Summary: What hell is like. Things you can learn from what Jesus said.
Through the years, I’ve enjoyed reading epitaphs, on head stones in cemeteries. I remember seeing a list of funny ones, perhaps you’ve heard the story about the message one man left on his tombstone. It said,
“Consider, young man, as you walk by, as you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, you soon shall be, so prepare, young man to follow me.”
That sounded pretty deep, but some one took something and scratched a response on the tombstone that read,
“To follow you is not my intent; until I know which way you went!”
There are only two directions you can go after death. Heaven or Hell
People don’t like to talk about hell, and frankly, I don’t enjoy preaching on it. I am a big believer in God’s grace through Jesus Christ. And because I do I believe that God wants to save all his children. Unfortunately, God gave all of us free will. That means we get to make choices. It means we are special and above all animals. Our pets don’t sit around all day wondering if there is a God. They don’t worry about jobs or what other animals think about them. I do believe that can mourn and love and hate.
People on the other hand are a very young age, can ask the hardest questions. What happens to you after you die? That question comes to parents when children are 4 or 5 years old. I don’t think any scientist has ever said that elephants or dolphins or pigs of any age conceive of the concept of death like humans. We are made different because we can make choices in our lives that affect realities beyond the physical world we can see and touch.
This intelligence means that we make decisions and choices, judge consequences and the choice between Heaven or Hell. That choice is the biggest we have to make.
Our scripture this morning is a parable of Jesus that talks indirectly about choices. It relates to the proper use of money and power in the site of God as a main topic but I believe it describes even more as Jesus explains what happens after death and how it is different than the current understanding.
In this parable Jesus gives a description of the torments of Hell.
So to review the story and a little of the historical context from the day, we have two men, one very rich, the other very poor.
The rich man was evidentially Very wealthy; he dressed in purple which was a sign or wealth for everyone to see. Then you have Lazarus, poor, very likely crippled, and sat by the gate of this guy’s house to beg.
In that day, people ate mostly with their hands and when the meal was over you took bread and wiped your hands and dropped the crumbs and left over on the floor to feed the dog. Lazarus would have gladly taken the things meant for the house hold garbage disposal, to stay alive.
Both men die. The rich man is buried; I suspect he had a great funeral in which many dignitaries attended. Speaker after speaker related what a great, wonderful, religious man he was.
The understanding of God in this time period, said that if you were rich and doing well God was on your side. Obviously this man was blessed. Therefore he was headed for a reward in Heaven.
But one split second after the rich man died, he got the feeling something wasn’t right. It was not what he expected. Jesus simply said, “In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up”
According to Jesus, the first thing the man noticed was the torment, but the next scary thing he noticed was that he could see into heaven! He saw people in heaven, from where he was, part of his suffering was seeing that there was something better than he had. That was a new experience for this man; He had lived the rich life EVERYDAY.
When the beggar Lazarus died, it doesn’t say he was buried like the rich man. His body was probably dumped in some garbage pile and burned with the rest of the trash. If you were poor and crippled, and had many problems in your life, God was not with you, it was obvious that you were a sinner because of your condition.
But Jesus said the angels escorted his soul into the presence of Abraham.
For the Jews, Abraham’s bosom, was where the souls of all the righteous dead went. This was the understanding before Jesus and the cross. After the cross, Jesus took these folks to heaven. Technically this is heaven or a step that the Jews believed to be on the way to heaven. It’s okay to call it heaven.