Luke 16:26 – A Great Chasm

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. I understand the main point of this parable. But there is a phrase within it that has perplexed me. I haven’t yet found anything online that explains it and my Bible Commentary was also not helpful.

In Luke 16:26 Jesus says:

26Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’

I get why someone who is separated from God and in Hell would want to cross over into Heaven. But part of what Jesus says is that this chasm exists to “prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours”.

Why in the world would anyone want to leave heaven and go to hell?

The best I have been able to fathom is that the most saintly people who want to save as many souls for God as possible (ie. St. Therese of Lisieux) may be tempted to pop out of heaven for a few moments, visit Hell, and work to convert a soul so as to save it and get it to heaven.

There would otherwise be no leaving of heaven since heaven, once attained, means eternal presence as a beloved with the beloved. Being with God is perfection.

But then again, when a soul decides at its particular judgment whether it is worthy of heaven or of hell based on what one did in one’s life — I thought that was pretty final. I don’t know how that can change.

One can pray for the souls in Purgatory and have it make a difference in getting them closer to heaven. But I’ve not heard of anyone being able to pray for a soul in hell and having it change the soul’s fate from ever leaving hell.

I could really use a theologian here because no one seems to pay any heed to this verse, but it seems like it is worth contemplating to some degree.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.*

19“There was a rich man* who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.

20And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,i

21who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

22When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried,

23and from the netherworld,* where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

24And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’

25Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.j

26Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’

27He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house,

28for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’

29But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’

30* He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”k

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