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Hades: Are There Compartments in the Underworld?

Are there compartments in Hades?

Luke 16:19–31 tells of two men, the Rich Man and Lazarus. They both died and went to different places. According to verse 23 the Rich Man was in “hell,” but Lazarus was in a different place. He was in “Abraham’s bosom” (vs. 22). A third place is mentioned, “a great gulf fixed.” Verse 26 describes this “great gulf” as a chasm separating “hell” from ”Abraham’s bosom.” Those who want to pass from one side of the chasm to the other cannot do so.

Would anyone want to pass from one side to the other? It would appear they would. Lazarus is enjoying his existence in “Abraham’s bosom,” whereas the Rich Man is being tormented by a “flame.” The Rich Man makes a request of Abraham: “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” (vs. 24). Though the Rich Man lived a life of luxury, after his death he was suffering grievously.

These two men experienced conscious existence after death. Lazarus was enjoying peace and safety in Abraham’s bosom. He was also enjoying fellowship with Abraham. When Jesus said to the penitent thief on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:47) He was referring to the same place. “Abraham’s bosom” is “Paradise.” It makes no sense to speak of a place as “Paradise” if one is not able to experience its blessings.

The Rich Man, on the other hand, was experiencing a great deal of torment. He could even see Lazarus in a condition of comfort in Abraham’s bosom. Perhaps part of the Rich Man’s torment was not only the flame and the thirst, but the realization that he was missing out on the blessings of Lazarus. Jesus said much more about this place of torment than about Abraham’s bosom, perhaps to warn men of the danger of going to that place.

After their deaths, people in the Old Testament went to a place called Sheol. The New Testament equivalent of Sheol is Hades. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Hades is translated “hell.”

When Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He had offered Himself as the final sacrifice and accomplished what none of the Old Testament sacrifices could accomplish. Since that time Paradise has been emptied and deceased Old Testament saints are with God in Heaven.

Just as Paradise was emptied, Hades will be emptied in the future. Revelation 20:13–14 state: “And death and hell [Hades] delivered up the dead which were in them … And death and hell [Hades] were cast into the lake of fire.” At the time of the Great White Throne Judgment, the wicked dead in Hades will be raised, and then judged, and then cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.

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