March 29, 2012
By: John Barnett
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Jesus Christ is revealed in God's Word as love personified. In His daily life He was most observed by those closest to Him as filled with compassion; and He described Himself as “meek and lowly in heart”. So what will be His response towards those who ignore or reject His free gift of grace?
In a culture where dogmatics, convictions, absolutes, and exclusive policies are frowned upon at best—what does Jesus actually teach us about the destiny of those who do not get saved, who don’t receive the only cure, and who do not come the only way? The first thing we note about Christ's teaching is that when it comes to salvation, there is:
No Middle Ground With Jesus
There is no “middle of the road” position when it comes to Christ's view of life, death, and eternity. Jesus declares that He is the One who controls entrance into Heaven. He says that He is the Author of salvation, the Judge of the eternal destiny of every creature in this universe. Let me show you what I mean in Matthew 6.
For a moment we need to look at some of the contrasts Jesus gave as He taught His longest message we call the Sermon on the Mount.
1. In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus describes 2 Types of Banks: earth or Heaven;
2. In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus describes 2 Types of Eyes: good or bad;
3. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus describes 2 Types of Masters: God or mammon;
4. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus describes:
• 2 Types of Gates: wide or small;
• 2 Types of Roads: broad or narrow;
• 2 Types of Destinations: destruction or life;
• 2 Types of Travelers: many or few;
5. In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus describes 2 Types of Trees: fruitful or fruitless
6. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus describes 2 Types of Lifestyles: those who say the right things or those who do His will;
7. In Matthew 7:24-29 Jesus describes 2 Types of Foundations: rock or sand;
8. In all of Christ's stories He alludes to 2 Inevitable Ends: being throw into fire and entering the kingdom of heaven
Remember that after Christ's evening discussion with Nicodemus, as we saw this morning, Jesus teaches about going in the “wrong door” which is any door but Him. These words recorded in Matthew 7:23. Here Jesus states that the four worst words anyone could ever hear would be: “I never knew you”.
So what is it like for those who:
• live for only investing their lives in Earth’s Bank; and
• have only eyes that hunger for that which is bad and evil; and
• serve only mammon instead of God; and
• enter only through the wide gate, head down the broad road, walking along with the many who are headed to destruction; and
• live only as fruitless trees; and
• only talk the ways of God, never walking them; and
• only build their lives on the sand instead of the rock?
The Destination of The Lost
To answer that question, look with me at the lesson Jesus taught as a parable in Luke 12:16-20
"Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’"
Now let me show you something that may change the whole way you look at death, dying, the grave and the afterlife. The expert witness, the only one who has ever gone to the grave and returned to report on it is Jesus . And no one has more to say and has a greater reliability on this to do with the afterlife than Jesus. As Revelation 1 says—He alone has the keys to death and to the grave! Here is what He has revealed.
If you have never seen inside the nether world, Hades, the grave, the waiting room of Hell—that all the dead from Cain to the final person born at the end of the world end up in, that is where we are headed tonight.
Turn a few chapters to Luke 16. Here Jesus tells of two distinct people, each who awoke to vastly different places.
• THE PERSONS: A nameless lost rich man and a faceless sick beggar named Lazarus.
• THE PLACE: The grave, moments after death.
• THE PORTRAIT: A foretaste of heaven and hell, of bliss and of horror; of paradise and of pain; of comfort and of torment.
• THE DETAILS: Christ Jesus our Lord here gives a glimpse of the grave thru the door of death!
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores."
This was Not a Parable
Hold on. Look what is missing. Jesus did NOT say, 'Learn the parable of the rich man' like we can read in Luke 12 and in almost all of His other parables. No, He speaks in a different way as He says 'there WAS a certain rich man.'
This is the truth about eternity that Jesus speaks of most frequently. He lets us know that the dead awaken from the millisecond rest of death, in a very real, very painful, very different place. The first thing that they experience is the inescapable reality that they will now have to live with the results of their choices.
So every second over and over again the reality of God's Word happens. People face death alone. People face death in their sins. People face death in horror, pain, and the endless punishment their sins deserve.
The inescapable reality most humans will face a moment after they die is that they were not prepared for meeting God. They died in their sins. And all who die in their sins face an inescapable eternal punishment.
Remember as you note these details that we are getting this tour from no less a guide than the Lord of Truth Himself. Christ Jesus here gives a glimpse of the grave thru the door of death! Note these truths that govern both the lost and the saved at death. Jesus notes there is:
• PERMANENCE: In v.22 we are shown that only the body dies, not the soul; and the righteous go to a place of bliss, and the lost go to a place of torments.
• CONSCIOUSNESS: In v. 23 Jesus notes the Rich Man as “being in torments” which means in the grave we are conscious, we can see and remember or recognize people even ones we never met. There is even some form of spiritual recognition, as the rich man recognizes Abraham who died 20 centuries before both the rich man and Lazarus.
• SIGHT: Jesus tells us they can see "far off" which means long distances; and also have recognition of those they knew in their lifetime "saw Lazarus" v.23.
• COMMUNICATION: In v. 24, 27-28, 30 the lost can speak; and in v. 25-26, 29, and 31 the saved can speak. So speech continues in the grave.
• PAINFULNESS: In v. 23 we see that in the grave the lost can still experience pain. Note the vivid contrast as "that tongue that never lacked on earth calls for that hand that was unheeded at his gate..."
• SENSATION: In v. 24 we see that the lost still have their senses and can feel, so their body’s physical desires are still present, like the Rich Man’s “thirst”.
• MEMORY: In v. 25 Jesus allows us to learn that in the grave certain events from a person’s earthly life can be recalled; and it appears that all their memories of their entire earthly life are unimpaired.
• HOPELESSNESS: In v. 26 we learn that in the grave the lost come to realize that there is no escape. The "great chasm" means that they are eternally beyond help, and that "none can pass".
• HORROR: Next in v. 27-28 we see that the torments are so great in the grave that none of the occupants want anyone else to come. The reality of constant torment only drove the Rich Man to long for others to flee that place
• ISOLATION: In v. 27b we see another element, there is no communication from the lost dead to living allowed; and that the dead have no influence in spirit world.
• DISTINCTION: In v. 29 Abraham explains the power of the Scriptures, it is the Word of God that determines the destiny of all; and supernatural events do not always convince skeptics. Just as the miracles of Christ, the apostles, and prophets only confirmed faith, and never produced it.
• INTUITION: In v. 29 we catch an interesting insight that can be gleaned from the fact that Abraham seems to know about events after his life (he lived from 2166-1991 BC), including Moses (1526-1406 BC), and the prophets (1050-435 BC). So Abraham knew history after his death. Abraham died in the 20th century BC, yet he knew about Moses who lived 600 years after him, and the prophets who lived up to 1600 years after his death.
• FINALITY: In v. 31 there is no second chance, no going back—just the Word that God has given by special revelation (inspired Scriptures), and the light that He has given through general revelation (creation and conscience).
Conscious Existence Continues After Death
So many people around us will die and many more could die this year—unexpectedly and rapidly, and most of them LOST. At death each unsaved person enters the place called the grave, Hades, the pit, and Sheol.
That is a place that has been feared since the earliest times of life on this planet. It is a dark place of endless night, a dreary place of never hope. Most people think about this place more and more the older we get.
Jesus was speaking of a literal event of which He, as God, had knowledge. Note also that it doesn’t say that the rich man was particularly bad. He isn’t a notorious sinner—just successful, well fed, well dressed, cautious about strangers, and mortal like us all.
His only real problem was that he had those common sins that all people have—and he died in them, with them on him as he died.
The only sin we can see from God's Word is that the Rich Man was so captivated by his riches, pleasures, and pursuits—that he seems to never have even noticed Lazarus.
Now continue reading:
Luke 16:22-26 "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’"
Hades has Two Parts
Stop again. Here Jesus explains another truth about the spiritual world to us. Before Christ finished the work of redemption on the Cross, the Old Testament believers, like Abraham, Moses, Daniel, etc, did NOT go directly to heaven, as born-again believers of the Church Age. Instead, they went to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:23) or as Jesus told the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43) in Paradise.
Up until Christ's resurrection, the grave was divided in two, one a place of comfort, (Abraham's bosom) the other a place of torment, but both located physically in the grave, or hell as it is called in many places.
Note also that the rich man can see Lazarus in the distance, as Abraham explains the division of hades, and that Lazarus cannot come to him.
So that is the content of the parable, but I think there is more. If you step back ask yourself, so what made the rich man so bad? Did he harm Lazarus? Did he commit gross moral sin? Was he a murderer, liar, or anything like that?
If we look carefully at these 13 verses we see that every word, every phrase is chosen to communicate such depths of meaning.
Jesus contrasts Two characters
First, there is the rich man, usually called Dives by commentators, which is the Latin for rich.
• He is rich. Each new phrase builds a picture of this man. The point Jesus is making is about the luxury in which he lived. His clothing was purple and fine linen. In modern terms those robes would cost about $75,000 to $100,000. Even today a normal person would never be able to afford a wardrobe in which each outfit would require an average person to spend his entire earnings from 6-8 years of full time labor per outfit!
• He lives in luxury. Jesus goes on to say that this rich man ate a luxury feast every day. In fact, the Greek word Luke uses denotes “a gourmet feeding on exotic and costly dishes”. And Jesus emphasizes that he did this every day. Think of Bible times where normal people felt very fortunate to get to eat meat once in the week. And that was only after laboring for the other six days. But the Rich Man not only didn’t have to work it seems, but he also was feasting. Christ paints a picture of a person living in indolent self-indulgence.
• He lived above common people. When Lazarus waited for the crumbs that fell from the Rich Man’s table it is another insight into the Biblical world. In Christ's time most people had no knives, forks or napkins. They usually ate food with their hands. But in very wealthy houses, the rich would clean their hands by wiping them on chunks of bread, which would then be discarded by the servants into the trash.
Next we meet Lazarus.
• Lazarus is helpless. He sat by the trash thankfully getting any chunk of used hand cleaner bread. He was so helpless that Jesus notes that he was unable to keep the dogs that roamed the street from bothering him.
• Lazarus had a beautiful name. Lazarus is the Latinization of the Hebrew name Eleazar, which means God is my help.
• Lazarus was very sick. So Eleazar or Lazarus was a totally helpless, sick, and starving beggar, covered with ulcerated sores. But God was his help anyway, whether Lazarus was poor or helpless, God never changed.
So life passes for both and the scene in the after life shows a drastic switch in their conditions.
Nameless, Faceless, Aloneness
Now look at the account again as the rich man cries out,
Luke 16:27-28 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ "
Stop here again. Note that the rich man remembers his life on earth. As he will for eternity. He remembers his loved ones, and is conscious of their destiny. He begs Abraham to do something, but Abraham simply tells him that
Luke 16:29-31 "Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”
Now note something that Jesus points out for us and records in God's Word. This is often overlooked but is EXTREMELY revealing. Look at the careful record of the names we find recorded:
Abraham is Abraham.
Lazarus the beggar, is Lazarus.
But the rich man has no name.
He has his memories, he has his awareness of his surroundings, he knows the hopelessness of the situation and the only thing he wants more than a drink of water is to save his five brothers. But HE HAS NO NAME!
Why is that so important? Because in the Grave no one needs a name. In the Grave no one ever needs to identify anyone ever again. There is no reprieve, no visitors, no hope and no need for a name. To all intents and purposes, the rich man is dead, although eternally aware of it.
Lost people like the Rich Man face eternal, conscious, perpetual, lonely torment, being forever dead, yet forever existing. They each can inescapably remember times they heard how they could have escaped the torment.
That is what awaits your friends at school, co-workers, distant relatives and all the others we see as we go through life.
Think of that each time you say to yourself, “I'll witness to them next time". Also remember this each time you do share the Gospel and they say, "No, not today, maybe tomorrow."
Why was the Rich Man In Torments?
Jesus tells us that Lazarus was enjoying life after death in the glory of Heaven’s waiting room; and the Rich Man is suffering in the torments of Hell’s waiting room. But again we must ask ourselves, what was the sin of the Rich Man?
• The Rich Man couldn’t be said to be guilty of cruelty, Jesus doesn’t tell us that he ordered Lazarus to be carted away from his gate.
• The Rich Man couldn’t be said to be guilty of hatred, Jesus doesn’t tell us that he locked his garbage cans.
• The Rich Man couldn’t be said to be guilty of murder, Jesus doesn’t tell us that he wounded Lazarus with his luxury carriage when he drove through the gate.
• The Rich Man couldn’t be said to be guilty of violence, Jesus doesn’t tell us that the Rich Man was harming Lazarus at all.
The only sin we can see from God's Word is that this Rich Man seems to never have even noticed Lazarus.
To the Rich Man, this poor, dying beggar was just another clump of the landscape.
To this Rich Man, it was “perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus should lie in pain and hunger while he wallowed in luxury. As someone said, It was not what Dives did that got him into heaven; it was what he did not do that got him into hell.”
Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 again:
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. "
So let me emphasize this, Jesus paints us an unforgettable picture. In it we see a man who could look on the world’s suffering and desperate needs and simply never feel the conviction of God.
This Rich Man would look at a fellow human who was starving and deathly ill, and do nothing about it.
So Jesus paints a picture of the punishment of those who never notice others. When God's Word is not received, Christ's compassion is also absent.
But why was the part added that Jesus told about refusing to send a warning to Rich Man’s family? Could it be Jesus is saying that to those who are exposed to God's Word and yet when they see the pain, sorrow, and dying of this world, and it moves them to no feeling and to no action, nothing will change them?
The terrible warning of the sin of this Rich Man of Luke 16 is not that he did wrong things, but that he did nothing .
What happened to him? God's Word was never received, his heart was never convicted.
Always remember, Jesus said those who are saved, who know Him “do the will” of God. In other words, when God's Word is believed our life begins to change.
Our Self-centeredness slowly begins to be mortified; and
Our Self-indulgence begins to be sanctified away; and
The Self-sacrificial life of Jesus begins to be our pursuit; and
The compassion of Christ's love takes root and grows.
Tonight, may listen to Christ's tour of the Grave and let these truths change our hearts!
# 387 “O to be like Thee” can be our prayer before we invite our new members to join us at the front!