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God’s Word for You

Luke 16:24b pain in hell, animals in heaven

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, October 26, 2018

Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

In verse 23 Jesus told us that this man was “in hell… in torment.” Here his desire is for relief from that torment. Once again we need to ask, is Jesus using an anthropomorphism regarding the man’s condemned soul, assigning physical characteristics to a non-physical entity, or is Jesus speaking with simple, plain words about what happens in hell? The whole conversation centers around this detail and the condition of the man’s family (verses 27-28). Since the man’s family is not an analogy or comparison with some other detail, but an actual family, we should take the pain the man feels and the request for water as actual, real, and corporeal. If not, then a new meaning must be proposed for what the man means by the five brothers in his father’s house.

  1. Damnation affects the whole person, including his mind and spirit. This is evident because the rich man, prior to the reunion with his body on the Last Day, is so tormented that he begs for relief with a drop of water. When Isaiah describes the agony of hell he says, “Their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind” (Isaiah 66:24). To be loathsome is not a physical pain in any way, but is emotional, part of the mind’s thoughts and the spirit’s understanding.
  2. Damnation affects the whole person, including his body. This is evident because physical suffering is natural for man in his fallen state, and was part of the original curse on mankind. “I will greatly increase your pains,” God said to Eve (Genesis 3:16), and to Adam he said, “Through painful toil you will eat” (Genesis 3:17). Also, Isaiah’s “worm” and “fire” are physical pains. David Hollaz (Lutheran pastor, 1648-1713) said, “The hellfire with which the bodies of the damned will be tormented will be fire in the proper sense of the word and therefore material… but it will be a unique fire, not elemental or common.” Since the suffering of hell is eternal, we also understand that the fire which burns will not completely destroy, nor will it subside, which is why Hollaz calls it both “material” and yet “not elemental.” It is beyond our understanding.
  3. In hell, the damned do not repent of their errors in life. This is evident because the rich man asks for pity and relief, but never mentions his sins or his unbelief. Also, he still does not understand his relationship with poor Lazarus, because he assumes that Lazarus can be a servant to him and bring him water for his burning tongue.
  4. Isaiah’s point, that “their worm will not die” (Isaiah 66:24), also quoted by Jesus (Mark 9:48), is also a hint that animals will play a role in our eternal lives after the resurrection. The worm has no reason to be punished, and is not punished in the text. Therefore the worm exists apart from the punishment of hell, even though physically or in some spiritual sense it is present (although an animal has no spirit). In Romans 8, the whole creation—not just mankind—“will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The creation groans about this even now (Romans 8:22). But since creation desires release like the liberation which the children of God enjoy, it follows that the creation, or parts of it, will escape the destruction of the fallen world and will be brought into “the glorious freedom of the children of God,” which can be nothing less than heaven. Therefore the glories of the created world, the plants and trees, the rivers and stones, flowers and grasses, and also birds, fish and animals, will be a part of eternal life for us. They will not be a danger to us or to each other. “‘The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord,” (Isaiah 65:25).

Our crucified Savior has spared us unimaginable agony, and at the same time he has promised us unimaginable ecstasy. Thank God for your faith and treasure it as your greatest possession. Share it, hold it high, and never let it go.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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