“The righteous shall flourish…
like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)


The righteous shall flourish…

like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)

In Hell

“But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:4)


In the 16th chapter of Luke’s gospel we find a most amazing account, one stirring all manner of thoughts and concerns and evasions through the centuries.  It’s the only Bible portion describing the actual experience of an unsaved soul after death.  Jesus tells there of a man who lived in luxury but gave no thought to God, and of one who lived in poverty but found everlasting life with God.

Listen to the words of Jesus;

Luke 16:19

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:”

Here was a man who was rich in this world’s goods.  The things money can buy were all of his enjoyment.  We’re not told that he was a bad man.  He might have been a rather good man.  We are not told that he came to wealth by doing wrong things.  Perhaps he was quite an honest bloke.

“Which was clothed in purple and fine linen” – Purple was an expensive colour in Christ’s day.  They harvested purple dye back then from a certain rare shellfish, each one producing only a drop of usable colour.  For this reason purple was the colour of kings and nobles and the wealthy of earth.  “Fine linen” was a very costly material as well.  So this man wore the richest clothing of his day.

“And fared sumptuously every day” – He ate magnificently as well.  Life was a fabulous feast for this man.  Yet as we soon discover, his soul was lost!  Thus we are taught important lessons;

  • That people are not to be valued according to their possessions.
  • That one’s condition before men is no indication of his condition before God.
  • That wealth does not suggest God’s favour, nor does poverty imply God’s disfavour.


Luke 16:20-21

“And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.”

Now the contrast in this man Lazarus.  Here was a man utterly poor, and with some nasty disease that covered his body with sores.  Lazarus was laid at the gate of the rich man, apparently by family or friends.  So even his own people had no time or care for him.  Not even they would spare a bit of food to satisfy his hunger.  And so he was laid at the rich man’s gate, that the wealthy might perhaps pity this poor man with table scraps.  Whether he found help there we’re never told.  We hear no charge of unkindness against the rich man, nor do we hear of any care given.

“Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores” – So Lazarus was left to lay uncovered, his wounds available for the dogs.  Seems he was so weak he could not even fend them off.  Shut out from human compassion, he received only the attention of dogs.  An image of the most complete misery!


Luke 16:22

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;”

So the beggar at last passed away.  Nothing is said of proper ceremony or burial.  Nobody cared for him on earth.  But somebody cared in heaven!

“And was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” – Oh what a wonderfully comforting image!  That the angels carried Lazarus obviously refers to his soul, his actual person.  And notice that “angels” is plural here.  So how many angels does it take to carry a soul?  More than one?  Of course not.  It took only one angel to roll away the stone from the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:2).  Yet multiple angels gladly shared in the joy of carrying this saved one to comfort.  This is such a tenderly touching aspect!  Leaving a forsaken, lonely existence on earth, Lazarus was immediately met with such interested care.  Jesus spoke in Luke 15 of the angels rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of a sinner (vs. 10).  And now He describes angels welcoming and attending to this believing man as he leaves this world for the next.  He was touched, handled, tenderly carried not just to a place, but to a person.  And not just to Abraham’s presence, but to his bosom.  Carried to comfort and closeness.  Carried to an embrace!  Those who die in Jesus could not be in better hands, now at rest and among friends in that blessed place where all is compassion.

“The rich man also died, and was buried” – A needed reminder that death is the common end of rich and poor alike.  Not even this man’s great wealth could fend off man’s last enemy.  Death is no respecter of people.  It does not know to treat the rich differently from the poor.

With mention of the rich man’s burial we assume there was a ceremony with many attending and words spoken and tears shed.  His wealth made possible great earthly fanfare, but of course the rest of his possessions were left to others.  Men carried his body to an expensive tomb, but no angels carried his soul to eternal rest.  For an end had now come to his “good things”.


Luke 16:23

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

Who can imagine the horror of the moment!  Awaking to lift the eyes there, and looking upon eternity!

Look well at the obvious here.  In hell;

  • “He” keeps his personhood, for it’s still “he”, the same person.
  • He can see, lifting up his eyes.
  • He has full awareness.  He’s able to recognize Abraham, and he knows Lazarus as that miserable man who lay outside his gate.  This is no detached, ethereal state, but full conscious awareness.
  • He is even allowed to see the blessing of the redeemed, in contrast to his own miserable situation.  Oh how the tables have turned!
  • He has full ability to feel the torment of the flame.

Don’t be deceived my friend!  There is indeed a hell for those who will not repent, a place of conscious suffering for the lost.  And there is a heaven for the redeemed, a place of conscious comfort for the saved.


Luke 16:24

“And 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.”

He is able as well to communicate there, as if he still had tongue and lung, though of course now without a body.  He expresses desire and pleads with Abraham for help.  He has thoughts, ideas, and wishes there.  In every sense he is in complete possession of his faculties as when in this life.  Yet now without any of the comforts he once knew.

“Father Abraham, have mercy on me” – How little he had thought of mercy, until he was on the hoping end of it.

“That he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue” – Though in his life he “fared sumptuously every day”, yet now he longs for even the smallest relief.  What an incredible change a few moments have made in the situation of both men!  Where before it was the poor man wishing for a crumb from the rich man’s table, now it’s the rich man wishing for a drop from the poor man’s finger.  He does not ask to be removed from his suffering, for somehow he knows that is not possible.  He asks only for some smallest easing of his misery.  But alas, even this is not possible!


Luke 16:25

“But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”

Abraham’s answer is calm and fatherly, yet offering absolutely nothing!  Though this man is a Jew, addressing Abraham as the father of his people, yet he finds no help in that godly ancestor.  The greatest of ancestors cannot help one who dies in his sin.

“Abraham said, Son, remember” – So one still has the ability to remember in hell, being fully able there to think back to opportunities he threw away here.  It may perhaps be one of the greatest torments of hell.


Luke 16:26

“And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence [here] to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence [there].”

Any passage between the place of comfort and the place of torment is impossible because of a great, impassable chasm between.  This describes the utterly unchangeable state of man’s condition after death.  Interference is not allowed on either side, neither of saved souls in their rest nor of those perishing in their misery.

When Abraham said “between us and you” the word “you” is plural behind the English (“between us and you all”), suggesting that there are others in that place of torment as well.  Yet did you notice that there is not the least indication of others there?  It’s as if this man is utterly alone, his eyes and hopes fixed only upon those on the other side.  Though there are indeed many who end in hell, it will be no place of friendships or companions, no party where all the friends will be.  There will be nobody there one can call on for help, as this one attempts to do with Abraham.  That great gulf between describes the separation, the distance, the desperate aloneness of hell!  Those there will never know the tender, caring touch of another ever again!  Every soul there is so completely consumed with their own unimaginable misery that there can be no thought of sympathy for others there.  Just imagine no empathy from anyone who might be called a friend, ever again!

Now many consider this account in Luke 16 to be just another parable.  I was recently chatting with an individual who argued that we don’t go to heaven or hell when we die.  In our discussion I mentioned this portion in Luke 16.  “Oh that’s just a parable”, he immediately replied.  “Just a parable”.  As if that writes it off from any real life (or death) experience?  As if that dismisses what Jesus said?  Question – Does it really matter if it is “just a parable”?  Did Jesus ever use untruth or unreal circumstances in composing His parables?  No!  When He told parables He spoke of real life situations, things that really happen among men.  Did He ever draw from mythology or superstition or fables in teaching truth through parables?  No.  So what exactly are we saying by dismissing this account as “just a parable”?  That it’s not a real life situation that people experience?  Is Jesus using non-reality then, a falsehood in fact, in order to teach some truth?  No, of course not!  He speaks, as always, of things real people actually experience.

As well, never in His parables does the Lord use proper names.  It’s always about a sower or a householder or a woman or a merchant man.  But here the Lord names both Lazarus and Abraham.  (Though the name of the man in torments is not even given, as if the name of those who perish doesn’t matter, famous though they might have been on earth.  Yet the Lord knows those who are His and calls them by name, and has even written their name in His Book of Life.)  So did the angels not actually carry a man named Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom?  Do you see the problem with suggesting that this is a parable?  Are we saying Abraham really did not say the things Jesus said that he said?  Do we then have the One who is “the truth” actually speaking a falsehood concerning Abraham?  Is that really what we want to say about the God who cannot lie?

How much wiser to understand this as an account of two men who lived on earth.  There was a man named Lazarus who died.  And though utterly poor, his body likely buried in obscurity, yet his soul really was carried to that place of conscious rest and comfort, with all who are saved.  And there was a rich man who lived and died without God’s salvation.  And though the wealth he left behind surely provided a fine burial for his body, yet his soul, his true existence, ended in hell.  And there he has continued in torment to this day, in the very worst kind of poverty and misery and loss imaginable!  For he has lost his own soul!  Poor man now rich, and rich man now poor!

There is such warning here for us, to flee from the wrath of God, to flee to the only place of safety God has given in Jesus Christ.  When that man opened his eyes in hell and began his eternity Abraham said, “Son, REMEMBER . . .”, pointing back to his life on earth and opportunities here.  Memory will be as a worm there that never dies!  Memories of times when he had access to God’s word here, heard and understood it, but would not have it!  His life and interests were too full of things money can buy.  And now he has a hell of memories to endure there as well.  Memories of times when he considered being saved, wanted to perhaps, hesitated, until the moment passed with its pressing desire.  Memories of times when he thought he should pursue it, should speak to someone, should open his Bible and chase some fleeting thought, never got to it, until the interest dried up and drifted away.  Memories of pressing challenges and pleading invitations to believe in Jesus.  Memories of the conscious awareness of his need of sin forgiven, yet putting it off, hindered by pride, robbed by it in fact, fearing the things he might have to give up, until it was too late!  Memories!  Tormenting memories, that will haunt his soul throughout eternity!

“And you mourn at the last . . . and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof” (Proverbs 5:11-13),

. . . until it was just too LATE!

God calls you now to confess before Him that you are a sinner, and to believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life.  Jesus came to this earth 2000 years ago as the Son of God and Saviour of man.  He came to die for us, in our place.  Men hated Him and killed Him, but Jesus then did the impossible.  He rose from death, showing Himself alive!  And now every soul who believes in Him receives His promise of resurrection from death to eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [born] Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God calls you now, today, to believe and receive, for “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).




Lord, I confess that I am a sinner who deserves no mercy, but only Your righteous judgment…


I believe Jesus died in my place for all my sins…


I ask you to forgive me…


I receive Jesus as my own Saviour!


“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).