The Rich Man in Mental Torment

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The Rich Man in Mental Torment

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Again let's be careful not to assume the rich man in the story is already engulfed in an unbiblical ever-burning hellfire. If this were a genuine description of the punishment of the wicked after death, he could not actually be burning yet (see "The wicked will be completely burned up"). Rather, he would be aware of approaching flames of the lake of fire into which, he realizes, he would soon be cast. "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15 Revelation 20:15And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
American King James Version×
).

Facing imminent death he cries out to Abraham to "send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water" to cool his tongue. If he were already burning in a searing inferno wouldn't he really want pails of water to put out the flames, rather than just a few drops on his tongue? So the rich man is not in a fire but is, rather, beset by tremendous mental anguish to the point where his mouth has become nearly dry.

The rich man then says, "I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24 Luke 16:24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
American King James Version×
). The word "tormented" is translated from the Greek word odunao. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon explains that this word can describe not only intense pain but also mental anguish or distress. The NAS Exhaustive Concordance states the word "in" here in Greek is en which can mean being "in" or "on," but it can also mean "at, by, with." If a real portrayal of going to the lake of fire, the rich man would be in extreme mental distress as he realizes his fate is to be utterly burned up.

It's vital to grasp Christ's warning here to the Pharisees—that those who were unrepentant would be "weeping and gnashing" their teeth after realizing they are excluded from God's Kingdom (Luke 13:28 Luke 13:28There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
American King James Version×
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The infinite gulf between mortal and immortal life

After the rich man pleads with Abraham to have Lazarus cool his tongue with a few drops of water Abraham replies to him, "'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, 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'" (Luke 16:25-26 Luke 16:25-26 [25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. [26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from there.
American King James Version×
).

This great gulf would include the infinite distance between mortal and immortal life (1 Corinthians 15:50-54 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 [50] Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. [51] Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. [53] For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. [54] So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
American King James Version×
). Faithful, obedient believers who are made immortal will never die (Luke 20:34-36 Luke 20:34-36 [34] And Jesus answering said to them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: [35] But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: [36] Neither can they die any more: for they are equal to the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
American King James Version×
; John 11:26 John 11:26And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believe you this?
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; Revelation 20:6 Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×
). However, human beings who refuse to repent of their sins lose their opportunity for everlasting life. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27 Hebrews 10:26-27 [26] For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, [27] But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
American King James Version×
).

Because of his unrepentance over his love of money and pleasure to the neglect of another human being the rich man had destroyed his relationship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 [1] Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: [2] But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×
). He knew what was about to happen to him. He realized his fate was sealed and he would die shortly in the lake of fire. As a result, the rich man's last thoughts turned to some of his family members.

Without awareness of time having passed and assuming his five brothers were still alive, he implored Abraham to have Lazarus encourage them to repent lest they too would be punished. "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent'" (Luke 16:27-30 Luke 16:27-30 [27] Then he said, I pray you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house: [28] For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. [29] Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.
American King James Version×
).

Finally, Abraham replies, "'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead'" (Luke 16:31 Luke 16:31And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
American King James Version×
). Why did Jesus include this statement in His parable? Because even though the Pharisees felt they followed Moses and the prophets, they in fact rejected them. Speaking to the Pharisees at an earlier time Jesus said, "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words" (John 5:46-47 John 5:46-47 [46] For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me. [47] But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words?
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)?

Jesus advised His disciples that the prophets' message about Him had everything to do with loving God and fellow human beings (John 1:45 John 1:45Philip finds Nathanael, and said to him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 22:37-40 Matthew 22:37-40 [37] Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [38] This is the first and great commandment. [39] And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
American King James Version×
).

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