Summary: What you believe determines how you live.
¡§There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man¡¦s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ¡¥Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.¡¦ But Abraham said, ¡¥Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.¡¦ He said, ¡¥Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father¡¦s house¡Xfor I have five brothers¡Xthat he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.¡¦ Abraham replied, ¡¥They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.¡¦ He said, ¡¥No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.¡¦ He said to him, ¡¥If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.¡¦¡¨
There are many instances in life where the story is a blend of ¡§good news-bad news". This was true of two men who were baseball fanatics. They lived for the sound of the bat cracking the fastball, and the smell of ballparks. They’d grown up together, playing ball all their lives. When they were old they made a pact that whichever one died first would try to get a message to the other as to whether there was baseball in heaven. Soon after, Ralph died, leaving Henry to wonder if Ralph would remember the pact. About a week later Ralph appeared to Henry one evening just about bedtime.
"Ralph! You remembered; tell me, ol’ friend, is there baseball up there?"
"Well, Henry, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is we’ve got baseball and a really good team up in heaven. We play against Satan’s group every day & whip ’em good! The bad news is we’re gonna play ’em tomorrow again, and you’re their starting pitcher!"
This text is more bad news about hell than good news about heaven. It is that way in the scriptures ¡V more than three times as much about eternal punishment than reward. There is a natural resistance to the topic. When we talk about going to heaven, everyone smiles. Personally, I know what heaven’s going to be like. I’ll be tall, thin, and playing third base for the Atlanta Braves!
If you preach about heaven you’re everybody’s favorite. But when the subject is hell people get nervous about what you will say. The great Baptist preacher of the 19th Century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, used to tell the ministers in training in his seminary, when you preach on Heaven let your countenance shine with the translucence of Revelation¡¦s crystal sea ¡V let your smile be for your listeners a radiant doorway to the very throne room of heaven; when you preach on Hell your ordinary face will do.
Some folks think you’re cruel and narrow-minded to bring a sermon about the reality of hell, and what it’s like. But the fact is that ignoring the reality does not alter the danger.
„Ã If you ignore the hissing does your ignorance make the poisonous snake change its mind about biting you?
„Ã If you¡¦re standing on the railroad tracks, does closing your eyes make the on-rushing train disappear?
„Ã Does plugging-up your ears disarm a ticking time bomb?
It is not cruel to warn people of impending disasters, just unpopular. So at the risk of unpopularity, let’s investigate the GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS about heaven and hell.
GOOD NEWS: HEAVEN IS REAL
BAD NEWS: SO IS HELL!
In verses 22, 23 we see that both heaven (Abraham’s bosom), and hell are validated from the lips of Jesus. Ordinarily parables are fictional accounts (earthly stories with heavenly meanings). But here Jesus uses the actual name, Lazarus in several places. Heaven and hell are a reality.
In a recent survey by the Barna Research Group76% of Americans believe in heaven and 71% believe in hell. The problem is that only one-half of one percent (0.005%) thinks that they could possibly be going there. That is to say, everyone is going to Heaven, and virtually no one will be in Hell. For all practical purposes, Hell might as well not exist.