Total Pageviews

Sunday, 19 August 2012

What is Hell? Pt 2 - Rich Man and Lazarus

This blog is the continuation of my last one, What is Hell? - The Fall Of Lucifer - and I recommend reading the first article if you have not done so yet, before reading this one.

The inspiration in writing these two articles was gotten from another blogger on this website who posted an article about the lake of fire, and I felt a confirmation of my long held suspicion over the "one size fits all" theory that the fiery lake of burning sulphur will be the final destiny for every soul of those who had lived and died without the rebirth of his spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. The suspicion originated on basically two issues here, both found in the Bible. The first one is that this lake of fire will be the final destiny of Lucifer and his angels. As pointed out in my previous article, Lucifer and his angels - in fact the whole of the realm, were spirits. They never had bodies. So how would a physical fiery lake affect them?

The second cause of concern I felt was that when Jesus Christ spoke of the afterlife, he referred to two different kind of destinies for the lost. One was the fiery lake or furnace of fire. The other was outer darkness, giving an impression of empty space with nothing tangible nor any source of light. In both cases the lost soul would "weep and gnash his teeth," depicting emotional torment and anger over his decision to reject or ignore the calling of God during his lifetime. Whether his eternal state would involve physical pain is a matter of opinion. Experience seem to indicate that pain causes the sufferer to forget everything else and concentrate on the affected area of his body. For example, suppose you were in debt, and as you were preparing dinner, you also were trying to figure out how to settle the debt. Due to a momentary loss of concentration, you upset a saucepan of boiling water, and you are scalded by it down your chest or across your arm. The sudden intense pain will not cause you to keep thinking about the debt. Rather you call for an ambulance, that is, if you don't fret around the room in frightful panic in the first place. If the lost soul is in intense pain, it would be the pain itself tormenting him, not the realisation of loss of eternal life in Heaven.

And I might add a third reason against the "one size fits all" eternity. That is, that the lost, at Judgement, will be judged "according to their works" (KJV) or "what they have done" (NIV). The Bible makes this clear in Revelation 20:12-13 and Matthew 16:27 that the punishment will be according on how one has lived his life while alive. Therefore a little old lady, who lived and died without ever hearing the Gospel, would not get the same level of punishment as, for example, Adolf Hitler who slew six million Jews in the Holocaust, or Joseph Stalin who had many killed for not adhering to his Communist manifesto. On the other hand, it does look grossly unfair for the little old lady, who was faithful to her husband and had never done anything maliciously wrong, to be immersed in fire for all eternity while at the same time, a strapping trucker, who had pub fights and bar brawls in his younger days, enjoys Heaven for having placed faith in Jesus Christ.

And what about the great many throughout history who lived and died without ever hearing the Gospel (and this would include all in Old Testament times.) It looks to me that in these cases, judgement will be by conscience. Romans chapters one and two seems to say a lot about this, stating that at first, creation itself provides testimony of God's greatness and power. Then Paul writes that his law is written in their hearts, with the conscience being the alarm whenever a sin is committed. But the conscience can be seared and the desire to sin grows with time. The person becomes aware of his wrongdoing, but grows to love this, pushing the truth about God aside. On this basis will they stand before God at the Judgement.

Then we need to consider the judgement Jesus himself makes right here on Earth, found in Matthew 25:41-46. This involves the hospitality shown to the 144,000 Jews of the seventh chapter of Revelation, of whom Christ refers to as "my brothers" (v. 40). Those on his left hand were sent to the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, just as the heavenly judgement of the lost of Revelation 20 were sent to the same place. Showing hospitality is something anyone can do, whether he has faith in Christ or not. It is tragic, as I see it, that here in Britain, which calls itself a Christian country, hospitality does not rate high in our culture as it does, so I read, in Hindu India. So I believe that this judgement, the way the Jews were treated, will be the fulfilment of the edict God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 where God will bless those who bless his descendants, and curses those who curses them.

Therefore, in my last blog, I suggested that both the eternal fire and total darkness may be illustrations of the eternal state of the lost. Much of this is to make sense of the Bible rather than swallow everything the Vatican dictates. But I, as a believer, have elderly parents who, by their own admission, are agnostics. Lately, my father, in his mid eighties, have been in and out of hospital, after suffering a series of strokes and heart palpitations. My mother struggles as she tries to take care of him. The thought of eternal fire gives me grief, believe me, it is a burden impossible to bear. But I have approached this issue with caution. I accept that I could be wrong. The lake of fire could well be a literal place. Then again, with this idea there are further problems - and this concerns the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31.

The rich man lived a sumptuous life, feasting everyday and enjoying life to the full. Outside his home was a beggar Lazarus, placed there so he could enjoy some hospitality from the rich man. Instead, the rich man's heart was like solid steel while the beggar starved. Eventually, both dies. The soul of Lazarus is taken to be comforted by Abraham, while the rich man falls asleep - and wakes up being tormented in Hell.

And here are three inconsistencies if the rich man was tormented in literal fire. One is on how he could hold an audible conversation with Abraham right across a wide gulf or chasm separating them. The other is why a drop of water placed on his tongue should bring such lasting relief if he was immersed in flames. And thirdly, after his death he was buried. This means that the rich man is suffering Hell as a discarnate spirit, without a body. And why was the tongue such an important organ for want of relief, if the whole of his soul was immersed in fire?

The tongue was his organ of taste. With it, he enjoyed such delicacies during life. But more important, his tongue was the organ of speech. With it, he cursed Lazarus as being wicked due to his poverty, and spoke of himself as righteous, his riches being proof of this. But as another blogger had pointed out, all this is a prophetic parable. After doing some research, I think we are able to identify who this rich man was, and prove how divinely the Bible is in being the true Word of God, and furthermore that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah and the risen Lord!

The rich man was Joseph ben Caiaphas, the High Priest at the time of Christ. He married a daughter of Annas ben Seth, also High Priest and one of the members of the Sanhedrin. Annas also had five sons, whom the historian Josephus was able to identify:

Eleazer ben Ananus
Jonathan ben Ananus
Theophilus ben Ananus
Matthias ben Ananus
Ananus ben Ananus

Caiaphus became son-in-law of Annas, and in Jewish custom, were as close as birth father and son, and his brothers-in-law as actual bloodline brothers. Therefore, through marriage, Caiaphas was a member of Annas' house, and his five sons became actual brothers.

Lazarus in Luke 16 was the brother of the two sisters of John 11, Martha and Mary. John tells us that Lazarus died and was buried at a nearby tomb, where he lay for four days. Jesus deliberately withheld himself for this duration to convince all that not only was Lazarus truely dead, but decomposition had set in and the corpse started to smell with decay. Caiaphas the High Priest knew this, and the Pharisees came to comfort his two grieving sisters, including Caiaphas' five brothers. Jesus was to perform a miracle that would change everything and seal his fate. After rebuking the two sisters for their lack of faith, he ordered the stone seal to be rolled open. He then called to Lazarus to come out, which he did. The miracle caused tremendous commotion among those who watched it. The common people were ready to hail Jesus as King and their Messiah, and they greeted him in this manner on his Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, by laying palm leaves on the road in front of his donkey.

But the Pharisees, despite witnessing such a miracle, refused to believe in Jesus as their Messiah and instead, they made plans to have him executed by crucifixion. John also tells us that many of the Pharisees as well as the common people went to see Lazarus as well, who must have told them over and over again what it was like beyond the grave, and how Jesus raised him up, proving that Jesus is the Christ. The five brothers of Caiaphas must have also seen Lazarus but refused to believe. Rather, according to John 12:9, they planned to execute Lazarus along with Jesus.

Christ before Caiaphas

In anwser to the rich man in Hell, by God's grace, Lazarus was sent to the five brothers by Abraham. Abraham, according to the parable, was right in predicting that the five brothers of Caiaphas' household would not believe even if he was raised from the dead.

The miracle of Lazarus was to show the population that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, foretold by Moses and the prophets, such testimony about Jesus which the five brothers also refuse to believe. But John assures us that all who believe that Jesus is the Christ has eternal life and is born of God.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus was a prophetic story told by Jesus Christ as he ministered to the Jews, and in the company of the Pharisees, who constantly monitored and questioned his teachings instead of believing in him. Jesus performed many miracles throughout his ministry, all of them to prove that he was their Messiah, yet the Pharisees remained in stubborn unbelief.

The rich man in Hell pleaded for the wellfare of his five brothers, that they may not enter this place of torment. His request was refused. I too plead for my parents. Will my request be refused too?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.

Trusting in God's goodness is all I can do.


  1. Fascinating post, as always. I too believe that punishments in hell will be uniquely suited to the life lived and sins committed by the unsaved, yet all will be eternally separated from God. It may not seem fair that a gentle old lady who never heard the Gospel would be there, yet how could a just and holy God allow entrance into Heaven to one who is not saved by faith in Christ's shed blood as the perfect sacrifice for our sins? Only with such faith can our sins be imputed to Jesus' account, and His righteousness to our account.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, and God bless,

  2. As far as your parents are concerned I believe your prayer will be answered because we are told that 'this is the confidence which we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will then He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of Him.' (1 John ch.5, vs.14,15.) What you are asking of Him for your parents is what God wants for all of mankind, so He will grant it, however He brings it about. He even goes and preaches to the spirits of the dead. All things are possible with Him and God is not a man that He should lie.

  3. God will not force anyone to go to heaven. The rich man's brothers had the law and the prophets to warn them. God told him that if they would not believe what was available, nothing else would convince them either.

    God did not refuse to save them, they refused to be saved. It is their choice. while we may be saddened to see a drunk dying of kidney failure as result of his drinking, we need to understand it was his own choice to drink that much. It is not fair to force someone else to give up their kidney to extend his life. We must take responsibility for our own choices.

  4. Excelent post, U dont want to go to hell so i look for God every single day to make life pretty for him. Thank you!!

  5. This is an excellent post, and I suspect that many people, Christians and otherwise, fret over it and worry about it too. What God has planned for saints and sinners may be beyond full understanding, and it might need a personal revelation from the Holy Spirit to understand just what Heaven is, and just what Hell is too.

    Certain problems exist. Some very zealous Christians might say that all non-believers and unbelievers will go to Hell, whilst all believers will go to Heaven. But the first problem is whether God has called a particular person; if He hasn't then how can a person be blamed for not being called? Second, as you mentioned it, what about all those people outside Jerusalem and not Jews who lived long before Jesus' day and lived far from God's Holy land? I think we have to be cautious and hopeful at the same time. None of my family and friends are Christians, and I worry about this. I have a calling on my life and it's taken me years to really serve God; what happens to all those today not called, like friends and family members? All those ordinary people not particularly evil who don't know God? I'm still waiting for answers here, but thanks for opening up a difficult topic Frank, and for writing with such clarity.