This is one of the most graphic depictions of the afterlife, probably because it’s the most personal. In particular, it is a graphic picture of what hell will be like.
Many people think that this was an actual incident, the reason being that this is the only story Jesus tells which names a person.
Whether it is a true story or not, I don’t know, but it is a clear warning to those who fail to prepare for eternity. It is, in fact, the bookend to this chapter, which starts with a story of a person who did prepare for his future albeit through shady means.
Jesus starts the story by talking about a rich man who lived in luxury. He had no needs or wants unfulfilled, and therefore never gave a thought to his future. Nor did he give a thought to the people around him. There was a man named Lazarus that he passed by day by day. Lazarus was a beggar, and my guess is that it was through no fault of his own. But through illness or perhaps some other problem beyond his control, he was reduced to begging for a living. Lazarus longed just for the crumbs from this rich man’s table, but the rich man never gave him a moment’s notice. And so they lived.
When their time came, Lazarus was escorted to Abraham’s side where he was comforted, but the rich man descended to hell where he was in torment. And when he cried out for relief, Abraham responded,
Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. (25)
What was Abraham saying? This man had spent his whole life enjoying his life on earth. He accumulated wealth, he enjoyed pleasure, and generally did whatever he pleased. But he did not prepare for eternity. Lazarus, on the other hand, though he had nothing on this earth, indeed, though he suffered greatly while on earth, nevertheless prepared himself for eternity. And so when the time came, Lazarus received comfort, while the rich man suffered in agony.
The problem with the rich man was not his riches. The problem was that he had not prepared for eternity. He had not, as Jesus put it, used the wealth he had been given in such a way that he would be welcomed into eternal dwellings with God. (Luke 16:9)
Let us not be foolish as this man was. Let us remember that this life is but a breath, and that we need to prepare for eternity. For if we don’t, we will suffer his fate.
How about you. Are you prepared for eternity?