So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.(Luke 16:22) NKJV
The first thing we have to account for is Abraham’s bosom. The meaning of this is simple, Lazarus was being consoled by Abraham: Abraham was giving Lazarus a hug. That’s how simple it is.
It gets more complicated when we try to pin down exactly where they were when this happened. The spaghetti theologians think that Lazarus and Abraham are in heaven, except that heaven isn’t a real place. They also think that the rich man is anywhere but hell because, after all, they don’t believe in hell. It’s a bad situation. It’s no wonder why intelligent people think that religion is stupid.
Given the fact that this parable was spoken by Jesus, and we’re going to take him at his word, we can conclude that Lazarus and Abraham are awake and alive deep inside the Earth. This is what the Bible refers to as the grave, which is one of the ways in which sheol (Hebrew) and hades (Greek) are translated. It’s context-dependent.
Given the context, Lazarus and Abraham are in a safe non-burning place where they can see a place of burning fire. There is a great gulf between them. Obviously hades refers to more than one thing, but whatever they are they have to be physical locations inside the Earth.
These locations are part of the meaning of both sheol and hades. We say part of the meaning because sheol and hades are used to refer to hell, but hell has several components. Here’s a brief summary of how the levels of hell and the internal structure of the Earth are described in Hebrew.
Levels of Hell
|Earth (erets)||World (tebel)|
|Great Gulf |
|bad sheol||erets beriach|
mayim tachath erets
Torment in Flame – Navigation
|1||Torment in Flame||Luke 16:19-21|
|2||A Great Gulf||Luke 16:25-26|
|Great Gulf or Outer Core?||2 Thessalonians 2:9-12|
|Attacking the Assumption Underlying |
the Gravitational Constant G and Variable g
|3||This Place of Torment||Luke 16:27-30|
Hell (sheol or hades) refers broadly to the underworld realm of the dead and encompasses all of its levels. However, there are times when the context makes it clear that these words refer to a specific level.