19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
For me, this is one of the most interesting and easy to understand teachings on hell in the entire Bible. The fact that Jesus gives this message with such clarity tells me that, while many of his teachings were in parables, this one is more literal than figurative.
I remember reading an article about 12 or 13 years ago about why it’s not a good idea for preachers to talk about hell too much in their messages. I looked for the article but can’t find it now. The reasoning was that scaring people into responding to an altar call was unethical and also ineffective.
But what about those of us who are saved? Is it important for us to fathom how awful hell is? Jesus seemed to think so, and for me, it is a reminder of the importance of sharing the salvation message of the Gospel.
I once heard an atheist say: “I don’t mind when Christians proselytize. If they really believe there is a heaven and hell, and they aren’t willing to overcome some social awkwardness to tell someone about it, they must either really hate that person, or they don’t really believe hell is that bad.”
How much do I avoid thinking about hell so that I don’t think about the suffering that might occur for someone who I haven’t told about Jesus?
Lord, thank you for the clarity that you bring and the motivation you cause in me to act.
Written by Ps Justin Ware