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Purgatory vs. Limbo: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 28, 2023
"Purgatory" is a state of purification for souls who have died in grace but need purification before entering heaven, while "limbo" is a hypothetical state for souls not admitted to heaven but not deserving of hell.
Purgatory vs. Limbo

Key Differences

Purgatory is a concept primarily in Catholic doctrine, referring to a transitional state where souls destined for heaven undergo purification. It is believed that these souls have not fully atoned for their sins in life and thus require this period of cleansing. Limbo, on the other hand, is a theological concept, not officially part of Catholic doctrine, hypothesized as a state for souls that do not go to heaven or hell. Historically, it was often associated with the unbaptized infants and righteous people who died before Christ.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023
The nature of purgatory is often depicted as a process of suffering and purification, akin to cleansing fire, where souls become fit to enter heaven. It is temporary and ends with the soul's entry into heaven. Limbo, in contrast, was thought to be a state of natural happiness without the presence of God, a permanent state for those souls not qualified for heaven but not deserving of hell.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023
In Catholic theology, purgatory underscores the importance of penance and the effects of sin, even after death. It is a sign of God's mercy, giving souls a chance to atone and prepare for heaven. Limbo, as it was traditionally understood, represented a more complex problem of theology, especially concerning the fate of innocents like unbaptized infants.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023
The concept of purgatory is often used in broader cultural contexts to describe any state of suffering or purification. Limbo is similarly used in popular language to describe a situation where a person or thing is caught between two different stages or conditions, often in a state of neglect or oblivion.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023
In summary, purgatory and limbo are both concepts related to the afterlife, with purgatory being a temporary state of purification for heaven-bound souls, and limbo being a hypothetical state of existence for those neither in heaven nor hell.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Definition

A state of purification for souls
A hypothetical state for certain souls
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Doctrine

Part of Catholic doctrine
Not officially part of Catholic doctrine
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Nature

Process of suffering and cleansing
State of natural happiness without God
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Duration

Temporary until purification is complete
Considered permanent
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Theological Basis

Related to penance and atonement of sins
Concerned with fate of unbaptized infants and others
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Purgatory and Limbo Definitions

Purgatory

In Roman Catholic doctrine, a place or state of suffering.
Her faith taught her about the existence of purgatory.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Limbo

An uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution.
The project was in limbo awaiting approval.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Purgatory

A state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are atoning for their sins before going to heaven.
He believed his trials in life were like purgatory.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Limbo

A state of neglect or oblivion.
Her career was in limbo during those years.
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Purgatory

Used metaphorically for any place or situation in which suffering is endured.
His time in prison was like purgatory.
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Limbo

The supposed abode of unbaptized but innocent souls.
Theological debates often mention limbo.
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Purgatory

A transitional state where souls are purified.
Souls in purgatory undergo cleansing before entering heaven.
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Dec 28, 2023

Limbo

Often Limbo Roman Catholic Church The abode of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls, as those of infants or virtuous individuals who lived before the coming of Christ.
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Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

Roman Catholic Church A state in which the souls of those who have died in grace must expiate their sins.
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

A condition of prolonged uncertainty or neglect
Management kept her promotion in limbo for months.
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Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

A place or condition of suffering, expiation, or remorse
A purgatory of drug abuse.
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

A West Indian dance in which the dancers repeatedly bend over backward and pass under a pole that is lowered slightly with each pass.
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Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

Tending to cleanse or purge.
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

To place (someone or something) in an in-between place, or condition or state, of neglect or oblivion which results in deadlock, delay, or some other unresolved status.
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Purgatory

(Christianity) Purgatory
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Limbo

(dances) To dance the limbo (etymology 2, dance).
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

Any situation where suffering is endured, particularly as part of a process of redemption.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

(by extension) Often followed by under: to pass under something while bending backwards.
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Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

Tending to cleanse; expiatory.
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

The place, thought to be on the edge of the bottomless pit of Hell, where the souls of innocent deceased people exist temporarily until they can enter heaven, specifically those of the saints who died before the advent of Jesus Christ (who occupy the limbo patrum or limbo of the patriarchs or fathers) and those of unbaptized infants (who occupy the limbo infantum or limbo of the infants); (countable) the place where each category of souls exists, regarded separately.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

Tending to cleanse; cleansing; expiatory.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

(by extension)
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Purgatory

A state or place of purification after death; according to the Roman Catholic creed, a place, or a state believed to exist after death, in which the souls of persons are purified by expiating such offenses committed in this life as do not merit eternal damnation, or in which they fully satisfy the justice of God for sins that have been forgiven. After this purgation from the impurities of sin, the souls are believed to be received into heaven.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

Chiefly preceded by in: any in-between place, or condition or state, of neglect or oblivion which results in deadlock, delay, or some other unresolved status.
My passport application has been stuck in bureaucratic limbo for two weeks.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

A temporary condition of torment or suffering;
A purgatory of drug abuse
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

Jail, prison; (countable) a jail cell or lockup.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

(theology) in Roman Catholic theology the place where those who have died in a state of grace undergo limited torment to expiate their sins
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

Synonym of Hadesor Hell
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Oct 19, 2023

Purgatory

An intermediate state after physical death.
Purgatory is a step before the final journey to heaven.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Limbo

Synonym of pawn
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

A type of antisubmarine mortar installed on naval vessels.
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

A competitive dance originating from Trinidad and Tobago in which dancers take turns to cross under a horizontal bar while bending backwards. The bar is lowered with each round, and the competition is won by the dancer who passes under the bar in the lowest position without dislodging it or falling down.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

An spiritual region where certain classes of souls were supposed to await the last judgment.
As far from help as Limbo is from bliss.
A Limbo large and broad, since calledThe Paradise of fools.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

Hence: Any real or imaginary place of restraint or confinement; a prison; as, to put a man in limbo.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

A state of waiting, or uncertainty, in which final judgment concerning the outcome of a decision is postponed, perhaps indefinitely; neglect for an indefinite time; as, the proposal was left in limbo while opponents and proponents refused to compromise.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

A border or margin; as, the limbus of the cornea.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

A West Indian dance contest, in which participants must dance under a pole which is lowered successively until only one participant can successfully pass under, without falling. It is often performed at celebrations, such as weddings.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

The state of being disregarded or forgotten
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Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

An imaginary place for lost or neglected things
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Limbo

(theology) in Roman Catholicism, the place of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls (such as infants and virtuous individuals)
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Limbo

An intermediate or transitional place or state.
He felt in limbo between two important decisions.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Limbo

A state of being disregarded or forgotten.
The old traditions have fallen into limbo.
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Dec 28, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

What is limbo?

Limbo is a theoretical state for souls that are neither in heaven nor hell.
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Dec 28, 2023

Is purgatory mentioned in the Bible?

Purgatory is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible but is inferred from scripture.
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Dec 28, 2023

What is purgatory?

Purgatory is a state of purification for souls who are destined for heaven.
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Dec 28, 2023

Can one pray for souls in purgatory?

Yes, prayers for the souls in purgatory are encouraged in Catholic belief.
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Do souls in purgatory suffer?

Yes, souls in purgatory undergo a process of suffering and purification.
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Is limbo a permanent state?

Traditionally, limbo was considered a permanent state, but it is not an official doctrine.
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Dec 28, 2023

Is limbo an official Catholic teaching?

No, limbo is not an official part of Catholic doctrine.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Who was thought to go to limbo?

Unbaptized infants and righteous individuals who died before Christ were thought to go to limbo.
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What happens to souls in limbo?

Souls in limbo were thought to experience natural happiness but without seeing God.
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Dec 28, 2023

Does everyone go to purgatory?

Not everyone; only those who need purification after death go to purgatory.
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Dec 28, 2023

Who goes to purgatory?

Souls who die in grace but still need purification go to purgatory.
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Dec 28, 2023

How long do souls stay in purgatory?

The duration in purgatory varies and is not defined in time as we understand it.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Is limbo still taught in Catholicism?

Limbo is not actively taught in modern Catholicism and is more of a historical concept.
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Dec 28, 2023

Has the Catholic Church changed its view on limbo?

The Church has de-emphasized limbo, focusing more on God's mercy.
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Dec 28, 2023

Can purgatory be avoided?

According to Catholic teaching, living a virtuous life and receiving sacraments help avoid purgatory.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Is the concept of limbo universally accepted?

No, the concept of limbo varies and is not universally accepted in Christianity.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Is purgatory like hell?

Purgatory is different from hell; it's a temporary state leading to heaven.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Is limbo a place of punishment?

Limbo was not viewed as a place of punishment, but rather a state without the presence of God.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Can limbo be found in religious texts?

Limbo is more a product of theological speculation than scriptural.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

Are there prayers specifically for purgatory?

Yes, there are specific prayers and masses for the souls in purgatory.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 28, 2023

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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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