26 ‘Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ (Acts 2:26–28, NKJV)
This quotation of Psalm 16:9-11 is applied to Jesus by the inspired apostle (Acts 2:25, 29-31). The King James Version of Acts 2:27 says, “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell…,” leading some to ask whether Jesus went to hell when he died. The word used in verse 27 is hades (the grave or place of departed spirits), not gehenna (the place of everlasting punishment of sin, Mk. 9:43-48). The prophesy speaks of the resurrection of Christ. His body would not see corruption (Acts 2:31). His spirit would visit a place of Paradise or comfort, not a place of flaming torment (Lk. 23:43; 16:22-25). Jesus did not go to hell. He did not preach to spirits held in prison before He was raised from the dead (a misinterpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-20). The comfort of Paradise and the flames of torment are separated by a great gulf that is unmovable and not crossable (Lk. 16:26). There are no opportunities to obey the gospel call after death (Heb. 9:27). Death is coming to us all. We will all be resurrected, because Jesus was raised (1 Cor. 15:20-22). The question is, will we be raised to life, or to condemnation (Jno. 5:28-29)? That depends on whether we will believe and obey Jesus now (Heb. 5:8-9). What is decision? Where will you spend eternity?
And besides all this, 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. (Luke 16:26, NKJV)
Abraham continued his explanation to the rich man why it would be impossible for Lazarus to relieve him of the tormenting flame in which he found himself. Not only was the man’s torment the just outcome of his greedy life, but also there could be no passing back and forth between the flame and the place of comfort. A great gulf is fixed (set fast) in Hades between Abraham’s bosom and the flame of torments that prevents any such passage. The truth is unmistakable – there are no second chances after death. Whether it is 1) The Catholic concept of purgatory (cleansing to allow for passage into the presence of God), or 2) The Hindu and Buddhist concept of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, or 3) The Latter-day Saints’ belief that the gospel will be preached and received in the next life – all these doctrines are refuted by what Jesus said in Luke 16:26. Death comes once, then judgment (Heb. 9:27). God will judge what we did in the body in this life on Judgment Day (2 Cor. 5:10). We must not live as if we will have another chance to do God’s will after we die – we will not. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be. Therefore, today is the day God gives you the opportunity to trust and follow Him (Matt. 6:33-34; Jas. 4:13-17).
22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:22–23, NKJV)
The daily deprivations Lazarus experienced are difficult to grasp. Begging for one’s very survival, being treated as persona non grata (an unwelcome person), and battling the pain of ulcerated, unattended sores – these were his day-to-day realities. Such would surely tempt a person to bitterly resent those who indulged themselves without thought of giving aid, as well as God Himself (Lk. 16:19-21; Job 2:8-9). It takes a mighty faith to resist such trials of body and soul (Job 2:10). Death does not end our existence. Death was Lazarus’ great release. Although the beggar’s body would be dumped into an obscure grave, his soul was ushered by angels to Abraham’s bosom (a place of perpetual comfort and embracing bliss). The rich man also died and was buried. Leaving the ease of his riches, he found himself “in torments in Hades.” Hades is the realm of departed spirits in which both Paradise and torments exist (Lk. 23:43; Acts 2:27). The tables have now turned. The man’s wealth did not prevent his death and could not save his soul. The lesson is obvious: “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?” (Matt. 16:26) For what are you exchanging your soul? What a terrible transaction it is to exchange your soul for fortune and easy instead of being rich toward God (Lk. 12:20-21).
19 There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:19–23, NKJV)
Jesus told “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money,” about two men in life and after death (Lk. 16:14). The unnamed rich man lived in luxury, while failing to give even the leftovers of his table to the poor man who was laid at his gate. Infected with sores, Lazarus endured disease, humiliation, poverty, and the lack of common decency every day. There are important lessons here for us to learn and live. First, wealth does not define one’s value, nor does it prevent one’s death. Whether rich or poor, death comes to us all (Eccl. 9:2-3). Second, the sin of selfish indulgence ignores the needs of others, but it is not ignored by God. Thirdly, God sees the injustices and suffering of the righteous (2 Thess. 1:4-7). Fourth, we must not trust in riches, but lay up heavenly treasures (Matt. 6:19-21). Riches are uncertain, so trust in the living God and use your material blessings to be “rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,” that you may lay hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14–15, NKJV)
Death and Hades will be overpowered and destroyed at the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:26). At the resurrection and judgment day, Christ (who has “the keys of Hades and of Death,” Rev. 1:18) will destroy death and the grave, fulfilling the prediction that “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). The “lake of fire” is the “second death,” the place of eternal punishment where the devil and his cohorts “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). Death will never claim another body. Hades will never hold another departed spirit. On the judgment day they will “die” – forever separated from the power and fear they have exerted against humanity. The “second death” has no power over those who have part in the “first resurrection,” for they share in Christ’s victory over sin and death (Rev. 20:4-6; 6:9-11). However, those who are not saved in Christ are not in the Book of Life. Their judgment will be the lake of fire, the second death. Hell is real. Hell is forever punishment, eternal separation from God and all this is good. It is outer darkness, filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30; Mk. 9:43-48). Knowing these things beforehand should compel us by faith to repent and follow Jesus completely.
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. (Revelation 20:13, NKJV)
The comprehensive nature of the final judgment (v. 12) is amplified here by elaborating the extent of the resurrection of the dead. Even the depths of the sea will not prevent its dead from coming forth at the Lord’s command (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:52). Death and Hades are pictured in John’s vision as being brought into submission at the resurrection, no longer to hold their power over humanity. Hades is not hell (the place of eternal punishment following the judgment). It is the realm of departed spirits where we go after death as we await resurrection. Hades is composed of a place of rest and a place of torments, with no crossing from one place to the other (Lk. 16:22-26; 23:43). The judgment will be the moment when every one of us will answer to God for our lives. There will be no doubt of the accuracy and legitimacy of God’s decision toward us on that day. Every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, and every soul will receive righteous judgment (Rom. 14:10-12). We have an appointment with death and with the judgment that follows our resurrection from the dead (Heb. 9:27). Be prepared. “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40, ESV). Read Mark 16:15-16 and Acts 2:36-42, put your faith in Jesus, and obey Him now.