In this second part of our discussion about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, we get a small glimpse of heaven and hell. Keep in mind this is prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Also, keep in mind I am no expert, but this is just my take based on what I have read in the Bible.
Several words have been used in the Bible to describe where one goes when they die. A general term used is Hades or Sheol. In the story of Lazarus, Hades is a place of torment for the wicked and unrighteous. Abraham’s bosom is where the righteous go (before Jesus’ resurrection when He declares victory over death and Hades). Jesus also called this Paradise, as He did when talking to the thief on the cross). After the resurrection, people go to heaven or hell, those who believe go to heaven, those who do not go to hell. Gehenna is when final judgement (the Great White Throne Judgement) occurs, where the unrighteous will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (the second death).
“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. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 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. 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.’ 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. 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.’
“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 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.’ “
Notice the state of the rich man. Even in hell, he did not repent. He still thought others should serve him. He was not remorseful for the way he treated others or that he did not trust God, but demanded that Abraham send Lazarus to his family so that they do not go to hell. At least he had the heart for his family to not end up where he did. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day seemed to have the same arrogance. They thought they were better than everyone, even Jesus. They were more interested that everyone followed the rules (much of which were devised by them for their own power and gain) than having compassion or helping others to have a closer relationship with God. And Jesus often called them out, as he does here. As He says, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ Even after His resurrection, they tried to make excuses and quiet the believers by any means possible.
Some people say there is no hell. But the Bible is very clear. Hell is real and so is the devil. One of the devil’s greatest lies and tactics is convincing people that hell and the devil are not real. And it is not a big party where all your friends will be. It is a place of torment, condemnation, and separation from God. Likewise, heaven is real, for those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ. It is a place of comfort and peace, a place where we can have eternal life in the presence of God.
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.
The Bible describes two judgements. The Judgement Seat of Christ, or The Bema Seat (2 Corinthians 5:10), is for believers. It is to determine their rewards, or crowns, that they will receive in heaven. The Great White Throne Judgment is for those who did not accept God’s grace, His free gift of salvation, by believing and trusting in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave His life as a payment for our sins and rose again on the third day to declare victory over death and sin. Those who have accepted that gift are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
We know how the story ends. The devil and his minions will be cast into hell in the end. Hell was originally created for Satan because of his rebellion against God.
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Hell was prepared for the devil and those who follow in his ways. But, the good news is that God also prepared a place for those who believe and follow Jesus Christ, who have been declared righteous because of His grace and sacrifice.
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth
We who trust in Jesus have hope which is laid up in heaven. It is the kind of hope that gives us assurance of what is to come. Ephesians 1 says that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance which Christ has prepared for us.
There was more to say on this subject than I realized, so we will discuss heaven in more detail in Part 3 of Lazarus and the rich man.