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19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

Once again at this early time in the development of Luther’s theology, he believed there was a purgatory and it was there so that people could get better and eventually enter into heaven. There are several different words in the bible that describe what happens to us after death. Hades, gehenna, or sheol the King James Bible translated all of these as “Hell”. One of the words was “gehenna” that was the region where one lived with the devil and suffering beyond understanding, i.e. crying, weeping and gnashing of teeth. There would seem to be no deliverance from this region and was reserved for those who did not believe. The other word used is “Hades” which is the Greek word for “Sheol” the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament and is sometimes translated as “region of the dead”. This was the region where all souls went when they died and waited for the final judgement at the end of the world. At that time your soul would go to heaven or hell. This is the word that the Catholic Church used to justify the existence of purgatory.

Our Lord in the Bible seems to be deliberately vague about what happens after we die. There are a wide variety of interpretations of these words and the places that they represent. In his later writings Luther has decided that we do not go to purgatory but go immediately either to heaven or hell, depending on whether we believe in Jesus as our Savior or not.

This would be the hope that we cling to, that when we believe and trust that Jesus died on the cross and rose again for me, personally, I can be sure that I will spend eternity with God in Heaven.


Dear Lord God, I must confess that I am confused when I think about what happens after I die. I know that you are coming again and that I will spend eternity with You. Keep me safe and secure in this belief until the end of my life, or You come again. In Jesus name, Amen.