Matthew Roark
October 26, 2022
Question #

Is the Rich Man in Hell?


What is your view on the rich man and poor man, in the parable, in relation to hell?


I do not believe the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus teaches an eternal Hell for two reasons.

First, the duration of the Rich Man's punishment is never mentioned. The closest we get is with, "a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us."—which is what we should expect. It would be a failure of justice if those in Hell could leave without repentance, and an even greater failure of justice if the perfected in Heaven could fall to hell. But fixed does not mean permanent. Though the Rich Man could not alter his own condition, Jesus could.

Second, it cannot teach an eternal Hell because we know Jesus freed the captives of Hell through His death and resurrection:

"Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)" Ephesians 4:8-10

Now it may be argued the Rich Man was not included in this host of captives, that he refused upon hearing the Gospel (1 Peter 4:6) to follow Jesus out. But that seems unlikely given the torment he was in and the fact he was already desperate to be freed. I see no reason to think he would have refused Jesus.

This parable teaches that our present actions follow us into the next world; the Christian Universalist affirms this. It teaches that the wicked will suffer in the next world and will pay for their sins, even to 'the uttermost farthing'; again, the Christian Universalist affirms this. What the parable does not teach is the irredeemability of the wicked or their endless torment. Jesus will save them in the end.

Matthew Coleman

Matthew Roark is co-founder and editor of Mercy On All. He lives in Kentucky with his abundantly beautiful wife and three children. He is an avid reader and enjoys all things J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald.