The Rich Man and Lazarus (Part 3)
Jesus concluded His words pertaining to the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:27-31:
"Then he [the rich man] 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.'"

Although the rich man pleaded, all the begging in the world won't do a bit of good after death (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). His double attempt to use Lazarus as his servant shows the difficulty he is having in adjusting to his new circumstances. He requested that Lazarus be sent back to Earth in order to bring the rich man's brothers to repentance. The rich man wanted to prevent his family members from coming to torment also.

It is tragic that the rich man is now interested in soul-winning, because it is too late for him to have any influence. Those who are truly wise and compassionate will be motivated to strive to win souls now (cf. Matt. 28:19,20)! Can you imagine what the rich man's family would have thought if one from the dead tried to tell them that their brother was lost and that they needed to repent?

"They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (Luke 16:29). Abraham declares that the rich man's family has the Old Testament, and that they should hear (and obey) its message.

The rich man didn't realize the power that is in God's word (cf. James 1:21; II Tim. 3:16,17) for he denied that his brothers would repent if they had nothing more than the Old Testament (probably because such didn't bring him to repentance). If anything can be said complementary about the rich man, it is this: it appears he pleaded more for his brothers than he did for himself. But, his begging was in vain.

Abraham responded by informing him that if his family could be brought to repentance, God's word would be sufficient to accomplish the task. The rich man was mistaken in thinking that Lazarus' testimony to his brothers would add something that the word of God could not supply. The fact is that he had a false view of repentance, thinking that something sudden and miraculous would necessarily produce it. If they wouldn't hear God (through His word) then they wouldn't have heard Him through Lazarus either. They would have found any number of ways to dismiss Lazarus' testimony he brought from the grave.

Jesus had already proven that principle true by raising at least two people from the dead (cf. Matt. 9:18ff; Luke 7:11ff), yet many of the Jews remained in their unbelief. This truth would also apply regarding Jesus' death and resurrection. Those who refused to hear the testimony of the Old Testament concerning Jesus would not be led to believe even after learning of our Lord's resurrection (cf. John 5:46,47).

When one studies this context and the rest of the New Testament passages that deal with the life hereafter, one will learn that at death every human spirit, whether righteous or wicked, goes to the realm of Hades (i.e., "the region of departed spirits"; cf. Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27). The Hebrew word corresponding to Hades is "Sheol." Hades is not the same as hell ("gehenna"), but is a temporary holding place for spirits for the period of time between their death and resurrection. Hades will cease to exist at the final resurrection (cf. Rev. 20:13,14; I Cor. 15:50ff). Within the realm of Hades there are two locations: "Abraham's bosom" and "torments." Abraham's bosom is also referred to as "Paradise." It is where the spirits of the righteous go at death (cf. Luke 23:43) to be comforted until the final judgment where they will then be allowed to enter heaven for all eternity. "Torments" is also referred to as "Tartarus" (cf. II Pet. 2:4). It is where the spirits of the wicked go at death and are tormented until the judgment where they will be sentenced to eternal suffering in hell with the devil and his angels (cf. Matt. 25:41). There is a great, dividing gulf that cannot be crossed that separates these two areas. Since one's spirit immediately goes either to Paradise or Tartarus at death, then one will automatically know whether or not he will ultimately end up in heaven or hell, and there is nothing that can be done to change the destiny one has chosen (cf. Heb. 9:27).

There are some scholars who believe that after Jesus' resurrection, Paradise was moved from Hades into heaven. Trying to prove or disprove this complicated idea is difficult and not within the scope of this study. Let us be satisfied to say this for now: If this idea is true, then the faithful are immediately taken to heaven at death; if it is false, then the faithful are taken to Abraham's bosom to remain in comfort until the second coming of Christ. Either way, the faithful will never suffer again after death and will sooner or later enter into their heavenly home!