Summary: This morning I am going to speak to you about one of those things we all believe in but none of us likes to talk about – not my preaching, but the reality of hell.
A few years ago I preached a message on hell. After the service I walked to the back of the church to shake hands with members of the congregation as they left the church. One lady said to me, “Reverend, I never knew what hell was really like until I heard you preach!” I wonder what she really meant by that?
This morning I am going to speak to you about one of those things we all believe in but none of us likes to talk about – not my preaching, but the reality of hell.
In a national poll conducted by USA Today, 67% of American adults said they do not believe in hell, and less than 25% believed they would go there. But frankly church, if hell is not real, and everyone is going to get to Heaven eventually, we might as well close the doors to the church and go home.
Some people may not believe in hell this morning, some may think it is just a state of mind, but let me tell you what the old revival preacher said to the skeptic that told him there was no such place as hell. The old preacher responded, “Your not believing in hell doesn’t lower the temperature there one degree!”
So many times in my Christian ministry I have heard people say, “I don’t believe that a good god would send anyone to hell!” The answer to that is simple – God doesn’t send anyone there, we send ourselves! We don’t like to think about the reality of hell because it’s very scary. None of us ever wants to think about our friends, co-workers, neighbors or loved ones, doomed to hell for all eternity.
In the 16th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, our Lord Jesus draws back the veil, or curtain, that separates that which is earthly from that which is eternal. This parable that Jesus tells us in verses 19-26, gives us a powerful comparison of the lives of two people, a comparison before earthly death, and a comparison after death. These verses also correct any misconceptions that we might have about hell.
Jesus tells us in verse 19, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.”
This man had the finest clothing that money could buy. Dressing in purple and fine linens were the first century equivalents of silk sheets and designer clothing. He had a splendid mansion in which he lived. He not only ate well, but he enjoyed the delicacies of life. He had all he ever wanted to eat or wear. He was certainly a very prominent and wealthy man. There is nothing about his life on earth that indicated the terrible future that awaited him after death.
Let’s read on now. In verses 20-21 our Lord tells us about another man:
20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
At the gate to the rich man’s mansion laid a beggar named Lazarus. He was a sickly man, covered with sores. He was, no doubt, thin and pale, and unable to walk, unable to work, unable to afford to see a physician. In order to eat he depended entirely on the discarded food, the garbage that was thrown out daily from the rich man’s house.
His body was so ravaged by sores that he lived in pain day and night. The Bible says that the dogs would come along and lick his sores. I remember when I had my dogs. Whenever I had skinned my hands or arms, they would come along and lick those sores, trying to make them well. Lazarus’ body was covered with sores and the dogs would come along and lick them. This was a disgrace to a Jew because dogs were considered unclean animals.
I suspect that the rich man often times came out his gate to go to town. Surely he saw Lazarus lying there day and night, sick and hungry, but he did nothing to help him. He offered him no table food, no clothing, no shelter, no medicine. I suppose he just went about his business as usual, thinking that Lazarus was a nuisance and wishing that he would come home one day and find Lazarus gone. The rich man could have easily assisted Lazarus, but he ignored him and went on enjoying his recognition and his riches. Life was comfortable for him and he no doubt felt secure.
22. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.