Sun pm Worship
Text: Luke 16:19-31 (King James Version)
"Father, I am your servant, willing and desiring to be used to bless your people."
The Fields are white and the laborers are
2. C.H. Spurgeon said, "If God does not save a man by truth he certainly will not save them by lies, and if the old gospel is not competent to work a revival, then we will do without the revival;
None of us know when the end is. We do not have privy to how much time we have left before we meet God......that is why how we live our life is so important. Prov. 27:1 Boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth !
The Church of England issued a theological report on
Hell in the opening months of 1996. While not suggesting that everyone would
eventually wind up in heaven, the Anglican report does propose that if there is
a Hell, it is empty. The report says:
"In the past the imagery of hell-fire and eternal torment and punishment...has been used only to frighten men and women...."
"Hell is not eternal torment, but is the final and irrevocable choosing of that which is opposed to God so completely that the only end is total non-being."
Hell, it would seem, has fallen on rather lean times. It used to be that the vast majority of Christians, regardless of denominational affiliation, believed that Hell was a real place where the wicked and the impenitent go when they died. The very thought of the pains and torments of Hell was enough to scare sinners straight. It used to be that ministers of the Gospel would preach on the horrors of Hell to persuade reprobates to repentance. But not anymore. Most American mainline and so-called Evangelical churches stopped preaching about Hell years ago. Most mainline ministers stopped believing in Hell years before that.
Hell made people uncomfortable. Hell was too "old-fashioned." The topic of Hell was bad for the bottom line-attendance and income. Hell damaged people's self-esteem. Hell has been retained in our modern lexicon as a convenient curse word, and as a metaphoric description of our worst experiences-as in "war is hell"
Hardly anyone today believes that the word "hell"
corresponds to any objective reality and less than that really believes they
might end up there.
We have papered over Hell to the detriment and peril of our souls. I can assure you, the Devil believes in a Hell. That's why he is working so tirelessly in our world before he is dumped there. The demons Jesus exorcised from people believed in Hell and pleaded with Him not to send them there. Jesus certainly believed in a Hell. The top three topics our Lord spent most of His time speaking about in His earthly teaching ministry were money and material possessions, Hell, and the Kingdom of Heaven. And the Master's words about Hell are sober, dire, and serious. His constant admonition to His hearers was this: Do whatever you must to avoid Hell.
So tonight's subject is one of those things that we all believe but none of us likes to talk about. In a national poll conducted several years ago by USA Today "67% of American adults said they believe in a hell. But less than 25% believed that they would go there, while 25% believe their friends will be there". But frankly folks, if Hell is not real, and everyone is going to get to Heaven eventually, we might as well close the doors to this church and go home.
People often are offended when any man presumes to preach on the subject of Hell. But I like "the story that is told of a chaplain who reported to a new duty station. Upon arrival some of the men came to see him and asked him this question; Do you believe in a literal hell? When he replied that he did not. The men asked him to resign and he asked them why. Their response to him was; ' If there is no Hell then we don't need you and if there is a Hell we don't want you to lead us astray." I think the point is well made
I assure you that the Devil believes in a real Hell. You may not personally believe in hell, you may think that it is just a state of mind, but as the old revival preacher said to the skeptic, "You not believing in Hell don't lower the temperature there one degree."
We don't like think about the reality of Hell and we often hear the statement, "I don't believe that a good god will send anyone to Hell."
The statement is based on error and inconsistency of the
highest order. We never make the statement, "How could a good judge sentence a mass
murderer to death for his crimes?" We don't say that because the judge is
not responsible for the man being sentenced to death, his actions are. The
Apostle Paul says in Romans 11:22, "Therefore consider the goodness and the severity of God..."
The parable that Jesus tells in verses 19-31, divides naturally into three parts; The comparison before death (vv. 19-21), The comparison after death (vv. 22-23), and THE Correction of Misconceptions About Hell (vv. 24-31).
I. THE THE COMPARISON BEFORE DEATH (vv.19-21)
Notice the Contrast between two men in this story, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
Dressing in purple and fine linens were the first century equivalents of silk sheets and designer clothing. There is nothing about his life on earth that indicated the terrible future that awaited him.
Verse twenty introduces the second character, "At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores (21) and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores."
The beggar's body is covered with sores and ulcers rather than fine clothes. The bread that he longed to eat was the bread crumbs that was used and then discarded. Lazarus is in reality only asking for dog food.
The "dogs" that licked his sores were not your neighbors
poodle, but rather wild street dogs that scavenged for food. Aside from the
discomfort and possible infection that this would cause, this was a disgrace to
a Jew as dogs were unclean animals.
The rich man could have easily assisted Lazarus, but he ignored him and went on enjoying his recognition and his riches. Life was comfortable for him and he no doubt felt secure.
II. THE COMPARISON AFTER DEATH
But death changed everything. In verse twenty-two we read, "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried."
When Lazarus died his body was probably carted away to the city dump and burned along with the trash.
The rich man also died. And although we are not told so,
we can imagine that he was given a glorious send off, the finest funeral that
money could buy.
Yet as both men died and passed through the death's portal an amazing reversal occurred.
The Lazarus died and angels carried him into God's presence. The rich man also died but no angels carried him into God's presence but rather verse twenty-three tells us that he finds himself "in hell, where he was in torment..."
The revelation of where each man ended up after death would have astonished the Lord's original audience and shattered their long held assumptions about wealth being a sign of Gods' favor and blessings.
Since there is such confusion today about what happens at death I believe that we need a brief explanation of the nature of death in relation to eternity. Death takes place when the spirit leaves the body (James 2:26). But death is not the end; it is the beginning of a whole new existence in another world.
"When people die, only their bodies go into the grave. At the funeral it is merely the physical shell we see lying in the casket. The real person, the soul/spirit, has already departed to either a place of torment or a place of comfort, depending on the person's spiritual condition.
When Christ rose from the grave, [At Christ's ascension], many scholars believe that He brought the saints from "Abraham's bosom" to the third heaven - to the realm where God lives (Eph. 4:8-10). Since then believers' souls/spirits go immediately to be with Christ, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies when He returns. (2 Cor. 12:1-4)."
III. THE CORRECTION OF MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HELL (vv. 24-31)
But why is the rich man in hell?
Some people have an image of Hell that is not based on reality. For instance Mark Twain said, "I'll take heaven for the climate and Hell for the society." Ted Turner once said "I'm looking forward to dying and going to hell because I know that's where I'm headed." People would not be so flippant about Hell if they understood the reality of it. Through the experiences of two men Jesus gives us a glimpse into Hell. It is brief but powerful enough to blow apart many of man's misconceptions about Hell.
Misconception # 1
Hell is nothingness we will just cease to exist, hearing, seeing and feeling nothing.
C. S. Lewis was told about a gravestone inscription that read; "Here lies an atheist - all dressed up and no here to go." Lewis quietly replied, "I bet he wishes that we so."
Hell is a real place of conscious anguish. This man was dreaming. His hell was not on earth. He was conscious aware of his surroundings - he could feel, he could speak, experience thirst - and was in anguish. In verse twenty-four he pleads, "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."
In fact, this is not the only place that the Bible uses vivid language to describe Hell. In Matthew 25:30, Jesus describes Hell as a place of
"outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Hell is also described in the Bible as a place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:48). In the book of Revelation the Final Judgment is described as a "lake of fire." In other places in Scripture, Jesus said that it would be better to have a millstone hung around your neck and thrown into the sea than to go into the unquenchable fire. (Mark 9:43). Every description of Hell is one of suffering, torment and agony. In this parable we see the word "torment" used four times, and it speaks of definite pain.
Liberal Bible scholars have been telling us for decades that what the Bible says about Hell is only symbolic. R. C. Sproul points out in the chapter on Hell in his book "Essentials Truths of the Christian Faith," "If these things are indeed symbols, then we must conclude that the reality is worse than the symbol suggests. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols
Misconception # 2
Not realizing that the choices we make in this life fix our destiny in the next. (vv. 24-25)
"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." There are no second chances after death.
Surely one of the most fearful horrors of hell is the undying memory of what could have been. Abraham responds to the rich man in verse twenty-five with the words, "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.
Misconception # 3
After I spend sometime in Hell I will be able to get out. (v. 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."
The gulf that could have been bridged while alive is now un-crossable. The gulf is un-crossable because Scripture makes it clear that our time on this earth is the place for personal decision: one's eternal destiny is determined by what one does and believes on earth.
There is no purgatory, no reincarnation, no chance for relief, no way out, no end, no kidding.
In Hell it is too late to pray, it is too late to change your life and it is too late to repent. Hell is a place without hope.
In Dante's Divine Comedy the author journeys through the
Inferno. There is a sign posted over the mouth of the entrance to Hell which
reads: Abandon hope all you who enter here. There isn't a second chance after
death. Unlike the Eastern idea of reincarnation, where if you blow it the first
time around you an eternity of opportunities to get it right, the truth is, as
the author of Hebrews points out, it is appointed for man once to die, and after
that comes the judgment. In Hell there is no relief, no escape, no end.
Hell is not a popular sermon topic these days. But any minister of the Gospel who does not preach about it is a false shepherd, a hireling, and a watchman asleep at his post. J.C. Ryle, the great 19th century Evangelical Bishop of Liverpool said:
"The watchman who keeps silent when he sees a fire is guilty of gross neglect. The doctor who tells us we are getting well when we are dying is a false friend. And the minister who keeps back hell from his people in his sermons is neither a faithful nor a charitable man."
Without the Preaching of Hell the Gospel is not really good news, nor is there much urgency to our Lord's command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
Misconception # 4
Hell won't be so bad, I'll be there with my buddies. (vv. 27-31)
"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.' (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.' "
We don't see the rich man reveling in fellowship with his friends, he is very much alone.
He didn't say, "I'm glad my brothers will be joining me here. We'll have a wonderful time together." In fact the rich man expresses concern for his five brothers and he asks that someone be sent back to warn them that their choices in this life have consequences in the next.
Implied in the rich man's argument is that he would have repented if a special messenger from the dead had come to him. This seems to run counter to what the exponents of the "signs and wonders movement" say today, that there can be no effective evangelism without signs and wonders. It is a reminder that the primary use of miracles in the Bible was not to convince people of the truth by replacing the Bible, but rather to confirm the truth of the Bible.
He is saying that Moses and the Prophets, the word of God, was not enough. The rich man is saying, "I didn't have a fair chance. I was not sufficiently warned, otherwise I would not be here. My destiny is God's fault not mine!" He is saying that God's warning through his word (Moses and the prophets) was inadequate and impotent.
While this verse teaches that God will not give people supernatural signs and wonders to get them to repent. This verse also teaches that a person can avoid Hell if they listen to God's word and repent. They have all the information they need; they just need to heed the information they have. Only one thing will prevent this man's brothers from joining him in Hell, to hear the word of God and respond to it in faith.
I hear people say all the time, "Well, if God would just show Himself to me I would believe." He already has-in Creation, in Scripture and in His Son Jesus Christ. He even resurrected His Son to demonstrate that this revelation was authentic, and the religious crowd responded by paying the guards that stood watch at His tomb to lie and say His body was stolen, and by attempting to silence its witnesses with persecution. We have all the revelation we are going to get.
We must believe it. As Hebrews chapter 1 begins,
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
...." Therefore no one is without responsibility or has
a valid excuse.
"One day, when Vice-President Calvin Coolidge was presiding over the Senate, one senator angrily told another to go "straight to hell." The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and Coolidge looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate and wittily replied. "I've looked through the rule book," he said, "You don't have to go, You really don't have to go, you can heed the Word of God, repent and be saved.
Once we have that matter established in our own lives then we must think of others. Each of us today know people who have no idea where they will spend eternity. Some of you even know people who are positive that they are going to hell. And yet you refuse to say anything to them about it.
" The song of the procrastinator shall be: "Almost persuaded. Harvest is past! Almost persuaded, doom comes at last! Almost cannot avail; Almost is but to fail! Sad, sad, that bitter wail-Almost but lost!"