When Jesus, the only Person who came from heaven (John 6:38), tells you about heaven and hell, you’ve got to pay close attention to it… Even if it is only a parable.
Now, in the parable about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16:19 – 16:31, NIV), we see that communication between heaven and hell is permitted. The only restriction is the freedom to cross over to the other side.
“…between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
– Luke 16:26b, NIV
It was unclear what Luke meant when he wrote this. It was also uncertain if the word that Luke used fully capture the meaning Christ intended. Nonetheless, given the limitation with our languages, we shall attempt to wrap our minds around the complex border that separates the two extremes of eternal life with the word that Luke used.
Original Text: χάσμα μέγα — (read as: chásma méga)
Literal Google Translation: Mega Gap.
Some of the modern usage of the word χάσμα:
- χάσμα can be used to refer to a gap that affects understanding.
- “This gap can turn out to be very confusing for interested parties and the public at large.” – Official Journal of the EU.
- χάσμα can be used to refer to a gap in digital stratification / digital divide
- “…bridging the digital divide.”
- χάσμα can be referred to a gap in opinions (normally of the political nature)
- “A significant divergence remains between EU legislation on the one hand and national legislation and practices on the other.” – Official Journal of the EU.
- χάσμα can be used to refer to a gap between people in the form of socio-economic status
- “…national poverty risk gap…”
I am not a linguist, so I can only assume that the χάσμα (or chasm/gap) that Jesus said is something of a similar nature. Now, assuming that χάσμα is an accurate description of the “gap” between heaven and hell, then it can be deduced that the differences that separate heaven and hell isn’t something that is on the superficial level. Rather, the “chasm” between heaven and hell appears to encompass one’s beliefs, one’s opinions, one’s choices, and one’s worldview.
The chasm between heaven and hell encompass one’s beliefs, one’s opinions, one’s choices, and one’s worldview.
To understand the this “chasm”, we must understand what brings people to hell in the first place. This took me to Jesus’ teaching about the unpardonable sin.
“Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
– Mark 3:28-29, NIV.
There are many explanations about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. However, the best description that made the most sense to me is the hardening of hearts till the point of recognizing the Truth in Jesus but still turning away from Him. Such is a hardness of heart that will render a person incapable of repentance (Mathis, 2018).
We know that the hardening of the heart can shape one’s worldview. We know that there are Jewish leaders who were constantly at odds with Christ during His ministry on earth. Their hearts were so hardened that everything they did was simply to disprove Christ or to bring Him harm. This was what Jesus said to them:
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
– John 8:44, NIV.
The hardening of hearts will shape one’s innate desire. These desires will then shape the way a person will live one’s life. With their minds fixed on following “the prince of this world” (another name for Satan in John 12:31, NIV), their entire person will be socialized into the being of Satan to do what he desires. This constant denial of Christ solidified their hearts to the point of no return that even in hell, they would find that there’s no purpose of repentance. I can only infer that this might be the reason for the rich man’s lack of repentance in hell in Luke’s narrative. Despite the door between heaven and hell being left open (Revelations 21:25, NIV), no one will cross over to one side or another even if they “wanted” to (Luke 16:26).
All sins can be forgiven. But if they have seen the richness of Christ and still turn away from Him and towards the temporal pleasures of the world, then these acts will be the chasm that separates them from God, forever.
Indeed, the very nature of sin is the “chasm” that separates heaven and hell as what Paul has taught us:
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NIV.
Not that these sins cannot be forgiven. But if they have seen the richness of Christ and still turn away from Christ and towards the temporal pleasures of such acts, then these acts will be the chasm that separates them from God, forever.
Translation and language references:
Mathis, D. (2018). What is the unforgivable sin? Retrieved from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-unforgivable-sin