The idea of "limbo" originates in some Roman Catholic traditions as the idea that a soul dwells in a state between heaven and hell after this life. This is sometimes applied to those who die from outside of the Catholic Church or children who die before being baptized or even in association with purgatory. However, the Bible does not provide support for such an existence.
Some have sought to interpret Luke 16:19-31 as an account from Jesus that supports the idea of limbo. However, a close look at the passage shows that after death only two locations exist—Lazarus at Abraham's side in the presence of God and the angels, and the rich man in everlasting torment. In fact, when the rich man requested for Lazarus to come and cool his tongue with water, Abraham said, "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us" (Luke 16:26). No "limbo" existed, only eternity with God or eternity apart from Him in torment. It is true that there will be a new heavens and a new earth, so in one sense there is a temporary heaven and hell; but there is no place in between heaven and hell from which people can alter their eternal destiny.
Further, this passage also stresses the eternal nature of the afterlife. The rich man could not "earn" his way out of eternal torment nor change his situation in any way. This clearly stands in contrast with the Roman Catholic tradition of purgatory that teaches a person still has the opportunity to change one's situation after this life or that the actions of those in this world can help a person move forward in the next life.
A proper understanding of the afterlife emphasizes the clear teaching of Jesus—that salvation is necessary now in order to receive eternal life. Jesus taught, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). His desire is for all to believe in Him. However, eternal life is given to those who believe in Him. This is apart from works, so no one can boast or earn his or her way to heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Further, there is no other way to eternal life. In John 14:6, Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." In Acts 4:12, the apostles affirmed this message, saying, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Limbo, as a place in between heaven and hell similar to purgatory, does not exist according to Scripture and never has existed. All people immediately enter eternity with God or apart from Him upon death. Though this may seem harsh to some, the reality is that the offer of eternal life is a gracious gift paid for through the death of Christ as the ultimate act of love. He offers eternal life as a free gift to all who trust in Him (Roman 10:9-10).
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