Luke 14-16, Psalm 119:1-32
Most people live for the here and now, thinking little of eternity. Atheists scoff at those who live for God, deriding us for our ignorance, but on their deathbeds we often see a different picture. David Hume, atheist philosopher famous for his skepticism of religion cried loud on his deathbed, "I am in flames!" It is said his "Desperation was a horrible scene." Thomas Payne the leading atheistic writer in Colonial America on his deathbed said, "Stay with me, for God's sake; I cannot bear to be left alone, O Lord, help me! what have I done to suffer so much?...No, don't leave; stay with me! Send even a child to stay with me; for I am on the edge of Hell here alone. If ever the Devil had an agent, I have been that one." When Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin was interviewed by Newsweek, she told of her father's death: "My father died a difficult and terrible death...At what seemed the very last moment he suddenly opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane or perhaps angry. His left hand was raised, as though he were pointing to something above and bringing down a curse on us all. The gesture was full of menace...The next moment he was dead."
In Luke 16:19-31, we read the account of The Rich Man and Lazarus. Many would be surprised to learn that this was not a parable but an actual account. In parables, Jesus never uses specific names, yet in this account He specifically uses the name of both Lazarus and Abraham. Realizing this, the story takes on very dramatic significance. First notice that the man is in the place of torture not for what he did, but for what he didn't do. For those who state that they never hurt anyone, the flipside is, but what did you do for others. Notice in Luke 16:23 that part of the Rich Man's torture was being fully aware of not where he was, "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." Notice that his torment was continuous in 16:24, "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'" For those who would rather rely on purgatory and reincarnation (which has no basis in Scripture) and hope for another chance in the afterlife notice Abraham's response in 16:26, "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us." In Hebrews 9:27 we read, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this judgment,". As we read the rest of the story, we notice the Rich Man pleading with Abraham to send someone from the afterlife to the rest of his family so they do not share the same fate as himself. But notice Abraham's response in Luke 16:31, "..If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead." No one will be unfairly judged, all have a choice and will be held responsible for that choice.
This situation predates Jesus' death and ascension. Prior to that time there were two destinations for one's soul, one a holding place of torment which the Rich Man is in which will culminate in their being placed in Hell at the Great White Throne Judgment spoken about in Revelation 20:11-15. The other holding place which Lazarus was in was a holding area of comfort prior to going to Heaven, which takes place after Jesus' death and resurrection which is described in Ephesians 4:8-10. This holding lace was called Sheol in the Old Testament and Hades in the New Testament. We now are part of the promise in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." So , after Jesus died, He led the Old Testament saints from their captivity in Hades and took them to heaven. Christians who die today don't need to go to Abraham's bosom. When we die, since the price of our sin has been paid, we go immediately into the presence of the Lord in heaven. Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven, not desiring any to go there. He warned in Matthew 7:13-14 that narrow is the road to heaven and few are those that find it. We all have to make a choice while on earth whether we choose to follow Christ or not. You can't make that choice afterwards. So much time is spent on this life here, how much focus is spent on our eternity. We saw the horrible scenarios of what happens at the time of death for an atheist. Let's contrast this with the final words of Dwight L. Moody. He awoke from sleep shortly before he died and said; "Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go." And Moody's son said, "No, no, Father. You're dreaming." And Moody replied, "I am not dreaming. I have been within the gates. This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!"
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: