Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 17 May 2015
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Luke 16 v 19-31
Before we consider this passage, we have to understand the timeline that God has planned for every believer, following the death and resurrection of Jesus:
Birth – obviously every human is born
Re-birth – God’s plan of salvation means that every human who responds to the message of Jesus experiences a new birth that brings them into the kingdom of God
Death – despite our salvation, every Christian goes through a n experience of having their earthly life come to an end. Their body remains on earth
The intermediate state – the spirit, fully conscious, goes instantly into the presence of Jesus where they will be comforted and receive assurance of their final destiny
Resurrection – there will be a day of resurrection that will be a day of glory and fulfilled ope for all believers, when they will stand before the judgement seat of Christ, be acquitted of all wrongs, be rewarded for the things they have done
Heaven – finally they will be welcomed into the eternal state of glory with Jesus, and all those who have loved him
It sounds wonderful! It is even more wonderful in that it is true. And this is available for all believers, for everyone who has ever been born. What an amazing salvation Jesus has won for the human race, and what a future we all have.
Does it follow then, that every person will inherit it, that it will be the destiny of every human? Every Christian wants it to be so, and God wants it to be so, and has made it possible for it to be so. But we know from every time it is discussed in the Bible, that not everyone will end up in heaven. There will be some who will exclude themselves.
In the passage we are looking at , Jesus is still speaking to the Pharisees, those who are religious and proud, and he firmly and devastatingly makes the point that there will be those who will be excluded from the joys of eternity with God.
So here is our passage:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 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.’
“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. 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.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“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.’”
Here we have two men born in the normal way. Ordinary human beings, equal in standing before God
And they go onto to grow into men. Maybe it is the accident of birth or maybe one has outstanding gifts and develops them to be successful. Maybe one makes good choices and the other makes bad choices. But either way, they have very different lives.
Lazarus leads the life of the beggar. The bottom of the scrap head, thrown out and discarded by men. We all know people like this and we may thank God that it is not us, but they are all around us. Just a few meters away is the rich man. He is liked, popular, successful…exactly the sort of person that we admire. In our day it would be the successful business, the pop star, good looking, charismatic and everyone’s friend.
So who do we think is going to be the one that God approves of? Be ready for a shock.
Lazarus dies – probably no one even noticed that he wasn’t there. His body was disposed of the way someone would dispose of rubbish in the street. The rich man has a lavish funeral at which everyone praises him.
We are not told exactly how it is that the rich man does not make it to Abraham’s side and the poor man does. We now know that it is our faith in Christ, or otherwise, that will determine our destiny. But this is not the point that Jesus is making. He is showing that success and popularity in this world are not any kind of indicator as to whether we enter heaven. A blow to the successful, middle class self righteous Pharisees. Thirst, fire and torment are appropriate words for those who have rejected Jesus and comfort is the right word for those who are awaiting the resurrection.
And the exchange between the rich man and Lazarus shows that there is no possibility of a change in destiny. The die is cast, there is no looking back.
So the choice that each human has to make is not to impress man or God by being successful, but whether to trust Jesus to bring him salvation.
Do you believe the words of Jesus?
Nothing would please us more than to know that there is no hell, or that if there is it is reserved for just a few. Scripture tells us otherwise.
What Choice will you make?
As David Pawson said: “If anyone should find themselves in heaven they will have no one to praise but God. If any should find themselves in hell they will have no one to blame but themselves.”
What will you do to help those headed the wrong way? There is an urgent call to trust in Jesus and an urgent call to evangelism
Proverbs 24:11 says: “Rescue those being led away to death. Hold those staggering towards slaughter. If you say:” But we knew nothing about this” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
John MacDiarmid, May 2015