Luke 16 introduces the Rich Man and Lazarus where in verse 23 “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” For many, this explains the difference between Heaven and Hell.
Jesus’ words are very clear, two locations separated by a chasm that cannot be breached or crossed. Hell is depicted as a place of torment. In the original Greek, this is translated as Hades the place of the dead which is translated from the Hebrew Sheol. Bible scholars agree that the meaning of the word is the “Grave” or “Pit”.
The condition of the Dead – Old Testament
The Douay Version of the Bible renders Ecclesiastes 9: 10 “Neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom, nor knowledge, shall be in hell.” and the words of the Psalmist in 31: 17 “Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave [hell, Douay-Rheims].”
So a place of silence and no activity, Psalm 146: 3 “Do not put your trust in princes Nor in a son of man, who cannot bring salvation. 4 His spirit goes out, he returns to the ground; On that very day his thoughts perish.”
Ecclesiastes 9: 4 There is hope for whoever is among the living, because a live dog is better off than a dead lion.5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten.6 Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they no longer have any share in what is done under the sun.” is more specific they have no share. Consequently, we are instructed in verse 9 “Enjoy life with your beloved wife all the days of your futile life, which He has given you under the sun, all the days of your futility, for that is your lot in life and in your hard work at which you toil under the sun.10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the Grave, where you are going.”
The conclusion to be drawn is – Death is the opposite of life, non-existence. Therefore, we are alive and breathing, we die ceasing to exist and our body is placed in the ground – a grave, pit, hades or hell.
What about the New Testament
Let’s start with a simple statement made by the Apostle Paul in Romans 6: 23 “The wages sin pays is death.” the consequence of death he explains in Romans 6: 7 “the one who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” Those who have died have paid the price for the sins of their life. Not a mention of torment.
The Gospels also explain that we are drawn to God by his love not fear of torment or punishment.
There is another point often lost on those who believe in hell and everlasting torment Acts 2:31: “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell.”—King James Version. Meaning that Jesus Christ went to hell (the Grave) when he died. It is unthinkable to conclude that a righteous man would be tormented forever in Hell for sins he didn’t commit.
Hope for the those in Hell
Revelation 20: 13 “Death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them.”—King James Version. Therefore, all those in hell are dead. They will come back to life by means of the resurrection. So where will the torment continue? How could they pay a price, then be asked to pay more?
Eventually, hell will be destroyed according to Revelation 20: 14 “Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.”—King James Version.
So Luke 16 cannot be referring to a literal place or people. It was a parable, a story with a meaning. Jesus was explaining the religious divide between the leaders in Israel and the ordinary people.
For the account to be literal it has to fit the theme of the bible which it doesn’t, therefore, we recognise that the Bible has never taught that Hell is a place of eternal torment because the dead know nothing, feel nothing and have paid for their sins. Jesus went into hell but was raised and he hadn’t experienced or deserved to be tormented. Finally, hell is to be destroyed in the future which enables us to conclude that the doctrine originated elsewhere.
When the apostasy set in many pagan beliefs moved into Christianity and polluted the truth. Job wanted to die and go to Hell, others prayed for death also and we know that God does not torment the righteous or the unrighteous.
So we need to find the truth of the Bible and allow the Truth to clear our thinking and set us free.
Jesus’ Life, Ministry, Death and resurrection teach us much about the love of God remember the words of John 3: 16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.18 Whoever exercises faith in him is not to be judged. Whoever does not exercise faith has been judged already, because he has not exercised faith in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” Also, part of that process is described in John 5: 25 “Most truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who have paid attention will live.26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself.27 And he has given him authority to do judging, because he is the Son of man.28 Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice29 and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.30 I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.“
Choose Life without end, everlasting life in Paradise is more than a dream it is a promise from God.