The Sin of the Rich Man

We are continuing from yesterday (scroll down for other meditations) our meditation on the passage in Luke 16, where Jesus teaches about two individuals, a rich man and a man called Lazarus, and where they went when they died. The rich man was surprised to find himself in hell. That begs the question: Is it a sin to be rich? And does a person that is poor go to heaven because he or she is poor? If not, then what was the sin that sent the rich man to Hell? There are many sins that the rich man may have committed, but his main sin was that he was quite content without God. His life was one in which he had no need. He paid no heed to anything but his own pleasure and comfort. It could be that he never noticed or cared about Lazarus, which certainly would have increased his condemnation. He had been in a position to help Lazarus, but instead he left him to suffer and die. He seems to have had the notion that it was perfectly normal and natural that Lazarus should wallow in pain while he basked in a life of luxury. He looked at a fellow man, hungry and in pain, and did nothing about it. Lazarus was discontent on earth without God and had sought Him out in his need, and he found Him to be merciful and gracious.In fact, the name Lazarus means, “God is my help”. The rich man had not really felt any need at all. Both had been born into the world in the same situation as you and I. Paul the apostle, in his letter to the Church at Ephesus, describes every person’s situation in this way:

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12).

During our lifetime on Earth, God sends opportunities our way to search out a path to His home. This is the universal need of every person on this planet—to find God. After death, God will honor the choices we have made in life. If we choose to live without God on Earth, He will grant our wishes for eternity. If you are living your life without a second thought of God or eternity, call out to Him now while you can still experience His grace. Why wait for another second? Surely, your spiritual enemy, the devil, will seek to have you put off this message for another day, but Christ waits for you with open arms.

When the rich man found out that his position was fixed for eternity, and that no one could come to him to help him, he replied to Abraham:

27“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (Luke 16:27-31).

Why was the ex-rich man so concerned about his brothers still on Earth? He prayed twice while in Hell. The first prayer was for water; the second was for his brothers on Earth. Both prayers were refused. He had been unfaithful to his responsibility. His responsibility was toward those around him, but especially to his brothers. He had set as a pattern before them the most corrupting thing on Earth—an example of a man who was content without God. Now that he was in Hell, he remembered that his brothers were living according to the model that he had given them, i.e. a contented life without God. The one thing that can add agony to a person in Hell is to be shut up forever with those you have helped to bring there. As we have said elsewhere, every one of us influences others for good or for worse. Let us commit ourselves to be faithful to those who model their lives after us: our brothers, our sisters, our sons, daughters and our close relatives. We must live whole-heartedly for Christ. Other lives depend on it.

On what basis was the rich man’s brothers refused a messenger? The ex-rich man is told that they have the Word of God (at that particular time they had the writings of Moses and the prophets). That is all the witness that they need. It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), so if they do not believe God’s Words, they will not believe even if one should return from the dead. God’s written Word is the most important evidence that one can examine to prepare us for life in eternity. It is ignored at great danger to one’s eternal life beyond the grave.

What are the chief take-home lessons that this passage in Luke 16 teaches us?

  • That the time to seek the Lord is now and not to put it off.
  • That there are consequences to our actions that are not always felt on earth but follow us into eternity.
  • We influence others more than we realize on earth.
  • God’s Word is the most important evidence for us to prepare for life eternal.
  • That, no matter what our economic position in this world, if we don’t have Christ, we don’t have life (1 John 5:12).

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

What’s it Like in Hell?

We are continuing from yesterday Jesus’ teaching on Hell in Luke 16, the Rich Man and Lazarus. Here is the passage in Luke’s Gospel:

19There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  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. 23In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So 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.’ 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. 26And 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’ (Luke 16:19-26).

One of the first things the rich man experiences is utter torment (Verse 23). The Greek word used is basanos, which literally means “going to the bottom, the lowest torture or torment.”[1] This Greek word is possibly used to describe what we talked about earlier, i.e. that in Hell there are different levels of suffering, and the deepest level of torment was what this man is experiencing (present tense, in that he is still there today). We are also told that his tongue was burning; he needed water to cool his tongue. Even though he does not have a body, he is experiencing the sense of touch and is in terrible pain. He also has the sense of sight and recognition, for he sees Lazarus across a great chasm and Abraham by his side. How painful to see Paradise and yet know that it is too late and that he will never experience one moment there.

Later, at the Great White Throne Judgment, found in Revelation 20:11-15, we read that death and Hades is thrown into the Lake of Fire, where there will be eternal darkness. From that point onward, the ex-rich man will no longer be able to see anything. He has the sense of speech; he calls to Abraham and communicates his pain. It seems that there is no change in his character or attitude toward Lazarus, for he still thinks that he can command Lazarus to get water for him and also to visit his brothers. His appeal to Abraham is somewhat manipulative. He calls him Father Abraham, intimating that he is in relationship to Abraham due to his being born into a nation of faith in God. How deceived he was! How similar to many born into a Christian country today. Many people call themselves Christian, yet not all of them are in relationship with God through Christ. The sense of hearing is also still with him; he can hear Abraham talking with him.

Abraham then answers the rich man and says something that will remain with him for the rest of eternity. It was a powerful statement, full of truth, but with no hope: he will remember his life (v. 25) on earth, and all the opportunities he missed to repent and give his life to God. How painful that would be! The mind will be very clear; the faculties will still be with those who are consigned there, perhaps more so in eternity. There will be a great amount of regret over deeds committed alongside an inability to set them right, for it is too late. The ex-rich man does not have anyone to pray him out of this situation; it is a lie from Satan to believe your position can be changed after death. On top of that, he is told that his location is fixed, that the chasm that separates them will forever be there, and that there will not be anyone who can cross either way (v. 26). Where death finds you, eternity binds you. According to what we see in Scripture, there is no purgatory, no reincarnation, and no chance of relief. The time to change your eternal destiny is before you die, before it is too late.

May I plead with you, that if you are not yet a true born-again believer in Christ Jesus, that you do not put these thoughts out of your mind—your eternal destiny is at stake. Get down on your knees and repent, turn your life over to Christ. Give Him control—live for Him alone! More on this topic tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Finis Jennings Dake, Dakes Annotated Reference Bible, Copyright 1961 by Finis J. Dake. Page 80 in the New Testament.

The Rich Man and Lazarus 

We are continuing our study on the topic of Hell. Jesus spoke more of Hell than he did of heaven, in order that men would turn from that place as their destination in eternity to receiving His forgiveness for sin. He told a story about two men’s experiences in eternity. He never states that this is a parable. We will meditate on this for the next few days. Here’s the first part of the story:

 19There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  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. 23In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So 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’ (Luke 16:19-24)

The color purple in the days of Christ was not an easy commodity to obtain. This rich man was more than likely clothed in Tyrian purple[1] (or Royal purple), the Prada, Armani or top fashion design of the day. The color was extracted from the mucus of a rare sea snail.  Aristotle assigned a value to it of ten to twenty times its weight in gold. The rich man also wore fine linen. The word used in Greek for fine linen is bussos, a strong rare thread secreted by mussels.[2] Kings, such as the Egyptian King Tutankhamen, wore this very expensive cloth. This rich man lived sumptuously every day. He ate the best foods, drank the best wine, and his house was the best mansion in town. We are not overdoing it by presuming that this man was well known in the whole country as someone to be envied. He was an influential celebrity of his day.

We are told that Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s gate or porch. The Greek word translated as “laid” is ballo. Literally, it means to throw out with force. He had been flung roughly, and it seems that he was just left to lay there, life slowly ebbing from him. The gate where Lazarus was thrown was more than likely the rear servant’s entrance where the servants deposited the rubbish and the dogs congregated and licked his dying skin. It was obvious to anyone that Lazarus was very ill, being covered with ulcerated sores. It is also very likely that he was too ill to go anywhere but stay where he was thrown and beg for the scraps of food that fell from the rich man’s table.

Dogs kept licking at his sores, and it is possible that he was too weakened through sickness and hunger to fend them off. We don’t know if the rich man had him thrown out because he was asking him for help or that others in the town had thrown him there because he was a health threat to the local populace. It seems that Lazarus was in no position to help himself. He longed to eat some scraps of food, but he was competing with the dogs for the scraps. Keep in mind that most dogs were not household pets at the time.

The Condition of the Two Men in Eternity: We are not told that anything happened for Lazarus at his death. No funeral, not even a burial was held in his honor. It is likely that, if no one cared for him while he was alive, his death was no different. Scripture speaks loudly in its silence on the subject. Contrast that with the rich man. We are specifically told that he was buried. I feel sure that it was a lavish ceremony with public mourning. His body was probably given a space on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem as only the rich could afford.

The procession to his burial place would require a horde of professional mourners, hired for such an occasion as was customary at the time. Of course, the rich man couldn’t care less as soon as he died. He was quite surprised to find himself in Hell. While living at the rich man’s gate, it is likely that no one knew the name of Lazarus, but everybody knew the name of the rich man. At the other side of death’s door, though, things are turned around; everybody knows the name of Lazarus. As for the rich man, no one has any idea of who he is, i.e. his name is not known, and all of a sudden he’s a nobody. How sad it is that many who believe that death is annihilation will find themselves very conscious upon entering eternity through death’s door. Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byssus

The Unsaved Will Be Judged According to the Light They Have Received.

We are continuing from yesterday our meditation about the topic of Hell (scroll below for previous meditations).

I believe that there are different degrees of punishment in hell. Chuck Swindoll has something to say about the degrees of retribution:

There will always be some who will not have as much divine input as others. Because that is true, I believe there will be degrees of eternal punishment. Before you pick up stones to stone me, look closely at the words of Jesus:

47That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:47-48).

Let’s understand that no one without Christ spends eternity in heaven. But the specifics of how God handles those who are without Christ because they heard so little might very well be answered by the idea of degrees of punishment. But we do know for sure that heaven will not be their home.[1]

Do you think that the degree of influence one has on earth has any bearing on their eternity? I believe so. The greater the influence one has, the greater the accountability and responsibility for that influence. There are people who are in the media’s spotlight who are role models for our young, yet they are living immoral lives. They will be judged more strictly due to their influence over many. Don’t be quick to jump into positions of influence over others. Jesus said for us to take the plank out of our own eyes so that we can take the sliver out of other people’s eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). Every one of us who are Christians are already in a position of influence, especially if you are known in your neighborhood or workplace as a Christian. People are watching you to see how you live your life. Their eternity depends on their response to the message of Christ that can be read from what you say and what you do. We are all teaching to a certain degree, but we are not all teachers. For a teacher, it is crucial to live a life honoring to God:

1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).

At the judgment, Christian leaders will be judged more strictly due to the amount of light that they have received and their influential position. Even those who are without Christ, the greater their influence rises, so does the level of accountability. It makes sense that just as there would be different levels of reward for the righteous, there will be differing levels of punishment for those in Hell as well. My prayer is that you consider if you are living according to the light you have received. To whom much is given, much is expected. Place your trust in the Lord Jesus—do it today!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Published by Multnomah Press, 1987. Page 324.

Who Are Those Who Are Consigned to Hell?

We are continuing our study of eternity, and specifically looking at the topic of Hell over the last few days. What do the Scriptures say about those who are consigned to Hell—who will go there?

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).

The verse above teaches that people who are cowards, people who are liars, and those who are unbelievers in Christ, at the second resurrection, will be sent to a lake that burns with fire and brimstone. I do not know whether the lake is a literal lake of fire, or if the lake of fire is a figurative picture of a state of being. Personally, I do not care to find out! Either way, what we do know about the lake of fire is that it is a place that will be full of torment and destruction. The Bible also describes Hell as a place of eternal darkness (Jude 1:13). We have a choice to be consumed by the Light or by the Darkness. We will embrace one or the other for eternity.

Think about the nature of light and darkness. Light promotes health and well-being. Plants need light to survive. Light exposes, and it also nourishes. It promotes life. It illuminates. Darkness covers and hides. It is an absence of light. Psychologists tell us that prolonged darkness can cause depression and other maladies. It is not healthy for people to live with an absence of light. The lake of fire will be a place of darkness.

Today, it is considered unpopular to even talk about such a place of darkness. Who would deserve to go there? Let me ask you this: How many murders does it take to be a murderer? One! How many lies does it take to be a liar? One! How many sins does it take to be a sinner? One! We are all in need of a Savior, and there is none other than Jesus who can save you from your sin and its penalty.

The way to God is first to realize our need of a Savior. Paul the Apostle puts it this way, “There is no one righteous, not even one…there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). Paul says that no one will be declared righteous by keeping a system of works (The law, verse 20). He states that righteousness apart from the law has been made known, i.e. the substitutionary death of Christ for you and in place of you. This righteousness is imparted to you when you repent (turn away from sin and turn to Christ) of your sin and receive the person of Jesus Christ to sit on the throne room of your life. This is the only way out of going to a place of torment (Acts 4:12). When you do this, your name is written in the book of life (Revelation 21:27), a record book of all those who have turned their lives over to Christ and received Him into their lives to forgive their sin. Those whose names are not found in the book will be tormented in the lake of fire:

And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15).

He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:10-11, Emphasis mine).

My prayer is that you might never be found in such a place. Believe and place your trust in the Lord Jesus—do it today!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity, the study called The Truth about Hell, found in the middle column. Keith Thomas