DOES THE SOUL LIVE AFTER DEATH?
In this passage of scripture Jesus told the story of two men who died and their existence after they died. One was a rich man who lived a life of magnificent luxury. The other was a poor man who was covered with sores and begged for a living, but a spiritual minded man. However, both men are represented as alive in another state of existence after death. In this story Jesus takes us into the world of the dead, into the world of hades(the unseen world), into which all people enter at death both the saved and the lost. There are few subjects which interest men more than life after death, and rightly so, for “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.” The story relates where the souls of two men went at death-- how they felt and whether they were happy or unhappy. The rich man was miserable and Lazarus was happy.
Admittedly, this is a very controversial passage on which many commentators have differing views. Some think this is not a parable, but a record of a real life experience because the personal name of one of the men is given in the story. It would appear that Jesus never used personal names in His parables. However, others claim that it is a parable, and thus it cannot be understood literally. It is maintained that it is nothing more than a warning about the dangers of wealth. The rich man did not use his money properly, and lived a luxurious and selfish life without concern for anybody but himself. Well, it could have been a parable or a real life story, but actually it doesn't matter in the least whether it is or is not a parable. Parable or a true life story, the truth Jesus taught in this passage remains the same. Whatever your view on this story, it cannot be doubted that the story presupposes that the soul exists in an intermediate state after death. Moreover, it clearly teaches that there is a distinct place of abode for the righteous and unrighteous respectively after they die. .
I am in full agreement with this quotation taken from the Pulpit Commentary: “It is impossible to suppose that Jesus whose essence is truth could have assumed as existing anything which does not exist. It would destroy the truth of our Lord's sayings if we could conceive Him to have used popular language which does not point to the truth.” That is a very wise comment on this passage that all Bible teachers would do well to heed. The chief lesson in this story is that there is life after death. In addition, it teaches we are conscious between death and the resurrection. I don't know how you feel about this passage, but I
for one will not question any of the sayings of Jesus about their trustworthiness and truthfulness. This is not the only place Jesus spoke of the existence of the soul after death. He clearly charged His disciples that they should not fear their enemies who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” It is a divinely revealed truth that death does not terminate the life of the soul. Physical death, in all of its forms, cannot destroy the life of the soul. The source of life for the body is the spirit or soul, not vice versa. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Did not Jesus tell the thief He saved on the cross that the same day they died they would both go to paradise?. The teaching of Jesus in the story of the rich man and Lazarus is not totally new, for He taught on other occasions that the soul survives the grave. Jesus and the thief survived the grave, and in this story the rich man and Lazarus survived the grave. We do not cease to exist when we die. Some affirm that we die like the dog Rover; we die all over. We don't fall into unconsciousness or enter into a deep sleep until the day of the general resurrection. Death affects only the physical man and not the inner man of the soul. The body dies but the soul does not die. I would suggest to you that Jesus told this story to inform all mankind what their state of existence will be two minutes after they die.
In the first place two minutes after we die, we shall all be alive. There is a conscious personal life after death. . If this is not true Jesus began this story from a falsehood. Both Lazarus and the rich man survived death. It is said the rich man was buried, but he was very much alive two minutes after he died. Verses 22, 23 informs us that the angels carried the soul of Lazarus to Abraham's bosom, and the rich man's soul went to another unnamed location in Hades. The word Hades literally means the unseen world. The Jews used “Abraham's bosom” metaphorically for the home of happy, departed, waiting souls. Abraham's bosom is the Old Testament name for paradise. In Luke 20:39 Jesus said of all departed saints, “For God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.” In the preceding verse Jesus clearly taught that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive in the days of Moses, and that was several hundred years after their death. Two minutes after we die, we shall find ourselves alive.
Secondly, two minutes after we die, we will feel at peace in our conscience or we will have a disturbed conscience. In verse 25 Abraham is represented as saying to the rich man, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things.” The conscience goes with us. The rich man felt guilty. Conscience survives death. One of the blessings of being a Christian is that when we come to Christ by faith, repentance and immersion, we receive peace of conscience by way of forgiveness. I Peter 3:21 states that immersion into the death of Christ, “is the answer of a good conscience toward God.” After immersion in water our conscience gives us the feeling that we are right with God. When faithful Christians die in Christ, their peace of conscience goes with them to the unseen world.
Thirdly, two minutes after we die, we will be the same persons we were before we died. In the intermediate state our personal identity is preserved. All references imply this. The rich man lifts up his eyes. and sees Lazarus. Lazarus is still Lazarus. He cries out to “Father Abraham.” Abraham is still Abraham. He recalls his father's house and his five brothers. The I who was the essential I in this present world will be the same I in the world to come.
Furthermore, two minutes after we die, we shall be in one of two divisions in the other world. I speak of the intermediate world of Hades which, being interpreted, means the unseen world. Jesus called the division into which He and the thief went from the cross, paradise. It is implied in this story that “Abraham's bosom” is the same as the place called paradise in the New Testament. According to the apostle Peter, the name of the other division in the unseen world is Tartarus. At least that is the place the fallen angels were sent after they sinned and were cast out of heaven((2 Peter 2:4). The word translated ‘hell'' in 2 Peter 2:4 is a mistranslation. The angels were not cast into hell thousands and thousands of years ago before the creation of the world. Christians are still struggling with these fallen angels. No one will be cast into hell until after the final judgment. The Greek word Tartarus was used by Peter in 2 Peter 2:4, and it was the word used by the Greeks to mean the place where wicked people went after death. Hell will be the place of final punishment of the fallen angels, and that is yet future. Jesus said that hell was a place originally made for the devil and his angels.
The most disturbing thing about this passage is verse 23 which says the rich man was in torments. The thought of people being unhappy and in torments is difficult for the human mind to imagine. This has led some people to twist this passage and give it another meaning. It is rather common when people don't want to believe something said in the Bible, they simply twist the scripture to mean something else. It must be remembered that the rich man had no body in hades. We are distinctly told that he was buried. He had no tongue to be tormented. He was not in bodily torment. As to the torment of the rich man in hades, Martin Luther may have hit on the right explanation when in one of his sermons he said, “It is not corporeal. All is transacted in the conscience as he perceives that he has acted against the gospel. Nothing was actually spoken by him, but only internally felt.” It is not necessary to imagine anything beyond the disturbance of his conscience reliving all the past, the real character of his actions. His body was in the grave. Whatever suffering he was going through was in the soul and of a spiritual nature.
The rich man was was not condemned because of his riches, and the poor man's soul was not carried to Abraham's bosom because of his poverty. The riches were the temptation, and it had overcome his soul. He was a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God. Jesus said there is no profit in gaining the whole world and end up losing one's soul. Yet one may be rich and not trust in riches. One might be rich and be willing to distribute and recognize his stewardship to God, and many wealthy Christians do. One may be poor and greedy, showing covetousness by the bitter envying of the more fortunate. The most pressing instruction of this passage is that life or death is the choice before every one of us Two minutes after we die, our destiny will be fixed for eternity. In verse 26 it is said to the rich man, “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” None can pass from paradise to Tartarus, nor can any pass from Tartarus to Paradise. There is no second chance. After the study of such solemn truths that are revealed in this passage, believers and unbelievers alike should all be reminded of the words of Jesus, “Take heed how you hear. Hear and understand.”