The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
The most descriptive passage anywhere in the New Testament about the reality of hell is in Luke 16. This is a story of two very different men who lived two very different lives and experienced two very different destinies. Jesus said, “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table. . . . Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame’” (vv. 19-24).
In this passage Jesus told us three things about hell. First of all, hell is an actual location. In the New Testament, there are three Greek words that are all translated “hell,” but the word Jesus used most frequently is “gehenna.” This refers the eternal destination of those who die without Christ. The word comes from the Valley of Hinnom, a place where the Israelites in Old Testament times would actually offer their children as burnt sacrifices to the false god Moloch. In Jesus’s day, the valley was a place for the burning of garbage and even the bodies of executed criminals. You can imagine what it was like to spend an hour in such a place, much less all eternity. But that is what Jesus said eternity is going to be like for unbelievers.
The word used here in Luke 16 is not “gehenna,” but “Hades,” which is the temporary destination of the unsaved. When you die, you do not just cease to exist, nor do you go to sleep awaiting the final judgment. If you are a Christian, the Bible says, “to be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). The moment you die, you awaken in the presence of Jesus and immediately begin experiencing the benefits of life with Christ, just as Lazarus did. Likewise, the moment that unbelievers die, they go to this place called Hades, which is where the rich man went. Even though Hades is a temporary place, it is a place of torment. Right now, every unsaved person who has ever lived is in Hades awaiting the final judgment, when Revelation 20:15 says they will be cast into gehenna, the lake of fire. Jesus taught that both are actual places, and both are places of torment. That is the reality of hell.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Why God Sends Good People To Hell” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.