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WILL THE EXISTENCE OF HELL IMPACT BELIEVERS' JOY IN HEAVEN?
by Philip Owen

          A question that has troubled or at least puzzled believers over the years has to do with the state of the lost confined to the lake of fire for all eternity and how that reality will affect the bliss of believers in heaven. There are several ways to address this question. One might be to admit that it is an open question whether the redeemed in eternity will even remain conscious of the existence of the eternally lost. Another response would be to acknowledge and accept by faith what the Word teaches universally, namely, that the experience of heaven is one of absolute joy, perfect peace, and complete contentment. Period. A third answer would be to consider the account of The Rich Man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. Although it does not offer the definitive answer, it may provide valuable insight into the question we’ve raised.

            Some have deemed this account in the sixteenth chapter of Luke to be a parable. But a large majority of conservative commentators agree that Luke is recording an actual historical event based on the fact that not one parable uses personal names, whereas Luke offers the names of three specific individuals—Lazarus, Abraham, and Moses. So in this record, the Spirit of God has been pleased to open for us a little window on life after death. Granted this account took place before believers went directly to heaven following the resurrection of Christ and, clearly, before hell is cast into the lake of fire, the final place of judgment for the lost, at the end of the tribulation period. But the reality of eternal blessing and eternal damnation still pertain. Given that reality, consider the following observations.

            1. The rich man is enduring recognizable suffering. He is described as having “lifted up his eyes, being in torment” (Lk. 16:23). He “cried out” to Abraham, “have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame” (v. 24).

            2. Abraham is aware of his suffering. Addressing the rich man, he says: “you are in agony” (v.25).

            3. The rich man pleads with Abraham to send a warning to his brothers in order that they avoid coming “to this place of torment” (v. 28).

            4. Abraham refuses to satisfy the rich man’s requests.

            5. Abraham offers no consolation or comfort to the rich man.

            6. Abraham neither expresses nor evidences any concern for the horrible plight of the rich man. His responses are as matter-of-fact and unemotional as if the rich man had asked to be given the time of day.

            7. Abraham is perfectly content with the status quo of the rich man.

            Now, we know that Abraham was a man of great compassion toward the sinful during his life on earth. Among other examples, we see that in his kindness toward his thankless nephew Lot and when he interceded for wicked Sodom and Gomorrah. Did death suddenly turn Abraham into a cruel and heartless man? Of course not. The only conclusion we can draw from these observations is that passing into eternity provided Abraham with such a revelation of the Person of God, of the perfection of His work (even in judgment), and the infinite heinousness of sin that he could view with perfect equanimity God’s hand of judgment on a rebellious sinner. From his blessed state in paradise and with full knowledge of the just punishment that God had imposed on the rich man, Abraham rested and rejoiced in perfect peace and contentment. Will we know or remember hell in eternity? I don’t know. But the account of the rich man and Lazarus indicates that perfect knowledge of God will yield perfect peace and joy for His saints.

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