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What About Hell? (What in Hell do you want?)

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What About Hell?  (What in Hell do you want?)

Luke 16:19-22

October 20, 1996

Scripture:         Unison Reading  #719, “Te Deum” -  (To God)



          “The Curse of Sin and the Course of God”  What is the alternative to ‘The River of Life’ that flows from the throne of God?

          Parable or doctrine?  Could not Jesus, the Teacher, with infinite knowledge, teach from real life experiences rather than from hypothetical?

          “Hell” is not a politically correct word.  That is, our culture has rejected such ‘scare’ tactics.  And yet we celebrate Halloween.

          Universalists, annihilationists, and postmortem conversionists.

          “Eternity is a long time to be wrong:  Think about it!”  (A slogan as seen on a T-shirt.)

I.       The Earthly Scene  (vv. 19-22)


          A.      The contrast in earthly position and possession.

19 ¶ "There was a (certain) (S. Lk. 14:16)  rich man (Dives) who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.

20  At his gate was laid (flung, cast or thrown) a (certain) beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores

21  and longing (perhaps an unsatisfied longing) to eat what fell (by sheer force of gravity, not compassion) from the rich man's table (perhaps hunks of bread that hands were wiped on). Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

                   1.       The deceitfulness of earthly riches.

                             (The rich man may not be rich.)

                   2.       The deceitfulness of earthly poverty.         

                             (The poor man may not be poor.)

                   3.       Jesus acknowledges the name of the one in heaven but                                       does not divulge the name of the one in hell (2Tim. 2:19;                                   Eph. 5:12).

19 ¶ Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."


12  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

          B.      The culmination of all men’s lives regardless of earthly position and possession (Is. 40:6-8). 6  A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?" "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7  The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

 22  "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side.  The rich man also died and was buried.

                   1.       The rich man with all his wealth could not bribe the grim                                   reaper on the pale horse on his road to hell.

                   2.       The rich man’s funeral was probably as ostentatious as                                     his lifestyle, but the beggar, perhaps not even buried, had                                  an angelic escort to his heavenly home.

                   3.       Unknown to men, Lazarus is known by God.  And                                            although his body was unclaimed by men, the angels of                                     God claim his spirit and escort him to “Abraham’s                                          bosom.”     

II.      The Eternal Scene  (vv. 23-31)

          A.      The contrast of eternal position and possession.

23  In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side (bosom-the place of blessedness reserved for the righteous-like Abraham, those who believed God).

931 basanos {bas'-an-os}


 perhaps remotely from the same as 939 (through the notion of

 going to the bottom); TDNT - 1:561,96; n m


 AV - torment 3; 3


 1) a touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to

 test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal

 2) the rack or instrument of torture by which one is forced

 to divulge the truth

 3) torture, torment, acute pains

 3a) of the pains of a disease

 3b) of those in hell after death

                   1.       There is the truth here of the separation of the righteous                                     and the unrighteous (universalism is out - the sheep and                                    the goats, Mt. 25:41,46).

41  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

46  "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

                   2.       Here is the truth that human destiny is sealed at death.

                   3.       The wicked can see the blessings of the righteous which                                     add to their torment.

                   4.       The righteous are protected from knowing the agony of                                      the wicked.

          B.      The eternal cry of the unrighteous (Jer. 15:6). 6  You have rejected me," declares the LORD. "You keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion.

24  So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire (literal).'

                   1.       Teaches the truth that hell is not a nice place to be.  It is a                                 place of torment and punishment.

                   2.       Burning to death has always seemed to me to be one of                                      the most horrible ways to die.

                   3.       Perhaps the tongue is the most sensitive to the flame                                because it the tongue that failed to confess Christ (Rom.                           10:9-10; James 3:6).

6  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

                   4.       It is with the tongue that we praise and curse both man                                      and God.

                   5.       The rich man does not ask for escape (perhaps he knows                                   it is impossible) but he does ask for relief (perhaps the                                       most he can expect to get).

                   6.       The rich man in earthly life had no regard for the welfare                                   of Lazarus, and now here in hell he still has no regard.                                      He wants Lazarus to serve as his waterboy and enter the                                fires of hell with him - to undergo the same punishment.                                     But this proves that it is Lazarus that is on his conscience.                            How human to want to take others down with us.

          C.      The eternal comfort of the righteous.

25  "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now  he is comforted here and you are in agony.                  

                   1.       A reversal of destinies and just deserts.

                   2.       Teaches the truth that the believer is in immediate                                              conscious communion with God and with Jesus Christ                                      after death.

                   3.       Four times we are told by Jesus here of the torment of                                        hell.  This is real pain and real punishment.

          D.     The chasm of unrighteousness.

26  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

                   1.       The chasm (blessedness) of no return to the burdensome                                    presence of unrighteousness - the protection of God.

                   2.       The chasm (horror) of no escape from the burdensome                                       presence of unrighteousness - the punishment of God.

                   3.       Teaches the truth that the state of unbelievers after death                                   is a fixed state.

          E.      The  concern of the condemned (if they cannot escape).


27  "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house,

28  for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

                   1.       There is the truth here of eternal conscious destruction                                       (annihilationism is out, Lk. 12:4-5).  The continued                                existence of the wicked is clearly taught.  Man’s soul is                                 eternal whether in heaven or hell.

4  "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.

5  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

                   2.       Man in hell after death is conscious, has memory and is                                     rational.  He will be forced to face himself, and think                               (PGM).

                   3.       Again the rich man asks that Lazarus be sent on an                                            errand.  And again we see that the rich man does ask to                                    go himself, because he knows there is no escape from                                    hell.

          F.      The comeback of clarity.


29  "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

          G.      The coercion of desperation (hell-hole conversion?).


30  "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead (Lazarus) goes to them, they will repent.'

                   1.       There is the truth here that repentance is not possible                               in hell (postmortem conversion is out).

          F.      The choice of the callous.

31  "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if  someone (Jesus) rises from the dead.'"

III.    Conclusion

          What are we to apply from our knowledge of this passage?

          In this account, Christ compares for us the wide disparity of contrasts in this life with the even wider disparity of contrasts in the next life.  That is perhaps why His account of Lazarus’ suffering is so detailed.  But it also gives us hope to us who may be distressed, that no matter how bad it may get for us here, as long as we trust in Christ, we will be comforted and blessed beyond belief in heaven.  The rich man’s earthly wealth carried no weight in the eternal marketplace where the nontangible substance of faith outweighs it many times over (1Pet. 1:7).

7  These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

 For the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong---but time and chance happens to them all (Eccl. 9:11).  The mourners carried the rich man’s body to the grave in style, but his soul sunk deep into hell.  The beggar’s body was thrown in the trash heap outside the city and burned, but his soul was escorted by angels into heavenly bliss.  The rich man’s body will be resurrected at the end of the millennium to be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15; note the turn of events) whereas the beggar’s body will be resurrected at the soon return of Christ and glorified as Christ Himself is glorified (1Thes. 4:16-17).

11 ¶ Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.

12  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

14  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

15  If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

16  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

17  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

          But this account is not primarily about stewardship or the treatment of the poor.  It is about unbelief in which the squandering of self and the contempt of the poor are only the forms which it takes.  Christ’s rebuke of unbelief is the central thought and aim of His teaching in this account.  There is an eternal fate of the righteous and the wicked, and Christ speaks of them here clearly.  God has made hell for His enemies but He also made heaven for His friends.

          Salvation from hell is a tremendous gift of God through His Son, Jesus Christ (Ps. 84:10).

10  Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

          If we should we ever doubt the horror of hell, take note of the last verse in Isaiah (Is. 66:24).

24  "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

          Three major truths confront us in this passage:

                   1.       Death is final as far as human destiny is concerned.  It becomes fixed with no opportunity to change it.  The rich man is not alone in hell (v. 26; you is plural) but he appears unaware of any other souls being present.

                   2.       The lot of the righteous is infinite happiness whereas the lot of the ungodly is indescribable distress.  After death, one receives perfect judgment based on an infallible evaluation of one’s earthly life (v. 25; ‘your good things’).

                   3.       There is for all humankind a sufficient guide to heaven in the Scriptures through the instruction of faith.  The rich man has come to believe in v. 28 that it is only in this earthly life that one can choose eternal life.  His urgent warning is to avoid hell.  He wants to send someone from the dead to his brothers as if the reason people don’t believe is on the basis of insufficient evidence.  His irreverent insistence ‘No’ in v. 30 betrays his irreverence in life, implying that he himself had not adequate warning.  He left truth unnoticed as he had left Lazarus unnoticed.  But is God not clear about heaven and hell?  God is also clear about the hardness of men’s hearts.  “Hell is truth seen too late.”  Mankind refuses to repent and obey the truth about God.  And hell becomes the truth of God twisted and thrown back in the face of God as impenitence and blasphemy, not remorse.  How long, O man, will you refuse God (John 5:39-40; Rev. 16:9)? 

39  You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,

40  yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

9  They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.

Verse 31 reveals that if one does not respond to revelation already given, he will not be open to new and additional truth.  It is curious to observe that a later Lazarus in John 11:43-44 did rise from the dead and yet the Jews did not believe (Jn. 12:37).

43  When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"

44  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

37 ¶ Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

 I can conclude with no better words than those of the Lord Jesus Himself in John 12:44-50---

44 ¶ Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.

45  When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.

46  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47  "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

48  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

49  For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.

50  I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

          And that includes the account of  Lazarus.  Stand against the lies of this age.  Preach salvation, but preach it not only as salvation unto heaven, but as it is, salvation from hell.  O what a loving God we serve!

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