The Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches in its 28 fundamental beliefs:
The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people. When Christ, who is our life, appears, the resurrected righteous and the living righteous will be glorified and caught up to meet their Lord. The second resurrection, the resurrection of the unrighteous, will take place a thousand years later. (Job 19:25-27; Ps. 146:3, 4; Eccl. 9:5, 6, 10; Dan. 12:2, 13; Isa. 25:8; John 5:28, 29; 11:11-14; Rom. 6:23; 16; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 20:1-10.)
- the dead know nothing
- nobody is in heaven or hell yet
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 seems to challenge the Adventist interpretation. In this passage, not only do the rich man and Lazarus appear to go immediately to hell and heaven upon death, they are quite conscious of what is going on.
To make things a bit more hairy, this vivid portrayal of the afterlife is taught by Jesus Himself. If anyone should be qualified to speak authoritatively about death, we would expect it to be Jesus.
What then? Is Jesus confused about what the Bible says about death and hell? Or maybe it's the Adventists that can't read these red letters.
In the coming weeks and months, I'll be exploring this passage by investigating the following aspects of the story:
- the traditional reading
- critiques of the Adventist interpretation
- parable or a real event?
- scriptural context
- intertestimental writings about hell
- Abraham and Eleazar in the Old Testament
- a new reading
Please post comments below if there is more that you would like me to write about, or if I'm overlooking something in the text.