The Revelation of Purgatory
in Job 26:5-6 and Rev 20:11-15

Wojciech Kosek

This paper is a translation of the article:
Wojciech Kosek, Objawienie prawdy o czyśćcu w Księdze Hioba 26,5-6 i Apokalipsie 20,11-15, [in:] J. Kręcidło, and B. Strzałkowska (ed.), Dobrze jest dziękować Panu. Księga Jubileuszowa dla Księdza Profesora Waldemara Chrostowskiego w 70. rocznicę urodzin (seria: Ad Multos Annos, 22) [It is Good to Give Thanks to the Lord. A Jubilee Book for Rev. Professor Waldemar Chrostowski on the 70th Anniversary of His Birth (series: Ad Multos Annos, 22)], Warszawa 2021, p. 242-270.
ISBN 978-83-8144-642-6

This translation was first published on May 23, 2021,
on the website.

DOI of this paper:

This translation was published here on May 23, 2021,
i.e., on the vigil of the Solemnity of the Holy Spirit.


The purpose of this article is to present the biblical proof that purgatory exists, that is, to show the ways in which the Bible presents the reality that is hidden from the eyes of those who live on earth.

The key research assumption here is not rejecting the biblical images with which God spoke the truth in the language of the old generations of Israel, images that may seem unhelpful because they do not fit the contemporary understanding of posthumous reality as something immaterial.

In particular, one will perform a detailed exegetical analysis of the verse Job 26:5, which mentions the dwelling of some of the dead in waters and their great suffering there.

The Old Testament revelation of the existence of three spiritual states after death will be shown to be confirmed in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, in His Descent into the Abyss, and Resurrection from it.

Analogous to the detailed study of Job 26:5, one will undertake in-depth exegetical analysis of the vision of the Last Judgment in Revelation, including a fragment describing the judgment on those dead who have been released from the sea waters not before but now, to be judged by God.


Jesus Christ, Bible, Revelation, Abyss, Purgatory, Gehenna, Paradise, life after death, biblical studies, exegesis, Hebrew accents, Job 26:5, Apocalypse 20:11-15, dogmatics.

Table of contents:


  1. The Old Testament teaching on the Abyss and its three states.
  2. The dwelling and suffering of the dead in the Abyss according to Job 26:5.
  3. The revelation of the Abyss and its three states in the life and teaching of Jesus.

    3.1. The revelation of the Abyss-Gehenna.

    3.2. The Revelation of the Abyss-Paradise.

    3.3. The Revelation of the Abyss-Purgatory.

  4. Individual Judgment After Death versus the Final Judgment.
  5. The first resurrection (Rev 20:4-6).
  6. The vision of the Last Judgment in the Apocalypse (Rev 20:11-15).

    6.1. Introduction.

    6.2. The first part of the description of the Last Judgement (verset 11).

    6.3. The second part of the description of the Last Judgement (verset 12).

    6.4. The third part of the description of the Last Judgement (versets 13-15).

    6.5. Grammatical differences between the second and third parts of the description of the Last Judgment.



In this paper, based on an exegesis of the texts of the Old and New Testaments, it will be proved that the Apocalypse of St. John draws abundantly on the premises given in previous stages of Revelation and confirms the dogmatic truth of the Catholic Church about the existence after death and before the Last Judgment of an intermediate state between the state of damnation and the state of complete salvation. This intermediate state is traditionally called purgatory.

Since the Apocalypse does not convey revelation about sufferings in the purgatory or, more broadly, in the Abyss, but only assumes previously revealed data, one will make a detailed exegesis of the text of Job 26:5-6.

The primary purpose of this paper is to present:

  • the biblical data on three states of souls in Abyss
  • the change that occurred through Christ’s Descent into Abyss and Resurrection from it
  • the meaning of the term the first resurrection
  • the role of prayers for those in the Abyss-purgatory.

1. The Old Testament teaching on the Abyss and its three states.

According to the Bible, death is not an annihilation of the human person, but only a temporary change of the way he exists: the deads live as souls (נֶפֶשׁ, ψυχή) in the Abyss (תְּהוֹם, ἄβυσσος) – they are in a state of death, not of annihilation.

The Old Testament and late Jewish teaching about the Abyss, also called Sheol (שְׁאוֹל), Hades (ᾅδης), Abaddon (אֲבַדּוֹן, Ἀβαδδών), Destruction (ἀπώλεια), Apollyon (Ἀπολλύων), the shadow of death (צַלְמָוֶת, σκιὰ θανάτου) – in conjunction with the belief in the possibility of resurrection (ἀνάστασις) or the bringing of the dead from the Abyss to bodily life by God – forms the foundation of the New Testament teaching on purgatory.

God gradually revealed to the Chosen People the truths about what it is the afterlife and whether it is possible to come out of the Abyss.

Theologians usually identify the biblical concept of the land of the dead with the dark place below our earth [1]. There – underground – the dead come down after death naked (Job 1:21) and join their ancestors (Gen 25:8; 49:29; 1Kings 2:2; Job 30:23; Psa 49:20) to live a life away from God [2]. Some texts, however, indicate a different place – the dead are somewhere at the bottom under the waters; they live and suffer in the abyss of waters (cf. Job 26:5) [3].

The earliest ideas about Sheol – the Abyss indicate that the dead lead there a life of shadows, indistinguishable even to God. This imagery is related to the etymology of the word shadow (רָפָא – shadow; רְפָאִים – shadows) – being without strength, being limp [4].

Initially, it was thought that the lives of these dead – the shadows – were equally wretched, no matter how they behaved themselves during their life on earth. However, later biblical writings reveal the truth about the difference between the state of the good and the bad, the circumcised and the uncircumcised. The Book of Ezekiel, for example, speaks of God’s judgment on the ungodly people of Egypt: God will send them to Sheol, the most bottomless pit (cf. Ezek 32:23), where they will lie with the uncircumcised; there ‘they will suffer their shame’ (Ezek 32:25). Their plight contrasts with that of God’s devoted heroes: “They lie not beside heroes who fell in primeval times, who descended into Sheol in full battle armor, to whom their swords were put under their heads and their shields on their bones […] You will be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, and you will have to lie with those slain by the sword” (Ezek 32:27-28). The heroes are in armor, a symbolic representation of their state of happiness; the ungodly are naked, wretched.

God also revealed the same truth through the prophet Daniel (Dan 12:1-3) – the meaning of this text is fully revealed in the theological passive [5], present in this prophecy and the description of the Last Judgment in the Apocalypse 20:11-15. God has announced here through the prophet Daniel that at the end of history, there will be a period of unprecedented tribulation (cf. the analogous announcement in Rev 20:1-10), after which it will be delivered/lifted the people consisting of all who turn out to be written in the book. It is, therefore, a promise of release/lifting them from the Abyss being somewhere underground or at the bottom of the waters [6]. The Hebrew and Greek text of Dan 12:1 uses the passive form for the verbs expressing:

  • the fact of being found (הַנִּמְצָא / εὑρεθῇ) as being written in the book,
  • the fact of being written (כָּתוּב / ἐγγεγραμμένος) in a book,
  • the fact of being released/lifted (יִמָּלֵט / ὑψωθήσεται) from the Abyss.

It is thus the theological passive expressing an act of God himself. As will be further discussed, the same grammatical-theological manner characterizes the vision of the Last Judgment in Rev 20:15: If any was not found (εὑρέθη) written (γεγραμμένος)in the book of life, he was cast (ἐβλήθη) into the lake of fire forever.

In the final stage of the Old Testament revelation, alongside the completely happy and the completely unhappy in Sheol, one began to see those who suffer temporarily to achieving a state of happiness in the future. This intermediate state in Sheol is borne out by the biblical texts that speak about the possibility of helping the dead through prayer or sacrifice for their intention.

In the book of Tobias, there is an exhortation, “Place your bread on the grave of the righteous but give none to sinners” (Tob 4:17). Since Mosaic Law forbade giving food to the dead, thus protecting Israelites from Canaanite worship of ancestors [7], the text should be understood as an encouragement to acts of mercy towards the dead; these acts, for which they await from those living on earth, are for them a kind of bread on the way of purification after death in the abyss. The prohibition of “giving to sinners” becomes intelligible if we consider that the word “sinners” is used for the Biblical “wicked,” for whom no such help is possible in Sheol [8]. The text could also be understood as an exhortation to give a funeral banquet to the pious poor, as a deed for the benefit of the dead (cf. Jer 16:7; Ezek 24:17)  [9], but this does not harmonize with the context of the whole exhortation [10].

There is a similar exhortation in the Book of Sirach, “Give graciously to all the living; do not withhold kindness even from the dead” (Sir 7:33).

One can fully understand both texts in light of the prophet Isaiah’s announcement that God will “destroy death forever” (Isa 25:8), bring the dead out of Sheol one day, and prepare the Messianic feast: “The Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples […] a feast” (Isa 25:6).

The Second Book of Maccabees proclaims a strong belief in the resurrection. The characters of this book believed in resurrection and eternal life and postmortem requital for deeds – reward or punishment (cf. 12:44 and 14:16; 7:9.11; 6:26 and 7:36). The book reveals that Jews of that time held belief in the efficacy of sacrifices and prayers for the dead [11].

In chapter 12 of this book, there is a narrative about the battle of Judah Maccabeus against Gorgias. After the battle, Judah’s soldiers found that all the fallen Israelites were wearing pagan amulets, which was a sin. For the sake of the fallen, the Israelites “turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out” (2Macc 12:42). They believed that their prayer would help the dead in Sheol, and they expected that they were not condemned because the dead had fallen defending the faith: the chief “considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them” (12:45), so he ordered a contribution to be collected for a sin offering in Jerusalem. Judah “acted very well and honorably, considering the resurrect. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead” (12:43-44).

The description presented here expresses not only the truth about the future resurrection of the righteous. It is to be seen as a next step in the development of the Judaic doctrine of Sheol. Namely, in addition to the division into righteous and unrighteous, there is an intermediate state in Sheol – a state of those who deserved resurrection but went down to Sheol not entirely clean and now being in the process of cleaning themselves from their sins.

The apocryphal books, written in the same period as the Second Book of Maccabees, mention Adam’s purification and his return to paradise [12].

The outlined gradual development of Israel’s faith in the afterlife is evident in the psalms, which convey more or less advanced knowledge from the various periods of Revelation. For example:

  • About the dead in Sheol, according to Psa 88 [87]:6, God no longer remembers:

    Forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You no longer remember, and are cut off from Your hand.

    However, Psa 139 [138]:8 proclaims that God is also in Sheol:

    If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I lie down in Sheol, You are there!

  • Sheol is a land of darkness and oblivion:

    Psa 88 [87]:7.13: “You plunged me into the bottom of the pit, into dark places, in the deeps […]Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”

    However, Psa 139 [138]:12 already proclaims that God penetrates the darkness of Sheol (about which in verse 8):

    “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as day. The darkness and light are both alike.”

  • Psalms 6 and 88 express the idea that the dead forget God and do not praise Him in Sheol:

    “For in death, there is no remembrance of you. In Sheol, who will give you praise?” (Psa 6:6), “Will Your loving-kindness be declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in Abaddon?” (Psa 88[87]:12).

    However, Psa 22 [21]:30 proclaims:

    “All those going down into the dust will bow before Him.”

  • Faith in the resurrection, that is, in God’s dominion over Sheol and in God’s power to grant the dead new life, is expressed in Psalms 49 and 16:

    Psa 49 [48]:16: “But God will rescue my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will take me away.”

    Psa 16 [15]:9-10: “So my heart rejoices, my tongue exults, and my body rests in safety – because You will not leave my soul in Sheol or let Your Holy One see corruption.”

Old Testament revelation shows Israel’s faith in the possibility and necessity of purifying themselves of some of the dead in the Abyss with the prospect of participating in glory (cf. 2Macc 14:43 ff). It finally announces God’s complete victory over death, the leading by Him of his faithful dead out of the Abyss into eternal glory (cf. Isa 26:19, Wis 4:7…;5:1-3.15), and the unfaithful into eternal disgrace and perdition (cf. Dan 12:2) [13].

In Karl Rahner’s analysis [14] of Israel’s faith, there is a summary of the biblical teaching given at this point of analysis: In Jesus Christ’s time, Sheol as the realm of the dead was already differentiated into punishment and reward, depending on the moral state of the dead – רְפָאִים. There live the dead awaiting the resurrection – it means it is only the beginning of their eternal life or eternal condemnation. An initial state of purification and penance was given for some of these Sheol inhabitants.

Israel’s faith slowly developed until it came to the knowledge that God rules over the Abyss and can bring the dead out of it. This truth was fully revealed only by the Son of God through His Resurrection and Ascension. It is He who in the Apocalypse of St. John utters the words: “Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last and the Living One. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever, and have the keys of death and the abyss” (Rev 1:17-18). He also grants people a share in His Resurrection, and this takes place not only on the Last Day but – in some slightly different way – in temporal time. It is what St. John refers to in the Apocalypse by introducing the term the first resurrection.

Before discussing this issue, it is still worth examining the Old Testament teaching on suffering in the Abyss.

2. The dwelling and suffering of the dead in the Abyss according to Job 26:5.

Many non-Catholic Christian communities question the reality of suffering after death [15]. It is the reason why they reject the teaching of the Catholic Church about purgatory as the stage after death and before entering heaven. In turn, many Catholic theologians are convinced that the Bible does not speak clearly on this subject and that the Church’s faith is based only on the data from Tradition. This point of the article attempts to remedy the need to discover in Scripture the teaching about suffering after death.

The book of Job deals with the problem of temporal suffering, particularly the suffering of the righteous man. Nevertheless, there is also a text, Job 26:5, that speaks of suffering after death – in the abyss. One will now analyze this text.

Translations of Job 26:5 are different. They can be divided into three groups:

  1. These editions put the understanding that the dead (under the waters or in the waters) suffer:

    NIB, NIV: The dead are in deep anguish, those beneath the waters and all that live in them.

    NET: The dead tremble– those beneath the waters and all that live in them.

    NKJ: The dead tremble, those under the waters and those inhabiting them.

  2. The translation of these editions understands this verse that there are three beings (the dead, ocean, the water’s inhabitants) who tremble:

    RSV, NRS: The shades below tremble, the waters and their inhabitants.

    Biblia Tysiąclecia³: The dead in the underworld tremble, the ocean and its inhabitants.

    Biblia Poznańska³: The dead beneath the earth tremble, the ocean and all that lives in it.

    Biblia Paulistów: The shadows of the dead tremble, the waters, and that which is in them.

    Biblia Warszawsko-Praska: They tremble before Him: the shadows of the dead in the afterlife and everything that moves in the water.

  3. The translations of these editions understand this verse that the dead tremble under the waters and their inhabitants:

    ESV The dead tremble under the waters and their inhabitants.

    NAU, NAS: The departed spirits tremble under the waters and their inhabitants.

    Biblia Lubelska: The shadows of the dead are filled with fear, deep under the waters and their inhabitants.

The Hebrew text of Job 26:5, on the other hand, is as follows:

הָרְפָאִים יְחוֹלָלוּ מִתַּחַת מַיִם וְשֹׁכְנֵיהֶם

One will present below an analysis leading to the following translation:

The dead (הָרְפָאִים – shadows) are made to writhe in pain under the waters, and they inhabit them.

The task of accurately translating the sentence recorded in Job 26:5 requires analyzing the verb יְחוֹלָלוּ in terms of the conjugation used here by the biblical writer. Besides, it is necessary to analyze the last verb וְשֹׁכְנֵיהֶם and the grammatical syntax of the sentence, taking into account Masoretic accents. First, however, it is worth knowing the word הָרְפָאִים in biblical contexts.

The word רְפָאִים is used in the sense of ‘Philistines’ in twenty-one places in the Bible, whereas it occurs in the same sense as in Job 26:5 in six places:

Prov 2:18, to characterize the life of a debauched woman, proclaims: “For her house leads down to death (מָוֶת) and her paths to the dead (רְפָאִים).”

Prov 9:18 thus characterizes the future of the one who agrees to the invitation of the foolishness to dwell with her (i.e., to transgress God’s Law): “But he does not know that the dead (רְפָאִים) are there: her guests are in the depths of Sheol (בְּעִמְקֵי שְׁאוֹל).

Prov 21:16 warns: “A man who strays from the path of prudence, in the congregation of the dead (רְפָאִים) will settle.”

Isa 14:9 proclaims a satire on the wicked king: “Sheol (שְׁאוֹל) below is moved for you – to announce your arrival. For you, he awakened the dead (רְפָאִים), all the leaders of the earth; he made all the kings of the nations arise.”

Isa 26:14: Israel asks God for such the sentence for its enemies: “The dead (מֵתִים) will not live, the dead (רְפָאִים) will not rise (בַּל־יָקֻמוּ, οὐ μὴ ἀναστήσωσιν in LXX – they will not rise from the dead) – because you punished them and brought them to ruins; you have wiped out all memory of them.

Isa 26:19: Israel asks God for a contrastingly different judgment for her: “Your dead will revive (יִחְיוּ, ἀναστήσονται – LXX), the bodies of your dead will rise (יְקוּמוּן). Awake and shout for joy, who are dwelling in the dust! For Your dew is the dew of reviving light so that the earth will bring forth the dead (רְפָאִים).”

One can see from the above summary that the word הָרְפָאִים, used in Job 26:5, refers in six places in the Bible to the dead who are in Sheol. The prospect of leading some of the dead out of Sheol – thanks to God’s grace for His faithful ones – is proclaimed here by prophet Isaiah.

The verb יְחוֹלָלוּ – is the verb חוּל [חִיל] in the imperfect, masculine, plural, in the intensive conjugation Polal, homonym 1, with the meaning be made to writhe [16]be made to wriggle in pain. The Polal conjugation occurs very rarely in the Bible; it is a variant of the Pual conjugation, an intensive passive one [17]. Because it is a passive conjugation, one can conclude – following the research intuition of many scholars who refer to this biblical form as the theological passive (passivum theologicum) – that the one who commanded these dead to writhe in pain under the waters is God himself. As one will see later – when analyzing the Apocalypse – it is the theological passive that St. John uses to represent the acts of God when He passes judgment on the dead both immediately after their death (Rev 6:9-11) and at the Last Judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

The last word in the analyzed sentence – וְשֹׁכְנֵיהֶם – is waw + the verb to inhabit in the form participle masculine plural Qal conjugation, and thus it can be a predicate for the masculine plural subject – and such is the noun הָרְפָאִים – the dead. Besides, the word וְשֹׁכְנֵיהֶם has a 3rd person plural masculine suffix; this suffix is used to indicate what is inhabited – inhabiting them. [18] Since in Hebrew waters are masculine, so this refers to the inhabiting of waters.

The key question in translating this sentence concerns the participle, namely:

  • is it a predicate for the subject הָרְפָאִים and thus forms the second clause (subordinate or coordinate one): the dead inhabiting them – thus the dead inhabiting the waters,
  • or, on the contrary, it must be translated gerundially as the inhabitants of them – so it refers to the inhabitants of waters?

Choosing the second option, one gets the sentence: “The dead are made to writhe in pain under the waters and their inhabitants.” It is also what some contemporary English translations give.

However, in translation, it is worth considering the meaning of Masoretic accents, which – perhaps – will allow one to choose the first option. These accents serve to separate individual smaller parts of the sentence and indicate which words are more closely related to each other as logical wholes, separated from other wholes [19]. Thus, the accents allow to know the grammatical and logical structure of the sentence and, as a result, to decide which translation among several versions is the right one. The role of accents is analogous to the role of vowels, which were added to the original Hebrew text consonants by the Masoretes (6th-9th century after Christ), thus determining which word these consonants represent.

Job 26:5 with Masoretic accents:

הָרְפָאִ֥ים יְחֹולָ֑לוּ מִתַּ֥חַת מַ֝֗יִם וְשֹׁכְנֵיהֶֽם׃

In the sentence under analysis, a division into three structural parts is visible, made by Masoretes by writing in it two disconnecting accents:

  • Atnah accent, written as ˄ under the verb יְחֹולָ֑לוּ.
  • Rebia’ mugrash accent, written as ♦/ over the noun מַ֝֗יִם.

Besides, there are two conjunctive accents in this sentence, that is, indicating a connection between a word with such accent and the next word:

  • the noun הָרְפָאִ֥ים (the dead) has a Mereka accent (the sign / at the bottom of the word) connecting it to the verb יְחֹולָ֑לוּ (they are forced to writhe in pain) – hence the translation: the dead are forced to writhe in pain,
  • the preposition מִתַּ֥חַת (under) has a Mereka accent connecting it to the noun מַ֝֗יִם (waters) – hence the translation: under the waters).

The analyzed sentence thus consists of three parts, with two possible versions of the translation:

  • The dead are made to writhe in pain – under the waters – and they are inhabiting them.
  • The dead are made to writhe in pain – under the waters – and (under) the inhabiters of them.

The last segment thus requires additional analysis to decide which version to choose: whether “they are inhabiting them” (i.e., they are inhabiting the waters), or “they are forced to writhe in pain under the waters and the inhabiters of them.” However, one should note that this is not an easy task because the rules by which the Masoretes placed accents in the Hebrew text are not fully understood.

The basic information [20] is that there is a different accent system in the three books, namely Ps, Prov, and Hi, and different in the others. Accents are of two types: disjunctive and conjunctive; however, in specific layouts of accents, there is a change in the role of some of them to the opposite of the basic one [21]. Disjunctive accents of a higher and lower degree of importance divide sentences into smaller parts and these into even smaller parts (smaller sub-divisions). Some prominent exegetes doubted the usefulness of Masoretic accents because they discovered that with the present state of knowledge about the rules governing them, we could not interpret their role correctly.

In a situation of incomplete knowledge of the Masoretes’ rules, one can try to find other sentences in the Bible that have an analogous structure to Job 26:5 and see how those sentences were translated by the Septuagint, the Vulgate, by reputable translators from past and present times. After all, translators to a greater or lesser extent take over the fruit of the work of earlier generations, consider their legitimacy and approve or question them, and therefore – going backward from our times – they draw from the translations that the Masoretes or their students wrote; the Masoretes themselves drew from their predecessors, following the profound Israeli principle of respect for Tradition.

The task of finding sentences with an analogous structure in the Bible should be carried out with the help of a computer program in which it is possible to search for sequences of Masoretic accents. By ‘analogous structure’ to Job 26:5 is to be understood the existence of the same two disconnecting accents in a sentence, in the same order, over analogous parts of a sentence.

A complete search is beyond the scope of this article. However, it is worth presenting, by way of example, the fruit of the first attempts: it turned out that a similar structure to Job 26:5 is found in Psa 1:4, where there are also three parts, separated by identical accents. The content of this verse is as follows:

The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

לֹא־כֵ֥ן הָרְשָׁעִ֑ים כִּ֥י אִם־כַּ֝מֹּ֗ץ אֲֽשֶׁר־תִּדְּפֶ֥נּוּ רֽוּחַ׃

The two structures – Job 26:5 and Psa 1:4 – are similar. Their analogy becomes apparent in that:

  • The first part of each sentence indicates what the main subject (the dead/the wicked) of the whole sentence does or characterizes itself: the dead are made to writhe in pain / the wicked are not so.
  • The second part of each sentence has the accent on such an entity (the sea/the water) whose presence in the sentence, on the one hand, is the complement to the predicate of the first part (this predicate is the act of the subject of the first part), thus completing the characterization of the subject of the first part: the dead are made to writhe in pain under the waters / the wicked are not so, they are like chaff.
  • In the third segment, on the other hand, this entity from the second segment is the object of the action (they inhabit them / it is driven by wind).

From this juxtaposition, one can see that it is the disjunctive accent of the second segment that the Masoretes wrote to precisely indicate the object on which the action in the third segment is performed. Thanks to this rule, the interpreter of this sentence knows that what is important here is the action: the water’s dwelling / the chaff’s sweeping.

Because of this analogy of tripartite structures separated by identical emphases, one can infer that Job 26:5 has the following content, in analogy to Psa 1:4:

Psa 1:4: The wicked are not so – but they are like chaff – which [this chaff] the wind drives away.

Job 26:5: The dead are made to writhe in pain – under the waters – and they inhabit them [those waters].

One must see this translation of Job 26:5 in the broader context of this book. Here are the subsequent verses – 6 to 14 – that depict the magnificence of God by showing His absolute supremacy over the most remarkable powers of reality known to man. Verse 6 is particularly essential in this regard:

Job 26:6: Naked is Sheol/ Hades (שְׁאוֹל, ᾅδης) before Him, and Abaddon/Destruction (אֲבַדּוֹן, ἀπώλεια) has no covering.

One can see that Job 26:5-6 depicts the immeasurability of the power of God, the penetrating power of His glance so great that nothing escapes His attention – even reality as inaccessible to man as the Abyss [22]. Hence it follows that since the dead / the shadows are made to writhe in pain under the waters, it is by God’s command. Therefore they live and suffer there under the waters because it is according to the command they have received from God; they are there because God sees them and verifies whether they are there. So they must be there; they must obey His command.

To summarize the Old Testament analyses thus far, we must conclude that God willed that the life in the postmortem Abyss – whether in depths of earth or depths of waters – would be associated with suffering for at least some of the dead. One will take this biblical teaching into account in reading the Revelation contained in the Apocalypse of St. John.

3. The revelation of the Abyss and its three states in the life and teaching of Jesus.

3.1. The revelation of the Abyss-Gehenna.

From the beginning of His teaching, Jesus called for repentance of sins, for a change of life. The people of many cities did not respond to His call, even though He performed many miracles there. At that time, Jesus cried out like this:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! […] And you, Capernaum, are you to be lifted to heaven? You will descend to Hades (ἕως ᾅδου καταβήσῃ). For if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Therefore I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Mt 11:21. 23-24).

This Jesus’ cry was to remind that the wicked descend into the Abyss and suffer there according to the guilt of wasting God’s gift of grace: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum wasted many of God’s gifts, which Sodom did not have in the Old Covenant times, burned with fire and brimstone for their sins (cf. Gen 19:24).

The spiritual state of those who have died in such grave sin and descended into the Abyss is what theologians [23], drawing on biblical data, call the state of the Abyss-Gehenna, in contrast to the revealed other two groups that one will discuss below.

The image of the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah – God’s punishment for the terrible sins of its inhabitants – was taken over by the hagiographers of other Scriptures (cf. Gen 19:24; Psa 10:6; Isa 30:33; Ezek 38:22; Lk 17:29) [24], and among them and St. John in the Apocalypse to show eternal punishment in the lake of fire and brimstone (cf. Rev 19:20; 2:10. 15). The passage from the prophet Isaiah is meaningful here, where God announces through him:

Isa 30:33 For Topheth (תָּפְתֶּה) has long been ready. Indeed, it has been prepared for the king. He has made it deep and large, a pyre of fire with plenty of wood; the breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, kindles it.

For a complete picture of the punishment of the fire of Gehenna, one should note through what Israel used to defile herself on the hill of Topheth in the valley of Ge-Hinnom (גֵּי בֶן־הִנֹּם), just outside the walls of Jerusalem: the Israelites practiced there the burning of their sons and daughters in the worship of the idol Moloch! – cf. 2Kings 23:10; 2Chr 28:3; 33:6; Jer 7:31-32; 19:2-6; 32:35.

The Abyss-Gehenna is a state of still temporal suffering which, however, will ultimately be perpetuated at the end of time – according to the predictions of the prophets already discussed above. The Apocalypse – about which a little further – also reveals the possibility of the existence of this state in the Abyss.

3.2. The Revelation of the Abyss-Paradise.

In words spoken to the good wrongdoer during his agony on the cross – “today you will be with Me in paradise” (ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ – cf. Lk 23:43) – Jesus revealed and confirmed the Old Testament data that in the Abyss, into which both Jesus and the two wrongdoers will descend in a moment, is the state of Paradise – the place of abode of those who die as perfectly righteous. The good wrongdoer received from Jesus complete forgiveness of sins and punishments in response to his request for salvation, coupled with his honest evaluation of his sins and Jesus’ holiness (cf. Lk 23:39-42). The evil wrongdoer did not receive such an promise – he, too, will go to the Abyss, but not where Jesus and the good wrongdoer: he will go either to the Abyss-Gehenna or the Abyss-Purgatory.

The existence of the Abyss-Paradise was also revealed by Jesus earlier – in the parable about the rich man and poor man, Lazarus. Namely, after death, the poor man was carried to Abraham’s bosom (εἰς τὸν κόλπον Ἀβραάμ), while the rich man to the Abyss, where he was, being in torments (ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ […] ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις – cf. Lk 16:22-24) in the flame. Lazarus, on the other hand, was being comforted. The passive form used in Lk 16:25 to express the condition of Lazarus and the rich man – “but now he is being comforted, and you are being tormented” – νῦν δὲ ὧδε παρακαλεῖται, σὺ δὲ ὀδυνᾶσαι – is the theological passive. It was God Himself, therefore, who had already now (νῦν), even before Jesus’ Descent into Abyss, performed judgment on them both and differentiated their condition in Abyss.

3.3. The Revelation of the Abyss-Purgatory.

The proclamation of Jesus’ Descent into Abyss and Resurrection from it has been the primary task of the Church from the beginning (cf. Acts 2:25-32; 3:14 n; 4:10; 8:35; 13:33; 17:3.31; 23:6).

St. John relayed in his Gospel that Jesus’ death – and thus, related to it, His Descent into Abyss – is a judgment on the “ruler of this world” (cf. Jn 12:31-33) and the victorious struggle of Jesus as the Lord, King, against another ruler – the devil. Jesus came to earth to destroy the works of the devil (cf. 1Jn 3:8).

In the First Epistle of St. Peter, Apostle taught the faithful: “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who once were disobedient” (1Pet 3:18-20). The Apostle then explains (1Pet 4:6):

εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη, ἵνα κριθῶσι μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκὶ ζῶσι δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι.

For it is why the good news was preached even to the dead so that they might be judged as men in the flesh but live according to God in the spirit.

Looking for the best understanding of the verb in the passive form, thus as the theological passive, εὐηγγελίσθηto evangelize – one can find out that it means ‘to proclaim the good news of a victory won by a ruler over another ruler in battle’ (cf. 1Sam 31:9; 2Sam 1:20; 4:10; 8:19-20.26.31; 1Chr 10:9; also in a slightly different context: Psa 68:12; 96:2; Joel 3:5; Nah 2:1; Isa 40:9; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). Thus the meaning of the statement should be so rendered:

For it is why good news about His victory over Satan, being Abyss’s ruler until now, was proclaimed by Jesus Christ even to the dead, so that they might be judged as men in the flesh but live according to God in spirit.

Therefore, Jesus Christ proclaimed salvation from submission to Satan to those of the dead, who were being punished [25] for disobedience, imprisoned in the Abyss-Purgatory – in prison under Satan’s rule. It does not concern the dead being in the Abyss-Gehenna because they cannot be saved from eternal condemnation, according to the Revelation already given to Israel (cf. Dan 12:1-2). Christ’s descent into the Abyss is a triumphal procession, held among countless multitudes of the dead, who in thanksgiving and praise received the expected blessing of salvation [26].

4. Individual Judgment After Death versus the Final Judgment.

For further analysis, it is necessary to discuss the judgment that God holds over each man immediately after his death. St. John in Revelation states that he saw that there were already in heaven the souls of the martyrs who cried out to God to avenge their blood, and who in response received the following decision and instruction (Rev 6:11):

And there was given (ἐδόθη) to each of them a white robe; and they were told (ἐρρέθη) that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

The words highlighted in the text are passive grammatical forms, i.e., the theological passive. It is God Himself who gives these dead – as their judge – a white garment, that is, introduces them to participate in His own life and that of other inhabitants of Heaven. It takes place certainly while simultaneously temporal life lasts yet because God says that other inhabitants of the earth are still to give their lives as they had given – as a testimony of fidelity to Him. Thus, it is true that everyone who dies is judged by God immediately after one’s death and is either allowed or not to participate in the first resurrection, that is, in the exit from Abyss-Paradise to Heaven. One will provide in the next section a detailed discussion of the first resurrection.

If a dead man belongs to the first group, he already participates in life in Heaven; if he belongs to the second group, he participates in the life of Abyss and will exit from it at the command of God no later than on the Day of Last Judgment. We know from Old Testament teaching, especially from the Second Book of Maccabees, that prayers for the dead can be answered by God. God can purify the dead in the Abyss, and – since Christ already has the keys of it – He can admit them to Heaven before the Last Judgment. It is important to remember that this cleansing is done by the power of Christ the Savior (cf. 1 John 1:5; Rev 7:14; 22:14), not by the power of prayer alone.

Rev 20:4-6 reveals the same truth about judging each of the dead immediately after one’s death. Namely, this text shows that simultaneously to the lasting of temporal life on the earth, some of the dead are qualified to participate in the first resurrection: without God’s judicial examination of each person’s deeds, it would be impossible to justly qualify some of the dead as deserving the first resurrection.

It follows from the presented biblical data that the Last Judgment will not change the judgment as to salvation or condemnation that God makes over each person immediately after one’s death: one who has suffered torments in the Abyss-Gehenna will not be saved; one who has suffered in the Abyss-Purgatory will not be condemned. This judgment is the final presentation of the results of the judgments that had to take place immediately after each person’s death in order to give some a share in the Abyss-Gehenna, others in the Abyss-Purgatory, others in the Abyss-Paradise (before Christ’s Resurrection), or in the first resurrection (after Christ’s Resurrection).

5. The first resurrection (Rev 20:4-6).

The Apocalypse of St. John presents and explains in its specific way – through a series of images – what must happen and is already happening by God’s command and according to His salvation plan in the period from the coming of Christ to earth until the end of temporal time and the beginning of new heaven and new earth (cf. Rev 1:19). It presents events that take place either in heaven or on earth, showing the mutual influence of events of these two places on each other, and especially the effectiveness of God’s judgments concerning the inhabitants of the earth and the diabolical powers of evil that have a deleterious influence on some people.

Apart from the symbolically depicted scene of Christ’s descent into the Abyss and the imprisonment of its former ruler, Satan, in its deepest place (ἄβυσσος – cf. Rev 20:1-3), none of the other events of the Apocalypse take place in the Abyss.

Nonetheless, since there are many scenes with the dead in heaven, who have already now (i.e., when still the worldly time lasts – cf. Rev 14:1-5.13; 20:4-6) passed before God’s throne, it means the Apocalypse reveals that some of the dead comes out from the Abyss into heaven. These dead are endowed by God with priestly and kingly dignity and function, which they fulfill before God and the Lamb, Christ. This exodus, ordered by God, from the Abyss’ darkness to heaven illuminated by God’s glory is what the Apocalypse calls the first resurrection.

To understand what is the first resurrection, revealed in John’s Apocalypse (cf. Rev 20:4-6), it is essential to note that:

  • Fundamental biblical teaching points out the relation between the dying of man and his departing from this world to the land of the dead, the Abyss. The act of dying means gradual ceasing to be here and simultaneous inaugurating to be there – in the Abyss.
  • The Old Testament expectation that God has the power to release all people from the Abyss was confirmed by Christ’s Resurrection, that is His coming out of the Abyss, after defeating the ruler of it, the one “who held the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).
  • The second death (ὁ θάνατος ὁ δεύτερος – cf. Rev 2:11; 20:6.14, 21:8) – is the eternal punishment of remoteness from God, imposed by Him on those who will be brought out of the Abyss with all men for the Last Judgment, but as the wicked will be rejected by Him forever.
  • The second death of people is described in the Last Judgment scene (Rev 20:11-15) – those not found written in the book of life are cast forever into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the devil and his servants were cast a little earlier.
  • The second death will certainly not strike those who participate in the first resurrection.
  • Not all the dead participate in the first resurrection – it is only available to those who in worldliness were faithful absolutely to Christ until their death.
  • Participants of the first resurrection are to be with Christ as priests and kings for a finite period (a thousand years) until the Last Judgment.

One should emphasize, contrary to many commentators [27], that the first resurrection characterized in this way does not apply to those still living on earth – after all, until their death, everyone may voluntarily withdraw from fidelity to Christ and die away from Him and consequently deserve the second death.

Such an interpretation is proved by the exhortation which Christ addresses to the church in Smyrna, subjected to trials: “Be [become/be found] faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (γίνου πιστὸς ἄχρι θανάτου – Rev 2:10) [28], and also the exhortation which He as the Risen One addresses to the unbelieving Thomas, hitherto, after all, faithful to Him: do not be [do not become/do not turn out] a disbeliever, but a believer – καὶ μὴ γίνου ἄπιστος ἀλλὰ πιστός (John 20:27).

It is important to remember that the entire history of the Chosen People proves that someone faithful to God can in time, however, choose to depart from Him. The prophet Isaiah (1:21) sadly poses the question in the name of God: “How has the faithful city Zion become a harlot? It was full of reason, in which righteousness dwelt, but now murderers!”

πῶς ἐγένετο πόρνη πόλις πιστὴ Σιων, πλήρης κρίσεως; ἐν ᾗ δικαιοσύνη ἐκοιμήθη ἐν αὐτῇ νῦν δὲ φονευταί.

People who have been faithful to Christ to the end of their mortal lives descend into the Abyss through death, for they are subject to the same consequence of original sin like all other people: “they are gathered to their people/ancestors/family” [29]. If Christ had not yet come and descended into the Abyss through His death to defeat the devil as ruler of it and take his power over all the dead, they all would remain there – in the darkness of Abyss (cf. Acts 2:27.31: ᾅδης – Hades).

However, since His Descent into Abyss and Resurrection from it, Christ has held power over death and Abyss. He proclaims in the Apocalypse 1:18:

I was dead, and behold, I am alive forever and ever, and have the keys of Death and Abyss (Hades).

καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρὸς καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶν εἰμι εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων καὶ ἔχω τὰς κλεῖς τοῦ θανάτου καὶ τοῦ ᾅδου.

That is why Christ as the ruler of Abyss now can lead from there those whom He chooses as being faithful to Him. They do not have to wait with others in the Abyss until the Last Judgment, but Christ leads them out of there to heaven.

Another argument for the claim that the first resurrection does not apply to those living in mortality but those living after death is Rev 20:4. St. John, writing in Rev 20:4-6 about the first resurrection of chosen people and characterizing those chosen ones, communicates that he saw ‘the souls of those beheaded for their witness to Jesus and the Word of God.’ The Greek expression τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν πεπελεκισμένων – the souls of those whose heads were cut off with an ax [30] – does not apply to people living on earth, bodily: it is because they have their heads.

The correctness of such interpretation is also proved by the parallelism between Rev 20:4 and Rev 6:9. The Apostle communicates in Rev 6:9 that he saw in heaven under the altar souls (τὰς ψυχὰς) killed because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained [31].

The life of souls in the glory of heaven until the Last Day is described in several passages in the Apocalypse (see, e.g., 6:9-11; 7:9-12; 14:13). From the commentaries of biblical scholars on these texts, it appears that there are already some saved people in life with Christ; they are resting from their labors because they were righteous; still new saved people are joining them; they do not yet have bodies; this state applies not only to the martyrs but also to the broad multitude of the righteous [32].

Therefore, the first resurrection is the passing of some dead – those who have been faithful to Christ until death – to the state of being with Him in heaven until the Last Judgment begins. These dead will surely be with Christ at the time of the beginning of the Last Judgment, and the outcome of that judgment will undoubtedly be positive for them – they will receive a crown of life, they will not go to eternal damnation.

It is worth noting about the Apocalypse that where the events taking place in heaven before the Last Judgment are depicted, and people take part in them, these people are the very ones who took part in the first resurrection. The Apocalypse shows several times that they have a real influence on events taking place on earth because they, as priests and kings, ask God for His intervention, and He does not deny them to fulfill their requests.

The statements above make it possible to apply A. Jankowski’s commentary [33] on Rev 6:9-11 to them all – all who share in the first resurrection:

The souls of the martyrs not only are in heaven but live intensely there since they conduct a dialogue with God, an effective dialogue. God responds to them with a gift which is a white garment, a symbol of heavenly triumph. In later categories of dogmatic theology, it could be described as beatitudo essentialis – having the already essential happiness of people saved before the resurrection of their bodies. It is quite understandable that in John as a Jew who knows the eschatological views of late Judaism and conclusions correctly drawn from the Old Testament data, there are data relating to the state of souls after the body’s death and before its resurrection to the Last Judgment.

It is a logical consequence of the existence of this priestly and at the same time royal state of the celestials during the temporal period, and thus until the time of the Last Judgment, that when the Apocalypse begins the description of that Judgment, it presents them without further explanation as being at the throne of God (cf. 20:12).

To fully document the veracity of the last statement, a lexical-grammatical analysis of the Greek text is in order.

6. The vision of the Last Judgment in the Apocalypse (Rev 20:11-15).

6.1. Introduction.

The Apocalypse states that immediately before the Last Judgment, Satan will be released from his prison (Rev 20:7), and he will battle against the Church of saints on earth but will be defeated and thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur forever and ever (Rev 20:7-10).

Then the Last Judgment will begin, the separation of the good from the bad – those written in the book of life and those not written. Everyone will receive retribution according to the deeds recorded in the books of deeds.

Before analyzing this fragment of the Apocalypse, one should note that whether or not someone’s name is written in the book of life cannot be understood as a confirmation of the predestination theories, which proclaim the predestination of some people to salvation and others to damnation. These theories have been rejected by the Church’s Magisterium [34]. Every person’s name is written by God in the book of life from his beginning; God erases one’s name out of there only due to committing evil deeds by him (cf. Ex 32:33) [35].

Every man is destined from his conception for eternal life. The Book of Wisdom glorifies God as the lover of life, not death:

“However, you have mercy on all because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men that they may repent. For you love all things that are […] For what you hated, you would not have fashioned” (Wis 11:23f).

The Apocalypse says this about the righteous:

“He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments,

and I will not erase his name from the book of life” (Rev 3:5).

καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς

On the other hand, Psalm 69[68]:29 gives such a command concerning wicked people:

“May they be blotted out of the book of life,

and may they not be recorded with the righteous.”

The description of Judgment [36] in the Apocalypse (20:11-15) consists of three parts, written in sequence: 20:11 – 20:12 – 20:13-15.

6.2. The first part of the description of the Last Judgement (verset 11).

And I saw a great white throne

and the One sitting on it,

from whose presence earth and heaven fled away,

and no place was found for them.

St. John begins his description of the vision of the Last Judgment – as most vision descriptions in the Apocalypse – with the phrase And I saw: καὶ εἶδον. At the very moment when the scene of the Judgment in heaven opens before the visionary’s eyes, he sees a throne, and on it the sitting God-Judge, from whose face the temporal heavens and earth are already gone forever. The biblical writer thus indicates that all temporality has its end at this moment. For this reason, the Judgment that will be shown in the next verses should rightly be understood as the Last.

6.3. The second part of the description of the Last Judgement (verset 12).

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne,

and books were opened;

and another book was opened, which is the book of life;

and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

The visionary – beginning the sentence of the next verse again with καὶ εἶδον – reports that he now sees the dead, small and great, standing before the throne of God. The Greek verb used here, expressing the fact that the dead are standing/being before the throne of God – is the active participle of the perfect tense. When an author writing in Greek uses the perfect tense for a verb, he wants to draw the reader’s attention to the result of the action [37].

St. John, therefore, indicates that when he perceived what was happening before the face of God sitting on the throne, it turned out that there he saw the people already standing, not still coming. Those standing before the throne of God are all those who were arriving there before St. John saw them. Moreover, the Greek word itself – ἑστῶτας as a participle of the verb ἵστημι – emphasizes not so much the standing position as the very fact of being in a particular place [38].

It is now worth recalling the results of literary analyses of the Apocalypse, particularly the descriptions beginning with καὶ εἶδον, made through the application of contemporary literary research theories and methods. In their light, prophetic vision, especially when it occurs suddenly, implies a visual perception that is gradual so that the eye spots reality little by little. Thus, in these descriptions, the object of vision is first located in a place, then identified, and finally described in such a way that its most characteristic, or at least striking, features are revealed. In this way, the narrator allows the listener/reader to contemplate with him both what he sees and how he sees it [39].

St. John, therefore, first perceived God-Judge on the throne, and after a time – His immediate surroundings. The lexical-grammatical data and the peculiarity of the description of the type καὶ εἶδον make it possible to read precisely the biblical writer’s intention. Namely, he emphasizes that at the very moment when it was given to him to see the surroundings of God’s judgment seat, it turned out that there – before God sitting on the throne and about to proceed to judgment – were already people who had once died.

So these gathered before God sitting on the throne and about to judge are those who have been here in heaven before God’s throne until the Last Judgment began.

It is important to note that the visionary did not write about this group of the dead, that he saw here first God sitting on the throne and then the arrival of those who were to be judged by Him. This group of the dead is here from the very beginning of the vision – they are here with God in heaven before this scene is revealed to the visionary. In contrast, it will be different in the next verset, which will present the judgment of another group of the dead – those whom the sea, Death, and Abyss will only release in a moment.

Therefore, the second fragment is a vision of Judgment only on those who have participated in the first resurrection. This conclusion follows primarily from the fact that those judged were already standing before the throne (verset 12 c) and thus were in heaven (cf. Rev 7:9.15; 8.2) [40] before the Judgment began.

It is also significant where those dead stood – they stood before the throne of God [41]. It shows that they are those who were priests before God and the Lamb, for it is part of the priest’s duty to mediate between God and the people, and hence the necessity of standing before God (לִפְנֵי־יְהוָה – cf. the fundamental role of Moses as the organizer of worship and Aaron as high priest in the Pentateuch, e.g., Ex 27:21; 33:34).

It is clear from earlier passages of the Apocalypse that the honorable title and function of priest of God and of Christ (20:6) the Apocalypse ascribes exclusively to the dead accessing the first resurrection during the thousand years (20:4) and reigning with Christ in heaven until the Last Day. Their priestly manner of mortal life – witnessing to Christ to the point of giving their lives – predisposed them to perform this function after death. It follows from this observation, too, that the second part of the description of the Last Judgment concerns those who participated in the first resurrection, not those who did not – Rev 20:5:

οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔζησαν ἄχρι τελεσθῇ τὰ χίλια ἔτη. Αὕτη ἡ ἀνάστασις ἡ πρώτη.

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.

All the dead belonging to the first group judged are evidently written in the book of life, for there is not even a supposition of the possibility of condemnation of any of them in the fragment presenting the judgment on them. The existence of such possibility, on the contrary, will be unveiled in the next fragment, which describes God’s judgment on the remaining dead.

The Last Judgment on those who participated in the first resurrection consists only in the appraisal of their greatness according to what is written in the books of deeds – God will unveil who is great, who is small [42].

6.4. The third part of the description of the Last Judgement (versets 13-15).

13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it,

Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them,

and they were judged, each one of them, according to their deeds.

14 The Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.

This is the second death, the lake of fire.

15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life,

he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The third fragment is a vision of the Last Judgment on those who had no part in the first resurrection because they only now were given up by the sea, the Death, and the Abyss. This happened after God judged the first group, consisting of those who had previously arrived before His throne in heaven [43].

Characteristic in this fragment is the conditional statement of verset 15: “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life.” This remarkable statement reveals that among the dead leaving Abyss only for the Last Judgment can be those who did not deserve to be written in the book of life and those who deserved it.

Conditional statement of verset 15 would be unnecessary if the names of all the dead were recorded in the book of life or if non of them were recorded in it. The analyzed conditional statement is a clear and undeniable revelation of the Abyss-Purgatory and the Abyss-Gehenna, i.e., the existence in the Abyss of two groups of the dead who suffer there until the Last Judgment:

  • a group of people suffering there as being in the process of their gradual cleaning of the consequences of their sins, in order to finally enter the New Jerusalem, into which nothing unclean can enter (cf. Rev 21:27),
  • a group of people suffering terrible tortures there and destined to suffer forever and ever in the lake of fire and sulfur, away from God and His saints.

As a result of the opening book of life, it turned out that some of the judged people are written in the book – they are from Abyss-Purgatory. They were in Abyss to be cleansed of all their deficiency and be ready to enter the community of saints. Already while being in the Abyss-Purgatory, they were assured of their salvation [44]. Others turned out to be not written in the book of life – they are from the Abyss-Gehenna. Already while being in the Abyss-Gehenna, they were assured of their damnation [45]. Their eternal existence is torment in the lake of fire (verse 15 b), which they were already experiencing to some degree in the Abyss.

Death and Abyss will exist until the time of the Last Judgment, and not before, but only on the Day of Judgment, when they give up the dead, they will be thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur.

6.5. Grammatical differences between the second and third parts of the description of the Last Judgment.

At the end of the analysis of the second and third fragments, it is worth noting that in the second fragment the acts of judging – books were opened (ἠνοίχθησαν), another book was opened (ἠνοίχθη), the dead were judged (ἐκρίθησαν) – are in the aorist in the passive form, and thus in the grammatical form called the theological passive [46] – it is God himself who performs these acts.

On the other hand, two verbs are used as the participle of the perfect tense, i.e., a tense highlighting the importance of the effect of an act that had already taken place. The first verb – ἑστῶτας – represents those standing before God’s throne, the second – τῶν γεγραμμένων – their deeds’ records in the books. These acts – arriving before the throne, recording in the books – have already taken place. What is more, the second participle is in the passive form, so it represents the theological passive – it was God himself who had already prior recorded the deeds of those standing here.

In the third passage, however, the theological passive is applied to act of judging of the dead (ἐκρίθησαν – verset 13), to act of throwing Death and Abyss into the lake of fire (ἐβλήθησαν – verset 14) and – what is meaningful – to all the verbs of verset 15:

καὶ εἴ τις οὐχ εὑρέθη ἐν τῇ βίβλῳ τῆς ζωῆς γεγραμμένος, ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρός.

And if anyone’s name was not found (οὐχ εὑρέθη – aorist) written (γεγραμμένος – perfect participle) in the book of life, he was thrown (ἐβλήθη – aorist) into the lake of fire.

The sentence of verset 15, therefore, states that:

  • Before God proceeded to judge, it was He Himself during each person earthly life who individually decided to write him or not in the book of life.
  • Now, on the other hand, at the time of judgment, God Himself verifies whether or not the name of the particular person being judged has been written there by Him.
  • If it appears the name of the man being judged is not written there by Holy God, He now throws him into the lake of fire.

The purport of this sentence is very poignant: no one else but only God Himself, the Just Judge, has been deciding before about recording or not-recording of the name of a particular person in the book of life, and during the judgment, no one else but only God Himself checks the fact of this record and executes the sentence in accordance with it.

Such a poignant message could not have been placed in a random place in the Apocalypse. The fact that St. John, on behalf of God, recorded the course of the Last Judgment as a successive judgment of two groups of people, towards whom he used a grammatically diverse description, must be noticed:

Solely concerning second of these groups – the group coming out of the Abyss not before but only to the Last Judgment – God communicates the possibility of a shockingly painful judgment of condemnation, and this according to that record, that He Himself made during mortal life of the person now being judged.


The main purpose of this exegetical study was to show the validity of the Church’s belief in the existence of Purgatory as a truth revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. This task was carried out based on the observation that the Abyss as the place where the dead stay after death is an indisputable biblical truth that must, however, be correctly understood.

When Christ descended into the Abyss, He changed it, not annihilated. This event is the point connecting the Old and New Testaments’ revelation. By His life and teaching, Jesus does not question but confirms all truths which God contained in the Old Testament through the teaching of holy leaders of Israel, prophets, and sages, right up to the time of His coming as the incarnate Son of God into the world.

Christ’s incarnation – and consequently His bodily death and descent into the Abyss – is the act of The King who enters the kingdom of death and conquers its ruler. He, who reveals in the Apocalypse that He has the keys of Death and the Abyss, leads already in the mortality out from there to heaven those whom He judges worthy of the first resurrection and the reigning with Him until the Last Judgment begins.

The description of the Last Judgment in Rev 20:11-15 presupposes the truth of the existence of three spiritual states of the dead. Description of Judgment concerning the first state – those participating in the first resurrection and arriving before the throne of God in heaven until the vision begins – is contained only in Rev 20:12. Then, the existence of two different states in Abyss – Purgatory and Gehenna – is revealed by the description of the Last Judgment performed on those who are not yet before the throne of God in heaven, but who will be released by sea, Death, and Abyss not before but only for the Judgment. The crucial is the conditional sentence: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).

Job 26:5-6 shows that in Abyss – under waters – the dead dwell and suffer because God ordered it after judging them immediately after their death. This truth makes it possible to fully comprehend the images given by St. John of the three parts of the vision of the Last Judgment, the third of which also concerns those whom the sea will give up only to the Judgment. This truth shows that there is biblical proof for the Catholic concept of Purgatory as the place and state of suffering after the death of those who will be accepted into eternal happiness at the latest on the Last Day.