"There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and
fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain
beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21
desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table.
Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the
beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich
man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he
lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 "Then he cried and said,
'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the
tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in
this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime
you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now
he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between
us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass
from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'
27 "Then he said, 'I
beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,
28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also
come to this place of torment.' 29 Abraham said to him,'They have Moses
and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father
Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31
But he said to him,'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither
will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'"
The majority of
Americans today do not believe in hell; it's considered such an
unpopular subject that the experts insist that church leaders should
avoid speaking of it in order to retain their personal credibility
and be more seeker-sensitive.
However, Jesus Christ Himself believed in Hell--He taught on it more
often and more extensively than any other person in the Bible--so the
follower of Christ has a tough decision to make: (a) either Jesus was
deluded and subject to all the misguided popular opinions of His day (in
which case, why be a Christian at all?), or (b) there is in fact such a
place as hell, and Jesus, being the Son of God, knew all about it.
The latter conclusion
would seem to make sense. If He knew of the place, if He had seen it,
and even been party to its design, then He would know of its horrors
better than anyone else, and be more anxious to warn people to avoid it
at any cost.
The account of the rich
man and Lazarus in Luke chapter sixteen seems to indicate that Jesus did
indeed have personal knowledge of Hell, and some special information on
it, too. Notice, first of all, the way He introduces the story...
There was a certain
rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously
every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores,
who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell
from the rich man’s table.
Some have called this a
parable, but when Jesus introduced a parable He usually said something
on the order of, "the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed..."
(Mt.13:24,31,33, etc.). But in the case of the rich man and Lazarus He
simply stated, calmly and matter-of-factly, "There was a certain rich
man..." It’s as though He was familiar with this particular case. In
fact he calls Lazarus by name, something He does in no other parable in
the Bible. Why? Because this is no parable. There was a real man named
Lazarus, and this is a true account. It's not "like unto" something--it
is something factual.
We should also notice
that in this story Jesus gives us more information about hell than any
other passage in Scripture. Most of the passages simply mention its
existence, and, possibly, who may be expected to go there. The story of
Lazarus and the rich man actually describes the place, and more...
So it was that the
beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.
The rich man (sometimes known in
church tradition as "Dives") and Lazarus were kept in separate places,
but they could see each other. Lazarus was in a place referred to as
"Abraham’s Bosom," (see vs. 23), or, in other passages of the Bible,
simply as "Paradise" (Lk.23:43, 2 Cor.12:4). This was the place where
righteous people were kept before Jesus died for the sins of humankind.
You see, prior to His death, even the righteous weren’t completely
forgiven—their sins had been "passed over" but not finally dealt with.
Before the blood of Christ was shed, and God’s justice satisfied, even
the saints of the Old Testament could not enter into heaven. But because
of their faith in the promised Messiah, they were kept in a safe,
peaceful place in the underworld.
After the death and
resurrection of Jesus, Abraham’s Bosom was emptied out, and Jesus led
the souls of the righteous out of that place and into heaven (see Eph.
4:8-9). The way had been made and now the righteous could freely enter
into the presence of God.
...The rich man also
died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his
eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried
and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he
may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am
tormented in this flame.’
Dives, the rich man,
was kept in another place in the underworld. We could call it "hell
proper," or by its New Testament name, Hades. This is a place of
torment, as our text illustrates. There are questions that remain
unanswered, such as ‘how can a soul feel pain?’ Apparently, they do,
however, and the sensation can be most accurately compared to that of
burning. The illustration is used again and again in the Scriptures, so
it must be the closest experience we have in our physical bodies to
compare to it.
The Chasm or
Bottomless Pit. Dives looked out and saw Abraham and Lazarus, and
requested some relief. Relief was impossible, for, as Abraham noted,
"between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want
to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
(vs. 26). That great gulf or chasm between Paradise and Hades is
quite likely the same place that is referred to elsewhere as the
bottomless pit (see Rev.9:1-2, 17:8, 20:1-3, etc.). It may even have a
proper name, Tartarus, the Greek word translated hell in 2 Peter
2:4 and described as the "pits of darkness."
And I say to you, My
friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that
have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear:
Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell [Gehenna];
yes, I say to you, fear Him!
There is also another,
entirely different, place referred to as Hell in the Bibles. It
is referred to by a separate word in the original Greek language of the
New Testament. As we’ve noted, Hades is the name of the place
where Dives was held and tormented. Gehenna is the other place,
and it refers to the final state of the unredeemed. Hades is a kind of
county jail where the lost are held until their appearance at the great
judgment seat of God. Gehenna is the federal penitentiary that they are
cast into afterwards. The name comes from the garbage dump outside of
Jerusalem, in the Valley of Hinnom, where fires were kept burning
constantly. In the book of Revelation this second hell is called either
the "second death" or the "Lake of Fire."
Then I saw a great
white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the
heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the
dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And
another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were
judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the
books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades
delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one
according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of
fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book
of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
If hell is
simply a figurative place, the Bible sure goes to great lengths to
describe it in detail! If you die in sin, you will go first to Hades,
where you will be held in torment that can only be described as fiery.
Then, at some future date, you will be called up to stand before God,
who will have you thrown into the Lake of Fire, or Gehenna, if your name
is not written in the Book of Life.
But isn’t God loving
and kind? Yes, He is. From cover to cover the Bible depicts Him as a God
of great patience and mercy, eager to forgive, and to go to great
lengths to save people from the predicaments they find themselves in.
But sin has separated us from Him. If we understood the depth of sin
perhaps we could understand why the punishment is so severe. In any
case, it is not for us to question the justice of Hell (our opinion will
not carry much weight, in any case) but rather, to find out what we must
do to insure that our names are written in the Book of Life.
What Must We Do?
This is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all
about. God loves us and doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. So He sent
His Son to die for our sins. Jesus wasn’t just a nice man, a prophet and
teacher worthy of imitation. He was (and is) the very image of God. He
lived as a man, with one exception—He was sinlessly perfect—and He died
on a cross for our sins. (see 2 Pet.3:9, John 3:16-17, Heb.1:1-3)
Of course, our sins are
not automatically forgiven just because Jesus died. If that were true,
there would be no justice at all; regardless of your behavior or
beliefs, all would go to heaven: Adolph Hitler and the Apostle Paul,
Sadam Hussein and Mother Teresa would all receive the same judgment, and
none would be cast into the Lake of Fire after all. But the Bible
indicates that many will perish and go to Hell.
To apply Christ’s
forgiveness personally you must repent of your sins and believe in Jesus
Christ (see Acts 20:21). As Jesus called on people to follow Him in his
earthly days, so He’s looking for disciples today—those who would
believe enough to change their lives, and commit themselves to Him. If
you haven’t yet decided to become a real, Bible-believing Christian, why
don’t you do so today? Tell God frankly that you know you’ve failed Him,
but want to change all that; that you believe in the Son He sent to save
you, and want to be His disciple; that you receive His death and
resurrection personally, that you want to link up your life with His.
Then get into a church that really teaches the Bible, so you can grow
and develop in your new faith and make some Christian friends. Jesus
came to give life us more abundantly. Why would anyone prefer to go to
"I call heaven and
earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life
and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you
and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that
you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your
Did you know...
that Hell is referred to over three hundred times in the New Testament?
There are 11 references to Hades, the place where the rich man
went immediately after his death; 12 mentions of Gehenna, the
final abode of the lost; and one reference to Tartarus, the pit
where the angels who left their place in heaven are kept. The remainder
refer to hell by such descriptive names as "everlasting destruction,"
"outer darkness," "flaming fire," and "Lake of Fire."
How Long Is Eternal?
are used in the New Testament to describe the duration of one's stay in
Hell. Jesus referred to Gehenna as a place "where their worm does not
die, and the fire is not quenched," (Mk 9:44). "Worm" is a Hebrew
metaphor for human consciousness and memory. In Revelation it says that
in hell the devil, the beast and the false prophet shall be "tormented
day and night forever and ever," (Rev.14:11, 20:10). Furthermore, the
same word "everlasting" is used in the Bible for "everlasting life" and
"everlasting fire." If you take away the eternity from the fire you also
take it from the life of those who are saved.
All Scripture quotations
taken from the New King James Version
Copyright © 1998 Kim
Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.