The great gulf is only mentioned once in scripture, but the significance of it is a teaching of the fate of any one of us. It is explained in the book of Luke when the beggar was carried by the angels into Abrahams bosom, while the rich man died and was buried. The riches here are not the blessings God bestows upon a man for the labor he has done for his livelihood, but this was a man who had saw material things as riches but was not spiritually rich in the knowledge of God. (Luke 12:19-21). And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Revelation 3:17,18). Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
We can know for sure depending on our way of life if we will be on one side of the gulf as the beggar who was rich in serving God and therefore found comfort (Paradise), or on the other side as the rich man rich in material goods and was in torment (hell) (Luke 16:19-25). There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.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.And 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.But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
This gulf is a real place and we learn of it’s truth by Christ himself who even taught from the cross which he had hung upon. When the malefactor who hung beside him was repentant and asked Jesus that he would remember him when he would enter his kingdom and Jesus replied that on that very day he would be with him in paradise! (Luke 23:40-43).
All this confirms the beautiful passage to be absent from our body is to be present with the Lord! (2 Corinthians 5:7-10). (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.