Perhaps there’s no mystery. Perhaps you have a take on it.
We speak here of 1 Peter 3:18-20, which says: “He was put to death insofar as fleshly existence goes, but was given life in the realm of the spirit.
“It was in the spirit also that He went to preach to the spirits in prison.
“They had disobeyed as long ago as Noah’s day, while God patiently waited until the ark was built.”
Does this not sound like purgatory — since Jesus is teaching and leading, an indication that He could convert and take the souls with Him?
Or is the “prison” hell?
If it is purgatory, that’s fascinating in itself, for Noah is thought to have lived 1,000 to 2,500 years before Christ, indicating a long stint in that netherworld, that “prison,” indeed. Notes one interpretation: “Who are said to be the objects of Jesus’s preaching? ‘The spirits in prison’ who ‘formerly did not obey.’ But who are these ‘spirits’? According to some, they’re the souls of Old Testament believers, whom Jesus liberated from captivity and brought with Him to heaven. The message that Jesus proclaims—His death and Resurrection—is therefore good news to them.
“Others have taken these ‘spirits’ to be condemned souls who rejected Noah millennia earlier. For such individuals, Jesus is confirming their condemnation by proclaiming his victory over them and all his enemies in His death and resurrection. (Some interpreters have seen Jesus offering a postmortem opportunity for faith and repentance to these ‘spirits in prison.’)”
That seems like a more Protestant view.
At any rate: purgatory can be a long time indeed.
We know this, among other places, from Fatima, Portugal, where on May 13, 1917, during the first apparition to the three shepherd children, the eldest visionary, Lucia dos Santos, asked the Blessed Mother about two of her friends who’d died. The Lady responded that one was in Heaven, but the other, named Amelia, would be in purgatory until the end of the world.
How can this be?
A priest supposedly made some inquiries about Amelia and discovered that, though she had died a penitent death, Amelia, who some report was eighteen, had tainted herself in the matter of purity with her brother-in-law. (We’re not certain of this.)
In another realm altogether, a woman who had a famous “crossover” experience, Angie Fenimore, of Washington, used the same word “prison” in describing what happened to her when she attempted suicide.
And a long stay?
“Sitting next to me was a man who appeared to be about sixty years old,” she said. “This man’s eyes were totally without comprehension. Pathetically squatting on the ground, draped in filthy white robes, he wasn’t radiating anything, not even self-pity. I felt that he had absorbed everything there was to know here and had chosen to stop thinking. He was completely drained, just waiting. I knew that his soul had been rotting here forever. In this dark prison a day might as well be a thousand days or a thousand years.
“His clothing suggested that he might have walked the earth during Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry.
“I wondered if he was Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed the Savior and then hung himself.” Though Protestant, she added, “I knew that I was in a state of hell, but this was not the typical ‘fire and brimstone’ hell that I had learned as a young child. The word purgatory rose, whispered into my mind.”
Keep in mind that prophecy and private revelation, notes the Divine Mercy website, “often speak in terms of things that will be — unless. For instance, in the biblical Book of Jonah, the Prophet Jonah goes to the people of Nineveh and tells them that in forty days, their city will be destroyed. And so Nineveh would have been destroyed — except that the people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s words, were struck to the heart, and responded by doing penance in sackcloth and ashes. So God, in His infinite Love and Mercy, forbore to smite the people.
“Another example of prophecy mitigated by prayer and sacrifice is the repeated proclamation throughout Christian history that the end is near, the Second Coming at hand, and for people to repent and prepare themselves for the final coming of Christ. Great saints at times, such as St. Vincent Ferrer, have proclaimed that theirs was the time of the end. And yet here we are today. What happened? Probably, people responded with penance for their sins as the Lord God wished, or else He in His mercy withheld the time of the end so as to give us time to repent and be saved.
“So when Our Lady told Lucia that Amelia will be in purgatory until the end of the world, perhaps that information was intended to help spur on Lucia and those whom she would tell about Our Lady’s apparitions to pray, fast, and offer suffrages on behalf of Amelia and all those who, like her, owe a great debt of temporal punishment due to sin.”