A Look at the Life to Come
There are 2 things people say you can count on in life: death and taxes. Aging has a way of making you think more about death and the hereafter. I’m 68, Frank is 70 and Norm is 80. We love to see our children grow and our grandchildren grow and maybe soon our great grandchildren. But someday they will enter the next life. And someday, so will I. And someday, so will you and every person you love. It’s one of the few things you can bank on in this life. We don’t like to think about it much because it’s sad, mysterious, andsomewhat spooky. But in this final installment of our series “Created forSignificance,” I want to give you one final incentive to join us here at Riversideby talking to you about the life to come. In Luke 16, Jesus finishes up what, for him, must have been a long day ofteaching because it covers three full chapters, which is the same number ofchapters taken up by his famous Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on theMount came within weeks of the beginning of his ministry, while the teachingin Luke takes place within weeks of his death and resurrection.We know from the intensity of the teaching that what Jesus said that day was very important to him. Personally, I think the last story in this teaching sequence, the one we’re about to walk through, reveals as much about what motivated Jesus as any story he ever told. In Luke 16 he tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. It’s a short story, told in two brief scenes: scene one (on earth) and scene two (in the afterlife). Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 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.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. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 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.’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. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 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.’”One traveler, who toured that area of the world before it became commercialized, wrote this description of how evening banquets at rich guys’ houses went in 1894: …entertainment is a public affair. The gateway of the court, and the door… stand open… A long, low table, or more often merely the great wooden dishes, are placed along the center of the room, and low couches on either side, on which the guests, placed in order of their rank, recline, leaning on their left elbow, with their feet turned away from the table. Servants stand behind the couches… Behind the servants the loungers of the village crowd in, nor are they thought obtrusive in so doing. (H.B. Tristam, 1894) Got the picture? This is how Middle Eastern feasts went for centuries. The eaters reclined at a slightly raised table, waited on by servants, and watched by peasants who were allowed into the home to enjoy the entertainment that would come after dinner. Lazarus, sores and all, is one of those loungers in the background. He’s called by Jesus, “a beggar,” which was a job back then, That’s scene one. It ends with Lazarus dying and being carried to heaven, and the rich man dying and going to hell. Scene two is in the afterlife. This is where development of the story takesplace, where the two other characters in the story are introduced, and where itbecomes clear why Jesus told this story. The third character in the story is introduced at the beginning of the scene. It’sAbraham, the spiritual father of the Jewish nation. The angels deposit poor Lazarus at Abraham’s side, literally right up next to his chest. This is a really cool picture because what Jesus is describing here is another banquet, only this is a banquet that Lazarus has been invited to. At this banquet, he’s not an onlooker in the background and he’s not a servant waiting tables; he’s an honored guest, seated right next to Abraham himself. See, when Jesus says, “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22),what everyone pictured was Abraham reclining at the table. And who isAbraham? He’s the founder of Judaism, the spiritual head of his clan. If peoplerecline around the table in order of their rank, where is Abraham reclining? Atthe head of the table. They don’t get more important than he. And if Lazarus is right next to Abraham, what does it say about how the host ofthe banquet feels about him? He’s about as special as it gets. –if you’re a believer today, that’s you, you are as significant as it comes. That’s the picture of Lazarus’ afterlife; he’s at the great banquet beside Father Abraham. In contrast to that, where does the rich man wind up? Hell. His callused heart, self-sufficiency, and unresponsiveness to God get him delivered to the place of his own making and choosing. All of his life, he’s lived as if he didn’t need God. All of his life, he’s put God at arms-length. In effect, he has said, “I don’t want you in my life. I want to be my own lord, my own god.” So in the afterlife, God grants his wish, just like he does with all those whochoose to ignore, fend off, or push away from his invitations. Friends, hell existsso that people who choose to exclude God from their lives can have what theywish for, for all eternity. God is everywhere-present and everywhere-discernible. Anyone who looks at the stars or considers what it must have taken to design and engineer a flower has to admit that the creator of this universe is unique, wonderful, and full of beauty and ability, or he wouldn’t have been able to pull off things like that. In heaven, he’s everywhere-present and everywhere-discernible, and in hell, heis deliberately absent and far off, in order to respect the choice of those who have chosen against him. That is what the rich man has done. But the rich man never really thought about the consequences of his choice. Henever consciously verbalized to himself that pushing God away throughout hislife on earth would mean he would spend eternity without him.-He’s surprised when he finds himself in this terrible place. According to Jesus’ words, he is in torment and agony. This is where the point of the story begins to take shape. Within seconds of entering this godless destination, the rich guy is in agony. Andwithin minutes, he begins a dialogue with Abraham about fixing what’s gone wrong. And why does he address Abraham as “Father Abraham?” I don’t know for sure.It could be it’s just a term of respect, but here’s what I think: I think this rich guy never imagined that his afterlife destination was hell. I think he thought, “I’m a good guy. I’m from an affluent family. I have lots of friends. I don’t cheat on my wife, shortchange the waiter, or cheat on my income taxes. Basically, I’m a good guy. Certainly, I’m a likable guy. Therefore, God’s going to let me into heaven.”I think he also thought, “And even if my social status and nice-guyness don’t getme in, I’m a descendant of Abraham, so I’m going to get in based on my lineage,based on who I’m related to.” So he calls out, “FATHER, Abraham.” In other words, “It’s me, your descendant.Have mercy on me. I shouldn’t be down here. Maybe you can fix this.”And how does Abraham reply? “I can’t. I can’t. I wish I could, but I can’t. There’s a huge, immovable chasm between where I am and where you are. You made some decisions on earth, and those decisions are final now.” This starts the formerly-rich man thinking. It’s at this point that the climax of the story takes place. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas remember what happened to the Grinch whenhe looked at the little girl and finally thought about the value of a person forthe first time? Remember how his heart was six sizes too small? His heart startsgrowing. Look at this next line from the formerly rich guy: “Then I beg you, father, sendLazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:28).Question: about how long has this guy been in hell when he says this? Probably about five minutes, right? What’s the rich guy asking for in this request? He’s asking for the salvation of those he loves.Here’s what happened to me when I read this story years ago. It occurred to methat five minutes in hell was enough to turn this self-contained, self-sufficient,rich guy into an ardent evangelist. Here’s what I observe from this story:
2. According to Jesus, our location in eternity is permanent. Once we’ve crossed over, it’s done, final, no returns. Only the living can ask for grace.This is why prophet after prophet in the Old Testament would say things like,“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6).Why? Because he won’t always be near. If you choose to push him away, he willplace himself far away from you in eternity. 2 Corinthians 6 says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day ofsalvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Why? Because when this life passes, we get to live forever with the consequencesof our choice. 3. Five minutes in hell turns a hardened anti-God person into a raving evangelist.Ask yourself this question: What happens to me 5 minutes after I die? Five minutes into his life in hell, this ardent anti-God guy starts pleading thatsomeone go and share the truth with his brothers because he didn’t want anyonehe loved to join him there. And what’s Abraham’s response to this?He says, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29).In other words, they have the teachings from the Old Testament. The formerly-rich guy thinks that’s not enough. “No, Father Abraham… but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent” (Luke 16:30).And Abraham says, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from thedead” (Luke 16:31). (Jesus rose from the dead and still people do not believe) Hell is real and needs to be avoided at all cost.The only way to avoid hell is belief, trust and commitment to Christ, then heaven is yours. Heaven is to gained from turning from yourself and turning to God. HELL IS TO BE SHUNNED, ETERNAL LIFE WITHOUT GOD ANDHEAVEN IS TO BE GAINED, ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NIV)2 For he says,“In the time of my favor I heard you,
- According to Jesus, our location in eternity is not based on social standing or lineage. It’s based on grace.
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. So, friends, here’s my great ask: if you’re a seeker today, trust Christ for yoursalvation, not yourself. And if you’re a believer, join us; join the core. Find a place of service so that we can offer more opportunities for seekers to find Christ. Let me talk to you about heaven for a few moments. When I die I’m going to wake up in heaven, the most beautiful, wonderful indescribable place because God is there and has prepared for us a place of our own with Him.John 14 (NIV)“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 1 Corinthians 2:9[ However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— You can’t even imagine how wonderful Heaven will beRevelation 21:4[Full Chapter]‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Everything will be made right, tears will dry up forever, crying will cease, no more pain and death is vanquished and eternal wonderful life is ours with God, the One who loved us from the very beginning.Philippians 3:20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, To tell you the truth, I long for heaven and would welcome the Saviour today.Psalm 84:10Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. Choose this day for yourself hell (push God away) or heaven (faith & trust in God)AMEN