Sunday, November 27, 2011

Luke 16:19-31 - The Uncomfortable Reality of Hell

Притча о Лазаре. 1886
Lazarus lying at the Rich Man's gate
Opening thought:
Hell is one of those subjects that makes people uncomfortable. We hear stories of hell being a place of fire, demons, and endless torment. Throughout history many authors have written about it, Dante's Inferno for example. Western culture is very familiar with the concept. Even Hollywood has made it the subject of many movies. Whatever the context, whatever the belief, hell is definitely taught in the Bible. But the Bible's teaching about hell is not without its controversy. Some say it is only the grave with no consciousness. Others say it is a place of correction and punishment that is not eternal. Others say it is an endless agonizing punishment in fire. At a minimum, the Bible says that hell is the total absence of the favor of God and that is it a place of punishment for those who reject Christ.

Pray and Read:  Luke 16:19-31
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 16:19-31 to warn believers about the danger of hell as a real place of permanent punishment.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about hell.

Sermon Points:
1.   Hell is a real place of punishment for those without Christ (Luke 16:19-24)
2.   Hell is the final destination for those without Christ (Luke 16:25-26)
3.   Hell is the Bible’s warning for those without Christ (Luke 16:27-31)

Textual Notes
Here is a parable about a rich man and Lazarus, a poor man with elements of symbolism about their ends after death.  We see the morals of the parables leading up to this one so that we see a pattern that Luke is developing. Here are the morals of several parables leading up today's lesson: (1) Those who value riches more than God will be rejected (Luke 12:13-21) and (2) God demands a heart of love and justice for poor and lowly (Luke 14:12-14). (3) God has a love for all those who are lost and welcomes them (Luke 15:7, 10, 20. (4) You cannot serve two masters, both God and Mammon (Luke 16:13). (5) There will be ultimate justice in the afterlife (Luke 16:27-31).

Parables are important for the general truth they teach, like a moral of the story. The focus is on the truth being taught, not getting bogged down in the details. Still, this parable has details about the afterlife that we do not see so clearly elsewhere and bear studying.
  • The Rich man fits description of Pharisee or Sadducee, the religious person who rejects the idea of submitting his life to Christ. Purple is the color of royalty. The fine linen refers to undergarments – the best underwear money could buy.
  • Lazarus is the only person named in a parable (Grk for Eleazar, “God is his help”). Hungry, dogs were detestable animals scavenging off his sores.
  • Abraham’s bosom or side – image derived from reclining at meal on couches. Lazarus finally got to enjoy that meal that he had longed for so long (Luke 16:21). Cf. John 13:23. Lazarus is next to the host, the place of most honor.
  • Hell – Hades. The intermediate hell, the pre-resurrection abode for the wicked dead. The OT term for the abode for the dead is Sheol
  • Great chasm – Luke 16:26 indicates that Sheol had two sides for righteous and wicked with a great gulf between.
a.   God created each person for a loving, intimate relationship with Him. We have all sinned (Rom 3:23), and therefore condemnation falls on all of us (John 3:18) – unless we have faith in Jesus (Romans 8:1). Such sinners under condemnation could be nice, religious people (Matt 23:33) to those failing to help the poor (Mt 25:31-46; Luke 16:19-31) to the vile and murderous (Rev 21:8).

b.   Jesus defined hell more than any other person in Scripture, and forcefully spoke of need to avoid hell (Matt 5:22, 29-30; 7:19; 8:12; 10:15, 28; 11:22, 24; 13:40-42, 50; 18:7-9; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30, 46; Mark 9:42-49; Luke 12:46-47; 13:28-30; 17:26-29; John 15:6)

a.   Each person is conscious of either happiness or distress (vv. 24-25). (Rev 14:10)
b.   The state of a person after death is irrevocably settled during his/her lifetime (vv. 27-28). (Matt 25:31-46; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:12) Not a single suggestion in the Scripture that this can be reversed. No reincarnation – Hebrews 9:27
c.   God’s redemptive love for the world was infinitely expressed in His gift of His Son as a sacrifice for sin (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 4:9-10). If he arbitrarily released sinners from their penal obligation without trusting Christ, than he will violate his own character and the integrity of his justice. There is no Scriptural evidence that any morally responsible person can be saved after death. Death ends a person’s opportunity to receive the gift of salvation. Beyond this life, there is only eternal judgment for the unsaved (Heb. 9:27). Now is the day of salvation, thus the urgency of missions and evangelism (2 Cor. 6:2).

a.   Each person will be in one of two places after death. Jesus’ teaching goes along with Daniel’s (Daniel 12:2).
b.   Memory of this life and its lost opportunities exists beyond the grave (v. 27-28). (Mark 9:48)
c.   Foreshadowing of the rejection of Jesus’ resurrection.
d.   Evangelism is “snatching others from fire” Jude 23
e.   Professor Clark Pinnock wrote in the Criswell Theological Review, “I consider the concept of hell as endless torment in body and mind an outrageous doctrine. . . . How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God.”[1] What is actually more like Satan than God is the arrogance that we, as created beings dare that it is moral high ground to oppose our Creator’s own revelation in the Bible. If we understood God’s holy nature and our sinfully depraved one, we would be more shocked than anyone goes to Heaven than that anyone goes to Hell. If we have no belief in eternal punishment, then there is no need for Christ’s vicarious atonement on the Cross. Denying the existence and endlessness of Hell is minimizing the work of Christ on the Cross.
f.    Does God choose to send anyone to hell? No. Heaven and hell have differing purposes for God. God created man in His own image to enjoy His presence forever. Hell was not created for man. It was prepared for the devil and his angels/demons (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10). It is not his will that anyone should perish (2 Peter 3:9). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 33:11). Hell is a destiny chosen by the free will of man. J.I. Packer writes, “All receive what they actually choose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves.”
g.   Therefore, while hell was not created for any human beings, because of sin, hell is the default destination of all human beings (John 3:18; Rev. 20:12-15). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Sin separates us from a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2) because God is so holy that he cannot allow sin in his presence (Habakkuk 1:3). Sinners are not entitled to enter God’s presence, so we cannot enter Heaven as we are. We must have a Savior Jesus Christ.
h.   People go to hell because they reject God’s choice or destiny for them. Hell will be the destination for all who reject the righteous Son of God who came to redeem all who would receive Him (John 3:18-21; Rev. 1:18). At Christ’s return, there will be a resurrection, the believers to eternal life in Heaven and the unbelievers to eternal life in Hell (John 5:28-29). If your name is not found written in the Book of Life (Rev. 21:27), your destination is hell. For unbelievers, one’s judgment is based on their works recorded in Heaven’s books (Rev. 20:12-15; Matt. 13:40-42; 25:41).
i.     God designed hell to be sufficiently frightening to motivate the worst sinner to flee to the grace of Christ and live with him in heaven eternally.
j.    The Bible teaches that there is coming a final resolution of history when God will stop all evil and establish perfect peace and righteousness. Hell is the destination of those who reject God’s offer of redemption found only in Christ Jesus. Most people believe they are going to heaven, but this optimism is in contrast to Christ’s words in Matthew 7:13-14: “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”


[1] Clark Pinnock, “The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent,” Criswell Theological Review 4 (199): 246-47, 253.