Summary: Hell is one of those things that we all believe but none of us likes to talk about.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 43
“What If Hell Is Real”
The subject of today’s sermon is one of those things that we all believe but none of us likes to talk about. In a national poll conducted several years ago 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” [USA Today December 1986]. But frankly folks, if Hell is not real, and everyone is going to get to Heaven eventually, we might as well close the doors to this church and go home.
I will concede that you may well be offended by today’s sermon, people often are when any man presumes to preach on the subject of Hell. But I like “the story that is told of a chaplain who reported to a new duty station. Upon 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 lead us astray.” I think the point is well made. [Paul Lee Tan. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations. “Time to Resign the Chaplain.” (Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Pub., 1979). p. 554 # 2221]
Strangely enough a newer poll conducted by US News and World Report (2000) reveals that more Americans today believe in Hell than they did in the 1950’s or even 10 years ago. But most now think of hell as “an anguished state of existence” rather than a real place. [ US News and World Report. “Hell Hath No Fury.” January 31,2000. p. 46]
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 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 in verses 19-31, divides naturally into three parts; The comparison before death (vv. 19-21), The comparison after death (vv. 22-23), and THE Correction of Misconceptions About Hell (vv. 24-31).
I. THE THE COMPARISON BEFORE DEATH (vv.19-21)
Notice the Contrast between two men in this story, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
Dressing in purple and fine linens were the first century equivalents of silk sheets and designer clothing. There is nothing about his life on earth that indicated the terrible future that awaited him.
Verse twenty introduces the second character, “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 beggar’s body is covered with sores and ulcers rather than fine clothes. The bread the he longed to eat was the bread that was used to eat the food from and then discarded. Lazarus is in reality only asking for dog food.
Don’t be mistaken the “dogs” that licked his sores were not your neighbors poodle, but rather wild street dogs that scavenged for food. Aside from the discomfort and possible infection that this would cause, this was a disgrace to a Jew as dogs were unclean animals.
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.
II. THE COMPARISON AFTER DEATH
But 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.”
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.