“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46).
Where do men go immediately after they die? Solomon declares: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). Jesus informed us of what happened to the rich man and Lazarus immediately after they died (Luke 16:19-31). “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23). The word translated “hell” is the Greek word ‘hades,’ which is literally “unseen.” The rich man woke up in the ‘unseen’ world. This account of Lazarus and the rich man is not just a parable. He mentions ‘certain’ people and names one of them. Individuals are not named in parables. Even if someone insists that it is a parable, parables are not fairy tales. They are true to life. This event actually happened.
The rich man’s mind and heart went with him to torment. The rich man’s body is buried in the earth, but the rich man himself, woke up in torments (Luke 16:23). When he arrived in torment the rich man had another ‘body,’ or something that could see (Abraham and Lazarus), speak (so as to relate with Abraham), and feel pain (of the flames around him). It is plain that the rich man had the identical memory that he had when he was on earth. He clearly remembered Lazarus, his brothers, and his past life (Luke 16:23-28). This is part of his eternal nature. He had the same heart toward Lazarus after he arrived in torment that he had when he was still in this world. On earth, the rich man had no compassion in his heart for Lazarus at all. The most Lazarus received were crumbs from the rich man. He received no compassion in the form of medical help from the rich man. Dogs were kind enough to lick his sores but the rich man would not help him. We see his heart in torment, when “. . . 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 (Luke 16:24). He showed the same flagrant disregard for Lazarus’ well-being. He expected to use him as a slave by directing Abraham to send him into the flames – to give him water. He further expected Lazarus to suffer more by returning to earth in order to warn his brothers. He continued to love his brothers so much that he would rather have them not to be with him forever if they could enter paradise (Luke 16:27, 28).
While he was on earth he did not respond to the Lord’s encouragement to be good. There is no indication he will have an opportunity to change his heart in torment. In fact, Jesus testifies that on judgment day at least some of these souls in torment will still not understand what they have done wrong that caused them to be in torment. Jesus testified that: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22). They will argue that they were serving him with his authority, when in fact Jesus never knew them (Matt. 7:21-23). Thus Jesus described man’s mind, heart and soul – his real eternal nature – after he leaves this earthly form.
God uses the earth to form man’s heart and mind. This is his concern. This is where his purpose or goal for man is centered. There is no indication that God is forming hearts in the next world. The mind and heart leave this earth and enter the unseen world.
What is the rich man’s heart like today? There is no indication he is any different now than he was 2,000 years ago when he entered torment. “Sodom and Gomorrha, 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” (Jude 1:7). That is a present tense verb. There is no indication the minds and hearts of the men who had lived in Sodom are any different now than they were on earth. Fifteen hundred years after Moses died on Mount Nebo, he returned to speak with Christ on the mount of transfiguration. Which Moses spoke with Christ? We know it was not the child in the bull rushes. It was not the Moses who killed a man when he was 40 years old; nor was it the the most humble man in the world whom God called to lead his people out of Egypt at 80 years old (Num. 12:1). The marvelously humble 120 year old Moses who had wrestled faithfully and almost flawlessly with a rebellious and disobedient people for 40 years in a wilderness is the being who spoke to Jesus on the mountain (Heb. 5:1-5). The point is this. We arrive on the earth as babies whose hearts and minds know very little. By the time we die, our hearts are very solidly formed. God uses this earth to form hearts. This is an integral part of God’s eternal plan. His plan is described in more detail in what has been called the Great Commission.