It is written:
And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23)
The “torment” of the rich man in Hades needs to be carefully considered.
First, the fact that the rich man is conscious is evident. As we have noticed from numerous Scriptures, those who are dead are not unaware: they are conscious.
Second, the suffering of the rich man was in direct proportion to the choices that he habitually made while on Earth. He was a man who was preoccupied with his carnal and wicked lifestyle, having not even a shred of compassion on poor Lazarus. The choices that we choose to make in this life determine our eternal destiny.
Third, the nature of the “torments”needs to examine. You see, the word here translated often carried with it the idea of suffering that was induced to try and bring about cleansing and (in regards to morality) repentance.
“Let’s take a closer look at Revelation 20: 10. In this passage it is speaking of the fate of the beast and the false prophet, but if you compare it to Revelation 14: 11, it uses similar language to describe the fate of anyone who “takes the mark of the beast.” “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire (pur) and brimstone (theion) where the beast and the false prophet are also. And they will be tormented (basanizo) day and night forever and ever (literally, ‘into the ages of the ages’).” As mentioned, pur is the Greek word for fire (Strong’s #4442). Throughout the Bible it conveys burning away impurities and once again, it’s the word from which all forms of the English word “pure” and “purify” originate. According to Strong’s Concordance #2303, theion, the Greek word for brimstone is defined as, “divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off disease.” Notice that brimstone (theion) shares the same root word as “God” (Theos). Next, the Greek word for torment in the verse above is basanizo. According to Strong’s #928, the primary meaning of basanizo is “to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the color of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal.” Basanizo comes from the root word, “basanos,” which is defined by Strong’s #931 as: “A touchstone. Originally, a black, silicon-based stone used as ‘a touchstone’ to test the purity of precious metals (like silver and gold). See 928 (basanízō). In the papyri,* basanos also means, ‘touchstone,’ ‘test’ (so P Oxy I. 58.25, ad 288). #931 (basanos) was originally (from oriental origin) a touchstone; a ‘Lydian stone’ used for testing gold because pure gold rubbed on it left a peculiar mark. Then [basanos] was used for examination by torture. Sickness was often regarded as ‘torture’ (WP, 1, 37).” 23 ____________________________ [* The papyri are ancient Greek Koine texts discovered around the turn of the 20th century, and were records used in matters of everyday business. These texts were critical in understanding the use and definition of certain Greek words that had been little understood, guessed at, and mistranslated in Scriptural context for many centuries.] So what exactly is a “touchstone”? Webster defines it as: “A stone by which metals are examined; a black, smooth, glossy stone; any test or criterion by which the qualities of a thing are tried; as money, the touchstone of common honesty.” If you go to strongsnumbers.com/ greek/ 931. htm, you find all the information above about the touchstone, testing purity, and the papyri, and sickness being regarded as torture (perhaps a better word is “testing”)—and that’s it—but then toward the bottom, you find the final, authoritative, “conclusive definition” by the Strong’s people: “A touchstone (a dark stone used in testing metals), hence examination by torture; torture.” Certainly we see a bit of spin being added into the mix, if you ask me. And if we put all three of those more literal meanings together (and throw out the dubious insertion of torture), we begin to get a distinctly different feel than endless torture taking place in Revelation. Can you see how things get misconstrued and distorted to the untrained eye? The Greek word that was translated as “tormented,” not only has nothing to do with eternal conscious torment like we think of torment today (burning to a crisp in hell for all eternity), but it is actually a process that tests purity. It seems clear to me that verses like Revelation 20: 10 suggest more of a refining and purifying process going on in people’s lives….Frequently throughout Scripture, God compares the purifying process in us to that of silver or gold being refined in fire, burning away the dross and impurities. With regard to people, fire typically is used for the ultimate good of the one being put through it: Isaiah 48: 10: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Ps. 66: 10–12: “For you tried us O God. You set us on fire as silver is set to the fire… we went through fire and water; but you led us unto respite” (Septuagint). Zech. 13: 9: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.” The more I study, the more I find Scripture that teaches of fire being a purifying agent, not a punishing, utter destroying agent. In both of the following verses where the word “pure” and “purified” occurs, the Greek (Septuagint) word is “puroo.” The Greek definition of puroo is “to burn with fire.” Daniel 11: 35: “Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure (‘ burn with fire’) until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.” Daniel 12: 10: “Many will be purged, purified (‘ burned with fire’) and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.””. (Julie Ferwerda, Raising Hell: Christianity’s Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire, 64-67 (Kindle Edition); Lander, WY; Vagabond Group).
Fourth, even though God desires that those in these “torments” repent, there is no indication from the story of Lazarus that the rich man ever did repent. Indeed, it is striking that there is no indication of remorse or repentance towards God from the rich man. This reminds us that it is entirely possible for a person to be in Hades and still not show any decision to follow God.
However, there is another important lesson for us to consider about Hades: the Bible teaches that those who are there will not be there forever. Indeed, Hades is a temporary abode!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.