Backwards in Eternity: The poor become rich and the rich become poor, the beggar becomes prosperous and the prosperous a beggar. Such is the case with the “Rich man and Lazarus”. Because our world is so busted up with sin, much of what we see and even come accustom to is completely backwards to how God’s kingdom operates. God’s kingdom is free from sin and is no respecter of persons. I’m going to be really candid, I struggle with being a respecter of persons, it’s my weakness. I don’t think that it’s because I love others more but rather that I have a sinful tendency to flock towards people that I think can improve my situation. I would likely have passed the guy sitting at the gate with dogs licking his wounds just to catch up and talk to the super rich guy. Why? Because he can likely do something for me and my selfishness. Pride and greed are ugly sins that put on pretty masks many times.
I battle this daily, and when I say “I battle this” that’s exactly what I mean. Every Christian should be in a war against their flesh, if they are not then their flesh has already won, be sure of that. You might even say, “I can’t believe you would walk by that guy at the gate”! Think about how many times you have walked by a homeless person on the street without even looking simply so you wouldn’t have to lie when they asked you if you had any money. To our shame most of us are the rich guy in this story. Let’s repent of our indifference and change.
Does Hell Exist? There are many people that will try and refute the existence of a place called hell. You know how you can gauge the condition of the church on issues like hell? Look up the stats for books like “Love Wins”, a popular book explicitly casting off the idea that Hell is a legit place and eventually everyone will respond to Christ and be saved. Let’s just say there are a lot of churches that bought glass display cases for that book and benched all their other books on the realness of Hell.
So let’s forget what anyone says for or against hell, what does the Bible say? What’s more, what does Jesus say? Does He even speak about it? The answer as you well know is a resounding YES! The truth is that the words we are about to read should sober any person who dares gaze upon the text. If we commit this topic to heart it will revolutionize our churches. If any of us had to spend even 30 seconds in Hell we would be the most unstoppable witnesses for the Gospel there ever was.
Luke 16:19-30 ESV
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
Have Mercy on Me: The rich man, who was a proud man on earth, no doubt wined and dined with the elite of the day. He wore the finest clothes that money could buy (purple was extremely costly to purchase in that time). The man feasted like a king every day and lived in a gated courtyard. You think he was rich though; he didn’t have running water, a refrigerator, a stove, 42 inch TV and Blu Ray or 2 cars. He would walk into most of our homes today and say, “You guys are doing pretty well for yourselves”. This passage wasn’t written so that we could look down our noses at some rich guy that lived 2,000 years ago, it was written for us that we might examine ourselves and see if we are not repeating the same thing that he did.
“Have Mercy On Me” is a cry of anguish coming from someone who’s looking for immediate undeserved deliverance. Deliverance that was once within reach but now billions of light years beyond reach. What was his request? Was it to be let out? No! Was it to come over and join Lazarus and father Abraham? No! He was requesting that Lazarus dip the END of his finger into some water and then touch it to his scorching tongue. I seriously can’t imagine what type of anguish it would take to make such a request. He didn’t even ask for the entire finger to be wet, he’s simply requesting a drop.
There are a few things to take note of here and one is that the Rich man could see everything that was going on in “heaven”, (no. 1). People in hell somehow have an ability to see what they rejected; what they traded in for their pride and rebellion, (no. 2). There must have been visible water where Lazarus was since that was the request. The torture of being in a fiery furnace and being able to look out at a fresh water fountain is beyond what words can express. There is a reason it’s called HELL, because it’s not only what you are going through but also what you can clearly see you passed up.
As we continue reading in this text we see that Abraham rejects his request for the simple fact that eternity is final, fixed, in concrete, forever. There is no changing ways, changing minds, saying sorry, repenting; for the soul that sins will die. Abraham reminds the man of his life on earth, how he received all the good things that the world had to offer, (no. 3). In Hell there is memory of the past, what you did on earth, how you lived, and why you were wrong.
I Beg You: The once prosperous man who walked by the beggar at his gate every day is now the begging. Have you heard that phrase “Misery Likes Company”? This is not the case here. In Fact, Hell is filled with Billions of people who are all alone begging and pleading for someone to go and talk to their families. It’s so horrific that a soul’s mind, second only to self relief , is turned toward the protection of their families. No one in Hell wants their family there for company. I have heard people say, “I’ll party in Hell with my friends“. To that I say, “There is no party in Hell. You’re all alone and you’ll wish your friends weren’t there“, then direct them to read Luke 16.
The rich man pleaded that Lazarus be sent back to his family and warn them of the dreadful place. The thought of anyone he loves joining him there made him shudder.
I think now would be a good time to remind us all that this was two thousand years ago and he is STILL in Hell doing this, and will be doing it in two thousand years to come, and one hundred thousand years after that, and a billion trillion years after that. Hell is permanent, and considering Abraham’s response it’s likely that all of the rich man’s brothers and father are there as well. Every one begs, they pray and plead but “There’s not a Hope in Hell” that any one will ever answer their prayers.
Law and the Prophets: Abraham reminds the rich man that the law and prophets were given to his household through Moses and all the prophets of the Old Testament, yet they neglected to do anything with them. The Bible says that the LAW brings knowledge of sin, and the prophets did almost nothing but call people to repentance. Although his family rejected it there is hope for yours, mine and anyone else who would faithfully use the scriptures to reveal sin and help a condemned soul see the beauty in the gospel.
God is the one who opens the eyes of the blind, but we are called to share the Gospel to a lost and dying world. The Bible says that “without the Law there is no knowledge of sin”, I wonder if that statement is true? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s in the Bible, so it must be. So if there is no knowledge of sin, by that it means how exceedingly sinful sin really is, then there can be no need for the Savior. Drowning people are the ones who scramble for a life jacket. When you are comfy in your boat there is no need for one. When we share the Gospel with people we need to rock the boat so that people may see their need for their life-saver.
If we are faithful to show someone their need for the Savior they will be much more inclined to turn their heart towards your words. Law brings knowledge of sin, sin brings death, and death is delivered into hell. There is only one way of escape, one way in which men may be saved. Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life. Who do you know that is headed for Hell? Read through Luke 16 every day this week before you go to work, play, music practice, grocery store, family gatherings, look those strangers and lost loved ones in the face and imagine what they will be doing in 100 years. Let’s share the Gospel while we still can.
Grace & Peace,
Preparing The Way