Luke 16:19-31

Consider the words of Luke 16:19-31 (WEB),

19) Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. 20)  A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was taken to his gate, full of sores, 21)  and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22)  The beggar died, and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. 23)  In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. 24)  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 in anguish in this flame.'

25)  But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But here he is now comforted, and you are in anguish. 26) Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that no one may cross over from there to us.'

27) He said, 'I ask 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, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.'

29)  But Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'

30)  He said, 'No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

31)  He said to him, 'If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.'

So we see it is certain that the wicked will be sentenced to Hades.  So at least the Scriptures are clear that not all are saved from Hades.  So are we back to where we started?

Some would attempt to bypass the meaning of this story.  One strategy is to explain that the story is simply a parable, a fictional story told to communicate a general truth.  However, the account does not have the features of a parable.  None of Jesus' parables mention specific individuals by name such as this story does.  This story mentions Abraham by name.  Also if this were a parable, what would be the general truth taught?  The main point of this story is that if the wicked do not repent, they will be sentenced to Hades after they die.  The Holy Spirit is not using a parable to teach us about the certainty of Hades.  Instead he gives us a real life and afterlife account.

A second strategy often used to dispel the fear of Hell is to teach that Hell is simply the trials and natural consequence of a life lived apart from God both here and in the afterlife.  Unbelievers may say with all seriousness that a particular trial was "Hell."  One might find consolation thinking that they are surviving now without God just fine and so perhaps Hell in the afterlife will also be fine.  However, the trials of this life are nothing compared to the judgments of Hell.  The Rich man was in anguish!  Furthermore, the rich man died and was buried.  This account is not about God's punishments in this life.  In fact the account above is given to teach exactly the opposite point about the life and afterlife of the unbelieving.  The wicked man had many comforts in his lifetime upon the earth, but after life he was judged and sentenced to Hell for his sin and unbelief where every comfort was stripped away.  He begged to come back to warn us!

Hell is not a parable or the natural consequence of sin, but the active punishment of God upon the wicked dead.

One point that should be noted is that the WEB Bible translation properly identifies the Rich man's place of punishment as "Hades" though most English translations use the more ill-defined English word "Hell."