And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And 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.
This rich man desires compassion from Lazarus, though he had shown him none during their time on Earth. Now he has become the beggar, in a sense, the needy one, though he had the best of everything in his life. But being rich in life did not spare him from hell in death. Having the best and the most didn’t quench his thirst now or ease the torment of those flames. He who had showed no mercy would receive no mercy. He who had thought only of himself could find help from no one. He who had done as he pleased was now helpless to change his condition.
What else was hell but being too far from what he wanted—comfort, relief, just a drop of cool water. What else is hell but that uncrossable distance, that wide gap, that separation from God and all that He is. It is a real place for the evil one to go and the destination of every soul that rejects God and the salvation He offers us through His Son. But that place is defined much more by what is not there than what is. It is a place of torment with no mercy, pain with no healing, the burden of sin with no forgiveness, darkness with no light.
Too many people are seeking to live as the rich man did and failing to see that comes at a cost. People don’t want to face the fact that the permanent state of our souls is determined by what we do here now, the choices we make and how we respond to God. Let us be sure to tell those still blinded by the god of this world that hell is real and there is only one way to avoid it. Let’s make sure we’re doing whatever it takes to spare them the torment of hell by proclaiming God’s truth.
But then there is some comfort here, as well, for those of us who may face a life like Lazarus full of pain and lack. Because when he died, he found himself in Paradise, and it didn’t matter anymore that he was a beggar. Now he would have everything he could ever need. Now he would be free from all those things that afflicted him during his life. This life is only a temporary passageway to our eternal state, and if we’ve accepted Christ, we know a bright future awaits us no matter what we have to endure now. We will have comfort and relief and the love and presence of our Lord evermore.