Summary: An examination of the rich man and Lazarus helps us the understand the reality of hell and the fact that we don’t want anyone to go there.
¡§Go to Hell!¡¨
A motorist was picked up unconscious after a crash, and was being carried to a nearby [gas] station. Upon opening his eyes, he began to kick and struggle frantically. Afterwards he explained that the first thing he saw was a "Shell" sign, and somebody was standing in front of the "S"!
In our society today, there seems to be some doubt about whether there actually is a hell or not. USA did a poll several years ago in which 67% of American adults said that they believe in a hell. But less than 25% believe they will go there, while 25% believe their friends will be there. (USA Today poll, 12/86) Frankly, folks, if there is no hell, and everyone is going to heaven or is going to simply cease to exist when they die, then we might as well close the doors of the church and all go home. You certainly wouldn¡¦t need to listen to me anymore. On an American troopship, the soldiers crowded around their chaplain asking, "Do you believe in hell?" "I do not." "Well, then will you please resign, for if there is no hell, we do not need you, and if there is a hell, we do not wish to be led astray."
Last week, I told you that the message this morning was going to be about hell. This will be the first time that I have ever spoken in any length about that place. As we talk about hell, my desire is to accomplish two things which I will illustrate with two stories. A minister had just given a sermon on hell. As a woman shook his hand at the door after the service, she said, "Reverend, I never knew what hell was really like until I heard you preach!" Some people might describe hell as a place where you have to listen to preachers like me for all eternity. That in itself might scare you into heaven. My attempt this morning will not be to give you hell on earth through making you listen to a boring or unmeaningful message. My attempt will be to describe hell in the way that the Bible describes it. I have a responsibility to warn you about what will happen to you or those you care about if they do not have Jesus as their Savior. In my hand, I hold a fire alarm. [use the test button to make it go off] It¡¦s an annoying sound, isn¡¦t it. It¡¦s that kind of sound that you just can¡¦t ignore or shut out. You have to deal with it. When you hear what hell is like, I hope that you will not shut it out. You may get annoyed with preachers telling you about hell, but just like the noise of this fire alarm, you will not be able to ignore it; you will have to deal with it. The hoped for result of this is that you will make sure that you are not going there.
The second thing that I wish to accomplish is illustrated by this story. A church was in need of a pastor. A candidate came who preached on hell. The next Sunday another candidate came whose sermon was also on hell, and his fundamental teaching was the same as that of the first one. When the members of the church were called upon to vote, they voted for the second candidate. When they were asked why, the answer was, "The first one spoke as if he were glad that people were going to hell, while the second seemed sorry for it." Whenever a preacher speaks on hell, the danger is that he will be so forceful and so passionate about the subject that it will sound as if he thinks he is God¡¦s agent of judgment on earth. The danger is that he will lose his compassion for people as he speaks about the justice and judgment of God. It is easy to get calloused toward unsaved people and say something like this: ¡§You don¡¦t want to listen to my warning and accept my Jesus, then you can just go to Hell! See if I care!¡¨ I don¡¦t want that to happen here, because I do care, and I want to deal with this with compassion and tenderness. And as we look at this passage, my desire is that when you see what the unsaved will go through in hell, that it will put such a motivation within you to win them to Christ that nothing will stop you from sharing Jesus with them.