Q: This verse talks about the “great gulf fixed”. What information can you give on this?
A: To answer your question, what Luke 16 is describing is how the situation was prior to Messiah's death, resurrection, and ascension. Because animal blood would not take away sin (Hebrews 10:1-4) when a believer died his soul could not go immediately to Heaven. Therefore, there was another place it would go to until Messiah's death.
There is a place in the center of the earth known in Hebrew as Sheol and the Greek is Hades. As you read the Old Testament, all who died ended up going into Sheol but not to the same place. Sheol or Hades has two major compartments.
The good side was mostly known as Abraham's Bosom in Jewish writings and that is the way it appears in Luke 16. Another name for that section is simply Paradise. When a believer died his body was buried somewhere in the earth but his soul went into the Abraham's Bosom of Sheol or Hades. The other side had three subdivisions but the one concerning us here is Hell and when an unbeliever died his body remained in the earth but his soul went into Hell.
As the Luke 16, passage shows, the two sides can see each other and talk to each other but one could not pass from one side to the other. The reason is it was an impassable gulf, which could not be crossed, so while it was easy to communicate through, it was impossible to cross over either from one side or from the other. When Messiah died, his soul went into Abraham's Bosom and when He ascended to Heaven, He took the souls of believers out of Sheol or Hades (Ephesians 4:8-10). Thus things are changed for the believer and when a believer dies his soul goes right into Heaven to God's presence (Philippians 1:21-24; II Corinthians 5:1-11). Things have not changed for the unbeliever, so his soul still ends up in Hell.
After the Millennial Kingdom the unbelievers will be resurrected and stand before the Great White Throne Judgment and then they will be cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever and ever.
So again, Luke 16 describes how things used to be, but things have changed now for the believer and will change for the unbeliever in the future.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more details on this, see our Messianic Bible Study MBS-107 entitled The Place of the Dead.