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Advice from Hell | Part 2

December 6, 2020 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Advice from Beyond the Grave Verse: Luke 16:19–16:31

Theme: Only those who respond to God’s Word in repentance for sin will know eternal blessing.

Introduction: This section advances the point that Jesus is making that wealth does not equate to godliness or God’s approval. There is disagreement regarding whether this story ought to be seen as a parable or as actual. It is introduced like it is a parable – “Now there was a rich man …” Some of the details provided buy Christ lend themselves to a parable. However, Jesus gives the poor man a name – something that He never does in any parabl e. He also includes both the names of Abraham and Moses which tends to imply that it is an actual account since Jesus would likely not mingle fiction with fact. I lean toward seeing this as actual, although it isn’t something critical to understanding the message Jesus provides here. Essentially, Jesus wants us to see that only those who respond the Gospel found in God’s Word in repentance for sin will know eternal blessing …

I. Advantages in Life Are Deceiving – 16:19-21

A. The Assumptions Brought by Means – v. 19

  • Throughout this section, Jesus has been confronting the assumptions that the Pharisees – and even the broader culture of the day embraced – that wealth equaled God’s favor. 
  • Again, the prevailing persuasion was that if you were affluent, you were in right standing with God because He would not bless the unworthy; and, if you were destitute, you were guilty of sin because God would not curse the worthy.
  • As we have noted in previous messages in this chapter, God’s kindness and grace is designed to lead unworthy people to repentance – cp. Romans 2:4.
  • In the previous verses, Jesus stated that what men often value and prize, God detests – cp. v. 15.
  • Instead of responding to God’s grace with repentance, the assumption of sinners is that they are worthy of such blessing and thereby assert that all is well with God.
  • Thus, Jesus continues to confront such nonsense with this account of a “generic” rich man – “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.”
  • This man was “rich” [πλούσιος] – describing an abundance of possessions that exceeds normal experience; literally, “abounding.”
  1. “habitually dressed in purple” – conveys the wealth as “purple” [πορφύρα] – was a color rare given it was achieved through an expensive process of extracting the color from sea snails – cp. Acts 16:14; Revelation 18:2.
  2. “habitually dressed” [ἐνδιδύσκω] – conveys constant past tense (imperfect middle indicative) that he didn’t merely occasionally wear “fine linen” but regularly “put these clothes on himself.”
  • “Joyously living” [εὐφραίνω] – (“good thoughts”) refers to the fact that these things made him happy – he was delighted by the fine clothes and material wealth.
  • Clearly, his perspective was elevated and sustained by the delight that he took in wealth and luxury – he truly had “his best life now.”

B. The Aspiration Brought by Misery – vv. 20-21

  • In stark contrast, Jesus introduces us to a downcast, broken beggar named “Lazarus” – “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores.”
  • “Lazarus” is a form of the more popular Greek form of the Hebrew name Eleazar which means “whom God has helped.”
  • The irony of this doesn’t escape us – a man who was “poor” [πτωχός] – lit. “lacking in worth” – a man who was dependent on mercy as a beggar.
  • It is stated that he was unable to even walk – “was laid at his gate” – that is, the gate of the rich man and then abandoned or “dumped,” perhaps others were tired of his condition and dropped him off at someone who could help the poor man without effort or sacrifice.
  • He was “covered with sores” [ἑλκόω] – putrid ulcers or oozing lesions that were unclean and defiling.
  • His “longing” was “to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table” – indicating that he had not right to them and was dependent upon the willing provision of either the rich man or one of his slaves to show mercy and provide something for him to eat.
  • “longing” [ἐπιθυμέω] is the same word for lust – a strong desire that was not satisfied.
  • The only mercy Lazarus found was from dogs – “besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores” – a reference to the inability to find mercy from anyone not only for the hunger that panged him, but for the wounds.
  • From what we learn in the next verse, this man was apparently repentant for sin and trusting God to provide for his eternal destiny through the promise of Messiah despite his current circumstances.

Application:

  1. Why is wealth an inaccurate gauge of spiritual vitality? 
  2. Does poverty indicate that a person is ungodly? Why or Why not?
  3. What are we to conclude about God’s faithfulness to people who are in trials?

III. Affliction upon Death is Eternal – 16:22-26

A. Death Results in Divestment of Circumstances – v. 22

  • Both the rich man and Lazarus die – “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.” 
  • Interestingly, the emphasis with reference to the death of Lazarus is the promotion to glory – escorted with honor “by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.”
  • “Abraham’s bosom” is a reference to “Paradise” the place where the OT saints were taken upon their deaths as they awaited the time when Jesus would provide the access to glory through His sacrifice and resurrection – cp. Luke 23:43.
  1. No one can approach the Father except through Christ Jesus – John 14:6.
  2. When Jesus rose from the dead, and then ascended to the Father, He began a “Triumph” – a parade of souls that enter Heaven in a constant parade – cp. 2 Corinthians 2:14.
  3. This is the essence of what is described by Paul in Ephesians 4:8-10 where Jesus “led captive a host of captives” and ascended.
  • It should be noted that since Jesus emptied the place where the righteous souls went when they died – “paradise” is now a reference to Heaven itself – cp. Revelation 2:7.
  • On earth, however, there was absolutely no notice of the death of Lazarus – likely his body was buried in a pauper’s unmarked, even possibly a mass grave. 
  • However, the emphasis was that the “rich man … was buried” [θάπτω] – likely in a lavish memorial service as great as he was.
  • Notice, that Lazarus received divine honor and the rich man received whatever honor man had to give to him.
  • In this sense, upon death, divine favor is seen as vastly superior to human honor and wealth was useless – cp. 1 Timothy 6:7; Luke 9:25.

B. Death Results in Distinct Destinations – v. 23

  • We see the two destinations described – whereas there are many roads that people take to eternity, there are only two actual destinations – Heaven and Hell.
  • The rich man was “in Hades [and] he lifted up his eyes, being in torment …”
  1. “Hades” throughout the Scriptures was used to refer to the abode of the damned prior to their judgment and sentencing to the Lake of Fire – Revelation 20:13-14.
  2. It is a place of unimaginable to “torment” [βάσανος] – lit. “torments” – lexically describing severe pain occasioned by punitive torture – cp. Matthew 13:41-42; 24:51; 25:41.
  • When the rich man looked, he “saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.”
  • This is a reference to the place of honor that is known by those who faithfully live lives even in great trial and testing – 1 Peter 1:3-9.

C. Death Results in Distress for the Wicked – v. 24

  • There are several things that Jesus reveals to us as He shares the details of the response by the rich man.
  • First, “he cried out …” – indicating the great remorse, despair, and depth of grief he was experiencing.
  • Second, he called out for mercy – “Father Abraham, have mercy on me” – asking for someone to show him what was glaringly missing in his life when he didn’t lift a finger to relieve Lazarus’ pain.
  • Third, he was desperate for relief of his thirst – “… send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue.”
  • Fourth, he was in great agony – “… for I am in agony in this flame.”

D. Death Results in Deserved Ends – v. 25

  • The assumptions by the rich man that led to the rejection of truth produced what was deserved in Hell – “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things’ …”
  • Abraham then described the enduring faithfulness to God by Lazarus, despite his adversity – “… and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.”
  • The rich man had chosen a life of proud self-righteousness and materialistic worship separate from the righteousness of God.
  • Clearly Lazarus, knowing that life here is not the end, trusted in the righteousness of God to deliver Him to glory, and was not disappointed – Romans 10:11.

E. Death Results in Determined Fates – v. 26 

  • Once death occurs, it is too late to alter one’s destiny – it must be done before death.
  • Abraham continues speaking to the rich man and explaining that it is too late – “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”
  • Those who seeing the torment of the wicked and have pangs of mercy motivating them to try to help find that they cannot even as those who desire to escape their torment cannot do so.
  • The finality of it all is sobering – Hebrews 9:27.

Application:

  1. Why are we unable to conclude that Hell is not really just annihilation?
  2. Why do people struggle with the concept of Hell? 
  3. What does the severity of Hell tell you about the heinousness of sin?

III. Availability of Deliverance Is in Scripture – 16:27-31

A. The Slighting of the Available Truth – vv. 27-28

  • When the horror of his situation settled in, the rich man became other’s minded – concerning himself with those who still had a chance to alter their destinies by faith in God’s salvation and righteousness.
  • “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’”  
  • This request demonstrates a complete dismissal of the Scriptures – stating that if something miraculous like a resurrection of a dead person testifying to them, they would believe.
  • This slight of the truth available through God’s revelation demonstrated why he was in hell – not because of a lack of knowledge, but a lack of acceptance of what they know.
  • He had the truth available to him through the Old Testament Scriptures that if he had believed its report of his sin and God’s righteousness and promised deliverance, he would have been saved.

B. The Sufficiency of Available Truth – v. 29

  • Hence, “Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them here them.’”
  • Jesus was aware that genuine faith is generated by believing God’s Word – cp. Luke 24:25-27.
  • Abraham’s point is that an unbeliever doesn’t need anything other than what is provided in God’s Word to be saved.

C. The Superiority of Available Truth – vv. 30-31

  • This man, damned eternally, cannot let go of the pride of his perception and argues that experience is superior to God’s revelation – “No, father Abraham, but is someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!”
  • However, Abraham said to him “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”
  • The word of God is superior to any experience that we might point to that we think would generate faith – the Jews had already rejected the many signs that Jesus had provided – healings, exorcisms, miracles & wonders.
  • Additionally, they responded to the resurrection of Lazarus (the brother or Mary and Martha) by plotting to kill Jesus; and after they killed Jesus and He rose from the dead, they paid off the guards to say that His body had been stolen!
  • God’s Word is of more certainty than any of our experiences – cp. 2 Peter 1:16-21.

Application:

  1. Why is Abraham’s response to the request of the rich man not cold-hearted? 
  2. What does Abraham’s perspective on the Scriptures tell you about it’s sufficiency? 
  3. Why is the truth of Scripture superior to the perspectives of experience?

So What?

- Do not seek your “best life now,” – seek the glory that is to come.

- All roads do not lead to Heaven – there is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain.

- The wrath of God against your sin does not have to be poured out upon you forever – you can be forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ.

- Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God about Christ Jesus – do not neglect God’s truth.