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.
It was a far cry from the life of comfort that the rich man was used to. He’d once had the best of everything. He’d been at ease. He’d had no concern for anyone other than himself. But now he finds himself in a different state. There is no mercy in that place, only those who have rejected God bearing the fruit of that choice. Now he knows what it is like to be needy, to suffer, to want something that he cannot have.
The torment in that place is of desires unfulfilled—thirst that can never be quenched, hurt that can never be soothed, burning that can never be cooled. But there is a different kind of torment, too—the knowledge that his fate could have been different, that other place he could have ended up. And isn’t that even worse than the physical pain? The emotional torment of that regret will last for all of eternity. He carries with him the knowledge that his choices brought him to this place, and there is no way out. He has now the sure knowledge of God—real and alive and full of love and mercy—but now out of his reach.
Though he cannot now have even a drop of water, there are a few other things he has in this place of torment. He has his memories, forever to know and think upon that life that he wasted in pursuit of riches instead of God, that wealth that hardened his heart and kept him from showing mercy or compassion to a beggar full of sores at his gate. He has the understanding of his permanent and separated state, so far from where he wishes he could be, with no path to get there. And he has the knowledge of his brothers, potentially lost, only left to hope they will make a different choice than him.
Hell is a real place. The torment of it is real. It is worse in reality than we can even imagine from here. And that rich man Jesus talks about is still there regretting his choices. Let’s not make the same mistake. Let’s not risk ending up in a place of torment for all of eternity. The way out of the flame is to know Jesus as Savior, to be cleansed by His blood, forgiven of sin, and filled with His Holy Spirit, guaranteed eternal life. And for those of us who have made that choice, let’s not neglect to tell our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our neighbors and help them find their way to Jesus so they don’t end up tormented forever.