Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life in Heaven or Death in Hell?

Luke 16:25 - "But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.'"

Jesus tells of a very brief account in Luke about Lazarus and a rich man.

Lazarus was a beggar (not to be confused with Martha and Mary's brother). He sat at the gate to his city. Not a lot is said about him but we learn in the very few words a lot about him: ...there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:20-21) Quite the picture, isn't it? On the other hand there was a rich man, with fine clothing and good food in abundance.

They both died. Lazarus, it is told, was carried by the angels into the bosom of Abraham, which tells us he went to heaven because he was a godly man, probably trusting in God in all circumstances, not prone to despair over his plight and certainly not complaining (just speculating...). He knew his God and what was in store in death.

The rich man, however, died and was buried. No one to carry him anywhere. If anything he might have plunged into Hades where he was "tormented in this flame." I'm intrigued by the fact that this probably prominent rich man is not named where lowly Lazarus is. God elevates the humble and lowers the proud.

Well, this rich man could look up and see Lazarus resting peaceably in Abraham's bosom. He called out that he might be allowed one drop of water to quench his tongue of just a moment's heat. Abraham reminded him that he had already obtained all the good things of this worldly life that he desired. Lazarus, though, had nothing of consequence; it is said that he had been afflicted with evil things.

But God...delivers both the wicked and the just into their "just rewards." There is a gulf, as seen between these two men, both in death as in life. That gulf today is between men and God. We are separated from Him because of our sins. To close that gap can only be done through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. He will take us from death in this world to spiritual, eternal life. But we must forego all the things we once have thought as important and right, including the things this world has deemed right (morally and socially) in the eyes of man which are blatant sins against God. They are the things this country (and the world) is so divided over.

Like Lazarus, I'm glad I'm on the side of the minority. I'm glad that I am the one being mocked, jeered and called intolerant. It means I'm on the right side. The rich man isn't necessarily portraying a wealthy man. He portrays a man who is spiritually dead, whose wealth is more important than God. He is one who looked only to himself and his own beliefs and "tolerances" of life, apart from God. He did as he desired. He accumulated earthly things and gave no credit to God for what he had.

Lazarus had nothing apart from God. I'd like to know how Lazarus started he got where he was. What was his story? We all have stories. For a lot of us we might have related once to the rich man. On the other hand, many know very well the life of Lazarus.

Many of us may have stuff in our lives. It can be a lot of stuff or a little. But when it becomes more important than Jesus, it is a stumbling block. If we can look at what we have and say we could live without this or that and still be happy because we have what matters most, a life in Christ, we truly have arrived!

The rich man was rich in world stuff and world views; Lazarus had all that mattered, God. I'm assuming that despite his sores and place in life, he was provided for. God may have given him just what he needed, no more, because Lazarus trusted Him. Maybe God kept him in this place that he would stay focused on Him.

It is the world that is the great gulf. It blinds us to and separates us from the things of God, His righteousness, His goodness and mercy, His life. If a decision for Christ is not made before death that gulf is permanent. No one, no thing will remove one from death in hell to life in heaven. It is eternal.

The rich man called out that if he could not be taken from his place in torment could someone at least visit his brothers and warn them. The thing is, people can be warned and warned, but only that person being warned can make the final or God. They have to be open to receive. I shudder, I truly do, at the people some day who all along thought they were right in their own eyes and unknowingly mocking God, and who find themselves at the bottom end of the gulf. A decision can be made today to change all that. Seek God for the answer. Seek Him for salvation.

Read the whole account here. It's short!

Luke 16:30-31 - "And (the rich man) said, '...if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But (Abraham) said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

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