Summary: # 4 in a series on Eternity - What awaits after death. Hell is a real place of Misery, Memory and Mourning.
“Eternity: What Awaits After Death”
Sermon # 4
“Hell It’s Real and It’s Not Funny”
We return again today to Luke 16:19-31 to look at two men in death. Death is never a very pleasant subject and perhaps it is our reluctance to discuss it that causes so many of the miscon-ceptions about what happens when we die. For the past three weeks we have been in a Series entitled, Eternity: What Awaits After Death. Last week we looked at the fate of Lazarus in “Heaven Its More Than You Imagine” and today we turn our attention to the Rich Man’s fate in our text in “Hell It’s Real and It’s Not Funny.” Jesus never reveals the rich man’s name, perhaps because it was someone who was well known. This man is sometimes called “Dives” but that in not his name, it is just the Latin word for “rich man.”
A survey commissioned by U.S News and World Report (2000 – Jan 31, 2000 cover story “Hell Hath No Fury” pp. 45-50) reveals that “64% of Americans believe that there is a Hell… what might be surprising is that the poll indicated that more American believe in Hell today than they did in the 1950’s or even 10 years ago.” The debate is not if Hell exists, but what is it, where is it and how long does it last? People have some really crazy ideas about the place we call Hell. Let me just give you a sampling of what some of the cults teach about Hell.
Scientology, with modern proponents such as John Travola and Tom Cruise, teach that “there is no death.” They believe that “heaven and hell are states of thought, not places. People experience their own heaven or hell right here on earth.”
The Mormons, argue that, “The false doctrine that the punishment to be visited upon erring souls is endless...is … at once unscriptural, unreasonable, and revolting.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, maintain that the wicked are annihilated because “the teaching about a fiery hell can rightly be designated as a ‘teaching of demons.’” [Maurice S. Rawlings, M.D. “To Hell and Back.” (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993), pp.81-83.]
So what is Hell? There are today five common views of Hell. First there is Denial: Some hold that there is no such place as Hell. It is only a story to frighten people into doing what the church says. They say that Hell just doesn’t exist. But if there is no Hell there can be no Heaven. In the Bible Jesus has more to say about Hell than he does about Heaven. (Jesus mentioned Hell 56 times in the Gospels and only mentioned Heaven 24 times.)We cannot repudiate Hell without repudiating Christ. If Hell is not as real or as bad as the Bible says, then perhaps Heaven is not real or not as good as the Bible says.
Secondly, some believe that Hell speaks of earthly suffering. This is the belief that Hell is only bad things you go through on earth. Third, there is belief that Hell is annihilation. This is the belief that Hell refers to the final destruction of all evil persons. Fourth, is the belief in restoration this is the belief that everyone will ultimately be saved. But if everyone is going to ultimately make it to Heaven we might as well shut the doors of First Baptist Church and go home. We are wasting our time. But Hell is real and everyone is not going to make it to Heaven.
Fifth, the only model supported by Scripture, is the belief that Hell is real place of unending torment. This is the belief that Hell is a real place of eternal suffering. Sometimes the question is raised "How could a good God send some people to Hell?" I do not have time to cover that question extensively but let me point out the error and inconsistency of the question itself. We don’t ask, "How could a good judge send a serial killer to the electric chair?" Why don’t we ask that question? The answer is because the judge is not the one responsible for him going to the electric chair, his own evil choices are.
The story that Jesus told in Luke 16 is the story of the lives, deaths and destinies of two men. As both men died and passed through death’s portal, an amazing reversal in their situations occurred. The poor man who has little in life died and was carried by the angels into God’s presence, his faith is rewarded with eternity in Heaven. The Rich Man who had so much in life, died and a split second later he awoke in a terrifying place called Hell. Through the experiences of this man Jesus gives us a glimpse into Hell. It is brief but powerful enough to destroy many of the misconceptions about Hell.