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.