Luke 16:19-31 “The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment in Hell”
Luke 16:19-31 “The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment in Hell”
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Bryan E. Walker
Read Luke 16:19-31 PLEASE STAND FOR THE READING OF GOD’S WORD
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers —so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to you this morning praising you and rejoicing in you, for you are a God of Love, Grace and Mercy who has saved sinners like us who are unworthy of your love. We praise you for being a God who is Holy, Holy, Holy and for being just and righteous, a God who cannot abide with evil. We confess that we cannot fully understand how your love and your justice work together but as we look at the sacrifice of your Son Jesus on the Cross we behold with wonder your holy wrath against sin and your great love for us sinners as Jesus became sin for us so that we could be forgiven, given new life and even adopted by you. We praise you!
As we study this text Lord, my prayer is that I would not misspeak or confuse anyone but that I would adequately explain your Word and that your Holy Spirit would teach us, convict us, burden us for the lost, and grant salvation to those here who are not yet born again. Lord, as we study the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell, help us to overcome our revulsion of it and to see you glorified even here. May we see how great is the salvation that you have wrought and how you have not merely saved us from judgment, but that you have saved us for yourself. May we be convicted to share the gospel with others, yes so that they would be rescued from hell, but more that your holy name would be glorified. And Lord, I pray that if anyone here this morning is lost, has not repented of sin and trusted in Jesus alone for salvation, that this morning your Holy Spirit would bring a godly fear upon them of eternal punishment so that they could see the beauty of your holiness, your majesty, and respond to your saving grace. Change their hearts, O God, grant them the faith with which to repent and believe. Amen.
Introduction: There is a great need for sound teaching and preaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s in the fundamentalist, revivalistic strain of Southern Baptist life I heard a lot of preaching on hell. In a lot of ways it was done wrongly with a lot of psychological and emotional tricks to generate more decisions. Back then, we used to have two revivals a year sometimes for two weeks at a time. Then it went to one revival a year and then to just a 4 day revival. Today we have conferences on how to heal your marriage, how to manage your finances, how to be the best you you can be…and today we hear very little about hell. More people believe in heaven than hell and anyone who does believe in hell is ridiculed by Larry King or some other talk show personality: “Oh! You’re one of THOSE. How can you believe in a good God who would send anybody to hell?” Well you better believe in hell because Jesus teaches more on hell than he does heaven! I have seen big name preachers back away from the doctrine of hell over the years. One famous evangelist used to preach the truth about hell when I was a kid, but in his later years I heard him interviewed and he was backtracking on the doctrine, expressing much doubt about hell.
The main idea of the text this morning is that if you are not trusting in God’s salvation provided through Christ alone, but rather are relying on riches, success, or your own supposed goodness, you will end up spending eternity in hell, a place of eternal fire, intense suffering and agony.
How we shall proceed this morning is this: First I will present the context of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and then I will briefly explain the story. I will next focus the majority of our time on the doctrine of hell as presented in the story with some other biblical material added to expand our understanding of hell. I will conclude by showing you how to avoid hell and how to apply this doctrine. I am condensing about 6 sermons into one, so hold on.
- I. The Context, Outline and Themes
- A. In looking at the context for this story we must begin in ch.14 where Jesus is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees on a Sabbath and he heals a man with dropsy (a disease that is likely either congestive heart failure or kidney failure, resulting in the swelling of the body with fluid build up). In this situation, after the healing, Jesus tells a series of parables beginning with the Parable of the Wedding Feast where he states in 14:11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” We will see this great reversal played out in the story we are studying this morning, The Rich Man and Lazarus. This is followed up immediately with the Parable of the Great Banquet which includes 14:21 “and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” Lazarus is poor and crippled. In 14:25-33 is a brief talk on the Cost of Discipleship.
In ch15:1 “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” This sets the scene again with the Pharisees against Jesus. With ch16 we have the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, another story about wealth and in v.14 “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Jesus is directly confronting the Pharisees’ worldview that values wealth over people and God and that seeks to justify self in the eyes of God. Now we can move into the Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
This story is unique to Luke and the main point is that if you are wealthy and ignore the poor, if you are trusting in yourself instead of placing your trust and hope in God, you will face the judgment of God and a reversal of fortunes after death and receive the just condemnation of God which is an irreversible sentence. The point is not that all the rich go to hell and the poor all go to heaven. The Patriarchs were wealthy as was Job, David and Solomon. In the NT Joseph of Arimathea was wealthy and it is likely that Nicodemus, John Mark’s mother and Lydia were all also well off. Paul does not tell us that riches are evil, but in 1Tim.6:10 “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” I have known many godly wealthy people and many ungodly poor.
- B. In these parables you have the theme of the rich and the poor. In the parable of the Great Banquet Jesus commands us to invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind. In 15 you have the prodigal son who misspent his inheritance and became poor. In 16 you have the rich man and the dishonest manager and in our text the rich man and Lazarus.
There is the theme of eschatological reversal. Now that sounds like a painful and embarrassing surgery but it is a fancy name for what Jesus says in Luke 19:30 “And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” We see this also in 1:51-54; 6:20-26. In our passage you see a man of fabulous wealth end up in hell and a man who was poor, sick, crippled and starving end up in heaven.
There is the theme of judgment. Hell is mentioned in 10:14-15; the judgment in 11:31-32; hell again in 12:5 and in our text, and weeping and gnashing of teeth in 13:28.
My point here is that Jesus’ mentioning of hell in 16:19-31 is not an isolated teaching; it is repeated time and again in Luke’s Gospel. This is not something Jesus shied away from but preached boldly, in the home of a Pharisee, to their faces. He confronted their wealth, their lack of compassion for the poor, their trust in themselves and what they considered to be good works. And he basically tells them they are heading for hell and the people they despise are going to heaven.
- C. Outline
- 1. Vss.19-21 The Rich Man & Lazarus in Life
- 2. Vss.22-23 The Rich Man & Lazarus in the Life to Come
- 3. Vss.24-31 Conversation Between Abraham and the Rich Man
- II. A Brief Exposition of the Rich Man & Lazarus
- A. Vss.19-21 The Rich Man & Lazarus in Life: the Stuff and Status You Have in This Life Are No True Indicator of Your Status Before the Lord.
- 1. First of all, while most expositors believe this to be parable, some of us believe it to very possibly be a true story of two people Jesus knew or who were known to the Pharisees in his audience. It is a bit more complex than most parables and is the only parable to include a real name and to give us someone’s thoughts and experiences from beyond the grave. Also, in most parables you really do not want to focus on the details of the story but rather get to the main point it teaches; here, the details are very important and can be used for doctrine because they are supported by many other texts revealing the same thing.
- 2. Secondly, the story shows about as much contrast between the two men as is possible. The rich man wears purple, a symbol of great wealth at the least, royalty or the priesthood very likely. He wears fine linen, so his underwear is imported from Egypt. He dines sumptuously every day and lives in a large house that has ornate gates, such as would be found on a temple or huge mansion. Nothing about the man’s occupation, character or accomplishments is directly mentioned. But by what we are given we can assume he is very respected and respectable. The fact that he is not named, while Lazarus is, indicates that Jesus is targeting a broad audience of the wealthy, successful, Pharisees. He won’t let any of them off the hook here.
- 3. Lazarus, and the name means “helped by God”, is as poor and needy as you could possibly be. He has to be laid by the rich man’s gate meaning he was either too weak from sickness and hunger or he was crippled as well as sick and hungry. He was so sick the dogs came and licked his sores, thus making him unclean and resembling Job. While the rich man mentions his family later, no family is mentioned for Lazarus.
- B. Vss. 22-23 The Rich Man & Lazarus in the Life to Come: It Is Appointed Unto Man Once To Die, But After that- Judgment!
- 1. Lazarus dies first, whether by starvation or his illness we do not know. Jesus says that he was carried to Abraham’s side by angels. I do not think that mentioning the angels is symbolic nor is he condescending to popular religious thought of his day. I believe he is describing it as it is: when God’s people die he has angels ready to take them to heaven. I have been at the deathbeds of some believers who could see the angels by the way. Lazarus goes to “Abraham’s Side”, a common saying for Paradise or Heaven. The indication is that he is immediately taken to heaven, no soul sleep, no awaiting Resurrection Day. He dies and he goes to be with the Lord as Paul says in Phil.1. There is no mention of a burial for Lazarus indicating that he likely had no family or friends. In such cases it is possible that his body could have been thrown out to the trash dump in the Valley of Bin Hinnom, thus the symbol for Gehenna- Hell.
- 2. The rich man also dies, but he is buried, he had a funeral, and very likely it was a grand event. But he opens his eyes in hell. If the crowd around Jesus was shocked that Lazarus was carried to heaven, they would be angered that Jesus depicts the rich man in hell, especially if they had an inkling of who he was talking about. This is the ironic twist, the eschatological reversal.
- 3. If the Lord delays his second coming, all of us in this room will see death. People do not like to consider death. We don’t like to think of dying young, we might think about growing old and dying peacefully in our sleep. But DEATH is coming for every one of us.
- C. Vss.24-31 Conversation Between Abraham and the Rich Man- The Realities of Hell
- 1. In the interest of time, instead of going through this section as I normally would I am going to move on to my next points that actually get into the teachings about hell.
- A. Vss.19-21 The Rich Man & Lazarus in Life: the Stuff and Status You Have in This Life Are No True Indicator of Your Status Before the Lord.
- III. The Judgment
- 1. The judgment is immediate and inescapable– First of all we see that in this story both the rich and the poor die, and after death go immediately to either heaven or hell. Heb. 9:27 “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Folks, judgment day is coming for all. We will all die, should the Lord not come back in our lifetimes, and after that we will go to either heaven or hell.
Now I must distinguish between the judgment that falls upon us immediately after death and the Day of Judgment that we see in such places as Rev. 20:11-15
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
In our story in Luke 16 the rich man died and went to Hades which is a temporary holding area of hell, where the condemned souls await the Final Judgment and their bodies being resurrected and being cast into hell forever. But Hades is still Hell. Edward Donnelly writes, (Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell, Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, UK 2001. p.22) “On the day of judgment, the bodies of unbelievers who have died will be raised from the grave, reunited with their souls and cast into hell. But we need to remember that their souls are in hell already. There is no no-man’s land in the universe, no waiting room between heaven and hell, no soul sleep or period of unconsciousness until the second coming of Christ. Souls which are not still inhabiting their bodies are either in heaven or in hell.”
We know from this story and from the crucifixion that Lazarus and the unnamed thief on the cross who repented and trusted in Jesus both went straight to Paradise as well. So we see that judgment is both inescapable and immediate. Can anyone hide from God’s judgment? In this life people run from the law and are frequently never caught. You cannot run from a God who is everywhere present and all knowing. You cannot resist God the Judge who is Sovereign over all and is all powerful.
- 2. The finality of judgment When you die there is no second chance, no do-overs, you cannot take a mulligan; you have no “extra men” no “extra lives”. You get just this one life to live and either follow Jesus or live for the devil. The rich man’s wealth could not pay bail and get him out. Abraham told him, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” Not only is judgment inescapable but hell itself is inescapable, it is FINAL.
The Finality of Hell and Judgment eliminates all hope of ever being free again. There is no court to which you may file an appeal because God is the ultimate Judge who is all knowing and absolutely holy, holy, holy. He has overlooked no evidence and he has stayed true to his law. Once you die without repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation there is no other recourse, no appeal, no clemency, no hope of pardon, ever. Abandon hope ye who enter here.
This finality of judgment is emphasized by hell being Eternal Punishment. 2Thess 1:8-9 “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord”. In Matt. 25:41, 46 we see “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
- 3. The justice of judgment- the rich man is not described as having committed any huge, gross sin, but he lived selfishly, and ignored the needs of Lazarus. People often mistakenly think that Hell is just for those really bad people, like serial killers. We tend to judge others harshly and overlook our own sins; when we weigh ourselves on the balance scales of good vs. evil we tend to say we come out pretty good. Surely God does not send nice, good people to hell?
One of the points of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus was to deliberately disturb our ideas of who goes to heaven and hell. The rich man was well known and respected no doubt. Lazarus was just a failure and a bum in the eyes of man. But Lazarus’ hope was in God just like his name suggests. The rich man was likely not notoriously evil, just rich and unconcerned with the poor man at his gate. That is why it is so shocking to find him in hell.
God’s Justice and his decision about heaven and hell is not arbitrary or unjust at all. Quite simply all sin deserves hell and that means each and every one of us, as sinners, deserve hell. God is thrice holy and cannot abide sin in the least. His standard is absolute perfection and holiness. You see the problem is not “how could God send good people to hell”. The problem is “how can a holy God save any of us by his grace?” The rich man got exactly what he deserved, Lazarus did not get what he deserved. His poverty was not somehow virtuous and did not earn him heaven. Lazarus was also a sinner deserving hell, but because of God’s sovereign grace he was trusting in God his Help and he was saved from what he deserved. There are many in our present day whose idea of heaven and hell is shaped more by the politics of Marxism/socialism than by the Scriptures.
The wages of sin is and have always been, DEATH and hell. Rom.6:23.
But why is hell endless? How can it be just for God to punish people forever when they had a finite number of sins? Because we have sinned against an infinitely holy and majestic God. It is not the size or amount of our sin that matters as much as it is whom we have offended that determines the length of our sentence. We have offended a God who is Holy, Holy, Holy, and who is infinite and eternal. The people in hell will be eternal testimonies of God’s holiness and justice every bit as much as those people in heaven will be eternal testimonies of God’s love, mercy and grace.
W.G.T. Shedd, in his book The Doctrine of Endless Punishment, Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, GB 1885, p.153, writes, “The incarnation and vicarious satisfaction for sin by one of the persons of the Godhead, demonstrates the infinity of the evil. It is incredible that the Eternal Trinity should have submitted to such a stupendous self-sacrifice, to remove a merely finite and temporal evil. The doctrine of Christ’s vicarious atonement, logically, stands or falls with that of endless punishment. Historically, it has stood or fallen with it. The incarnation of Almighty God, in order to make the remission of sin possible, is one of the strongest arguments for the eternity and infinity of penal suffering.”
The justice of hell is seen in the horrific price that God himself paid to redeem the elect. Jesus, the Divine, Eternal Son of God, became sin for us on the cross and suffered not just the physical tortures of the cross, but he suffered spiritually as God considered him to be sin in our place. The agony of his perfect, holy, and innocent soul which had never known sin would be incalculable. Jesus received God’s wrath in our place so that we could be forgiven, therefore, for those who do not repent and believe, they must suffer in some similar way that Jesus himself suffered since he suffered though innocent, and they suffer justly. Hell is not all about us just as salvation is not all about us. It is about God’s glory. This is not a man centered universe despite our sinful natural inclinations to make it so.
- 4. The justice is retributive not corrective– Notice the rich man arrogantly wants Lazarus to serve him by taking a drop of water and placing it on his tongue. He wants Lazarus to leave heaven and come to hell to serve him. The rich man’s character has not changed; he is not repentant in the least; he remains arrogant. This points us to another misunderstood element of eternal punishment: it is retributive not corrective. In our world we try to deny human nature and hide evil or do away with the concept altogether by doing such meaningless things as changing the name from Prison to Correctional Facility. Much of our justice system today is to try to correct the bad behaviour of people. Some of that is fine, but the primary aspect of prison is to execute justice on behalf of the victims and the state.
In hell, the damned are confirmed in their sin, not liberated from it. The rich guy was even more arrogant. The inhabitants of hell grow even more guilty, more evil, as time goes by. They hate God and there is nothing in hell that will sway them to love God. Their hatred for God and for all that is good will continue to grow and consume them for eternity.
Hell is not God’s Correctional Facility for those who did not get it right the first time. Hell is a penal colony for criminals from which there is no escape or relief. They are cast out from the camp into the outer darkness. It is retributive. It is punishment. The Roman Catholic idea of Purgatory is nowhere found in the Bible and is an absolutely abhorrent false belief. Either Jesus paid it all on the cross or no one is saved at all. Spending 10,000 years in hell is not going to purge anyone of the sinful nature. The doctrine of hell is not grotesque; it is the doctrine of man that says Jesus died as merely our example and that all go to heaven that is grotesque. Again, Jesus’ death on the cross did not make salvation possible for those who paid for their sins in hell for a while. Jesus’ death on the cross absolutely saved those whom God foreknew. A general atonement view opens the door to other warped possibilities but a particular atonement tends to close that door.
- 5. The judgment is personal and conscious- There is a wicked idea that even some godly, reformed theologians have come up with called annihilation. They say that hell is being judged by God and simply exterminated. Extinguished. Disintegrated. You cease to exist. Oh the millions in hell long for annihilation. They wish they could cease to exist. But Hell is personal and you are conscious and in agony.
What does our text say? “and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes.” The rich guy in hell is the same guy we read about in fine linen, purple clothes, and a sumptuous table in a gated house. There is continuity in the afterlife with who we are in this life. He is the same person, he is conscious and suffering.
- 6. The Judgment is carried out in a real place called hell- Notice that hell is a real Place. The rich man identifies it as a PLACE of torment in vs.28. Hell is every bit as real of a place as is Heaven. Right now the dead are there spiritually, their bodiless souls are there. We do not know where “there” is, but it is somewhere. That rich guy went there 2000 yrs ago and is still there. When Resurrection Day comes and the Day of Judgment follows, the damned souls will be reunited with their bodies and cast into the Lake of Fire.
In my studies on this subject I have studied the biblical material, the theologies, and I have read some extra biblical testimonials of those who have died and been resuscitated. I have a book written by a Christian Medical Doctor, a heart specialist, who came to Christ because of the testimonies of hell that some of his patients gave him. To Hell and Back by Dr. Maurice S. Rawlings gives clinical evidence that supports the teachings of Scripture. Many patients who die experience hell and have given very vivid and terrifying descriptions of a real place of torment.
- IV. The Sufferings
- 1. Regrets- is the rich man in the story repentant? No. is he regretful? Yes. He experiences regrets and remorse but not repentance. He tries to convince Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers to warn them about “this place of torment”. He doesn’t want his brothers to come to hell. That is a natural affection for family that even lost people have, it is no sign of repentance or faith at all. He apparently has no regrets in regards to Lazarus, no apologies are offered, no regrets expressed. This may be a limitation of the parable but it could be that he remains as unconcerned about the poor as when he was alive and is only concerned about those like him, his family.
But imagine the horror for those in hell experiencing regret over their failed opportunities with the gospel. Imagine all the memories of beauty, bounty, love and fun back on earth, now all gray with regrets. Hell is an eternity of regretting, but never repenting. Folks, the pain and embarrassment of repenting in this life is infinitely better than the regrets experienced forever by the damned in the torments of hell.
- 2. Hopelessness- On the gates into hell in Dante’s Inferno are written these words: Abandon hope ye who enter here. I have already discussed this to an extent so I just want to add a bit more. Have you ever been ill for a long time, ill to the point where you really felt like you had no hope of ever getting better? One of the extreme mental tortures of hell is the sheer hopelessness of it all. It will never get any better; it is sure to only get worse. It will never, ever end.
- 3. Fire- Isa.33:14; 66:24; Matt.3:12; 5:22; 13:40, 42,50; 18:8-9; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; Jude 7; Rev.14:10; 19:20; 20:10, 14,15; 21:8 Some would say that fire is only a metaphor yet it is the most frequent term used to describe hell. I do not think fire is a metaphor here, I believe that the overwhelming evidence from scripture, and the anecdotal evidence of those who have died and been resuscitated is that hell is a real place with real fire. Imagine being on fire but not consumed and never passing out or dying.
In my own conversion as a young boy of 8 yrs of age in a revival at FBC Elk City, OK I heard an evangelist give a testimony he heard from a fighter pilot in the Viet Nam War. The pilot dropped napalm on the enemy and could see the enemy writhing in agony as the jellied jet fuel burned their flesh away. The pilot thought of hell’s fires and repented of his own sins and was saved. I work with some volunteer firemen and they have described to me some of the types of casualties they see in fires. Sometimes it is not the exterior burns of the flesh that kill as much as it is the scorched windpipe and lungs that are seared and blistered and the person cannot breathe and dies. Again, some of the testimonies of hell I have read mention the hot, scorching, putrid fumes of hell that burn their lungs from the inside. Forever.
- 4. Thirst- The rich man was in torment in the flames but expressed a desire for even one drop of water. Thirst is a horrible torment. To be burning in agony due to the fires of hell and to have one’s lungs burned with the putrid, hot smoke in hell goes right along with an overwhelming thirst that will never be quenched. The thirst will only get worse as time passes. You will be more thirsty tomorrow than today in hell, and more thirsty in 10,000 years than now.
Picture every good desire of the body that the Lord created as very good, and imagine all of those good, healthy desires being always intensified yet never satisfied. Welcome to hell. Have you ever been so thirsty that you felt like you might die of heat stroke if you did not get a drink? In my Army days we used to train in the desert all the time. We had a very strict, mandatory drinking program to make sure every soldier got enough water because heat injuries are terrible. I learned that you can never carry enough water and ammunition in the Army. There is no water in hell. No oasis that you might stumble upon to even temporarily slake your thirst.
- 5. Loneliness- In the story we see the rich man seems to be alone in hell. For the story’s sake he can communicate with Abraham but I believe that detail should not be taken for doctrine. But nobody else seems to be around. It is common for people who are lost and proud of it to boldly say they will prefer to go to hell since that is where all their friends are. Yet hell is going to be a lonely place, totally without love. If you can associate with others in hell it will not be an association of friendship but of vile sinners confirmed in their selfishness and hatred for others. For many, when suffering there is no regard for others. Add hopelessness to the mix and you get utter loneliness and despair in hell, not comradeship. In some accounts of people being resuscitated from hell there were cruel and horrible demons present who tortured them in their brief stay in hell.
- 6. Poverty- Did the rich man go to hell with a U-Haul trailer filled with his earthly riches? All of his purple clothes and fine white linens would be instantly burned up or soiled in hell. Of what good would gold be in hell? The rich man became poor and Lazarus became wealthy. Eschatological reversal.
- 7. Darkness- Matt..8:12; 22:13; 25:30 how can darkness and fire co-exist? Easily, it can be intermittent. Even though the fires of hell may give off light, it may still be a pitch black environment much as Egypt experienced in the 9th plague (Ex.10:21ff). Fires at night give off an imperfect, flickering light that can deceive, blind and mislead you. Add to that the sulfurous and noxious fumes and smoke from the fires of hell and you will be experiencing both fire and darkness in the worst possible combination.
The darkness is also an indicator of one’s mental, emotional and spiritual condition. Hell will permanently place you in spiritual darkness; you will never gain in any intelligence except only evil all the time. There will never again be a single happy or uplifting thought, only darkness and depression for ever. There will be no purpose in your journeys in hell, no illuminating of your path, no destination except endless torment. Surely it is a dark road.
- 8. Worms- Although worms, like darkness, are not mentioned in the passage I thought it beneficial to include as a description of the sufferings in hell. Isa. 66:24 For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” Mark 9:48 to be thrown into hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Just like the lost soul in a resurrected body can be constantly burning in hell without being burned up, so too, apparently can the worms of hell that will be gnawing at the eternal flesh of the damned forever. The maggots feed on dead and decaying flesh and in hell you will be the living dead, always being eaten by the worms that never die, but never totally consumed.
- 9. Weariness- Psalm 88:4 describes having no strength as one who goes down to the pit. This may not be enough to go on but it seems to stand to reason that in hell one is never strengthened; only weakened. There will be no sleep, no rest, no repose in hell. With no water or food, there will be a weariness that will never end without rest.
- V. The Impact of Hell
- A. Upon Missions and Evangelism
- 1. Many people in our day assume that all religions lead to heaven by different routes. This is a lie from the pit of hell. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. He is not “a” way, he is not “the best way”, he is the only way. Salvation comes to us by no other name under heaven but Jesus alone. Therefore, every other world religion is not only false, not only useless, and in the case of Islam- dangerous, But every other world religion is a freight train to hell. Every other religion other than biblical Christianity will lead you to hell and to assume otherwise is to promote a damnable lie. The nice peaceful Buddhist will die and go to hell. The strange Hindu will die and go to hell. The respectable Mormon will die and go to hell. The devoted Catholic who is working their way to what they think is Heaven, after a stint in purgatory, will only remain in hell. The lazy, self satisfied Baptist who has never repented of sin and trusted in Jesus will die and go to hell forever. The liberal main stream protestant who does not believe in the incarnation, the atoning sacrifice nor the resurrection will die and go to hell. This doctrine of hell had better be some motivation for the true Christian to preach the Gospel to the nations, pray for the lost, fund missionaries and share the Gospel with their lost friends and families.
- A. Upon Missions and Evangelism
- B. Upon Society- In order for justice to prevail, in order for Law and Order to be established there must be some kind of a belief that this world is not all there is. Too many times we see the wicked prosper and the innocent get punished. To avoid the law of the jungle, power to the strong, society must have some sense of eternal justice and rewards. When a society loses track of a belief in the hereafter, then baser instincts will prevail. Public and private virtue must be grounded in something other than our personal comfort, preference and immediate gratification. The doctrine of heaven and hell as taught in our Luke passage is essential for a well ordered society governed by Law rather than Men. It is precisely this area that is breaking down in our society today. As the Gospel is receding society is degenerating. People with no fear of hell and no hope for heaven will do whatever they want.
- VI. How To Avoid Hell
- A. Lazarus’ Name- Helped By God- is a Clue
- 1. Our only hope for Heaven lies in God alone. When we realize that we are all sinners, all fall short of God’s glory and that we are all “dead in trespasses and sins” as Paul writes in Eph.2:1 we realize what kind of help we need. Some could over interpret that name from the story in Luke and say “I do what I can for my salvation and God helps me with the rest.” That is how mormons describe their salvation and that is essentially what Arminianism teaches. Helping us get saved can be misinterpreted that way. But “Helped by God” can also mean, and in this passage for sure, that God helps us by doing what we absolutely cannot do for ourselves. There are several new babies in our congregation, and we just celebrated Mother’s Day last week. Moms, can that new born dress him/her self yet? When you help your new baby get dressed don’t you actually do everything for him? The Lord is our ever present help, he does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He saves. I cannot save myself.
- 2. Turn to Romans 5
- A. Lazarus’ Name- Helped By God- is a Clue
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
We are justified by faith, meaning that we must trust in the perfect life, atoning death and literal resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation. We must understand that we are sinners and turn from our hell bound ways and believe in Jesus alone for our salvation. That is the only way we will be saved from the wrath of God and eternal punishment in hell.
Conclusion-Invitation: In our church we do not have a set time of invitation where the preacher uses emotional techniques to get you to make a decision while the soft music plays or we all sing Just As I Am. We have a continuous invitation that extends into the week while we gather for Care Groups and discuss the sermons. After this service we do have Elders gathered here at the front to discuss the state of your soul or answer questions and pray with you. If you are unsure of your eternal destiny, I would urge you to meet with us afterwards to discuss God’s grace more.