There’s More to Hell

Put our confidence in God alone who grants justice and draws the outcast into the community as beloved. By Justin and Courtney Rose

Jesus was a very intentional teacher. He knew His students and knew the world in which He taught. Jesus also had very devoted students. Undoubtedly, Jesus had the 12 disciples who followed Him around, but the Scripture also teaches us that Jesus had dozens of deeply faithful followers. Many of these followers were women who had just as much buy-in to the teachings of Jesus as any of the male disciples did. They, too, were considered Jesus’ disciples. Luke 8:1-3 shows us that these women were traveling with Jesus as He ministered across the country, as well as funding His ministry from their own money. Across the four Gospels, we see glimpses of these women. They are faithfully following, providing and serving Jesus and His ministry. 

I recently heard a preacher talk about hell using Luke 16:19-31. He used this passage to explain what hell will be like for the wicked. He said that there will be endless torment of the wicked, that everything is on fire and that the wicked will be thirsty for all eternity. I don’t know about you, but this is something that I have heard throughout my life.

But as the preacher was speaking, I started to reread the passage and was reminded that this is a parable or a teaching story. Jesus often used parables to teach and explain the things of God in everyday terms while still maintaining some mystery. The Gospels contain about 50 of Jesus’ parables which explain a lot about the “Kingdom of God” and what true faith looks like.

However, we have to be careful when discussing parables because, in our Western minds, truth and fact are the same things. In order for something to be “true,” it has to be connected to “facts.” In many of Jesus’s teachings, the point was to portray the truth. Something could be true without being rooted in fact. The parables speak to real spiritual truth without necessarily being factual.

We must be careful to see the profound, divine and enduring truth of the parables. In fact, I have always heard parables referred to as “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.” They are easily-remembered stories that stick with us and start to make more sense over time. Fred Craddock said, “Understanding is a matter not only of intelligence but of character and readiness, and therefore the Scripture releases itself to us over a lifetime, as we are able.”

This parable, from Luke 16, is commonly referred to as “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” It is a parable about a very wealthy man who dies and goes to “Hades” and a very poor beggar named Lazarus who dies and goes to “Abraham’s breast (chest, bosom)”. What unfolds is a conversation between the rich man and Abraham about equity, judgment and obeying Scripture.

What we see in the underlying truth of this parable is that it is not primarily concerned with what heaven or hell will be like, but rather with the treatment of the poor and obedience to Scripture, which clearly demands that the righteous should care for the poor and marginalized.

We are reminded not to put confidence in our wealth and possessions, but in God alone who grants justice and draws the outcast into the community of the Godhead as beloved. 

In fact, the name Lazarus (the only character ever named in one of Jesus’ parables) literally means “whom God helps.” From the beginning of the story, we are shown the contrast of a godly, poor man and a selfish, wealthy man. Throughout the Gospel of Luke we are shown that the rich and poor are reversed in the Kingdom of God, that God sides with the oppressed and righteous.

The lesson for us in this parable is not about fear of hell, but rather, it teaches us to have a proper understanding of and relationship to the outcast.

  • May 1:  Luke 1:46-55
  • May 2:  Luke 4:16-21
  • May 3:  Luke 6:20-26
  • May 4:  Luke 6:27-36
  • May  5:  Luke 7:18-23
  • May 6:  Luke 8:1-15
  • May 7:  Luke 9:46-48
  • May 8:  Luke 11:39-42
  • May  9:  Luke 12:13-21
  • May 10:  Luke 12:22-33
  • May 11:  Luke 14:7-14
  • May 12:  Luke 14:15-24
  • May 13:  Luke 16:1-15
  • May 14:  Luke 16:19-31
  • May 15:  Luke 18:18-30
  • May 16:  Luke 19:1-10    
  • May 17:  Luke 21:1-4
  • May 18:  Acts 2:42-47
  • May 19:  Acts 4:32-37
  • May 20:  Acts 9:36-41
  • May 21:  Acts 10:1-8
  • May 22:  1 Timothy 6:6-10
  • May 23:  1 Timothy 6:17-19
  • May 24:  Matthew 5:3-12
  • May 25:  Matthew 25:31-46
  • May 26:  Matthew 26:6-13
  • May 27:  Galatians 2:6-10
  • May 28:  James 2:1-13
  • May 29:  Revelation 3:14-22
  • May 30:  Deuteronomy 15:1-18
  • May 31: Hebrews 13:1-3

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