Men have disputed the truth of the existence of a place called Hell for centuries. The atheist, cults, and even many so-called Christians cannot seem to grasp the idea that a loving God would send anyone to a place of eternal torments. The idea that a loving God would punish sinners (who did not ever truly receive Christ) seems barbarian to many people.
However, there is but one problem I can see with this type of thinking and that is man is not God. How dare little puny man stand up and say to God what He should or should not do in His Universe. Has any man ever created a Star? Has any man ever designed and built a new planet and set it in the Heavens?
Isaiah 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Quick Amplified Bible)
The mere asking of these questions is to set forth how ridicules it is for any man to assume he knows better than Almighty God. It is blasphemes. The Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 25, that He prepared Hell not for man, but for the devil and the fallen angels that rebelled against Him. Well, this was determined by God before man or anything was even formed, even the heavenly host.
Now the Lord Jesus placed man in paradise and gave him directions with only one restraint put upon him. When man decided to ignore the restraint of God, then he opened up unto himself death, the grave, and hell. Now the Lord Jesus Christ being infinite love and mercy made a way for rebellious man to come back to Him and avoid this eternal place of torments.
Now every individual man has the opportunity to avoid Hell and receive Him and eternal life. Death is certain now for everyman and we need not avoid talking about our own death because that will not make the reality go away. The devil keeps lost men and women fearful of death. Christ through His death upon the cross has destroyed the devil that had the power of death. Christ defeated and cast out the devil. Now Christ has snatched from the hands of the devil the keys to death and hell.
Revelation 1:18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore Amen. And I have the keys of hell and death.” (NKJV)
The Lord Jesus Christ has conquered and He is the eternal conqueror. He told us a story (I believe it to be a true account in man's History) about two men who died. The contrast in the death and life of these two men is clear from our Lord's revelation to us.
The first man our Lord did not give his name (probably to protect his identity and his family from being recognized) but only described for us briefly the lush and lavish life he lived here on the earth. This man according to the account from our Lord wanted for nothing during his time on earth. To put it simply he was rich. He lived in extreme opulence (Wealth as evidenced by sumptuous living).
In the town or community he lived in, I am sure he was highly thought of by all the town folk. He may have even been generous with some of his goods with those in the town whom he liked. He probably hired only his friends or political friends for work he needed done. I can hear many of the people of the town speaking highly of this man on many occasions. What a model citizen he purposed to be among the people.
Apparently, however, he had no time for God in his fast-paced opulent lifestyle. Oh, he may have been a good church member and a diligent church worker, but he never surrendered his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. He made this life and the things he attained in this life his object of affection.
On the contrast, there was another man in that same town who did not live so well. This man had to beg everyday just to get enough food to eat. He was a man stricken with disease (his body covered with sores). He was crippled. He probably was not well educated. He did not run in the circle of the upper echelon of the town.
The Lord Jesus told us that this man's name was Lazarus. Lazarus by all accounts owned no property of his own, nor did anyone in the town employ him. The Lord Jesus said others laid him at the rich man’s gate everyday seeking to eat from the mere crumbs of the rich man’s table.
I can hear one person in the town talking or gossiping about this man to others saying, “When is he ever going to pull himself up by his bootstraps?” I can hear another say, “What a lazy bum Lazarus is, why won't he just get a job?” “I'm not going to work hard everyday to give to this man.” I'm sure we can just imagine the many other harsh degrading and insulting words (words filled with hate, indifference, and no compassion) that came pouring out from the rich man and all the other so called good town folk.
Well, Lazarus was not trusting in the things of this world to bring him satisfaction (though he lived everyday in suffering), but he put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Lazarus found everything he needed in his personal relationship with Him. The Word of God tells us clearly and plainly without apology that it is not by any works of righteousness or good things or accomplishments we have achieved, but by His mercy, He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
The Word of God also tells us that everyman is appointed once to die and after that the judgment. Guess what, both the rich man and Lazarus died as the Word of God assures us would happen. Now let us look into the contrast of the two men’s death.
First of all the Lord Jesus told us, that only the rich man received a proper burial of the two. I am sure Lazarus and his family could not even afford to give him a proper Jewish burial. Nevertheless, let us think about that rich man for a moment. Can you picture what his funeral and burial must have been like?
All of the other rich or well to do town folk I'm sure were present weeping and mourning that such a good man (in their eyes) in their community was now gone. All of the awards, honors, achievements, and accolades he earned while he was alive, the preacher recounted in the hearing of all his peers. One after another people probably spoke of how good a neighbor he was and how great a business partner and proprietor he had been during his life.
The list of many community accomplishments rolled from the tongue of the minister. The streets lined with all the finest forms of transportation of that day made travel in that area difficult. Of course, because only his friends and political friends were there to pay their respects to such a great man in their eyes. They probably walked by his casket and laid their flowers on it and with a tear drop slowly making its way down many cheeks they passed and said, “Rest in Peace we will miss you.” Oh, how beautiful it must have been to witness this great production. Nevertheless, now let us hear what our Lord said about this rich man after his death.
Luke 16:23 “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.”
What, did I hear those words correctly? Our Lord said the man who probably heard (if he could hear) at his funeral by many well-meaning friends, relatives, fellow church members, business associates, political friends, and other rich friends to rest in peace. However, we hear from the Lord Jesus Christ that he is not resting in peace at all, but tormented day and night and night and day in the flames of hell. Does hell sound real to you now? It does to me when I hear the Words of my Lord, Master, and Savior whom I love dearly. The Bible says God cannot lie. Christ is God and He cannot lie to us.
Mark 9:43-48 And if your hand puts a stumbling block before you and causes you to sin, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to go into life [that is really worthwhile] maimed than with two hands to go to hell (Gehenna), into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot is a cause of stumbling and sin to you, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter into life [that is really worthwhile] crippled than, having two feet, to be cast into hell (Gehenna). And if your eye causes you to stumble and sin, pluck it out! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell (Gehenna), Where their worm [which preys on the inhabitants and is a symbol of the wounds inflicted on the man himself by his sins] does not die, and the fire is not put out. (Quick Amplified Bible)
What was the stumbling block for this man? Of course, it was his riches. He felt that he was blessed because of what he had and not whom he was. He saw no need for someone else to rule over his life. He felt he was doing a great job evidenced by the comfortable lifestyle he and his family were blessed to live. I am sure he felt that people like Lazarus were the scourge of the earth and that the town would be better off without him there.
How the rich man must have heard words such as these (in Mark 9:43-48) spoken by Moses or one of the Prophets and chose to ignore or shrug them off. Now in his agony (that has been sealed forever) must he be wishing for another chance to listen and heed what he heard. Could he have turned from his idols and trusted Christ? I believe when the Lord Jesus says, “Whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely” He means just that. Everyman has an opportunity to turn to Christ for redemption, but the Lord Jesus (being All Knowing) already knows who will turn and who will not.
Let us continue to hear what our Lord said about the condition of this rich man who did not come to Him. The Lord Jesus told us that when he lifted up his eyes from hell, he saw Lazarus (that filthy beggar which he probably called him while they both were still on earth) in Abraham's bosom. What a shock this must have been to this great man of the world to see this lowly beggar comforted and himself tormented.
Now was the rich man still filled with pride, arrogance, or greed, absolutely not now he is humbled and seeks relief to be shown to him from this flaming torment he continually experiences. He even ask that Lazarus (the one he mocked, sneered at, scorned, laughed at, and probably ridiculed while he sat at his gate desiring to be fed) to be sent to him with water to cool his tongue from the flaming fires of hell.
Note the audacity now of this man to seek help from Lazarus. He now seems to show a concern or interest in him unlike the days when they were together on the earth. What a dramatic turn of events we see played out for us here. It appears from the account of our Lord and Savior that even those in hell will receive a new body that they might feel the eternal fires forever.
Now Abraham reminded the rich man of how he trusted in all of his things on earth and found comfort in them there, but that was not so with Lazarus. Lazarus received only evil things during his pilgrimage on the earth. Now the tables were suddenly and dramatically turned completely around. The rich man who never thought to share some of his many earthly blessing with the poor beggar at his gate now needs or desires the poor beggars help.
This sounds more like the scene from a motion picture, but this is not fiction, however, simply the real consequences or results of a life lived on earth with God in it and a life lived apart from God. The Lord Jesus Christ is not the Author of confusion and He guarantees that every man apart from Him will reap the sin they have sown on this earth.
Either every man’s sins will be placed upon Him or they will remain on the man who will have nothing with which to atone for His sin. Abraham told this rich man that even if he wanted to send Lazarus to help relieve him that it was impossible to do. He told him that an impassable barrier stood between the two locations.
John 8:24 That is why I told you that you will die in (under the curse of) your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He [Whom I claim to be--if you do not adhere to, trust in, and rely on Me], you will die in your sins. (Quick Amplified Bible)
This sure dispels for me any notion that there is any chance for redemption after a person dies. The eternal address or destiny is forever fixed by what is done with the Lord Jesus Christ right now in time. Purgatory, I must say is utter non-sense. The only way to avoid the lake of fire is to truly turn from sin and idols to trust the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
Every soul must be born into the Kingdom of God just as every human being is born into the earth. Just as there is only one way to be born into the human family (by or through a woman) so it is only one way to be born again or from above in the spiritual family of Almighty God and that is by or through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing short of this will be sufficient in eternity.
After the rich man hears that it is now impossible for him to ever receive any comfort where he is, he begins to think like an evangelist and begs Abraham to send someone to his earthly father’s house to warn his brothers of their impending doom. He knew that they were living the same opulent self-sufficient life apart from God that he lived.
Notice that his focus is now no longer on himself, but he begins to think differently. How his end might have been so different if he would have thought differently or repented (changed his mind) while he still was on the earth. He now is concerned for his brothers who also are living in mindless and sinful opulence. This shows us that everyman must not wait until they are in eternity to begin to think about eternity. Then it is too late.
However, we all know that this is not how any human being thinks. Those who gravitate to that wide broad road our Lord warned us of are only concerned with the here and now. What does Paul say, “There is none who seeks after God.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Everyman is hustling and bustling about trying to get ahead in business and industry. He must make as much money as he can so that he is able to enjoy the finer things of this earthly life, as if it will go on and on forever.
Example, Michael Madoff chose to live for now and the greed that controlled his heart led him to steal millions of dollars from unsuspecting people. He probably thought that his money would sustain him forever and he never expected to give any account of his wrongdoing after his death. The devil had him thinking that he would never be found out and that he could go on and on in his greed. However, when we listen to the Word of God it assures us that all our sin will find each man out. Either now in this life or for certain in eternity. Therefore, unless he turns from that greed to Christ he will have nothing with which to settle his case before Almighty God.
James 4:13-14 Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city, spend a year there, and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. (Quick Amplified Bible)
The Bible tells us clearly that there is pleasure in sin for a season. Don't many of us know just what this means personally? The rich man cries to Abraham saying that his brothers will surely listen if someone from the dead goes to them to warn them. However, Abraham again tells them that they have Moses and the prophets and they should listen to them. If they won’t hear them neither will they hear even though one rises from the dead?
Christ has risen. He is a living Savior. Yet, the god of this age has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ would shine on them. When one turns from idols to Christ, He shines His gospel light of truth into the dark filthy recesses of their hearts and exposes sin. This is what everyman must do to avoid this eternal place of torments.
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author, Silent Assassins of the Soul (not yet published; coming soon)
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