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It is written:
Luke 16:19-31-“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. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 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.’ 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.’ 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.’ “
One of the hardest questions that people have asked through the ages is how we could ever possibly enjoy Heaven if we know that our loved ones are in Hades or in Hell.
Some have suggested that perhaps God will erase the memories of those in Paradise and Heaven, so that they will not remember them. I respect those who advocate such a view, and I sympathize with where they are coming from. However, I find little in Scripture to support this notion. Indeed, the Bible here in Luke 16 shows us that Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man all retain their identities and their knowledge of each other. Further, we find strong Bible precedent that those who are in Heaven will know each other as they were known on Earth (Matthew 8:11-12).
Please allow me here to share my personal belief regarding this matter, based upon my own studies of the Scriptures over the years.
I believe that those in Paradise and Heaven will be able to enjoy these realms because of the word “torments” used here in Luke 16:23.
First, the language of the passage suggests that this account from Jesus is a parable. A parable is often described as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The expression that Jesus uses to introduce the story of Lazarus and the rich man argues that this is a parable that Jesus is recounting. Notice that throughout Luke, Jesus teaches many parables using the same phrase that is used here to describe Lazarus and the rich man.
Luke 7:41-There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
Luke 10:30-Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Luke 12:16-Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
Luke 13:6-He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
Luke 14:16-Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many,
Luke 15:, 3, 11-So He spoke this parable to them, saying:…Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.
Luke 16:1-He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.
Luke 19:11-12-Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. 12 Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.
Luke 20:9-Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time.
Please observe that several times throughout Luke, Jesus introduces a parable with the phrase “a certain man” or its’ equivalent. Then, compare with how the story of Lazarus and the rich man is introduced:
Luke 16:19-There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
Based on this, many believe that the story of Lazarus and the rich man is a parable that Jesus teaches us.
It is important to point out, however, that if this account is a parable, it is the only one where Jesus used a specific person by name to bring across His teaching. Some suggest that the reason for this is due to the similarity between Lazarus and the rich man to well-known Egyptian stories of that time.
“Richard Bauckham suggests that the uniqueness of this parable is explained (at least in part) by the fact that it draws on a preexisting story, originating in Egypt, with various Jewish versions of the story all utilizing a common story motif. It is likely that these stories would have been around in the first century and that Jesus would have known of them. 9 Why is Lazarus named? Perhaps just for the simplicity of telling the story or perhaps because “return from the dead” stories like this commonly gave the dead person a name. 10”. (James Beilby, Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death, 111 (Kindle Edition): Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic)
Regardless, whether this is a parable or a real person being described, the overall teachings of the passage are the same.
Second, this passage describes the events that take place in a realm called Hades. The Greek word Hades is the equivalent of the Old Testament realm known as Sheol, the realm of departed spirits. Hades/Sheol has a rich history in both the Old Testament and extra-biblical material, especially in First Enoch. We see here that Hades is divided into Paradise (also referred to as Abraham’s bosom) where the saved dead dwell, and a place of “torments” where the unsaved dead reside. The Bible also reminds us in numerous passages that Hades itself is a temporary abode. When Jesus returns, all of the souls of the dead will come forth and be reunited with their resurrected bodies, and then people will go to Heaven or Hell (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Revelation 20:11-15).
Third, the “torment” that the rich man endures needs to be carefully considered. It is here that I find a great deal of comfort regarding the question that is the topic of this study. The word translated as “torments” here is the Greek word basanos, and it has a rich history and meaning. When we think of the English word “torments,” perhaps our minds go back to imagery of ancient prisons like in the time of the Middle Ages, which had devices and implements of torture that were designed only to inflict pain.
However, basanos is often used (in both biblical and extra-biblical material) to have reference to a type of suffering that was remedial in nature. In other words, the “torment” was designed to be such that a person would find healing and repentance through it. Before looking at basanos in detail, it will help to consider another Greek word (and word family), kolasis. Kolasis is often translated with the word “punish.” This word was understood in Greek society to have reference to suffering that was designed to be remedial in nature.
For example, consider the definition of this word family from one of the most respected Greek lexicons of all time:
“κόλ-ασις , εως, ἡ, A. checking the growth of trees, esp. almond-trees, Thphr. CP 3.18.2 (pl.). 2. chastisement, correction, Hp. Praec. 5 , Pl. Ap. 26a , al., Th. 1.41 ; opp. τιμωρία, Arist. Rh. 1369b13 ; of divine retribution, Ev.Matt. 25.46 , al.: pl., Pl. Prt. 323e , al., Phld. Ir. p. 52 W. κόλ-ασμα , ατος, τό, A. chastisement, Ar. Fr. 385 , X. Cyr. 3.1.23 , Critias 25.4 D., AP 5.217.7 ( Agath. ). κολ-ασμός , ὁ, A. = κόλασις , Plu. Alc. 13 , al. κολασσία: ἀνδριἀντος σκιἀ, καὶ τὸ ἐς ὕψος ἀνἀστημα, Hsch. κολ-ἀστειρα , ἡ, fem. of κολαστήρ, AP 7.425 (Antip. Sid.). κολ-αστέος , α, ον, A. to be chastised, punished, Pl. Grg. 527b . II. κολαστέον, one must prune, check, τὰς ἐπιθυμίας ib. 492d . κολ-αστήρ , ῆρος, ὁ, A. = κολαστής , Arr. Fr. 144J. : as Adj., “στρατιῶται” Eun. VS p. 480 B. κολ-αστήριος , ον, A. = κολαστικός, δύναμις Ph. 1.269 , al. II. Subst. κολαστήριον, τό , house of correction, Luc. Nec. 14 , VH 2.30 . 2. instrument of correction, κολαστήρια θαλἀσσης, of the whips of Xerxes, Plu. 2.342f . 3. = κόλασμα , X. Mem. 1.4.1 . κολ-αστής , ού, ὁ, A. chastiser, punisher, “Ζεύς τοι κ. τῶν ὑπερκόπων ἄγαν φρονημἀτων” A. Pers. 827 , cf. S. OT 1148 , E. Heracl. 388 , Pl. Lg. 863a , Epicur. Sent. 34 , Phld. Mort. 17 , etc.; “κ. τῶν ἀδικούντων” Lys. 27.3 , cf. Gorg. Fr. 6 ; “νόμοι κ.” Critias 25.6 D. ; tormentor, in Hades, Plu. 2.567d (pl.). κολ-αστικός , ή, όν, A. corrective, punitive,-κή, ἡ , Pl. Sph. 229a ; “δύναμις” Ph. 1.496 ; “τὸ-κόν” Plu. 2.458b ; “τὸ κ. εἶδος” Luc. Phal. 1.8 : c. gen., “φἀρμακα κ. τῆς κακίας” Gal. 14.760 . 2. given to punishing, Jul. Caes. 312d . κολ-ἀστρια , ἡ, fem. of A. “κολαστήρ, ρἀβδος” Ezek. Exag. 121 . κολἀττη: κόλακα, Hsch. (perh. Boeot. for κολἀσαι). κολαφ-ίζω , A. slap, buffet, τινα Ev.Matt. 26.67 , Sammelb. 6263.23 :-Pass. , 1 Ep.Cor. 4.11 . κόλαφ-ος , ὁ, (κολἀπτω) A. buffet, = κόνδυλος , Epich. 1 (as pr. n.), cf. Hsch., Gloss. ; cf. Lat. colaphus.” (Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, 1214-11216 (Kindle Edition): Woolworth Ave., Omaha, NE: Patristic Publishing)
By looking at some ancient Greek uses of this word, we see that the idea of kolasis was that of remedial punishing. Consider this example from Plato:
“If you will think, Socrates, of the nature of punishment (kolasis), you will see at once that in the opinion of mankind virtue may be acquired; no one punishes (kolasin) the evil-doer under the notion, or for the reason, that he has done wrong,—only the unreasonable fury of a beast acts in that manner. But he who desires to inflict rational punishment (kolasis) does not retaliate for a past wrong which cannot be undone; he has regard to the future, and is desirous that the man who is punished (kolaso), and he who sees him punished (kolasines), may be deterred from doing wrong again. He punishes (kolasin) for the sake of prevention, thereby clearly implying that virtue is capable of being taught.” (Plato, Protagoras, 12 (Kindle Edition))
Here, the punishment that Plato describes is from the same Greek word family of kolosin that we are investigating. Notice how the “punishment” of kolasis is designed to bring the offender to repentance.
“The three reasons given by the philosophers for punishing crimes; and why Plato mentions only two of these, and not three. IT has been thought that there should be three reasons for punishing crimes. One of these, which the Greeks call either κόλασις or νουθεσία, is the infliction of punishment for the purpose of correction and reformation, in order that one who has done wrong thoughtlessly may become more careful and scrupulous. The second is called τιμωρία by those who have made a more exact differentiation between terms of this kind. That reason for punishment exists when the dignity and the prestige of the one who is sinned against must be maintained, lest the omission of punishment bring him into contempt and diminish the esteem in which he is held; and therefore they think that it was given a name derived from the preservation of honour (τιμή). A third reason for punishment is that which is called by the Greeks παράδειγμα, when punishment is necessary for the sake of example, in order that others through fear of a recognized penalty may be kept from similar sins, which it is to the common interest to prevent. Therefore our forefathers also used the word exempla, or “examples,” for the severest and heaviest penalties.” (Aulus Gellius, Delphi Complete Works of – ‘The Attic Nights’ (Illustrated) (Delphi Ancient Classics Book 70), 316 (Kindle Edition): Hastings, East Sussex United Kingdom: Delphi Classics)
Aristotle noted about the kolasis word family:
“Revenge and punishment are different things. Punishment is inflicted for the sake of the person punished; revenge for that of the punisher, to satisfy his feelings.” (Aristotle, General Editor Paul Negri, Editor Of This Volume Jenny Bak, Rhetoric, 51 (Kindle Edition): London, England: Oxford University Press)
In all of these sources (and others could be produced), we see the idea that the “punishment” of the kolasis word family was understood to be remedial punishment. In fact, the Greek Old Testament uses the word kolasis in this fashion.
Ezekiel 43:10-11 (Brentons LXX)-And thou, son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may cease from their sins; and shew its aspect and the arrangement of it. 11 And they shall bear their punishment (kolasis) for all the things that they have done: and thou shalt describe the house, and its entrances, and the plan thereof, and all its ordinances, and thou shalt make known to them all the regulations of it, and describe them before them: and they shall keep all my commandments, and all my ordinances, and do them.
Here, the “punishments” that the people of Israel endured were to to bring them to repentance as they cease from their sins. When this happens, they will keep all of Yahweh’s commandments and ordinances, and do them. It is significant that Jesus uses the word “kolasis” to describe the punishments of Hell in Matthew 25:46 (showing us that the torments of Hell are designed to bring people to repentance).
Now, here is where all of this ties in with the Greek word basanos (“torments” in Luke 16:23). The ancients often associated the remedial punishment”of kolasis with the corrective “torments” of basanos.
One example of this is seen in 1 Samuel 6. Here, the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant and had been “plagued” (basanos, in the Greek Old Testament) with hemorrhoids. We see that these “torments” were corrective in nature:
1 Samuel 6:3-5 (Brenton’s LXX)-And they said, If ye send away the ark of the covenant of the Lord God of Israel, do not on any account send it away empty, but by all means render to it an offering for the plague (basanos); and then shall ye be healed, and an atonement shall be made for you: should not his hand be thus stayed from off you? 4 And they say, What is the offering for the plague which we shall return to it? and they said, 5 According to the number of the lords of the Philistines, five golden emerods, for the plague was on you, and on your rulers, and on the people; and golden mice, the likeness of the mice that destroy your land: and ye shall give glory to the Lord, that he may lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.
Notice that the “basanos” that the Philistines endured led to their correcting their behavior, and to the Lord showing mercy to them.
Again, we see this word used throughout Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 3:20 (Brenton’s LXX)-And when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits a trespass, and I shall bring punishment (basanos) before him, he shall die, because thou didst not warn him: he shall even die in his sins, because his righteousness shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Ezekiel 7:19 (Brenton’s LXX)-Their silver shall be cast forth in the streets, and their gold shall be despised: their souls shall not be satisfied, and their bellies shall not be filled: for it was the punishment (basanos) of their iniquities.
God was going to bring these “punishments” and “torments” on the children of Israel. Yet why?
Ezekiel 3:17-21-Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”
Ezekiel 12:3-Therefore, son of man, prepare your belongings for captivity, and go into captivity by day in their sight. You shall go from your place into captivity to another place in their sight. It may be that they will consider, though they are a rebellious house.
God’s punishments and torments (basanos) were designed to try and bring the people to repentance. We see this especially in what Ezekiel says in chapter 16!
Ezekiel 16:52-55(Brenton’s LXX)-Thou therefore bear thy punishment (basanos), for that thou hast corrupted thy sisters by thy sins which thou hast committed beyond them; and thou hast made them appear more righteous than thyself: thou therefore be ashamed, and bear thy dishonour, in that thou hast justified thy sisters. 53 And I will turn their captivity, even the captivity of Sodom and her daughters; and I will turn the captivity of Samaria and her daughters; and I will turn thy captivity in the midst of them: 54 that thou mayest bear thy punishment (basanos), and be dishonoured for all that thou hast done in provoking me to anger. 55 And thy sister Sodom and her daughters shall be restored as they were at the beginning, and thou and thy daughters shall be restored as ye were at the beginning.
Here, God provides a prophecy regarding the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (the same Sodom and Gomorrah that were destroyed by God in Genesis 19 and which Ezekiel references in Ezekiel 16:49-50). God declares that their “punishments” (basanos) will cause them (and the Jews whom Ezekiel is referencing) to be “ashamed.” As they then repent, God will “turn their captivity” and they will be “restored as they were at the beginning.”
What does this mean?
“The expression restore the fortunes or “reverse the fortunes” ( šûḇ š e ḇûṯ , lit. “turn the turning”) occurs frequently in the OT. The translation “turn the captivity” 1 is incorrect and the phrase occurs at times where no captivity is in view (e.g., Job 42:10; Ezek. 16:53). What is in view here is either a reversal of the fortunes of Yahweh’s people or a restoration of their fortunes.” (J.A. Thompson, The New International Commentary On The Old Testament: The Book Of Jeremiah,11060 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
“The word š e ḇûṯ goes back to šwḇ , “return,” and not to šāḇâ , “to take captive.” The AV and RV both assume the root šāḇâ , “to take captive,” and translate “turn again the captivity.” In practice, after the exile “to turn the captivity” and “to reverse the fortunes” came to mean much the same thing, but the context seems to the present commentator to require derivation from the root šwḇ.” (J.A. Thompson, The New International Commentary On The Old Testament: The Book Of Jeremiah, 199272, Footnote 1); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company)
God here declares there will be a day in which Sodom and Gomorrah will repent before God, as a result of the “punishments” (basanos) He has brought upon them. Commenting on this passage, famed scholars Keil and Delitzsch tell us:
“The turning of the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, i.e., the forgiveness of the inhabitants of Sodom and the other cities of the plain, points beyond the present aeon, and the realization can only take place on the great day of the resurrection of the dead in the persons of the former inhabitants of Sodom and the neighbouring cities. And in the same way the restoration of Samaria and Jerusalem will not be completely fulfilled till after the perfecting of the kingdom of Christ in glory at the last day. Consequently the prophecy before us goes beyond Rom 11:25., inasmuch as it presents, not to the covenant nation only, but, in Samaria and Sodom, to all the larger and smaller heathen nations also, the prospect of being eventually received into the everlasting kingdom of God; although, in accordance with the main purpose of this prophetic word, namely, to bring the pride of Israel completely down, this is simply hinted at, and no precise intimation is given of the manner in which the predicted apokatastasis will occur. But notwithstanding this indefiniteness, we must not explain away the fact itself by arbitrary expositions, since it is placed beyond all possible doubt by other passages of Scriptures. The words of our Lord in Mat 10:15 and Mat 11:24, to the effect that it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom than for Capernaum and every other city that shall have rejected the preaching of the gospel, teach most indisputably that the way of mercy stands open still even for Sodom itself, and that the judgment which has fallen upon it does not carry with it the final decision with regard to its inhabitants. For Sodom did not put away the perfect revelation of mercy and salvation. If the mighty works which were done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom, it would have stood to the present day (Mat 11:23). And from this it clearly follows that all the judgments which fell before the time of Christ, instead of carrying with them the final decision, and involving eternal damnation, leave the possibility of eventual pardon open still. The last judgment, which is decisive for eternity, does not take place till after the full revelation of grace and truth in Christ. Not only will the gospel be preached to all nations before the end comes (Mat 24:14), but even to the dead; to the spirits in prison, who did not believe at the time of Noah, it has been already preached, at the time when Christ went to them in spirit, in order that, although judged according to man’s way in the flesh, they might live according to God’s way in the spirit (Pe1 3:19; Pe1 4:6). What the apostle teaches in the first of these passages concerning the unbelievers before the flood, and affirms in the second concerning the dead in general, is equally applicable according to our prophecy to the Sodomites who were judged after man’s way in the flesh, and indeed generally to all heathen nations who either lived before Christ or departed from this earthly life without having heard the gospel preached.—”. (C. F. Keil, Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 144776-144797 (Kindle Edition))
We see another example of how the words “basanos” and “kolasis” are used interchangeably as referencing remedial punishment in Books II and III of the Panarion by Ephiphanius, which was written around the second to third century A.D.
“Then those who are judged (kolasis) are benefited. Their wickedness is removed because it is prevented by their torments (basanos), just as illnesses are removed by surgery and pharmacy at the doctor’s. For the punishment of the criminal is the correction of the soul, which throws off the severe disease of wickedness.” (The Panarion, Books II and III, page 155).
It also needs to be pointed out that even though God designed these “torments” and “punishments” to be remedial, it is still possible that people in “torments” and in Hell will still refuse to repent. We see this from the rich man himself. While he is in pain, there are no indications that he has repented. Indeed, he tries to bring Lazarus (whom he tormented in life) to Hades with him!
We also see from Revelation that some will still refuse to repent.
In Revelation 9, we see an example of “basanos” in the physical world. Demonic spirits are allowed to “torment” (basanos) mankind, yet wicked mankind refuses to repent.
Revelation 9:5-And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man.
Revelation 9:20-21-But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Nevertheless, there is hope that some will repent. This is made powerfully clear in the Book of Revelation. The phrase “the kings of the Earth” is used throughout the Book to describe the enemies of God.
Revelation 6:15-And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,
Revelation 16:14-For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Revelation 17:2-with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”
Revelation 17:18-And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Revelation 18:3-For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
Revelation 18:9-The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning,
Revelation 19:19-And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
At this point, it is pretty clear that the “kings of the earth” are those who still refuse to repent before the Lord. So, we see in Revelation 20 that those are cast into the Lake of Fire (i.e., Hell).
Is that the end of the story?
After being cast into Hell, we are told:
Revelation 21:24-And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
The “kings of the Earth” who are the enemies of God throughout the Book of Revelation are then identified as being in Heaven (after being cast into Hell).
As one researcher has noted:
“One more thing about this passage that is important to see is that the book of Revelation doesn’t end at 14: 11. This isn’t the last word about those who are tormented in the flames. To read this passage and to stop here would be like reading Jeremiah’s warnings, stopping there, and not reading on to see the promise of restoration. John offers sharp warnings about the fate of the faithless, to be sure, but he doesn’t stop there. As we will see, he goes on to offer a promise of restoration and reconciliation. When we turn to the end of Revelation, we find a most startling description of the heavenly city: And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. (21: 23–25) Throughout the book of Revelation the “kings of the earth” are presented as the ultimate bad guys. If John were writing a Western novel, the kings of the earth would be the whiskered guys wearing the black hats. In previous chapters, they are depicted as buzzard food at the banquet of the Lamb, their names are not found in the Book of Life, and so they are among those who are thrown into the lake of fire. Yet here we see them making their way into the heavenly city that has gates that are never closed. Why would the gates never be closed? In the spiritual geography of John’s vision, there is the lake of fire and the heavenly city. That’s it. It is hard to imagine that they would be open so that the inhabitants of the city could leave, so they must be open so that those in the lake of fire can make their way in. Since John is clear that nothing can enter the heavenly city without being cleansed of sin, this could reasonably lead one to conclude that the lake of fire ultimately has a corrective and purifying function.” (Heath Bradley, Flames of Love: Hell and Universal Salvation, 75 (Kindle Edition): Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock)
So, what does all of this teach us?
First, regardless of whether or not the story of Lazarus and the rich man is a parable or a true account, the overall lessons are the same.
Second, the realm of Hades is the realm of departed souls, and is divided up into at least two sections:a place for the saved, and a place for the unsaved.
Third, Hades is a temporary place which will be emptied out when Jesus returns.
Fourth, the “torments” of Hades (basanos), like the “punishment” of Hell (kolasis) are remedial, designed to try and bring the most wicked to repentance. This usage of the words (basanos and kolasis) is demonstrated from both the Greek Old Testament, the New Testament, and extra-biblical material.
Finally, even though God’s intention is to try and bring about the redemption of the most wicked, it is possible that those in Hades and in Hell will simply refuse to repent (although there are indications that some will).
Within all of this in mind, I believe that the saved will be able to enjoy Paradise and Heaven knowing that God is still working with those in Hades and in Hell. This gives me hope, even when it seems that all hope is lost. Isn’t that one of the many things that our God specializes in? He is the “God of hope” (Romans 15:13). As such, I believe that God can be trusted to continue working with everyone, even the dammed. If they continue to refuse to repent before the Lord, then God will honor their choices.
Even though we all deserve Hell for our sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23), Jesus died to save us (1 Timothy 1:15). He was buried, and arose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He calls believers in Him as the Son of God to repent of their sins and be immersed in water to have their sins washed away (Acts 2:37-47). He also invites baptized believers who have turned from Him to return to Him in repentance and prayer (1 John 1:7-2:2).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.