Summary: In the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, death changed the rich man mind about a great many things.
“The Stories that Jesus Told”
Sermon # 4
“What Happens When We Die”
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
Sometimes “The Stories that Jesus Told,” which he called parables, relayed uncomfortable and even unwelcome truths. Such is the case today as are going to look at the subject of “What Happens When We Die.” The story we are going to examine today has come to be known as the “The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.” We find this story in Luke chapter sixteen, beginning in verse nineteen. The real subject of the story is found in verse twenty-two where we read, "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” Death is never a very pleasant subject, and perhaps it is our reluctance to discuss it that causes so many misconceptions about what happens when we die.
Over the last twenty-four years of ministry I have had the occasion to be involved in over 118 funerals. I have to admit that I have had some pretty interesting experiences, but nothing as funny as the true story of the experience young preacher I read about. “A man died who had no friends and only distant relatives who lived in another state. The funeral home called this young preacher and requested he do a simple graveside service. They told the preacher that nobody would be present at the service except the funeral home directors and the men who worked at the cemetery.
On the way to the unfamiliar cemetery, the young preacher got lost. Finally, he saw a little church with a cemetery and he assumed it was the right place because he saw three guys leaning on their shoves next to a large pile of dirt near the back of the church. The hearse was nowhere in sight, so he figured they has already given up on him and left. He quickly got out of his car and walked to the grave. He said to the workman, “I see that you’ve already buried the vault, let’s pause and let me say a few words and pray.’ The workmen removed their hats, and he began the service. Afterwards, one of the workmen smiled and said, ‘Preacher, I don’t know who you are but that’s the best funeral service for a septic tank I’ve ever heard.” [David Dykes. “What Happens After You Die.” www. GreenAcresBaptist]
But honestly when I preach a funeral message, it is always with the realization that it is a great responsibility, for I realize that I represent Jesus Christ and am charged with the responsibility to proclaim the good news of the forgiveness of sin and the salvation that is possible to all that call upon him.
The story I want to share with you today begins by contrasting the difference between the lives of the two men, one rich and one poor; it is not only a contrast between their circumstance in this life but of their destinies in the life to come.
In verses nineteen and twenty we are introduced to two men, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” (20) “At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores (21) and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.”
“The rich man is clothed in purple and fine linen, the beggar in rags; the rich man lived in a stately mansion; the beggar was laid by sympathetic friends at the gate of the mansion; the rich man had a healthy, well-nourished body, the beggar was full of sores; the rich man fared sumptuously every day, the beggar lived on crumbs from his table; the rich man had physicians to care for him, dogs licked the sores of Lazarus.” [Herbert Lockyer. “All the Parables of the Bible” (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1963) p. 293]
Yet both men died and death changed everything. In verse twenty-two we read, "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.” All that we are told about the beggar is that “he died.” Nothing is said about his burial. And the fact that we are not told of his burial leads us to believe that when Lazarus died his body was probably carted away to the city dump and burned along with the trash. The rich man also died. And although we are not told so, we can imagine that he was given a glorious sent off, the finest funeral that money could buy.
As both men died and passed through the death’s portal an amazing reversal occurred. The beggar died and angels carried him into God’s presence. The rich man also died but no angels carried him into God’s presence, a split second after he died he woke up in a terrifying place called Hell. I want to suggest to you the possibility that this man was shocked to find himself in Hell.