Tasting Heaven and Hell
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Luke 16:23
suggested further reading: James 2
Christ is telling a story here to describe spiritual matters in terms of people who will pull at our senses. Souls have neither fingers nor eyes and are not liable to thirst, nor do they hold such conversations among themselves as are described here between Abraham and the rich man. But our Lord draws a picture here that represents the life to come in a way that we can relate to it.
The general truth conveyed here is that believing souls that have left their bodies will have a joyful and blessed life beyond this world. The reprobate, by contrast, will endure such dreadful torments that our minds can hardly conceive of those anymore than we can conceive of the boundless glory of heaven. Only in a small measure—enlightened by the Spirit of God—can we taste by hope the glory promised to us, which far exceeds all our senses. Let it be enough to know that the vengeance of God that awaits the ungodly is so inconceivably horrible that Christ describes it in an obscure manner, only so far as is necessary to strike terror in us.
On the subjects of heaven and hell, Christ gives us slender information and in a manner fitting to restrain curiosity. The wicked are described as fearfully tormented by the misery that they feel. They beg for relief but are cut off from hope, thus experiencing double torment.
In this story we hear a conversation between people who ordinarily would have had no communication with each other. When the rich man says, “Father Abraham,” he expresses the additional torment of realizing, too late, that he is cut off from the number of the children of Abraham.
for meditation: In what way can we relate to the extreme suffering of the rich man? To the incomprehensible glory of Lazarus? Jesus offers us enough fodder to make us question how we are living today. Are we kneeling in faith before Christ, who alone can save us? Or are we relying on our conduct or the faith of our fathers to get us into heaven?