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Lessons Learned from Torment
By Stan Cox on Dec 30, 2011

In Luke 16, our Lord revealed to his disciples the particulars of two men’s deaths: A rich man, “who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day,” but had insufficient love for God. A poor man named Lazarus who desired “to be fed crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table,” and was in good standing with God.

We know the spiritual standing of these two men, because Jesus revealed their disposition after death. The rich man, we are told, was in “torments in Hades” (vs. 23). Lazarus, in contrast, “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” where he received comfort (vs. 22).

It is common to refer to Hades (lit. “unseen”, the place of departed souls), as having two parts, identified as Torments, and Abraham’s Bosom. Though it can’t rightly be said that the two are used as proper names in the text, it is correct to note that the souls of men, as they await judgment, reside either in a place of comfort or a place of torment. And, as Abraham told the rich man, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (vs. 26).

As we note the plight of the rich man, “for I am tormented in this flame” (vs. 24), we are sobered by serious truths intimated in the text. Consider the following:

Salvation is not universal. Some believe it is. The concept of a God who would condemn a soul to torment is unthinkable to many. However, Jesus clearly showed the rich man to have lived a life unworthy of eternity in God’s presence. Paul wrote that it is a righteous thing with God to take “vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Death does not end our existence. Others believe that once a man dies, he ceases to exist. This, in effect, is the denial of an eternal soul. The rich man died, was buried, and Jesus said, “lifted up his eyes” while in torments (vs. 23). He carried on a conversation with Abraham. His consciousness continued after death. Further, the Bible reveals that the Hadean world is temporary. It is the repository of souls until the final judgment, when man will be assigned an eternal and enduring reward (heaven) or an eternal and enduring punishment (hell) cf. Matthew 25:31-46.

Second chance doctrines are false. The Catholic church teaches a state of purgatory, where sins are purged through suffering, allowing a sinful man to go from punishment to glory. Mormons baptize for the dead, in the belief that a man’s condition may be changed after death. Both views are not only without scriptural support, but are clearly denied by our text. Abraham indicated that the rich man’s abode in torment was a result of his life lived on earth (vs. 25); and that his place there was permanent due to the aforementioned “great gulf” (vs. 26).

It is foolish to trust in riches. The fact that the rich man was well clothed and “fared sumptuously” had no bearing on his comfort after death. Another rich man, referred to by Jesus as a “fool”, was so designated because he said, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19). That man was condemned, and the lesson was applied, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (vs. 21). As Jesus rhetorically asked, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). A man’s economic success or standing has no bearing upon his eternal prospects.

It is a terrible thing to lose your soul. The rich man’s torment was so great that he appealed to Abraham for a single drop of water. The eternal torment of hell is described as a place of “outer darkness” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). In addition to the pain of torment, there is the loss of an eternal reward. The torment of flames is exacerbated in the realization of what is missed. Concerning heaven, the book of Revelation states, “But there shall by no means enter into it [heaven] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).

The Christian has great motivation in the hope of heaven. As we contemplate our future home, we are spurred to faithfulness. But, there is also motivation to be found as we contemplate the specter of torment. Brethren, consider and be sobered!

(Note: The bold faced points in this article are adapted from a sermon outline by Joe Price that appeared in the July 10, 2011 issue of The Spiritual Sword).

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