In Luke 12:47-48 (KJV) Jesus says,

47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

What is the traditional understanding of this passage, and does it support a time of purgation?

  • At the final judgement Sodom will be judged lighter than Capernaum. (Luk 10) Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 22:55

5 Answers 5


I would not usually answer a 'what is the traditional view' of a bible verse, being that many verses have divided views and are surrounded by controversy, however in this case most seem to agree. Furthermore you add a second question which in a theological one that almost seems to beg for the clarification 'according to a Catholic view' but here again traditional Catholic and Protestant views seem to agree on this verse.

The basic context is that Jesus is giving a parable about servants who manage a house when the master is away. The obvious application is teachers/preachers/priests or whatever each denomination might call them and their behavior in taking care of the church, while the master is on a long trip. Some teachers will misbehave very badly, in ways we can't imagine. Actually beating other servants just for the fun of it as well as getting drunk and so on. When the master comes home he is ready, and rightfully so, to totally assign these wicked men 'with the unbelievers' (v46). Also as we instinctively demand it from our sense of right and wrong, it is mentioned that those who do what is worse will find hell with the unbeliever to be worse. In other words, just as there is a gradation in glory of those in heaven, there is also a gradation of punishment for those in hell.

When looking at the history of the church after the age of the Apostles it should be clear that Jesus was not exaggerating the absolute unfaithful misbehavior of many so called church authorities that have abused the people. Jesus is simply saying he will cast them into hell and be beaten more then the regular sinner.

Now regarding purgatory. This is a Roman Catholic belief whereby a Catholic who has committed an unconfessed minor/venial sin can have it sort of burned away through some punishment, so to speak, and then enter into glory. However even in the Catholic commentaries it is clear that the sins spoken of by Jesus are serious, or under a Catholic definition, 'mortal' sins. Therefore, regarding the Catholic belief of purgatory it is not applicable to this parable. Under the Catholic scheme purgatory does not sort out unconfessed mortal sins. Of course for a Protestant the answer is the same since no bible verse supports the concept.

  • When you say something is "begged for"...'according to a Catholic view' " are you talking about purgatory? I'm asking since I just added an important comment to another question... hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/8948/2873 Thanks. Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 22:05
  • @JohnMartin - Yes, I meant it with reference to purgatory as I think only Catholics believe in that concept.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 21, 2014 at 23:40
  • @Mike Thank you for your answer! What begs the question is this one, along with 1 Cor. 3:15-17 seem to refer to a 'fire of reproof'. Whereas one can make the case for'many stripes/few stripes' in Hell-although eternal torment is promised to those who are there-how does "few stripes" fit in, in the 1 Cor. 3:15-17 passage it explicitly says "...he shall be saved, yet so by fire", which is clearly a reference to a time of purgation-although I don't want to call it "Purgatory". What it does call into question is the notion of "Instant Sanctification" when a believer dies, and gets resurrected.
    – Tau
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 6:14
  • @Mike I realize from reading my comment it sounded rather oblique. To summarize: 1)If Hell's torments last for all eternity, how does one escape with 'few stripes'? 2) How do you reconcile "he shall be saved, yet so by fire"? 3) Is "Instant Sanctification" at the time of death/resurrection supported by these passages?
    – Tau
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 6:23
  • @user2479 - I see what you mean. I think the common view is that these two versus are not related. The Luke ref is about different degrees of punishment for 'unbelievers'. Some receive hard beatings forever, others receive lighter blows forever. The Corinthian is about all the lost time and wasted efforts the weakest 'believer' might become aware of, even just as the eternal relief of being saved from a burning house snatches him up into glory. Burnings of wasted works for believers versus beatings of condemned souls for unbelievers.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 10:21

I will add only one additional thought to Mike's fine answer, above, particularly regarding his singling out "teachers/preachers/priests" as the primary "target" of Jesus' teaching on stewardship.

Jesus was speaking, of course, to His followers. Peter in fact asked his Lord if he was speaking to him and his fellow disciples or to "everyone else instead" (v.41). Jesus' response to Peter was,

"'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?'" (v.42).

In other words, Jesus' words were primarily directed to stewards, or true believers, and not to unbelievers. Jesus' point is that His true followers are stewards of everything entrusted to them. Today, for example, not all believers have public spiritual gifts such as pastor, priest, teacher, leader, bishop, elder, deacon, and so on. Each of us has, however, been entrusted by God with a gift (or spiritual gift mix, as Christian writer C. Peter Wagner puts it).

The clear teaching of Scripture in this regard is summed up as follows:

"For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7 NAS).

Put differently, whatever gift(s) we've been given, they are just that: gifts, given to us by God. In the crassest of terms, perhaps, God has made an investment in all His children who believe in His Son, and He expects a return on His investment, much like the master of slaves who went on a journey. Before he went, however, he entrusted one, two, and five talents, respectively, to each of three of his slaves, *according to their ability.

In today's money, one talent would be about $360k, with two talents worth $720k, and five talents $1.8M. The master's expectation was for each slave to invest his respective number of talents so that when the master returned, the talents would have earned more talents.

Likewise as Christ's bondslaves, if God has given us the gift of helps, for example, then we are to function within the body of Christ as cheerful helpers and servers. If we have the gift of giving, we're be faithful, generous, and inconspicuous givers (see Matthew 6:1-4). If our enduement is encouragement, we're to encourage those who need encouragement. And the same goes for the leader, the pastor-teacher, the prophet, the person with discernment, the administrator, those who show mercy, and so on.

In conclusion, Jesus in His teaching in Luke 12 was not targeting just "teachers/preachers/priests," but He was addressing as well each and every believer. Since each of us has been given a function within the body of Christ, God expects us to function in our area(s) of giftedness as faithful stewards of God's good gifts. As Paul concluded in his letter to the Roman Christians,

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly, according to the proportion of his faith" (12:6 NASBUE).

And to the Corinthian believers he said,

". . . moreover, it is required of stewards that [they] be found trustworthy" (1 Corinthians 4:2 NASB).


The concept of differing degrees of punishment touches on a subject which appears throughout the New Testament. Since Jesus in Luke 12 was addressing believers, the punishment of which He speaks is not eternal damnation in hell; rather, it is akin to the loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ [, the bema], so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

In Paul's first Corinthian letter, he puts it this way:

". . . each man's work will become evident; for the day [of Christ's judgment at the Bema] will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work . . . remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (3:13-16 NASB, my emphasis).

Potentially, at least, the most difficult verse in Jesus' teaching here is verse 46, where we read

". . . the master of that slave [i.e., the wicked slave who says to himself "My master is delayed"] will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the unfaithful" (NET Bible).

If the NET Bible is correct, the word unfaithful can be linked to the notion of faithfulness, which appears earlier in Jesus' teaching. In other words, each "bad" and unfaithful slave will be assigned a place with all the other bad and unfaithful slaves who did not truly believe the master when he said "I'll be back!" (a la Schwartzenegger's Terminator).

Even so, there can be unbelievers among believers, yes? Not unbelievers who fail to believe IN Jesus, but believers who fail to BELIEVE Jesus when He says "I'll be back, so be faithful!" These unfaithful ones could also be called carnal, or fleshly, Christians (see 1 Corinthians 3:3). Yes, the punishment sounds severe (the NET says "cut . . . in two"; dicotomew in Greek), and it is. Along with the other punishments, however, it is simply the most severe of the three (viz., few stripes, many stripes, being cut in two).

As for the notion of instant sanctification at the time of death (or resurrection), this passage does not teach that, I believe. Our sanctification may cease when we die, but we Christians still have to face the Judgment Seat of Christ, where our works will be put through the fire (and we'll be saved, "yet so by fire")

While the Bema is not a judgment of punishment but, rather, a judgment of rewards or lack thereof, the loss of rewards is similar to punishment, though from one point of view that punishment is self-inflicted, as it were, since unfaithfulness is a choice we all can make throughout our lives here on earth. Wood, hay, and stubble, or gold, silver, and precious stones: the choice is ours!

  • Thank you, Don, for your answer! I won't repeat the same comment I made to Mike-but I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.
    – Tau
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 6:16
  • @user2479: I was glad to. See the "addendum" in my answer. I hope it helps. If not, feel free to ask further questions. Don Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 15:11
  • Thank you Don, for your astute comentary! I appreciate how it adds to understanding this difficult subject.
    – Tau
    Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 18:33
  • @user2479: You're welcome, I'm sure. Thank you for your encouragement. Don Commented Apr 22, 2014 at 19:59

The real answer to this question is, Is Christ's death is payment in full for all sin?:(Heb. 10:10-18)

"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin."

Through this passage, it addresses both the consequence of sin, and the sanctification from sin. This is inferred by Jesus's statement in Luke 12:58-59,

"When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. 59I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite."

We are to go to Christ and 'give diligence' that we, through his shed blood, are delivered from the consequences of sin." It also says in 1John 1:9,

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Therefore, the thought of future "satisfaction from sin" through a time of purgation is not supported in Scripture; as to the "More Stripes/Less Stripes" issue of Luke 12:47-48, in the previous verse(46) it says,

"The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers."

It is a moot point to contemplate whether or not one's stripes are 'more or less', if eternal judgement lasts forever, what is the difference? To "pay the last mite" when you haven't the means to do so, means no matter what the level of debt incurred is, it is beyond your ability to pay. Therefore, the point of the passage is to remain watchful(vs 37),

"Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."

One cannot 'count' on a period of time where they can 'make-up' for what they failed to live out during their lifetimes.

This doesn't address the 1Cor 3:15-17 passage,

"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."

There 'appears' to be a 'fire' that will try all those who are in Christ; some say it happens during our on going process of sanctification,

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."(2 Cor 3:13)

Others say, in context of the verse, that at the Final Judgement our true character will be revealed, by a sovereign 'burning off' of false motives and imperfect actions.

Another explanation, which I favor, is when Christ returns to reign, in the Millenial Age, He will rule until:

"He hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all".(1 Cor. 15:25-28)

What 'enemy' is being subdued if Satan is "bound" for a thousand years(Rev. 20:1-2) and I don't 'buy' for 1 second that he is 'bound' now; we are NOT living in resurrected bodies, and Christ is NOT reigning from Jerusalem-contrary to Covenant Theology.

Futurists represent this period as a 'Restoration of all things' period, it began with Christ's death and resurrection, it will be consumated during this period when believers will "rule and reign" and subsequently, be ruled and reigned over until we reflect those "gold, silver, and precious stones" of 1 Cor. 3:15-17. Our "Justification" is assured, but it is "God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure"(Phil. 2:13)

Since "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion(Ps. 2:6)" and the angels told the disciples that, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven"(Acts 1:11), there will be a Physical Reign of Christ on earth. The apostles will judge the 12 tribes of Israel during this time:

"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel"(Matt. 19:28).

Dispensationalists have not fully explained how the 12 Apostles can reign with Israel during this period, yet the rest of the church "be at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb", whereas Futurists see Israel and the Christianity being transformed during this Age. I believe this "age" to be the time of purgation-not of payment for sin, which we have proved wasn't the case, but(Rom. 8:18-19)

" For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God."

Christ will reign, until every 'enemy' of the human heart (fear, jealousy, pride,etc.) has been overcome, and we reflect the pure image of Christ. Satan will be released for one last time (Rev. 20:7-9) along with the unjust, to attempt to deceive the world 1 last time. He will be rebuffed, and then the White Throne Judgement, and the New Jerusalem, afer the former world has been burnt up.

The "purgatory" or "time of purgation" I believe is the Millenial Reign of Christ on the earth.


I consider this differently and very much in the light of the catholic Church's teachings re Purgatory. For even the most perfect believer isn't spotless enough to be One with a perfect God, so an outer sanctuary - if you will - of Heaven where we are washed with the Blood Of The Lamb makes sense.

Otherwise why pray for the dead, something even the earliest church did (this is not a 'modern' invention by the Vatican).

For we have to understand that our Creator is not a vengeful God, He created us to spend eternity with Him and He suffers when He and His Heaven is rejected and a soul then ends up in Hell - God does not SEND us there!

I see 4 levels of The Dead....

Unbelievers who attack Christianity and reject Him are in Hell. God suffers when that happens, but they made their own choice to not want to be in Heaven.

Christians who have sinned (eg. breaking their marriage vows by re-marrying) after their Baptism are Saved into Heaven (no doubt about their salvation), but are 'punished' (cleansed) in this outer sanctuary.

Non Christians who have not sinned are also in this outer sanctuary, but certainly being 'cleansed' (but less than sinful Christians)!

Perfect Christians (eg. aborted babies, children and Saints) go past this cleansing area very quickly.

Not possible? Pray about it. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with Love and wisdom. Feel free after that to respond here - I'd love to learn how I can be wrong, thanks.

God bless!

  • Hello skris, welcome to BHSE, so glad to have you here! If you have time, make sure to take the tour to read more about how site works and what makes us different than other sites. Thanks! hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour
    – sara
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 10:05
  • Will do. Thanks.
    – skris88
    Commented Aug 22, 2019 at 13:12
  • Skris-Many people don’t understand Catholics’ interpretation of Purgatory. I believe no sin is allowed into heaven, and I should try to confess all of my sins while here on earth. Chances are I won’t be able to prior to death though. I believe Purgatory is a final cleansing stage on the way to heaven. It is not a “punishment” point. Nor were my confessions on earth. I consider the best reading that I have regarding Purgatory to be one that non-Catholics either don’t have or no longer have, 2 Maccabees 12:38-46. Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 20:26

I believe the background for the idea of stripes being greater because of knowledge originates in the Talmud:

...The Gemara continues. And it is written: “And behold, the man clothed in linen with the slate by his side, reported the matter saying: I have done as You have commanded me” (Ezekiel 9:11). Rabbi Yoḥanan said: At that moment, they cast out Gabriel from behind the curtain [pargod], where the inner angels reside, and they struck him with sixty blows [pulsei] of fire. They said to him: If you did not do it, you did not do it; if you did do it, why did you not do it according to what you were commanded but deviated from what you were instructed to do? Moreover, after you already did it, do you not have knowledge of the principle: One should not deliver a report about destruction? If one is sent on a mission of destruction, he should not deliver a detailed report of its success but should only hint at it...

For a closer look at this section of the Talmud please see this related answer.

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