KEY THOT: There are differing interpretations concerning this story about Lazarus and the anonymous rich man. Some bible scholars think that this is a parable, and like all parables of Jesus, are non-factual and are told to illustrate spiritual truths. However, other bible scholars believe that this is not a parable because the name of one of the poor man was named (Lazarus). My own opinion is that this is a true story based on a real incident: it is not fictional as in other parables of Jesus. While its details about the afterlife may not be complete, its purpose is to warn us of the two different destinies awaiting people of this world. Those who are righteous because of faith will be on "Abraham’s side" (the side of faith) while those who are unrighteous will end up in Hades (the side of unbelief), the interim state to await the final judgment before being cast into Hell with the devil and his angels.
Hades in the NT is a translation of the Hebrew Sheol, which is the place of the dead. Traditionally, it is understood to be the “interim” state before the final judgment when our final destiny is determined. Those whose names are on the book of life will participate in the new heaven and new earth. Those whose names are not found there will be cast into the lake of fire: “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). The lake of fire is often associated with another word in NT calls geenna or gehenna. Of the 12 occurrences in the NT of this word, Jesus is responsible for 11 occurrences.
In Matthew 10:28, Jesus says we should fear God because he not only can kill the body (first death) but also “can destroy both soul and body in hell” (second death). If we put the reference in Revelation 20:14 about the “second death” as the lake of fire, then we can conclude that Hell (gehenna) is not to be confused with Hades, for Death and Hades will be destroyed ultimately in Hell, the lake of fire. While Hades is the interim place of the unrighteous dead, Hell is the final destiny of all unrighteous dead together with the devil and his angels: “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). That the “eternal fire” is a reference to the “lake of fire” is confirmed by Revelation 20:10, “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur.”
So the unrighteous dead’s interim destination before the final judgment is Hades while the righteous' destination is “Abraham’s side” (paradise). The unrighteous shares the devil's final destiny in Hell (lake of fires) whereas the righteous' final destiny is the new Heaven and new Earth.
There is no second chance after death. Our only opportunity to change the people's final destinies is today: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (v.31). Therefore, the church must make evangelism a priority ministry of the church because it will determine the eternal destiny of everyone we share the gospel with.
Once they are dead, their destiny is sealed. There will be no more crossing over.
Father, give us a sense of urgency about sharing the gospel with our family and friend who have yet to know Your salvation. Amen.