conversely, souls leave purgatory after purification, meaning they are not permanently trapped.

Is there a similarity between Sheol and purgatory?

Is Sheol purgatory?
Similarity between Sheol and purgatory. Image source: Pixabay

The significant similarity between Sheol and purgatory is that they both exist in the afterlife. It is believed that people go to these places after they die. They affirm the belief that there is life after death.

Additionally, in both places, souls are not allowed to return to Earth once received. While they are trapped forever in Sheol, the only other place they can go is Heaven after purgatory.

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