Prior to Christ’s resurrection, all who died went to “hell” however, the just went to a place in hell referred to as “Abraham’s bosom” where they would be comforted until the gates of heaven were opened. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) indicates that there were two parts of hell. Both Lazarus and the rich man died and went to hell, but Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom while the rich man was in a place of torment. A great chasm separated the two parts. Christ opened the gates of heaven for those in Abraham’s bosom when he descended into hell after his death.
The *Catechism of the Catholic Church * (paragraph 633) explains, “Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell”—Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek—because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.”
For more information see the *Catholic Encyclopedia * article, “Bosom of Abraham”
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