Sunday, November 11, 2012

Luke 16:19-31 - The Rich Man and Lazarus

Притча о Лазаре. 1886
Притча о Лазаре. 1886 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 16:19-31 to warn people that punishment is ahead for those without faith, and that we should heed God's Word now in faith.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about hell.
Pray and Read:  Luke 16:19-31

Contextual Notes
While chapter 15 focused on God’s love for the lost and the poor, Jesus turns in chapter 16 to the spiritual dangers of the wealthy and powerful. Jesus tells two parables directed against the Pharisees’ love of money. The first, traditionally called the Parable of the Unjust Steward, makes the simple point that the value of money in this world is to make preparation for the next (Luke 16:1-12). Jesus’ second parable draws back the veil for the sneering Pharisees to see the seriousness of the issue. In the hereafter, the roles the rich man and the beggar play in this life mean nothing. What means something is repentance and faith, and only those who respond to God’s Word will be blessed (Luke 16:19-31). With the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we see two persons (Luke 16:19-21), two different places (Luke 16:22-23), and two prayers (Luke 16:24-31).

Sermon Points:
1.   Warning: Punishment ahead for those without faith (Luke 16:19-26)
2.   Warning: Heed God’s Word now in faith (Luke 16:27-31)

a.   Christ now addresses a word to the Pharisees who have been sneering at Him to show them that riches do not admit them to God’s presence (Luke 16:14). Jesus tells a story about a rich man and Lazarus, a poor beggar, and in it there is a familiar theme of the end-time reversal that comes with the Kingdom of God. The Rich man enjoyed every luxury that money could buy, but his money was spent entirely to satisfy his own desires. He showed no concern for others. The rich man fits description of a 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 his undergarments. He had the best underwear money could buy.

b.   In the last parable (Luke 16:1-12), the steward said he could not dig nor beg. Here a beggar named Lazarus was carried to the rich man’s gate and placed there, no doubt in hopes that as the wealthy man passed through he would be moved with compassion by the beggar’s need and out of his substance would meet that need. The NT mentions people being forced through illness or disability to beg to survive (Luke 16:20; John 9:8; Acts 3:2-11). In first century Judaism, giving to the destitute was considered a great moral deed, meritorious in God’s eyes (Matt 6:1-4). Lazarus is the only person named in any of Jesus’ parables (Greek for Eleazar, “God is his help”). Because Jesus never used personal names in His parables, and because this teaching is not called a parable by Luke, many commentators suggest this story relates actual events. But the dogs showed more compassion for the beggar. These hungry dogs were considered detestable animals, but they were scavenging off his sores and cleaned them in the process.

c.   Death came: Jesus reverses what the Pharisees taught that the rich were loved by God and the poor hated. Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s bosom, an expression Jews used to refer to God’s presence, where the privileged enjoyed God’s feast with Abraham. The image is of the Jewish custom of reclining at a banquet on couches. Lazarus finally got to enjoy that meal that he had longed for so long (Luke 16:21; John 13:23). Lazarus is next to the host, the place of most honor.

d.   The rich man went to Hades. Hades was the place of the dead who were awaiting judgment. The text says he was “alive.” The rich man (sometimes called Dives because the word is Latin for “rich man”) was self-conscious, aware, able to see, feel, and remember (Rev 14:10). Jesus teaches here that Hades is a literal place where the occupants are in torment while they are separated from God’s presence. They are conscious of that separation and fully know they are being deprived of blessings. This is the intermediate hell, the pre-resurrection abode for the wicked dead. The OT term for the abode for the dead is Sheol.  There is no Biblical basis for the notion that death is an unconscious state. The human personality, fully conscious and aware, outlasts physical death! (Mark 9:48). The rich man was in such distress that he petitioned “Father Abraham” (Luke 16:24). He wanted Lazarus to touch his tongue with a finger dipped in water because “I am in agony in this fire.” His request was denied. A Great chasm separated them (Luke 16:26) indicating that Sheol had two sides for righteous and wicked with a great gulf between.

e.   APPLICATION: Jesus is making a point that despite the privileges of the rich man on earth, those privileges did not automatically translate to the afterlife. The wealthy man did not use his wealth wisely to provide for the future. Since he did not use it to meet the needs of the needy, there could be no blessing for him now. But there is more here. Jesus is issuing a warning to these wealthy and powerful, self-righteous, self-fulfilled, self-centered religious people. He warns them of a great reversal if they are not careful for themselves. God designed hell to be sufficiently frightening to motivate the worst sinner (and the most self-righteous hypocrite) to flee to the grace of Christ and live with him in heaven eternally.

a.   Even though the rich man could get no comfort for himself, he (for the first time!) thinks of someone other than himself and asks that Lazarus be sent t warn his brothers, who like him were wealthy but were not using their wealth wisely with a view to the future. He wanted them to escape the torment he was in. Abraham answered that the Law and the Prophets bore testimony to the demands God has made to be in fellowship with Him and warns of coming judgment on the unrighteous. If men will not listen to the Word, then they would not listen though one should return from the dead and give a testimony.
b.   Luke 16:31 – Listen to God’s Word Now! Jesus’ sad observation that the rich man’s brothers would not listen (i.e., respond to what they heard) even if one rose from the dead was quickly proven true. Jesus was raised, but His enemies were determined not to believe and continued to reject Him.

c.   APPLICATION: Charles Swindoll gives a few insights to this passage: God’s written Word is the most important evidence a person can examine. It is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). God’s written Word is the most compelling information to prepare us for life after death. You can write a will or increase your life insurance, but only God’s Word can show us how to repent and live for Christ so that we are ready to enter His presence with joy. Finally, the person who ignores the Word of God in life will not be ignored by the God of the Word in eternity.

d.   Those who value riches more than God will be rejected (Luke 13:13-21). Some today, like the Pharisees, are trusting money to gain them acceptance into God’s presence. But it can only condemn. It cannot save. Each person will be in one of two places after death. Jesus’ teaching goes along with Daniel’s (Daniel 12:2). God demands a heart of love and justice for the poor and lowly (Luke 14:12-14), and that love and justice is a fruit of a believing relationship with Christ.

e.   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.”

f.    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 that 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.

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.     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.”

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).

Jesus talked about a literal 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).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) There is not a single suggestion in the Scripture that this can be reversed. There is no such thing as reincarnation – Hebrews 9:27.

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).

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