Luke 16:23
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) And in hell.—The Greek word is Hades, not Gehenna; the unseen world of the dead, not the final prison of the souls of the lost. (See Note on Matthew 5:22.) It lies almost on the surface of the parable that it describes an earlier stage of the life after death than that in Matthew 25:31-46. There is no mention here of the Advent of the Judge. As far as the parable itself is concerned, there is nothing to exclude the thought that the torments might have in part the character of a discipline as well as of retribution.

In torments.—The Greek word was applied originally to the test or touchstone of metals, then to the torture to which men had recourse as the one sure test of the veracity of witnesses, than to torments generally. The nature of the “torments” here is suggested by the “flame” of the next verse, but that word has to be taken with all its symbolic associations, and does not necessarily imply the material element of fire. (See Notes on Mark 9:43-49.) What is meant is that there shall be for the soul of the evil-doer, when brought face to face with that holiness of God which is as a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), an anguish as intolerable as the touch of earthly flame is to the nerves of the mortal body. The thought is expressed with great beauty in Dr. Newman’s Dream of Gerontius:—

“And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—

The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;

The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—

Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.”

Seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.—Here again we are in a region of symbolic imagery, under which we discern the truth that the souls of those who have yielded to selfish indulgence will discover after death that those whom they have scorned and neglected during their life are admitted, if worthy of admission, to the enjoyment of a rest and refreshment from which they themselves are, by their own act and deed, excluded.

Luke 16:23. And in hell Εν τω αδη, in hades; that is, in the unseen, or invisible world. It must be observed, that both the rich man and Lazarus were in hades, though in different regions of it: he lifted up his eyes, being in torments — Our Saviour adapts this circumstance of the parable, says Lightfoot, to the popular opinion of the Jews. The rabbins say, that the place of torment and paradise are so situated, that what is done in the one may be seen from the other. “Because the opinions, as well as the language, of the Greeks,” says Dr. Macknight, “had by this time made their way into Judea, some imagine that our Lord had their fictions about the abodes of departed souls in his eye when he formed this parable: but the argument is not conclusive. At the same time it must be acknowledged, that his descriptions of those things are not drawn from the writings of the Old Testament; but have a remarkable affinity to the descriptions which the Grecian poets have given of them. They, as well as our Lord, represent the abodes of the blessed as lying contiguous to the regions of the damned, and separated only by a great impassable river, or deep gulf, in such a sort that the ghosts could talk with one another from its opposite banks. In the parable, souls, whose bodies were buried, know each other, and converse together, as if they had been imbodied. In like manner, the Pagans introduce departed souls talking together, and represent them as having pains and pleasures analogous to what we feel in this life. It seems, they thought the shades [spirits] of the dead had an exact resemblance to their bodies. The parable says, the souls of wicked men are tormented in flames; the Grecian mythologists tell us they lie in a river of fire, where they suffer the same torments they would have suffered while alive had their bodies been burned.” It will not, however, at all follow from these resemblances, that the parable is formed on the Grecian mythology, or that our Lord approved of what the common people thought or spake concerning those matters, agreeably to the notions and language of the Greeks. “In parabolical discourses provided the doctrines inculcated are strictly true, the terms in which they are inculcated may be such as are most familiar to the ears of mankind, and the images made use of such as they are best acquainted with.” What we are here taught with certainty is, that as the souls of the faithful, immediately after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; so, unholy and unsanctified souls, immediately after they are forced from the pleasures of the flesh by death, are in misery and torment, ceaseless, remediless, and endless torment, to be much increased and completed at the general resurrection. And seeth Abraham afar off — And yet knew him at that distance; and shall not Abraham’s children, when they are together in paradise, know each other? and Lazarus in his bosom — Having a view of the seats of the blessed at a distance, the first object that he beheld was Lazarus, the beggar, (who had so often been laid naked, and hungry, and covered with sores, at his gate,) sitting next to Abraham, in the chief place of felicity. In consequence of which, doubtless, the stings of his conscience were greatly multiplied, and he was racked with envy and self-accusing reproaches.16:19-31 Here the spiritual things are represented, in a description of the different state of good and bad, in this world and in the other. We are not told that the rich man got his estate by fraud, or oppression; but Christ shows, that a man may have a great deal of the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of this world, yet perish for ever under God's wrath and curse. The sin of this rich man was his providing for himself only. Here is a godly man, and one that will hereafter be happy for ever, in the depth of adversity and distress. It is often the lot of some of the dearest of God's saints and servants to be greatly afflicted in this world. We are not told that the rich man did him any harm, but we do not find that he had any care for him. Here is the different condition of this godly poor man, and this wicked rich man, at and after death. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torment. It is not probable that there are discourses between glorified saints and damned sinners, but this dialogue shows the hopeless misery and fruitless desires, to which condemned spirits are brought. There is a day coming, when those who now hate and despise the people of God, would gladly receive kindness from them. But the damned in hell shall not have the least abatement of their torment. Sinners are now called upon to remember; but they do not, they will not, they find ways to avoid it. As wicked people have good things only in this life, and at death are for ever separated from all good, so godly people have evil things only in this life, and at death they are for ever put from them. In this world, blessed be God, there is no gulf between a state of nature and grace, we may pass from sin to God; but if we die in our sins, there is no coming out. The rich man had five brethren, and would have them stopped in their sinful course; their coming to that place of torment, would make his misery the worse, who had helped to show them the way thither. How many would now desire to recall or to undo what they have written or done! Those who would make the rich man's praying to Abraham justify praying to saints departed, go far to seek for proofs, when the mistake of a damned sinner is all they can find for an example. And surely there is no encouragement to follow the example, when all his prayers were made in vain. A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures. The same strength of corruption that breaks through the convictions of the written word, would triumph over a witness from the dead. Let us seek to the law and to the testimony, Isa 8:19,20, for that is the sure word of prophecy, upon which we may rest, 2Pe 1:19. Circumstances in every age show that no terrors, or arguments, can give true repentance without the special grace of God renewing the sinner's heart.In hell - The word here translated hell ("Hades") means literally a dark, obscure place; the place where departed spirits go, but especially the place where "wicked" spirits go. See the Job 10:21-22 notes; Isaiah 14:9 note. The following circumstances are related of it in this parable:

1. It is "far off" from the abodes of the righteous. Lazarus was seen "afar off."

2. It is a place of torment.

3. There is a great gulf fixed between that and heaven, Luke 16:26.

4. The suffering is great. It is represented by "torment" in a flame, Luke 16:24.

5. There will be no escape from it, Luke 16:26.

The word "hell" here means, therefore, that dark, obscure, and miserable place, far from heaven, where the wicked shall be punished forever.

He lifted up his eyes - A phrase in common use among the Hebrews, meaning "he looked," Genesis 13:10; Genesis 18:2; Genesis 31:10; Deuteronomy 8:3; Luke 6:20.

Being in torment - The word "torment" means "pain, anguish" Matthew 4:24; particularly the pain inflicted by the ancients in order to induce people to make confession of their crimes. These "torments" or tortures were the keenest that they could inflict, such as the rack, or scourging, or burning; and the use of the word here denotes that the sufferings of the wicked can be represented only by the extremest forms of human suffering.

And seeth Abraham ... - This was an aggravation of his misery. One of the first things that occurred in hell was to look up, and see the poor man that lay at his gate completely happy. What a contrast! Just now he was rolling in wealth, and the poor man was at his gate. He had no expectation of these sufferings: now they have come upon him, and Lazarus is happy and forever fixed in the paradise of God. It is more, perhaps, than we are authorized to infer, that the wicked will "see" those who are in paradise. That they will "know" that they are there is certain; but we are not to suppose that they will be so near together as to be seen, or as to make conversation possible. These circumstances mean that there will be "a separation," and that the wicked in hell will be conscious that the righteous, though on earth they were poor or despised, will be in heaven. Heaven and hell will be far from each other, and it will be no small part of the misery of the one that it is far and forever removed from the other.

23. in hell—not the final place of the lost (for which another word is used), but as we say "the unseen world." But as the object here is certainly to depict the whole torment of the one and the perfect bliss of the other, it comes in this case to much the same.

seeth Abraham—not God, to whom therefore he cannot cry [Bengel].

Ver. 23,24. Kai en tw adh, And in hell. The world hath been filled with disputes about the true signification of the word adhv, which is here translated hell. The most probably true notion of it is, that it signifies, the state of the dead, both of the dead body, and so it often signifieth the grave, and of the departed soul. A very learned man saith, that if he mistakes not, this is the only text in Scripture in which by it is to be understood the place of torments. The Hebrew word which is translated by this, far more often signifying the place of the blessed, whither the saints and patriarchs went when they died, than the place whither sinners went; but Luke 16:24 makes it appear, that here it signifies hell, properly so called, as it imports the place of the damned. We must understand our Saviour in this whole diatupwsiv to speak to us figuratively, that by things which we understand we might comprehend spiritual things. Heaven and hell are at too great a distance for souls in each to discourse one with another: neither have souls any eyes to lift up. We are by this taught:

1. That as the souls of good men, when they leave their bodies, go into a state of eternal bliss, where are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and enjoy a felicity which we are not able to express, but is set out to us under the notion of Abraham’s bosom, to let us know that it is a place of rest, and communion with saints, and the same felicity which Abraham the friend of God doth enjoy: so the souls of wicked men, when they leave their bodies, shall go into a place of torments, the greatness of which being such as we are not able to conceive, they are expressed to us under the notion of being tormented by fire.

2. That it will be a great part of the misery of damned souls, to understand those to be in a state of happiness whom they in this life have scorned, despised, and abused, and, it may be, have been instruments to hasten them to those blessed mansions.

3. That there will come a time when the proudest sinners will be glad of the help of the meanest saints, if they could obtain it. Father Abraham, ( saith the rich man), send Lazarus, that Lazarus whom when alive I suffered to lie at my gate full of sores, and would not relieve.

4. That the state of the damned will be void of the least degrees of comfort and satisfaction. The rich man desireth but a cooling of his tongue with so much water as could be brought upon the tip of Lazarus’s finger.

5. That the tongue is a member, the abuse of which will in another life lie very heavy upon lost souls. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments,.... Which may design the place of torment, and the miserable state the Scribes and Pharisees, as all wicked men, enter immediately into upon death, Psalm 9:17 who in their lifetime were blind, and are called blind guides, blind watchmen, blind leaders of the blind, and who were given up to judicial blindness and hardness of heart; but in hell their eyes are opened, and they see their mistakes about the Messiah, and find themselves in torments, under dreadful gnawings, and remorse of conscience; and having a terrible sensation of divine wrath, their worm dies not, and their fire is not quenched: or this may regard the vengeance of God on the Jews, at the destruction of Jerusalem; when a fire was kindled against their land, and burned to the lowest hell; and consumed the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains; and the whole land became brimstone, salt, and burning; and they were rooted out of it in anger, wrath, and great indignation; see Deuteronomy 29:23 or rather, the dreadful calamities which came upon them in the times of Adrian at Bither; when their false Messiah Bar Cochab was taken and slain, and such multitudes of them were destroyed in the most miserable manner (z), when that people, who before had their eyes darkened, and a spirit of slumber and stupidity fallen upon them, in those calamities began to be under some convictions:

and seeth Abraham afar off: the covenant of circumcision given to him, and to them his natural seed, now of no use to them; their descent from him, of which they boasted, and in which they trusted, now of no avail; and him in the kingdom of heaven, and themselves thrust out; see Luke 13:28.

And Lazarus in his bosom; they now found the Messiah was come, and was gone to heaven, whither they could not come, John 7:33. The Jews are convinced that the Messiah is born, though not revealed; and they sometimes confess, that he was born the same day Jerusalem was destroyed; and sometimes they say, he sits at the gates of Rome among the lepers, and at other times, that he is in the walks of paradise (a). This is said in agreement with the notions of the Jews, that wicked men will see the righteous in happiness, and themselves in torment; by which the latter will be aggravated, to which the allusion is; for they say (b),

"the gates of paradise are fixed over against the gates of hell, so that they can see the righteous in rest, and themselves in distress.''

(z) Vid. Buxtorf. Lex. Talmud. col. 372. (a) Synagog. Jud. c. 50. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 1. Aben Ezra in Cant. vii. 5. T. Hieros Beracot, fol. 5. 1.((b) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 125. 3.

And in hell {i} he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

(i) Heavenly and spiritual things are expressed and set forth using language fit for our senses.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 16:23-26. In the other world.—ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ: from the O.T. point of view Hades means simply the state of the dead. Thus both the dead men would be in Hades. But here Hades seems = hell, the place of torment, and of course Lazarus is not there, but in Paradise.—ἀπὸ μακρόθεν: Paradise dimly visible, yet within speaking distance; this is not dogmatic teaching but popular description; so throughout.—ἐν τοῖς κόλποις: plural here (cf. Luke 16:22); so often in classics.23. in hell] Rather, in Hades. Hades, which is represented as containing both Paradise and Gehenna, and is merely the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, ‘the grave,’ is the intermediate condition of the dead between death and the final judgment. The scene on earth is contrasted with the reversed conditions of the other world. The entire scenery and phraseology are Jewish, and are borrowed from those which were current among the Rabbis of Christ’s day. Beyond the awful truth that death brings no necessary forgiveness, and therefore that the retribution must continue beyond the grave, we are not warranted in pressing the details of the imagery which was used as part of the vivid picture. And since the scene is in Hades, we cannot draw from it any safe inferences as to the final condition of the lost. The state of Dives may be, as

Tertullian says, a praelibatio sententiae, but it is not as yet the absolute sentence.Luke 16:23. ᾼδη, hell) [‘inferno’]. Neither Abraham nor Lazarus were ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ, although the death and descent of Christ [to hell] had not yet taken place.

ᾍδης and Gehenna differ,

As a whole, and a part differ;

As a thing present, and a thing about to be, viz. after the day of Judgment;

As a receptacle of individuals, and a receptacle of all the bad without exception.

ᾍδης is much wider in its meaning, than Gehenna, Comp. Genesis 37:35 [“I will go down into the grave (εἰς ᾍδου, to Hades) unto my son mourning”], where certainly Jacob is not expressing despair as to[the salvation of] his soul or that of Joseph [but merely his desire to follow Joseph to the unseen world of Hades]. In the first distinction which we have given between the words, ᾍδης itself and Gehenna itself are had regard to; in the third, it is the dwellers in each that are regarded. Abraham was ἐν τῷ ᾍδῃ in the widest sense of the term, as ᾍδῃς is used in the passage above quoted from Gen. But in Luke ᾍδῃς and the bosom of Abraham are opposed to one another.—ἐπᾴρας, having lifted up) A lamentable spectacle, presenting itself from the abyss.—[ἐν βασάνοις, in torments) And this, at a long interval before the last day; nay even preceding the death of Christ.—V. g.]—τὸν Ἀβραὰμ, Abraham) but not God Himself. For which reason also he cannot cry unto God, Have mercy on me.—κόλποις) The plural expressing the space from the breast to the knees.Verse 23. - And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments; more accurately, in Hades (the unseen world of the dead) he lift up his eyes. The idea of suffering does not lie in these first words, but in the participle "being in torments," which immediately follows. It is noticeable that, in this Divine picture of unhappy life in the other world there is no coarse, vulgar word-painting such as we meet with so often in mediaeval human works. The very fact of the man's being unhappy is gently represented. The graver aspect of the torments we learn from the hapless one's own words. Still, it is all very awful, though the facts are so gently told us. "Being in torments:" How could it be otherwise for such a one as Dives? The home of the loving, where Abraham was, would be no home for that selfish man who had never really loved or cared for any one save himself. What were the torments? men with hushed voices ask. A little further on the doomed one speaks of a flame and of his tongue apparently burning, owing to the scorching heat; but it would be a mistake to think of a material flame being intended here. There is nothing in the description of the situation to suggest this; it is rather the burning never to be satisfied, longing for something utterly beyond his reach, that the unhappy man describes as an inextinguishable flame. Were it desirable to dwell on these torments, we should remind men how lustful desires change rapidly into torture for the soul when the means for gratifying them exist not. In the case of Dives, his delight on earth seems to have been society, pleasant jovial company, the being surrounded by a crowd of admiring friends, the daily banquet, the gorgeous apparel, the stately house, - these details more than hint at the pleasure he found in the society of courtier-friends; but in the other world he seems to have been quite alone. Whereas among the blessed there appears to be a sweet companionship. Lazarus is in the company of Abraham, who, of course, only represents a great and goodly gathering. "Abraham's bosom" is simply the well-known expression for that feast or banquet of the happy souls judged worthy of an entrance into Paradise. But in that place where the rich man lifted up his eyes there seems a strange and awful solitariness. A total absence of everything, even of external causes of trouble, is very noticeable. He was alone; alone with his thoughts. And seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Hell

Rev., Hades. Where Lazarus also was, but in a different region. See on Matthew 16:18.

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