Summary: This message proides a glimpse into the Afterlife through the eyes of the rich man in Luke 16. It was presented to a Seeker-Sensitive Congregation.
Can Death Be That Bad?
Dr. Marty Baker / March 10, 2002 / Luke 16:19-31
Last week I began a three week series focusing on the Afterlife. We asked the question: Can we talk to the dead? We talked about the syndicated television show, Crossing Over With John Edward. As you may know, John Edward claims to have the ability to psychically contact dead relatives reuniting them with their family for one last conversation. Last week, we focused on the story of Saul going to a medium in the city of Endor so that he could talk to the deceased prophet Samuel. Samuel appeared to him, but did not provide the insight that he was looking for. Instead, Samuel prophesied that Saul would be dead by the next day.
Today, I want to introduce you to another story found in the Bible that focuses on two individuals who have crossed over into eternity. In Luke 16, we are given a rare glimpse into the afterlife. We see the story of two individuals, Lazarus and Dives. These two guys were acquainted with one another while they were living, but they did not consider themselves to be friends. Dives was very wealthy and was blessed with the luxurious things of life while Lazarus was poor and ate the scraps of food that feel from the rich man’s table. In addition to his great poverty, Lazarus suffered with open soars all over his body.
One day while Jesus was teaching in the streets, he shared their story. This story has become known as The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. It is the only parable that Jesus ever taught that a specific name was used in the lesson. He called the poor man Lazarus, which meant "helped by God."
You may have heard this rich man referred to by the name of Dives, but dives is simply the Latin word for "rich." When this parable was translated from Greek into Latin, this is the word that was used, and consequently this rich man has been called Dives ever since.
As fate would have it, these two men passed away or crossed over into eternity about the same time. More than likely Lazarus’ body was carried to the city’s garbage dump while Dives’ body was buried. They crossed over into eternity, but did not go to the same place.
According to a survey in US News & World Report, most American believe in the afterlife. In fact, 78% of Americans believe in heaven while only 60% believe there is a hell. I think that these numbers are inflated because if 60% of us actually believed in hell then it would reflect in how we live our lives.
What do we know about heaven and hell? Today’s story gives us a glimpse of the afterlife.
22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
These verses produce a myriad of reactions. Many people read this story and say, "Good, that’s the way it should be." They feel like heaven and hell should compensate people for what happens in this present life. If that is what we believe then we are wrong. The rich man was not in hell because he was rich any more than that Lazarus was in heaven because he was poor. Heaven and hell are not a compensation for what you go through here. The principle that determines who goes where is quite different, as we shall see as the story unfolds.
Another reaction is to shy away from this picture of the afterlife especially from the thought of hell, with its flames and its torments. Many are offended by this story and feel that it could not possibly be what Jesus would teach. How can a loving God send someone to hell?
How many times do we hear that question asked on television or in a conversation with our skeptic friends? The answer is, over and over. I personally do not believe that God would send anyone to hell. If a person ends up in hell, it is of their own choosing. I believe that God will say, "Based on your decision to live apart from Jesus Christ your entire life, I will now grant you your wish to be separated from Him for eternity."
God does not send people to hell; their choices in life set their path for eternity. You may be wondering what hell is going to be like.
(Joke: The last time I spoke on hell, someone said, "Pastor Marty, I never knew what hell was really like until I heard you preach!")