Courtesy of Irina Kolbeneva, Russian Painter.
the icon at right we see Christ
Limbo of the Fathers answers the question: Where did people go at death before the advent of Christ who opened heaven for mankind?
The story of Lazarus and the rich man which Christ told defines what is meant by the "Limbo of the Fathers". Lazarus and the rich man both died. Lazarus was taken to the "Bosom of Abraham", a place of rest while the rich man was suffering in hell. When the rich man saw Abraham and Lazarus far off he begged Abraham to send Lazarus with some water to quench his sufferings. Abraham replied that there was a chasm between the two realms which could not be crossed. Limbo was than a temporary dimension of existence where the good people who died before Christ found their abode. Christ's descent into Limbo is asserted in the Apostle's Creed as follows:
As you can see it is referred here as "hell" because Limbo of the Fathers was thought of as the border or fringe of hell. In the New Testament this realm is referred to as the "heart of the earth" because it was visualized as located in the interior or the earth. Christ himself attested to his descent into "hell" by answering the scribes and Pharisees who wanted to see a sign from him. "Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights ". (Matthew 12:40 )
Limbo of the Fathers is a truth of faith and not called into question today. What is called into question is the "Limbo of Infants" as we shall see on the next page.