Posted by Mark Herzer

The Larger Catechism

Question 86

 86. Q. What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?

A. The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness,[371] and received into the highest heavens,[372] where they behold the face of God in light and glory,[373] waiting for the full redemption of their bodies,[374] which even in death continue united to Christ,[375] and rest in their graves as in their beds,[376] till at the last day they be again united to their souls.[377] Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.[378]

 

Scriptural Defense and Commentary

[371] Hebrews 12:23. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. [372] 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6, 8. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord…. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Philippians 1:23. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. Acts 3:21. Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. Ephesians 4:10. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) [373] 1 John 3:2. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 Corinthians 13:12. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. [374] Romans 8:23. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Psalm 16:9. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. [375] 1 Thessalonians 4:14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. [376] Isaiah 57:2. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. [377] Job 19:26-27. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. [378] Luke 16:23-24. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And 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. Acts 1:25. That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. Jude 6-7. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

 

Communion in Glory

Death overtakes everyone (and this will continue until our Lord returns) and each individual will enter into another realm after death. Believers will enter into glory while God will cast unbelievers into hell. Therefore, only our believing loved ones will have been taken away into glory — unbelievers, no matter how much we love them, will have been cast into hell. This LC question explains the destiny of believers and unbelievers and what they will do during the interim period before Christ’s return.

Many envision heaven to be a bland and yet a benign place. Either indistinct conceptions of glory (cloudy surroundings, harmless naïve angels, ethereal existence, etc.) or carnal visions of the afterlife (meeting old friends, playing cards, sitting around and catching up, etc.) tend to fill the minds of uninformed religious people. Even some believers lack clear and distinct ideas of heaven. This LC question explains what happens to people right after death! When a person dies, they immediately enter into another state.

Vos says that the condition of believers “after their death is a condition of consciousness, memory, holiness, blessedness, and waiting for the completion of their redemption by the resurrection of their bodies…” Christians must not believe in the false doctrine of “soul sleep” held by some. We are conscious after death. Both believers and unbelievers remain conscious after their deaths but in different states or conditions.

Furthermore, we believe that each soul will continue on after death. Its immortality depends on God’s sustaining power and He will give it perpetual existence so as to bless or punish the soul forever. The unbiblical heresy of annihilationism denies this very simple truth.

 

1. With Christ

For believers, they are with Christ — “The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death…” We must highlight the phrase “with Christ.” Paul says that his “desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). When we leave this world, we leave in order to be with Christ.

Believers, after death, have “communion in glory with Christ.” We do not arrive in heaven safe and yet alone (like someone saved from a burning building only to be alone without their loved ones) — we depart so as to be with Christ. We will be with our Lord in glory; we will have fellowship (communion) in heaven (in glory) with our Lord (with Christ). Benefits come with that blessed fellowship with Him but we can experience those benefits only in our union and communion with Him. That glorious relationship known and experienced now continues and is perfected in glory.

Only one important application should consume us at this point. Do we enjoy Jesus Christ now? If so, then we will enjoy Him in glory. If we view heaven only as an escape (from something bad) or access to delights (irrespective of Christ), then we know nothing of genuine life in Christ. Paul desired to be with Christ at death. Can you say, “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord…” (2Cor. 5:8)? This hope pulsated in Paul’s heart — it motivated and dictated his actions. If we truly believed this, we too would yearn for the same.

 

2. Souls perfect in holiness

“The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness…” When believers die, their souls are made perfect in holiness. They will be part of the “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). Only in heaven does God make our souls perfect in holiness. Death, as we have already mentioned, serves as the passageway into this state. Notice the verse in Hebrews. Our souls or spirits are made perfect — our bodies (more on this below) do not partake of this blessedness. This means believers will no longer have any motions toward, desires for, yearnings after sin. No believer will be molested by their wicked thoughts, ashamed of their abominable imaginations, dejected by their unruly passions, etc. In perfect holiness, they will desire holiness, will be focused and zealous, will possess an undivided heart, etc. Fatigue, wandering thoughts, cloudy judgments, distracted attention, etc. exist in our souls now but not after we die and commune in glory with our Lord. Vos noted this about our holiness: “Perfect holiness (a) in extent: (b) in degree; (c) in stability. Never again can they fall short of moral perfection, suffer temptation, or fall into any sin.” (Vos)

We noted in our previous study that God could have made our souls perfect in holiness immediately when He gave us new birth in Christ. In His own wisdom and purpose, He chose not to give it to us in this present state. He reserved that blessed privilege and benefit for us.

Let us remember that if He can make us “perfect in holiness” immediately after death then He can grant you and me some grace of sanctification in the present moment. If He is able to do all this after our death (and it seems almost inconceivable), then surely giving drops of sanctifying grace present no difficulty to our heavenly Father. Go to Him in prayer and look to Him for deliverance. Let us not be like Israel, “She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.” (Zeph. 3:2)

This blessed truth means that the doctrine of purgatory flatly contradicts the Bible. They believe that the souls are not immediately made perfect in holiness after death to be purified. They say,

Not all who depart this life in the state of grace are fit to enter at once into the beatific vision of God. Some are burdened with venial transgressions. Others have not yet fully expiated the temporal punishments due to their sins.… there must be a middle state in which they are cleansed of venial sins, or, if they have not yet fully paid the temporal punishments due to their forgiven sins, must expiate the remainder of them.[1]

For them, since holiness is predominantly our work, it therefore follows we must complete our work after death in order to enter into heaven. Purgatory remedies what we did not finish here on earth. This doctrine consistently fits into their meritorious scheme. But as we have seen, believers die and then they immediately go into Christ’s presence. If they had a worthy doctrine of glorification, they would see that both the beginning and the end of our salvation, sanctification, and glorification flow to us freely through Christ’s grace.

 

3. Received into the highest heavens

With the blessed perfect holiness, we are told that we will be “received into the highest heavens.” What does that mean? The language assumes the existence of various “heavens.” Perhaps the air and sky above is one heaven and the space above is the other? Jewish writings speak of three to seven heavens. The realm beyond this creation is the “third heaven” (2Cor. 12:2). It is the “paradise” he speaks of in v. 3. The highest heavens is the place “above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10).

The “highest heavens” (given the verses used to support this statement, 2Cor. 5:1, 6, 8; Phil. 1:23; Acts 3:21; Eph. 4:10) therefore is the realm in which God exists and the place from which our Lord reigns. We do not dwell here after death — we go to be with Christ in heaven. Though we cannot “locate” heaven, it nonetheless exists as a “place where God’s glory is specially manifested, and it is the place where our Savior Jesus Christ in his glorified human nature now lives.” It must be a “place” in which Christ’s glorified human nature and the souls of God’s children can dwell.

As an aside, let us be careful of entertaining vain and foolish (harmful and forbidden) ideas of our loved ones “visiting” us after they die. They dwell in a better place with our Lord. Such demonic notions turn us away from the simplicity of the gospel hope.

 

4. Behold the face of God

The “beatific vision” or the visio dei (visio beatifica)[2] means to “behold the face of God in light and glory.” Jesus said in Mt. 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The general promise to God’s people is that they would see God — “For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face” (Ps. 11:7; cf. Heb. 12:14; 1Jn. 3:1-3; Rev. 21:22-27).

God as ‘refuge’ may be sought from motives that are all too self-regarding; but to behold his face is a goal in which only love has any interest. The psalmists knew the experience of seeing God with the inward eye in worship (e.g. 27:4; 63:2); but there is little doubt that they were led to look beyond this to an unmediated vision when they would be ransomed and awakened from death ‘to behold (his) face in righteousness’ (cf. 16:8–11; 17:15; 23:6; 49:15; 73:23ff.; 139:18).[3]

1Cor . 13:12 hints at this promise as well. Paul says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” One commentator put it like this:

“Our present ‘vision’ of God, as great as it is, is as nothing when compared to the real thing that is yet to be; it is like the difference between seeing a reflected image in a mirror and seeing a person face to face.” In our own culture the comparable metaphor would be the difference between seeing a photograph and seeing someone in person. As good as a picture is, it is simply not the real thing.[4]

In some way, we shall see God; we shall behold him to our soul’s satisfaction. Some commentators have noted that this idea in 1Cor. 13:12 is an expansion of Jewish reflection on Num. 12:8, “With him [Moses] I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” That is, “in the age to come all God’s people would have an experience similar to that which distinguished Moses from the other prophets. We already see the Lord as through a mirror (imperfectly) and know him as well as that experience allows (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18), but the day is coming when we will see him as Moses did, face to face, an experience of knowing him fully as we are already fully known by him.”[5]

 

Our Bodies

Having learned what happens to our souls upon death, we still need to better understand what is going to happen to our bodies at our death. Vos said, “While the condition of the souls of believers after their death is a condition of perfect holiness, still it is not the highest and most blessed condition they are destined to enjoy. The enjoyment of the supreme blessedness must wait until the resurrection of the body at the Last Day.”

 

1. Redemption of the body

The Larger Catechism states that believers are “waiting for the full redemption of their bodies…” In fact, believers in glory wait for this redemption. But this expectation and waiting began while they lived on earth. In Romans 8:23, Paul says, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Creation was already groaning (v. 22) as Paul said, “And not only the creation…” We believers who have the Spirit as the firstfruits (the initial installment of the glories to come) groan — that is, because we have the Spirit we groan.[6] “We are to understand that the gift of the Spirit to the believer at the inception of Christian life is God’s pledge of the completion of the process of salvation, which is here stated as “our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Previously Paul described the finished product as “a spiritual body” (1Co 15:44). The future bodily resurrection of believers will be the full harvest of redemption. Our bodies will be like that of the glorified Lord (Php 3:21).”[7]

Believers groan inwardly, not by way of complaints, but by nonverbal sighs, yearnings, etc. “This attitude does not involve anxiety about whether we will finally experience the deliverance God has promised for Paul allows of no doubts on that score (cf. vv. 28–30) but frustration at the remaining moral and physical infirmities that are inevitably a part of this period between justification and glorification (see 2 Cor. 5:2, 4) and longing for the end of this state of “weakness.”[8]

What is surprising is the way the verse ends. We wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. How can that be? Paul already declared that we are adopted in vv. 14-17. How can we be said to wait for our adoption? It means that there is more to our adoption than what we now experience.[9]

As one commentator noted: “As the physical body is admirably suited to life in this world, the promised spiritual body will be seen to be wonderfully congruent with the coming world.”[10] That is, our “spiritual body” (1Cor. 15:44) will no longer serve sin — our bodies will be perfectly adapted to glorify our Savior. We must not look upon our bodies as unnecessary encasings — they have been redeemed for a purpose. Our glorification remains incomplete until our souls are united to our bodies.

 

2. United to Christ

While believers rest in heaven with their Lord, the LC states that their bodies remain united to Christ: “which even in death continue united to Christ…” How can that be? How is Christ united to someone’s rotting corpse?

No one verse explicitly states this point. Various passages imply this doctrine. The specific verse used by the divines to support the teaching is 1 Thess. 4:14: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” The context indicates that Paul is explaining what will happen to those who have already died (v. 13, or fallen asleep).[11] Paul does not explicitly state what he infers: Since Jesus rose from the dead, so God will raise the saints in the same way.[12] God will gather together (bring with him) the dead (those who have fallen asleep). Mt. 24:31 indicates that the second coming involves the gathering of his people from the world: “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” 2Thess. 2:1 also mentions “gathered together to him” (ἐπισυναγωγῆς ἐπʼ αὐτόν).

Coming back to 1 Thess. 4:14, Paul writes two verses after v. 14 that “the dead in Christ will rise first.” Here he makes explicit what he did not in v. 14. Those who had fallen asleep will rise from the dead. How do these verses indicate that our bodies are united to Christ? If these bodies are raised from the dead, then it means that all that believers are (their bodies and soul) remain united to Christ. Even death cannot separate us. Jesus redeemed our entire person. Paul exhorts us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) — and the Bible assures us that these same mortal bodies will live (Rom. 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”). Various verses indicate that our bodies must be used for the Lord:

1Cor. 6:13, The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

1Cor. 6:15, Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

1Cor. 6:19, 20, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1Th. 4:4, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,

1 Cor. 6:13 adds another (surprising) truth, namely, that the Lord [is] for the body (ὁ κύριος τῷ σώματι). What does that mean? One commentator put it this way:

The Corinthians are saying that food is meant for the stomach and the stomach is meant for food, and God will destroy them both. No, replies Paul, the body is meant for the Lord and the Lord is meant for the body, and God will raise them both. So important is the human body to the Lord that he promises to give us a glorified human body on the day of the Lord (15:33–58). Thus what we do with our bodies now should reflect this value that God places on the human body.[13]

The older commentator Godet probably summarized Paul’s point better than anyone else: “The body is for Christ, to belong to Him and serve Him, and Christ is for the body, to inhabit and glorify it.”[14] Christ uses our body to glorify His name — the Lord for the body!

Once again, we return to 1 Thess. 4:14. We can say more explicitly from the verse that believers have fallen asleep “through Jesus” or “in Jesus” — “these believers died as Christians in union with him. In death, believers are not separated from Jesus. This phrase then becomes an implicit affirmation that those who die as Christians do not cease to exist between the time of their death and the resurrection.”[15] As we sleep in Jesus, so our bodies remain united to Him awaiting the resurrection.

 

3. To be reunited with their souls

At the end, our bodies will be reunited with our souls: “and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls.” Since our death is euphemistically called a sleep (not minimizing the finality of death), our bodies as it were “rest in their graves as in their beds…” (cf. Is. 57:2). Believers will eventually and ultimately see their Lord in their bodies, in their flesh (Job. 19:26-27, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”). In order for us to see Jesus with our eyes, we must be re-united with our bodies.

We must not look to heaven as an escape from our bodies. We may wish to leave the effects of sin in our bodies but to be disembodied must not be our ultimate goal. Believers will be with their Lord and yet they await the final resurrection of their own bodies. The body serves as the vehicle through which we glorify God (cf. Rom. 6:13). After the resurrection, it will be a perfect glorified body that will be adapted and equipped by the Spirit to glorify our God forever and ever.

 

The Unbelievers

Unbelievers have a different destiny awaiting them. The LC says, “Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.” Unbelievers, like Judas, go to their own place (Acts 1:25, “That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”) Like the wealthy nameless individual in Lk. 16, they will immediately undergo torment (Lk. 16:23, 24, see below). Torment and darkness await them (cf. Jude 6-7, And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.).

After death, they remain in a disembodied state until their bodies are raised to judgment on that great day. The unbeliever sinned with his body — his whole person committed all his own sins (in body and soul). Therefore, each one shall receive his body to undergo the eternal judgment — full judgment on the whole person.

 

Addendum

If unbelievers remain in a disembodied state, then how do we interpret Luke 16:19-31? It appears that that dives (Latin for rich, wealthy, etc.) was in torment and he requested to water to cool his tongue (16:24). How can the disembodied soul have a tongue and require water? Do unbelievers suffer immediately in their bodies or do they await the final judgment to come?

The following annotations on the passage give an interpretation of the whole passage. I will give a more thorough attention to vv. 23-24.

16:19-31 Rich man and Lazarus

This parable starts off with “There was a certain man…” This formula is usually found in parables. This parable is found only in Luke. Ryle says, “It is the only passage of Scripture which describes the feelings of the unconverted after death.”

16:19 — The purple and fine linen describes the luxuriant and extravagant lifestyle of this nameless rich man (πλούσιος). From the Latin, he has been called “dives” (see Vulgate; from the noun dives, divitis). With fine clothing, he satiated himself with fine foods. Not once, not occasionally but “every day.” “This man had all he asked in life and lived a life of enjoyable ease. He is not said to have committed any grave sin, but he lived only for himself. That was his condemnation.” (Morris) There is no mention of God in his life.

16:20-21 — Lazarus (a Greek form of Eleazer which means ‘God has helped’) stands in direct contrast to dives. “He is the only character given a name in Jesus’ parable.” (Morris) We find that Lazarus was placed at the gate; it suggests that he was put there out of necessity (cf. Green). Lazarus was at “his gate” (τὸν πυλῶνα αὐτοῦ/), that is, at the rich man’s gate. The word for gate presumably meant that it was quite a large one, one that could be found in great palaces or cities. In contrast to the rich man, he was covered with sores. The rich man was covered with purple and fine linen while Lazarus with sores.

We must remember the significance of the dog. “In Jewish eyes dogs were not romanticized as ‘man’s best friend’ but were seen as impure, disgusting scavengers. Even the dog tormented the poor man by licking his ulcerated sores.” (Stein) Lazarus longed for the crumbs from this rich man’s table. Nothing indicates that he ever received anything from the rich man.

16:22 — Morris notes, “Nothing has been said about the religious state of either.” But eternity reveals their religious condition. In one verse, the fate of all men befell the poor and the rich. They both died and they both departed from the pain and pleasure of this physical world. Curiously, we are not told that Lazarus was even buried while the rich man was. One “died and was carried” while the other “died and was buried.” “Even in death he was treated differently in this world from Lazarus. He was buried.” (Stein)

Lazarus is a faithful child of God and is received into “Abraham’s bosom.” Though the phrase “Abraham’s bosom” is used only here, this surely refers to nothing else than heaven. He is now with the great patriarch.

16:23 — Hades is used as a place for the dead but in the NT, it is never a place for believers. In this passage, it is equivalent to Gehenna. This rich man was in torment. “Their roles are not only reversed; their new conditions are intensified.”[16]

16:24 — He does show some deference to Abraham (“Father Abraham”) but it appears that some sort of unconscious arrogance still clouds his heart. Since he knew Lazarus by name, it suggests that he was well aware of who Lazarus was while he was on earth. Dives still treated Lazarus as a menial servant to be used for whatever purposes the he saw fit. This request did not seem inappropriate to him — why would it since he always had other people serve him? He who gave no mercy now pleads for mercy.

Regarding the phrase “cool my tongue” one commentator states: “Jewish discussions of the afterlife commonly included physical torment (16:23) and the ability of the dead to see and converse with others (2 Esdr. [= 4 Ezra] 7:79–85, 91–93; Eccles. Rab. 1.15.1 on 1:15; H¸ag. 77d [2.2] [= Neusner et al. 1982–93: 20.57–58]; Creed 1930: 213).”[17] This may be true but I think it misses the point of this passage.

First of all, since his brothers (v. 28) were still alive and he was in Hades, he could not have his own body (it was lying in the grave). Life continued on for those on earth while he (Dives) remained in torment in Hades. Secondly, this is a parable and we must not make too much of every detail (one to one correspondence to reality). The thrust of the parable is three-fold. Craig Blomberg classifies this as a “Three Simple-Point Parable.”[18] Blomberg says,

One may thus suggest that the main lessons of the parable follow these lines: (1) Like Lazarus, those whom God helps will be borne after their death into God’s presence. (2) Like the rich man, the unrepentant will experience irreversible punishment. (3) Through Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, God reveals himself and his will so that none who neglect it can legitimately protest their subsequent fate.[19]

Furthermore, he adds, “If these are true aspects of the afterlife, they will be derived from other passages of Scripture, not from this one. Otherwise one might just as well conclude that it will be possible to talk to those “on the other side,” that Abraham will be God’s spokesman in meting out final judgment, and that some from “heaven” will apparently want to be able to travel to “hell” (“those who want to go from here to you”—v. 26)!”[20] He makes very important observations. We know torment is meted out on the wicked after death from other passages — this parable merely overplays the details to convey the points Jesus wanted us to learn. We also know that our fate after death remains irreversible. Several other points could be made (our present conduct impacts the eternal outcomes; we immediately enter into our eternal estates; etc.).

Lastly, we can take Calvin’s sober interpretation of the passage to be a good guide. Most Christians would accept Calvin’s interpretation (the general teaching found in this exposition).

Though Christ is relating a history, yet he describes spiritual things under figures, which he knew to be adapted to our senses. Souls have neither fingers nor eyes, and are not liable to thirst, nor do they hold such conversations among themselves as are here described to have taken place between Abraham and the rich man; but our Lord has here drawn a picture, which represents the condition of the life to come according to the measure of our capacity. The general truth conveyed is, that believing souls, when they have left their bodies, lead a joyful and blessed life out of this world, and that for the reprobate there are prepared dreadful torments, which can no more be conceived by our minds than the boundless glory of the heavens. As it is only in a small measure—only so far as we are enlightened by the Spirit of God—that we taste by hope the glory promised to us, which far exceeds all our senses, let it be reckoned enough that the inconceivable vengeance of God, which awaits the ungodly, is communicated to us in an obscure manner, so far as is necessary to strike terror into our minds.

On these subjects the words of Christ give us slender information, and in a manner which is fitted to restrain curiosity. The wicked are described as fearfully tormented by the misery which they feel; as desiring some relief, but cut off from hope, and thus experiencing a double torment; and as having their anguish increased by being compelled to remember their crimes, and to compare the present blessedness of believers with their own miserable and lost condition. In connection with this a conversation is related, as if persons who have no intercourse with each other were supposed to talk together. When the rich man says, Father Abraham, this expresses an additional torment, that he perceives, when it is too late, that he is cut off from the number of the children of Abraham.

16:25-26 — Our future cannot change. Justice will be meted out; everything will be rightly dispensed. Dives got what was coming to him and Lazarus received his. One is comforted (v. 25) while the other is in anguish (v. 24).

Once we arrive, there is no turning back. Eternal habitations are fixed forever. There are no U-turns and no second chances. Scrooge woke up from his vision or dream to mend his ways but men and women will not have the same chance after they die.

16:27-28 — Dives seems to suggest that his brother had not been sufficiently warned. If they are warned, then they will repent. It suggests that had he been warned, he too would have repented. Scripture was sufficient. Wisely did Ryle say, “There is no infidelity, or skepticism, or unbelief after death.” One divine said that “hell is nothing more than truth known too late.”

16:29 — Scripture was available to them as it was available to him. God made it clear and that should suffice. This certainly applies to us as well. We must not ask for more. If we reject God’s Word now, then our condemnation is just.

16:30 —Dives remains quite certain of this. His hard heart cannot imagine that a visitor from the grave cannot make a man repent. Things will not be different. Is he suggesting that if this had happened to him he would have repented?

16:31 — One writer put it this way (quoted in Morris), “If a man (says Jesus) cannot be human with the Old Testament in his hand and Lazarus on his doorstep, nothing – neither a visitant from the other world nor a revelation of the horrors of Hell — will teach him otherwise.” The people in Jesus’ time refused what the Scriptures taught, so they will end up not believing that Christ had risen from the dead. “The Scriptures contain all that we need to know in order to be saved, and a messenger from the world beyond the grace could add nothing to them.” (Ryle)

 

[1] Joseph Pohle and Arthur Preuss, Eschatology, or The Catholic Doctrine of the Last Things: A Dogmatic Treatise, Dogmatic Theology (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1920), 75–76.

[2] Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms : Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1985), 327: “The scholastics note that the visio is not a visio oculi, a vision of the eye, except with reference to the perception of the glorified Christ. With reference to the saints’ new perception of God, the visio is cognitio Dei clara et intuitiva, a clear and intuitive knowledge of God, an inward actus intellectus et voluntatis, or act of intellect and will.”

[3] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary (TOTC 15; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 91. Craigie’s comment in the WBC seems to deny the benefit of fuller meaning of the words of the verse.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 648.

[5] Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 660.

[6] Cf. Moo perhaps is correct in saying that the meaning is causal, that is, it is because we have the Spirit we groan. J. Murray does not seem to take that sense. Moo says, “it is because we possess the Spirit as the first installment and pledge of our complete salvation that we groan, yearning for the fulfillment of that salvation to take place. The Spirit, then, functions to join inseparably together the two sides of the “already-not yet” eschatological tension in which we are caught. “Already,” through the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit, we have been transferred into the new age of blessing and salvation; but the very fact that the Spirit is only the “first fruits” makes us sadly conscious that we have “not yet” severed all ties to the old age of sin and death” (Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], 520).

[7] Everett F. Harrison and Donald A. Hagner, “Romans,” in Romans–Galatians (vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 138.

[8] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 519.

[9] Cf. Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 324.

[10] Everett F. Harrison and Donald A. Hagner, “Romans,” in Romans–Galatians (vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 138.

[11] Paul uses this specific euphemism “fallen asleep” because of the nature of Christ’s death. “Noticeably, Paul does not refer to Jesus’ death as “sleep.” The difference between Jesus’ experience and that of believers is that he endured actual separation from God for the world’s sins. The uniqueness of his death points to the uniqueness of his miraculous resurrection (cf. Bruce, 97). Because of his real death, Christians will not experience that separation; their death has taken on the characteristics of “sleep” (cf. Milligan, 57)” (Robert L. Thomas, “1 Thessalonians,” in Ephesians–Philemon [vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006], 415). Thomas’s pronounced dispensationalism colors his interpretation of this verse. He takes the phrase “bring with him” to mean a reference to the rapture into heaven (though he carefully avoids the word ‘rapture’ in this section).

[12] Cf. Gary Shogren, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 182: “…this is an example of evidence – inference, where ‘the speaker infers something (the apodosis) from some evidence’.”

[13] Verlyn D. Verbrugge, “1 Corinthians,” in Romans–Galatians (vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 311.

[14] Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, trans. A. Cusin, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1889), 307.

[15] Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians (PNTC; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 221. The author came to this understanding through the genitive use of “through Jesus” (dia» touv ∆Ihsouv, Jesus being in the genitive case). The great John Eadie seems to have come to a similar conclusion, see John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians (London: MacMillan & Co., 1877; reprint, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1977), 152.

[16] Craig A. Evans, Luke (NIBC 3; Accordance electronic ed. 18 vols.; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 249.

[17] Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51–24:53 (BECNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996), 1.371.

[18] Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 206.

[19] Cf. Thorwald Lorenzen, “A Biblical Meditation on Luke 16:19–31,” ExpT 87 (1975):39–43. Contrast Jeremias’s bland, reductionistic one main point: “in the face of this challenge of the hour, evasion is impossible” (Parables, p. 182).

[20] Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 207. In his footnote, he adds: “At the opposite end of the spectrum, Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Leicester and Downers Grove: IVP, 1981), p. 820, remarks: “the only certain fact about the afterlife which emerges from the parable is the reality of its existence.” But surely one must add at least that there are both irreversibly good and unalterably evil possibilities for this life.”


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