Summary: Hell is real as real can get. As Christians we have a responsible to tell people about it.
The Reality of Hell
The subject of today’s sermon is one of those things that we all believe, but none of us like to talk about. Churches today have stopped preaching sin and hell, so they could attract more people. The early church turned the world upside down for Christ; yet the church today can’t even turn itself upside down. People today have a miscued interpretation of hell.
In a national poll conducted in 1986 by USA Today “67% of American adults said they believe in a hell. But less than 25% believed that they would go there, while 25% believe their friends will be there. But, if Hell is not real, and everyone s going to get to Heaven eventually, we might as well close the doors of the church and go home.
I will concede that you may well be offended by today’s sermon, people often are when any man preaches on the subject of Hell. But I like “the story that is told of a chaplain who reported to a new duty station during the Vietnam war. Upon his arrival some of the men came to see him and asked him this question; Do you believe in a literal hell? When he replied that he did not. The men asked him to resign and he asked them why. Their response to him was; If there is no hell then we don’t need you and if there is a Hell we don’t want you to led us astray. The point was well made.
Strangely enough a newer poll was conducted by US News and World Report reveals that more Americans today believe in Hell than they did 10 years ago. But most now think of hell as an anguished state of existence, rather than a real place.
I assure you that the Devil believes in a real hell. You may not believe in hell this morning, you may think that it is just a state of mind, but as the old revival preacher said to the skeptic, “You not believing in Hell don’t lower the temperature there one degree.”
We don’t like to think about the reality of Hell and we often hear the statement, “I don’t believe that a good God will send anyone to Hell.” The statement is based on error and inconsistency of the highest order. We never make the statement, “How could a good judge sentence a mass murderer to death for his crimes?” We don’t say that because the judge is not responsible for the man being sentenced to death, his actions are. The apostle Paul says in Romans 11:22, “Therefore consider the goodness and the severity of God…”
The parable that Jesus tells us in our text today, divides naturally into three parts; the comparison before death, The comparison after death, and the correction of Misconceptions about Hell.
I. The Comparison before Death (vv. 19-21)
a. Notice the contrast between two men in this story:
i. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purpose and fine linen and lived in luxury everyday”.
1. Dressing in purple and fine linens were the first century equivalent of wearing designer clothing today.
2. There is nothing about this man’s life on earth that indicated the terrible future that awaited him.
ii. “At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, cover with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.”
1. The beggars body is covered with sores and ulcers rather than fine clothes.
2. The bread that he longed to eat was the bread that was discarded by the rich man.
3. Lazarus is in reality only asking for dog food.
4. Don’t mistaken by the “dogs” that licked his sores, these were not the neighbors poodles, but rather wild street dogs that scavenged for food.
a. Aside from the discomfort and possible infection that this would cause, this was a disgrace to a Jew as dogs were unclean animals.
b. The rich man could have easily assisted Lazarus, but he ignored him and went on enjoying his recognition and his riches.
c. Life was comfortable for him and he no doubt felt secure.
II. The Comparison after Death (vv. 22-23)
a. But death changed everything.
i. When Lazarus died his body was probably carted away to the city dump and burned along with the trash.
ii. The rich man also died, and we can only imagine the glorious and stately funeral that was given to him.
b. Yes, as both men died and passed through death’s portal an amazing reversal occurred.
i. Lazarus was carried away by angels into God’s presence.
ii. The rich man did not get carried to God’s presence by angels, but rather found himself in hell, where he was in torment.