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The Rich Man in Hell

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A friend encouraged author Neil Cole to tour the Rodin museum while in France. Reflecting on Rodin's most famous work, Cole writes,

 Rodin was a French impressionist sculptor. Though many do not realize his name, most are familiar with his work. He created the Thinker. What you may not realize is that the Thinker was really a study he had done to sit on the top of his greatest masterpiece—The Gates of Hell. For years we have been wondering what it is that the Thinker is thinking about …[He] is contemplating …an eternity of judgment separated from God.

Cole's friend began to describe The Gates of Hell, which depicts innumerable beings writhing in agony on their way to judgment. As the vision of the work gripped Cole's friend, she said, "Oh, I could just stare at The Gates of Hell forever."

It was quiet for a moment as the significance of her words became clear. Cole writes, "All I could think of to say at that moment was, 'Oh, I hope not.'"

Neil Cole, Cultivating a Life for God, (ChurchSmart Resources, 1999) p. 120; submitted by Dietrich Schindler, Otterbach, Germany

Luke 16:19-31 is a story of a great reversal.  It is difficult for our society to believe the Word of God because our society has abandoned God.  It is especially difficult for anyone to contemplate an eternal Hell of their own choosing.  One man put it this way:  “If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify Him.  They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.” To a large degree, this topic is mocked by unbelievers more than any other.

Because of this reversal, it is dangerous to judge a person's standing with God by their standing with men in the world. Note three contrasts:

o    In Life

§  Rich Man = Clothed in purple and fine line; faring sumptuously every day

§  Lazarus = A beggar full of sores, laid at the rich man's gate, hungry, and pitiful (dogs licking his sores)

o    In Death

§  Rich Man = Died and buried

§  Lazarus = Died and carried by angels to Abraham's bosom

o    In Eternity

§  Rich Man = In torments in Hades; desiring mercy and relief from physical distress but not able to receive it due to decisions made in life; tormented

§  Lazarus = The bosom of Abraham; comforted

o    The poor man found grace in the sight of the Lord because he believed.  The rich man found none because he remained selfish and dead in trespasses and sins.  It is easier for camel to fit through the eye of a sewing needle than it is for a rich man to enter Heaven (Luke 18.25). 

o    The person who has the most in our world is vaunted up as society's most highly favored.  The Bible is opposed to this line of thinking.  See Jeremiah 9:23-24 and 1 Corinthians 1:26. 

o    The great reversal teaches us that wealth does not indicate God's blessing nor does poverty indicate His displeasure.  We value mankind because they are made in the image of God and as long as they are breathing, they can be redeemed. 


Because of this reversal, the sobering reality is people die. 

o    The rich, poor, young, and old die. 

o    When Lazarus died, his difficulties in the here and now ended.  When the rich man died, so did his sumptuous lifestyle.  It is appointed unto men to die once; then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). 

o    No one in their right mind argues the fact that all die.  Why do most people act like they are going to live on forever? 

o    When we are tempted to complain, envy, or puff of ourselves up because of some acquisition of wealth, we would all do well to thing about death.  The beggar died - no more need.  The rich man died - no more feasting.  Forever!

Because of this reversal, it is important to realize that God will care for His children when they die.

o    Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15). 

o    Luke 16:22 speaks of the blessed dignity of a believer's death.  The poor beggar was carred by angels to Abraham's bosom - a euphemism for Heaven. 

o    One of the great struggles we have with death is the unknown elements that accompany it.  We do know that all who die in Jesus will be taken good care of.  Maybe that's why Paul was hard-pressed between the two:  departing in death with Christ (a far better option) or remaining with the Philippina believers (more needful for them).  See Philippians 1:23.  One thing is sure - we don't want to remain one moment longer than God desires!

Because of this reversal, the sobering reality is that there are people who will experience the second death.

o    "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death." (Revelation 2:11)

o    "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)

o    "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Revelation 20:14)

o    "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”" (Revelation 21:8)

o    After death, the rich man was in torment in Hell.  This is irreversible!  What makes this fact more sobering is that Jesus told the story.  The One who came in great compassion with great mercy was clear about Hell's reality.

The Permanent Consequences of Refusing God

John 8:24 “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

·         What does it mean to die in sin?  It means to be separated forever from being in a relationship with the God who created you.

Matthew 23:33Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”

·         Jesus was dealing with hypocritical religious leaders.  Failing to believe in Him leads not only to physical death but spiritual death as well – the condemnation of Hell.

·         Spiritual death and the condemnation of Hell are both referring to the second death.

·         Hell was not created for human occupation but rather for fallen angels:

Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…’”

·         Every person who rejects God will ultimately be cast out of His presence and live forever in a conscious state of eternal separation from God in Hell.

In 1874, a fire started that would burn for more than a century.

The fire was located in China's Liuhuanggou coalmine. It was not the only coal fire in that area, but it blazed the longest and became the largest, fueled by nearly 2 million tons of coal every year.

Besides consuming coal, the fire annually produced 100,000 tons of harmful gases and 40,000 tons of ash.

Beginning in 2000, Chinese firefighters worked to quench the fire, spending $12 million in the process. After four years of work, a fire that had burned for 130 years was finally extinguished.

"130-year-old Chinese Fire Put Out," (11-03-04); submitted by John Beukema, Western Springs, Illinois

·         You’d think that if a person sins for a lifetime, he shouldn’t have to pay an eternity in Hell.  Won’t the flames of Hell ever be extinguished?

·         Does the punishment (eternal Hell) fit the crime (temporal sinning)?  In order to understand, you must explore the nature of deity and the nature of man.  If God is fair and loving and just, then Hell must be a fair, loving, and just place.

1.       Hell is fair because throughout our lives we have the choice not to go there.

§  God has given enough evidence to choose Him and live with Him forever in Heaven or reject Him and live without Him forever in Hell

§  People who reject God freely choose to live without Him forever

2.       Hell is loving because God demands that Hell be a reality. 

§  God respects the choice people make to reject Him

§  God will not force unwilling people to love Him

§  Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

3.       Hell is just because it punishes evil. 

§  Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

§  Those who sin and break His moral law must be judged (Stalin, Hitler, the thief, liar, fornicator).

§  Either Jesus pays our Hell or we do.

Why Does Anyone Go to Hell?

Altamont was an infidel.  He cried out his last words: “My principles have poisoned my friend; my extravagance has beggared my boy; my unkindness has murdered my wife. And is there another hell? Oh, thou blasphemed, yet most indulgent Lord God! Hell is a refuge if it hides me from thy frown.”[1]

·         People go to Hell because they choose to be there.  They would rather spend an eternity filled with misery in Hell than an eternity filled with meaning by glorifying God forever. 

·         “There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in Hell, choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened (C.S. Lewis).”



[1]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

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