Q. Concerning an earlier question of the fate of an unsaved soul. Jesus seems to answer this question with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man at death was sent to suffer the flames, while Lazarus went to heaven and was comforted. The rich man calls out to God to allow Lazarus to dip his finger in the water and place it on his (the rich man’s) tongue as he his burning alive and can’t stand it.
Is the place the rich man is sent Hell and if so, is there any reference to the place of judgment before the rich man is sent to the flames? Thank you for this website.
A. I don’t believe the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable because Jesus never named the characters in His parables. I think He was giving us a true glimpse of the after life before the cross. Traditionally, the rich man’s name was Dives. (Dee’-ves)
Lazarus didn’t go directly to Heaven. Nobody did before the cross. They all went to Sheol, Hades in the Greek, a holding place consisting of two sections. The faithful were comforted in one and the unfaithful tormented in the other. Although they were in sight of each other, it was impossible to cross over from either section to the other. The section Lazarus went to was called Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom. There, he and all others who had died in faith of a coming Redeemer waited in comfort until Jesus could die for their sins and sprinkle His blood on the altar in Heaven opening its gates for all believers. Jesus and one of those crucified with Him went there and after His resurrection He took them all to Heaven.
The rich man went to the other side, the place of torment, along with the other criminal crucified with Jesus. He and all unbelievers who’ve died through the ages are still there. They wait in torment for their final judgment, which will take place at the end of the Millennium. He asked Abraham, not God, to send Lazarus with just a drop of water to sooth his parched tongue, but Abraham explained that it wasn’t possible because of the wide chasm that separated one section from the other.
This story is where we get the Christian concept of Hell, the English word for Hades. But it’s not the final destiny of the unsaved. In Rev 20:11-15 we read that at the end of the 1,000 years the dead are raised for their final judgment, after which they’re thrown into the “lake of fire” along with Satan. The anti-Christ and the false prophet had been thrown there 1000 years earlier at the end of the Great Tribulation.
The “lake of fire” was symbolized in Biblical times by the Dead Sea. Crude oil used to bubble up to the surface where it hardened into a tar-like substance and was harvested for sale. Oil is lighter than water and so it floats. (Dead sea water is so saturated with salt and other chemicals that people float in it too.)
Once in a while lightning would strike and set the floating crude aflame and the Dead Sea would become a “lake of fire”. Imagine being thrown into a lake where you couldn’t sink and whose surface was covered with burning tar. Then imagine that you can’t die and can’t escape and you have an idea what eternity will be like for unbelievers.