Limbo vs. Purgatory: How are they different?

A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar that involved different Christian churches. I was able to interact with a few Catholics and was able to learn about their belief in Purgatory. When I returned home, I decided to research more on this belief. While at it, another exciting name came up, Limbo. I then decided to get deeper into it and get an understanding of what these two terms mean and represent in the Roman Catholic church. So, let us have a look at Limbo vs Purgatory.

Limbo and Purgatory are ‘places’ that were both introduced within the catholic faith. While Limbo is no longer recognized, it was believed to be where unbaptized infants went after death. On the other hand, Purgatory is where Catholics believe dead people go before they enter heaven. In purgatory, souls are needed to be cleansed and purified from any sin.

So, join me until the end as I explore more on this topic. In this article, I will list the differences between Limbo and Purgatory, their similarities, if the Catholic Church believes in them, and more exciting topics.

Limbo vs. Purgatory: Difference in Definition

Limbo vs. Purgatory
Limbo vs. Purgatory. Image source: Pixabay

In Catholic theology, Limbo was suggested to be a permanent place where the souls of the infants who died without baptism ended. Limbo is derived from the Latin word ‘Limbus,’ which means a boundary or the edge. With this, the Roman catholic believed that this was a place between heaven and hell, where unbaptized dead children resided, as they could not enter hell because they carried no sins and could not enter heaven because they were yet to be purified of their natural sins (the Adam sin). The Roman Catholic church no longer believes in Limbo, as it was ruled out in 2007 by the Pope.

On the other hand, Purgatory is a temporary place where the Roman Catholics believe the soul of a dead person stays as they wait for their purification to become clean and enter heaven.

Difference between Limbo and Purgatory



It was a theological concept or belief within Catholicism but was done away with in 2007 by the Pope.

It is an official teaching of the catholic church and is recognized as a dogma.

It was believed to be a permanent state where the souls never got a chance to enter heaven.

It is believed that the souls that are there are to eventually transition to heaven after purification (it is a temporary place)

This place was mainly meant for unbaptized children who had committed no other sin other than that, that every human being possesses (Adam sin)

This place is meant for those who died knowing Christ but must still be purified of an underlying (venial) sin.

Are there similarities between Limbo and purgatory?

Similarities between Limbo and purgatory. Image source: Pixabay

A similarity between Limbo and Purgatory is that both terms are nowhere to be found in the bible. The Bible is the main book that most Christian churches use and believe in. While these two ‘terms’ were introduced by Roman Catholicism, which is part of Christianity, the bible does not support or define these two places.

Limbo and Purgatory are believed to be places between heaven and hell. These places are believed to be where souls go immediately after departing from the physical world.

Another notable similarity between Limbo and Purgatory is that the souls in these places do not get the privilege of enjoying heaven and its bliss. Souls in Purgatory are believed to be waiting for their purification to enter heaven and enjoy all that comes with it. In contrast, the souls in Limbo can never enjoy the complete joy or happiness of being in heaven, as they will never enter this holy place.

Both souls in Limbo and purgatory are not subjected to the suffering that comes when a soul is thrown into hell. Souls in Limbo cannot have a hell experience because they did nothing wrong to be punished, while those in Purgatory cannot be subjected to hell suffering as they are in a state of grace while they wait for their full atonement.

Does the catholic church still believe in purgatory and Limbo?

The catholic church no longer believes in the Limbo of the infants, as they believe that children who die before baptism can enter heaven through grace. However, there are speculations that the catholic church still believes in the Limbo of the Father (Limbus partum), where they suggest that it is a place where good people who died before Christ’s birth reside.

The catholic church still believes in Purgatory, which is part of their doctrine. Revelations 21:27 suggests that nothing impure will enter heaven. With this, the catholic church believes that even a righteous person can be denied entry to heaven because of a mere sin, and therefore, it is essential for them to be cleansed or purified to be with no sin to enter heaven.

What happens in Purgatory?

According to the catholic church, when a person dies, they are faced with judgment immediately. They use the scripture in Hebrews 9:27 to support their argument. According to this scripture, when a person dies, they are instantly faced with judgment to know whether they will be heading to heaven or hell.

It is believed in the catholic faith that one can be holy or even righteous but can still be bound by venial sin. A venial sin can be defined as the type of sin a person commits without their consent or full knowledge and, therefore, may miss on repenting it. With this, the catholic church argues that it is important for living people and the church to pray for the soul that is in purgatory so that they may be cleansed and purified and be forgiven of any sin that may cause them to be thrown into hell, and instead allowed to enter heaven.

What happens in Limbo?

Limbo is no longer believed to be an existing place, as it was mainly meant for infants who died before being baptized. The catholic church believes that these infants now have a shot at entering heaven through the mercy of God. However, Limbo was thought to be a place where an infant that died without being baptized ended up. After the fall of the first man Adam, sin entered the world, and therefore, all of his descendants were born with sin.

In the Catholic faith, one is required to be pure of this sin if they get baptized. When an unbaptized infant dies, they do not have the privilege or the right to enter heaven as it was believed they still possessed the first sin. However, their souls were to neither go to hell, as they had yet to commit a sin they knew of; therefore, their final destination was Limbo, an edge of heaven and earth.

Before Limbo was abolished or abandoned by the catholic church, it was believed that nothing much happened in there other than getting ‘stuck,’ as one cannot go to heaven or hell.

Representations of Purgatory and Limbo in popular culture

Limbo vs. Purgatory
Representations of Purgatory and Limbo. Image source: Pixabay

Purgatory and Limbo have been represented differently in popular culture through movies, series, and poems. A perfect representation of the two is seen in Dante Alighieri’s poem ‘Divine Comedy.‘ In this poem, Dante describes Purgatory as a big mountain with seven terraces representing different deadly sins.

The souls in this place must go through every terrace as they cleanse themselves from their sins. The more you go through the terraces, the more you ascend through the mountain and become pure. Purgatory in this poem is described as a place of redemption and hope where every soul can atone for their sins.

On the other hand, Limbo is seen as a place full of unbaptized infants and pagans who cannot enter heaven because they did not undergo baptism or did not have faith in God.

Limbo is also represented in the famous video game LIMBO, which was developed by ‘Play-Dead.’ In this game, Limbo is represented as a place with black, white, and shades of color grey with various fear factors like giants, spiders, and lonely forests. Limbo is represented in this game as a place with no rest and peace.

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