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?
30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:30–31, NKJV)
It is the devil’s deception that suggests only an extraordinary experience can persuade a sinner to repent. The rich man thought it would take a miraculous visitation from the dead of Lazarus to convince his brothers to repent and thus avoid the torment in which he was engulfed. But, Abraham reminded him they had Moses and the prophets to persuade them. The person who will not believe God’s message in the inspired Scriptures will not be persuaded to repent even if one arises from the dead. After all, that is exactly what Jesus would later do. Yet still, in spite of His empty tomb, most people refuse to believe in Him. Why? Because they do not love the truth, and prefer the pleasures of sin (2 Thess. 2:10-12). The word of God amply persuades the person with a good and honest heart to repent (Lk. 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). The hindrance to repentance and salvation is not for lack of a miraculous visitation. The problem is a hardened, closed heart that refuses to receive God’s truth (read Acts 28:23-28). And so, the question comes to each of us. Will we be persuaded by the gospel of Christ to repent, so we can join Lazarus after death? Or, will we refuse to be persuaded, keep living in sin, and find ourselves in torment with the rich man? We answer that question every day.
27 Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ (Luke 16:27–29, NKJV)
Previously, the rich man had called out to Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a drop of water to relieve his torment (Lk. 16:24). Now, he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to bear witness of the torment awaiting them unless they repent (Lk. 16:28, 30). It is important for us to hear Abraham’s answer. The answer was “no,” he would not send Lazarus to them. The man’s brothers had God’s Scriptures to persuade them to live according to God’s will. The same principle is true today. The present truth – the gospel of Christ – is how God persuades sinners to repent and be saved. God does not send messages from the dead to the living. The living word of God, the inspired Scriptures, testify of the “place of torment” and of the place of comfort that awaits beyond the grave. We must hear and follow the word of God that was spoken and written by the apostles and prophets of Christ. This is how God speaks to us today (Heb. 1:1-2). This is how God persuades us to live so as to reap rest, not torment, when we die.
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.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18, NKJV)
Context is crucial to understanding the Scriptures correctly. Today’s passage is a notable illustration of the point. John is discussing the perfecting of love in the Christian’s life so that he or she has “boldness in the day of judgment” instead of fear, which “involves torment.” Where there is mature love, there is no fear of the judgment. But, what is the mature love that “casts out fear?” John tells us in 1 John 5:2-3: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2–3). The love that has boldness rather than fear in the day of judgment is one that is willingly obedient to God’s commands. Only when love includes willing obedience of God’s commandments is it the “perfect love” that “casts out fear.”