Summary: A look at Heaven and Hell
I hope you took a moment to look at the title of this message because this morning we are going to be looking at the topic of Hell. In our passage this morning, Jesus pulls back the veil between this world and the next world and shows us that there is a heaven and a hell. There are only two eternal destinies and everyone in this room will end up spending eternity in either heaven or hell.
The doctrine of hell isn’t a popular doctrine. People don’t like to talk about hell, and frankly, it’s not one of my favorite topics to preach on. I’d much rather preach on heaven, which I will do next week. But, I would be preaching only a half gospel if I left hell out. The same Bible that tells us about heaven also tells us about hell. The Bible plainly teaches that there is a hell and the Bible is our sole authority. We are absolutely dependent on it for our knowledge of the future life. Those scriptures teachings on the subject of hell are very plain. Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall return to hell, and all nations that forget God.” Daniel 12:2 says, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” Matthew 25:46 says, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
As I said, people don’t like to talk about hell, but neither do we like to talk about murder, poverty, sickness or death, but these things are facts of life. Though we do not like to think about hell, we must face the fact of sin and its punishment. We must realize that people do sin in this world and that there is a judgment to come and that God has reserved punishment for sinners in another world, a place called Hell. Read Luke 16:19-31. Some people call this a parable of Jesus, but I agree with many scholars who believe Jesus is describing an actual occurrence. In the 38 parables Jesus told, he never called anyone by name. In this story, He identifies two of the characters by name, Lazarus and Abraham. I believe there really was a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus and after they died Jesus reported what happened. It was real. So, this morning, for the next few minutes, I want us to focus on the rich man in hell.
I. IN HELL, THE RICH MAN COULD SEE INTO HEAVEN.
Jesus never revealed the rich man’s name, perhaps because he was someone who was well known. He is sometimes called Dives, but that’s not his name, it’s just the Latin translation of “rich man.” I suspect the rich man had a great funeral in which many dignitaries attended. Speaker after speaker related what a great, wonderful, religious man he was. He had to have been blessed by God because of all the wealth he enjoyed. I’m sure they reported he had gone on to his reward in heaven.
But one split second after the rich man died, he got the strange feeling something wasn’t right. Jesus simply said, “In hell, where he was in torment, he lifted up his eyes.” He was literally in “hades.” Hades is a place where the wicked dead go until the final sentencing to hell that takes place at the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20. It’s like the county jail before the state pen; it’s a place of torment and agony just like hell. Notice two things about the agony of hell:
1. He saw people in heaven. The first thing he noticed was the torment, but the next scary thing he noticed was that he could see into heaven! When the beggar Lazarus had died, it doesn’t say he was buried like the rich man. His body was probably dumped in some garbage pile. But Jesus said the angels escorted his soul into the presence of Abraham. Now if this was a theology class I would tell you Abraham’s bosom, or paradise, was where the souls of all the righteous dead went before the cross. After the cross, Jesus took these folks to heaven. But don’t get so distracted by the theological nuances that you miss the point. It’s okay to call it heaven. To every Jew, sitting down with Abraham was a by word for heaven. People often ask me if we will recognize each other in heaven. I believe we most certainly will. The rich man looked up and recognized Lazarus and Abraham. If they can recognize us from hell, then I think we’ll recognize each other.