Pulpitless Persuasions III: Who goes from paradise to Hades?
And in Hades (the realm of the dead), being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have pity and mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime fully received [what is due you in] comforts and delights, and Lazarus in like manner the discomforts and distresses; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who want to pass from this [place] to you may not be able, and no one may pass from there to us. – Luke 16:23-26 AMP
Another in the continuing, albeit infrequent, series on overlooked passages of Scripture. Anyone who has been around Christian circles for even a short time knows this passage above and is familiar with the story. I too was thoroughly familiar with the story of Lazarus and the rich man. So it was with great interest, and pointed direction from the Holy Spirit, I believe, that I fixed attention upon the portion underlined above with a question in mind. “Who would go from paradise to Hades?” Our natural human inclination is to avoid pain, discomfort, and the sorts of environments which arouse negative emotions. One definition of the word “amuse” renders the word as “to divert the attention of so as to deceive”, and such is the intent of much of today’s media. We are constantly being distracted from reality to keep our minds off its seriousness. People naturally turn toward happiness and away from sorrow. Maybe that is why the writer of Ecclesiastes states in chapter 7, verse 3 “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.”(NLT)
Obviously the latter part of Luke 16:26 bears the mark of that natural inclination. It’s at this point that The reason anyone in Hades would go to paradise is for their own interests. As for the other way around, there is a selfless answer, and the chapter itself gives us a clue as to who would go. The rich man in torment asks for pity and mercy, but finds none. The rich man asked for it amiss, not understanding the conditions of netherworld existence. There is no pity or mercy in Hades or in paradise, primarily because the concepts of Hades and paradise are in themselves polar opposites. In the former, because the nature of Hades is a place without hope and of permanent condemnation. In the latter, because the nature of paradise is a place which is complete, whole and neither suffering or wrong exist. So the question becomes, where does one find pity and mercy? At that place where there is no gulf of separation between paradise and Hades, or heaven and hell.
Only in the earthly realm do the opposites of heaven and hell collide. Hell reacts to the presence of heaven in destructive ways. Heaven reacts to the presence of hell, on the other hand, in compassionate, empathetic ways. In earthly terms, then, the original question becomes something along the lines of, “Who would go to Haiti?”, or “Who would go to Somalia?” Indeed, who goes to Third-World countries to live among the poor and sick? Who leaves the prosperity and comfort of the U.S. to live in destitute and squalid conditions of this world? Those whom heaven has impacted. And they in turn extend heaven’s influence through pity and mercy to those in earth’s hell. In this way the torment and anguish of the hellish influence on earthly life is relieved. The rich men among us mayn’t see or understand because of their wealth, but the Lazaruses will know the touch of heaven.