THE TALE OF TWO MEN
Does everyone go to Heaven? It’s an honest question that preachers hear often, and sadly affirmed by many good intentional preachers heard at funerals. But is it good intentions or is it fear to tell the truth? See, I wish I could answer that question with a joyful Yes! “That all people go to Heaven.” I know our Lord desires this……. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:3-4. But the simple truth and reality is; that this is never going to happen, though we plead for this to happen. Why? Man love darkness rather than light and men love their sin too much to give it up. Again Jesus said these words “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matt 7:13-14. Heaven and Hell are both real, literal places. Sadly, many preachers shy away from uncomfortable topics such as hell. Some even teach “universalism” the belief that everyone goes to heaven. Yet Christ spoke about hell a great deal, as did Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews. The Bible is clear that every person who has ever lived will spend eternity in either heaven or hell.
This brings me to my next question!
Is Hell real?
Do Christians really believe in it?
59 percent of people say Hell is not a real place! For this reason……Hell is not an easy belief to accept. C.S. Lewis said "There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord's own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason." We don’t want to talk about Hell because we don’t want to associate this wicked place with a loving God who is good, pure and holy.
So we rationalize! Why would a loving God send people to hell forever? These and other questions about the doctrine of hell may not be pleasant to address, but they often come up as objections to Christianity, even puzzling Christians at times. But my question to you is this! What makes you think you and I don’t deserve the flaming wrath of God in Hell? Especially what you might have said and did this past week. Hell is the eternal justice of God, reserved for the haters and rebellious.
Hell according to the scriptures is described as a place…..
Of everlasting punishment “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matt 25:46
Of intense suffering and pain “and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matt 13:42
Of outer darkness “while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matt 8:12
Prepared for the Devil and His fallen angels and haters of the truth of the gospel. “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matt 25:41
The Hell that Jesus describes is not a “Hell on earth” that accompanies our bad decisions during this life. It certainly isn’t a party as AC DC describes it in their song. Hell is a place of punishment at the end of the age for “law breakers” who deny and refuse to submit to Jesus and the precious gospel. Do you know that Jesus spent more time talking about Hell then He did Heaven? R C Sproul quoted this statement on His Facebook page and one person’s comment was “I wonder why churches today do not.” And one person’s response to that comment was “Pastors are afraid off offending people. More concerned with making money selling Jesus than being truthful.” No Bible presenter places more stress on Hell as the final consequence of God’s judgment of condemnation than Jesus did. God’s Son, Jesus Christ was the great theologian of hell. And today we get front row seats to a testimony of an unconverted man who is in Hell. This passage is about a rich man who played the ultimate fool by indulging in his wealth, ignoring true faith in God and service to humanity, until he found himself in hell for his godless selfishness. This passage expresses the urgency we must have when we are faced with the truth of Heaven and Hell. This passage reminds us that the only way to escape such a place is the precious gospel truth of salvation only found in Christ alone. So lets us dive into this account of two men penned by Luke. And learn what Jesus wants us to learn from this encounter. Because! This passage seems much like a parable, but it is not specifically called that. Reason being this encounter has a name, where Jesus’ parables don’t. And because like all parables taught by Jesus there is a lesson to be learned.
We see two types of people (v19-v21)
A rich man who had everything and more so. He is dressed in fine apparel…colored in purple which is most esteemed colour to wear. It was the colour of kings and we are told he feasted “sumptuously every day”(v19). So the picture that Jesus paints is one of a man who extremely wealthy. Then we see A poor man who has a name “Lazarus” who had nothing, but his name means “God has helped”. But let’s not mistake this is not the Lazarus who died and came back in John 11. He was man with opens sores that oozed continually. Possibly because of malnutrition which resulted in weeping ulcers. He was a man who had no job and was reduced to begging for food and money and had to be “cast down or laid at the gate” of the rich man. And every day he would lay at the gate of this rich man’s house hoping for one thing “..to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table.” (v21) . And the only thing he received was the man’s dogs coming over to lick his oozing sores. It would seem the unclean dogs had more compassion for him, than from the rich man.
What do we learn about these two people? First! The rich man was self-focused that never acknowledges once this beggar who lay at his gate to his home. And what makes it even worse he knew him, despite never helping him. Why do I say that (v24) “…send Lazarus” This rich man was phony or a fake “so called man of God” Mike your saying “He professes to believe in God?” Yes, he makes that assumption! (v24) “Father Abraham have mercy on me” By saying that he seems to consider himself a son of Abraham and a blessed member of God’s people. If that was so which we know it isn’t!
How could someone who loves God be so heartless to those less unfortunate? This man wasn’t claiming Atheist status, or claimed to be a Sadducee. This was a man who would have affirmed the “Torah” and understood that after death came judgement. Jesus told this story to help the Pharisees to see who they have become, to see themselves more clearly. Why? (v14-v15) “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
What is the lesson we learn from this portion of this letter? The self-righteous man or woman have no place in Heaven, but have placed reserved in Hell. It doesn’t matter how religious or how much wealth one has when it comes to entering the Kingdom. To show mercy and compassion is far more important than legalistic performance. Understand this! We can never please God without a merciful spirit. These are factors that contribute, but this isn’t what keeps this man from entering that rest in Heaven. What keeps a man or woman out of Heaven is disregarding God’s word and his or her rejection of the Lord and the gospel of our salvation.
We see two types of locations and states of mind (v22-v26)
It says the when the beggar died the angels carried him to “Abraham’s bosom” The phrase “the bosom of Abraham “was common to the Jews. It was a metaphor for Heaven, because Abraham was the father of the faithful and the one whom God made an everlasting covenant with. To be close and nested to Abraham was to be in the very presence of Heaven. Jesus said “ I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,” Matt 8:11. We need to understand! Lazarus was not justified by poverty! Meaning having no money doesn’t mean you have a ticket to Heaven. No he was a man who accepted his suffering without bitterness, complaint or hostility. He was a godly man who had been faithful in the little things and trusted in God’s goodness. Like the parable of the 10 minas “And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.'” Luke 19:17. The rich man resides in “Hades” a terrible place, so terrible he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his family. The word “Hades” means or can be translated “Hell” literally a dark, obscure place; the place where departed spirits go, but especially the place where “wicked” spirits go. In this place of torment he could see Abraham and he could also see the man who he never looked upon or helped as he came and went every day from his palace. The rich man claimed he was in deep anguish and pain. (v24)
R C Sproul said in his commentary “Talk about wretchedness! This wealthy man was not asking to have restored to him his palace and power. He was asking only that the miserable beggar, Lazarus would dip his finger in water, and just touch the tip of his tongue. He was in such torment that he would have given everything or done anything he could, just to be at the gates of his own house, having dogs lick his wounds.”
What I find amazing is the response of Abraham. He answers the rich man request with such gentleness and truth that has eternal implications. (v25-v26) Abraham calls his “Child or son” This reveals the heart of God that He takes no pleasure in the perishing of the wicked. “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Eze 18:23. It’s like watching your son or daughter on drugs who will never respond to help before they died…… And then it’s too late. Abraham says…..Do you remember when you received your good things while Lazarus received bad things? Do you recall hearing a very important person say “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. "Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. "Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. "Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Luke 6:24-26
Have you forgotten you had many opportunities to seek the need of Lazarus and refused to even give him the time of day? Have you forgotten that you bought the number one bestselling so called Christian book and you’ve already had your best life now? Have you forgotten you loved the world so much you married it and dressed yourself for her in fine linen that was draped in purple? Have you forgotten your rebellious heart to the God who gave you air so you could breathe? Your time is up and you know will face your sin for all eternity under the torment of God’s perfect and holy wrath. Lazarus is in a place of rest and eternal joy found in God’s grace and the same is for us who have been transformed by the gospel.
The warning goes to us as well! The rich man is forever in torment and is face to face with his sin for all eternity and he will wish for mountains to crush him all because of his rebellion and disobedience to the gospel. (Rev 6:16). The rich man realizing there is no hope for him and he begins to fear and feel the pressure of others who are just like him. Here is where things get really serious.
There is only one great concern (v27)
The ruling is final and devastating for those who reside in this place. This is not a place for the living to come to, and it sure is not a place where I want my family to be. Why? This man is begging for someone to go tell his family who still walk the earth with the breath that God gives them. What is the answer given to this request? (v29-v31). They had the prophets to show them the truth of eternal life, because even the Jews (many Jews) believed in Hell. Daniel wrote these words “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Dan 12:2. This story that Jesus told removes all ideas, theories and claims of a “purgatory” This is it for this rich man, and his pain is only beginning for all eternity. There is no soul sleep our hopes of getting out when you’re dead by the prayers and indulgences of others. One man went straight into Abraham’s bosom and the other man went straight in to Hades to wait final judgement and the lake of fire. Remember the men who hung with Jesus “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43
The only reasonable conclusion is that our Lord related this incident to bring clearly before us the importance of being right with God in this world in order that we might enjoy His favor in the world to come. This is why the gospel is so crucial in our homes, churches and in our own individual lives. These two places are real and sadly apart from the gospel and the work of the Spirit we are fighting an uphill battle for the Kingdom of God. Not because you’re not eloquent enough or a great theologian, but because men love darkness rather than light.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” John 3:16-20
Eternal life is only found in Christ. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). The truth is, if we wish to live apart from God during our time on earth, He will grant us our wish for eternity as well. As one pastor appropriately said, “If you board the train of unbelief, you will have to take it all the way to its destination.” This was the train the rich man was on and for him it cost him everything.
What train are you on?