Luk 16:20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs ...licked his sores.
22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried,
23 and in Hades, being in torment, he... saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
24 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.'
25 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.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'
27 So he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house--
28 for I have five brothers - so he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'
29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'
30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"
How do you like Abraham’s response there? If
they don’t believe a Moses and the prophets they won’t believe one returned from the dead. Seems like I just might believe someone who rose from the dead! I know in Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol and all those spirits of Christmas past and future sure made an impression on Ebenezer Scrooge! But then Scrooge is make believe; and while Jesus rose from the dead, too, He did a lot before his death that made His resurrection all the more meaningful.
But there are several odd things about Abraham’s comments. He told the rich man that in his earthly life he had it easy and Lazarus had it hard. Surely that’s not the main reason the Rich man is in Hades. In fact later the Rich Man knows Repentance has something to do with salvation (v30). And we are told about a wide chasm that Lazarus couldn’t cross to give him a drink of water. Why didn’t Moses just say, “Hey! You’re in Hell, you don’t get water, get over it and be quiet!”? Maybe Moses is nicer than me.
Before we look closer at these issues lets look briefly about the whole "Abraham’s bosom"
situation. From looking at the scriptures it appears that there was one place of the dead departed souls called Hades. But this had two divisions. There was the place of punishment or Hell, and Abraham’s bosom or paradise. Jesus even told the thief on the cross on that day they would be together in paradise.
Later – after the resurrection of Christ – we see Paul referring to be caught up into the third heaven – or Paradise. Then we learn from Revelation that the earth is going to give up its dead for the Day of Judgment, but saints will be coming to earth in the clouds from heaven. So it seems Paradise moved, but Hell is still the place of the dead, a place of torment and suffering that goes on and on and on.
Now some have said, “This is just a parable, how can we know that Hades is really like this? It’s just a story Jesus made up.” Well, it may in fact be a parable. Greater minds that me have thought so, even Calvin. But they have to admit it’s a very unusual parable. No other parable calls another person by name. Every other parable uses ordinary things like lost coins and lost sheep, or a sower and the seed to get across spiritual truth. This story is not like that at all. It sounds like a dialogue from beyond the grave that is entirely believable-IF you can accept the whole idea of conversations beyond the grave. And since that is the effect Jesus is
going for I think we ought to believe everything about the setting of this story. I believe there is both a place called paradise and place of eternal torment. This is a Story about Death and Hell. Depressing isn’t it? But Death and afterlife are two things that people wonder about.
Sarah Winchester's husband acquired a fortune by making and selling rifles. After he died in 1918, she moved to San Jose, California. Because of her grief Sarah sought out a medium to contact her dead husband. The medium told her, "As long as you keep building your home, you will never face death." Sarah believed the medium so she bought an 17-room mansion and started to expand it. The project continued until she died at the age of 85. It cost 5 million dollars at a time when workmen earned 50 cents a day. The mansion had 150 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 2,000 doors, 47 fireplaces, and 10,000 windows. And Mrs. Winchester left enough materials so that they could have continued building for another 80 years. Today that house stands as more than a tourist attraction. It is a silent witness to the dread of death that holds millions of people in bondage (Heb. 2:15).[i]
For the Most Part, People don’t want to die! But they also want to know more about death! So what do we learn from Jesus’ story about death?
1. First, a person can be so caught up in the good things of this life that they take no serious thought for the next.
See v 25? The Rich man isn’t in torment because he was rich. Lazarus wasn’t in paradise because he was poor and sick. But that is what Abraham decided to point out. We know from other texts that the difference is faith and repentance to God. But we can see the lifestyle of someone who didn’t have faith in God. He was all about his wealth and all he could give Lazarus was scraps! Scraps! Not even half a burger! The law called for better treatment of the poor than that.
Now the other side of this same coin shows us that people who are poor and needy in this life may still be people of faith!
2. The next thing we learn is that there was no recourse for the man in torment! He could not escape his torment, he could not get any relief, he could not warn his brothers, and he couldn’t boss around the poor beggar Lazarus any more!
No recourse Forever! Eternally stuck in a horrible condition! No cool breeze, no cool water, no cool presence of the Holy spirit. Just people who rejected Jesus all their lives.
Do you believe this place exisits? I know many of you do. I know many of you ache and yearn for loved ones who do not believe. But I also know that sometimes we try to forget about it. We tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do so we try not to think about it. But then we read the gospels and Jesus himself talks about Hell and Hades and torment more than anyone else in the Bible!
You know why B H Carroll became a preacher and even founded Southwestern Seminary? Because once as a young man God gave him a glimpse of Hell and he never forgot it.
What are we going to do with this story? Try to forget about it? Try to rationalize it away? Try to act like it doesn’t apply to us? Or let it sink deep within us? Let it be a reminder to us when we are around folks who don’t know Jesus? Let it motivate us to love others with the same love Jesus brought to earth to save us from a Hell created for the Devil and his angels.
3. The third thing I want to point out is simply this:
The Rich Man waited until he got to Hell before He became concerned with the eternal condition of His loved ones. Waiting 'til you're dead to start an outreach program doesn't work! How long will you wait? Maybe you aren’t waiting, but if you are, How Long? Will there be a better time? Does their rejection of you really matter that much?
Now maybe you have shared the gospel with a loved one. Are you staying approachable? Are you keeping the lines open? Or did you wash your hands of the whole thing and become their judge?
Many people they need more than just a one time sharing of the gospel. They need to chew on it, see it in action, AND, see if it’s real.
Rockford college conducted a 3 phase test on young adults receiving instructions from a large crowd. Phase 1, a youth is blindfolded, led into a large full auditorium and from their seats people holler instructions for things that he should do. One person is told to holler out instructions as if the volunteer’s life depended on it. The volunteer was so overwhelmed with instructions he didn’t know what to do.
Phase 2, young volunteer led back into the room and again everyone hollers instructions from their seats. But two people are allowed to get very close to him and tell him two different things to do. One is the person who has this ‘vital’ task for the volunteer, the other is told to tell him to do anything else but what the other person is saying. The crowd is instructed to tell him things other than what one person with the vital task is telling him. The volunteer goes back and forth between instructors, but doesn’t end up doing anything again.
Phase 3, same scenario as phase 2 except the one with the vitally important task gets to touch him gently on the shoulder or arm. Not push or pull, just touch. Almost immediately the blindfolded volunteer begins to follow the instructions of the one with the vital task. Even though he would pause now and then to hear what the ‘opposing’ person or the crowd was saying, he would continue to do what the one with nhis hand on his shoulder told him to do.
As the one with the ‘vital’ task directed him down the aisle toward the back of the room the whole audience began to sense that success was at hand for the one with his hand on his shoulder, and together they started shouting, “Don’t go, don’t go.” The volunteer kept doing as the one withy the vital message told him until her reached the rear of the auditorium and was instructed to reach out and hug someone-the professor of the class.
“When the volunteer revealed how he felt as he went through each phase, it became apparent that if our message is to be heard, we cannot shout it from the cavernous confines of our church buildings. We must venture out and draw close to those with whom we wish to communicate. If we really seek a life-changing commitment from our young people, we also must reach out where they are and in love, gently touch them and lead them to that commitment. We asked the volunteer why he followed the one with the vital message, the one who touched him. After a few moments he said, "Because it felt like he was the only one who really cared." [ii]”