Saturday, November 17, 2018

Abraham's Bosom and Hades

Whether men like it or not, or whether they believe it or not, the Bible clearly speaks of the reality of a heaven and a hell in the afterlife. Consistently and persistently, Scripture declares that at the end of time there is a judgment, and in it there is a great separation—the righteous go to heaven while the unrighteous go to hell (see Hebrews 9:27; Matthew 25:31–46; and Luke 16:19–31).

In typical fashion, the Word of God uses a rich variety of terms to describe these eternal destinies, among which are those in Friday’s study—Abraham’s bosom and Hades. Uniformly, the language reveals the beauty and blessing of being in the presence of God and the torment and awfulness of being apart from Him. The more commonly employed terminology, however, is heaven and hell.

Heaven is the eternal “location” of those who have in this life trusted in God and His coming redemption (Old Testament) or in Jesus Christ and the accomplished salvation on the Cross of Calvary and His subsequent resurrection from the dead (New Testament). The supreme glory of heaven is the presence of God Himself, thus the glorious descriptions in the book of Revelation of the throne of God surrounded by the innumerable angels and “the uncountable redeemed of God” (chapters 4–5).

The Bible uses a variety of expressions for this eternal destiny of blessedness in God’s presence, some of which are “Abraham’s side,” “My Father’s house” (Jesus), “paradise,” and “the new heaven and new earth.” Abraham’s side is a figure of speech used by Jesus to indicate closeness and security in the presence of “the friend of God,” Abraham, the forefather of the Hebrews. Jesus’ language of “My Father’s house” speaks of the new home the righteous have in eternity, emphasizing the security and tranquility of being in the very presence of the heavenly Father.

Paradise speaks of a delightful garden, creating images of a restored greater Garden of Eden where the presence of the Shekinah glory of God will be the privilege of the redeemed as they walk with Him. The magnificence of the symbolic description of the new heaven and new earth visualizes the overwhelming blessings of eternal life at its fullest (Revelation 21:1–22:5). But the heaven of heaven ultimately is being in the presence of Jesus:

  Christ is the heart of Heaven,
  Its fullness and its bliss;
  The center of the heavenly throng,
  The Object of the ransomed’s song
  Is Jesus in the midst.

Hell, on the other hand, is the dreadful “place” that is the eternal abode of the wicked. Here, too, the Bible uses a variety of terms in its vivid description of the final state of the unrighteous. Some of its designations are sheol and hades, gehenna, outer darkness, the second death, and the lake of fire. Sheol (Old Testament) and hades (New Testament) are generic terms to describe the state of death, at times, however, describing the final state of those who are forever apart from God (the Luke passage). Gehenna, derived from Jerusalem’s burning garbage dump, emphasizes the horror and the separation from God of the unrighteous in the eternal state.

Outer darkness is a figure of speech noting the total absence of the God who is light, while the second death expression shows the finality of the last separation. The lake of fire vividly portrays the torment that hell is because of the total absence of God’s love and all that is good and wholesome in the universe, and the fact that this anguish lasts forever. All these and many other designations describe the dreadfulness of hell and serve as a graphic warning to men and women today in any culture and nation of the world.

All we have to do to avoid hell and be guaranteed a place in heaven (at Abraham’s side) is follow the simple advice of the apostle Paul: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That is the beauty of the Gospel!