Things Are True
by Dan Coburn
Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church
We had a missionary from Equador and Peru speak at our Church this past Sunday.
Among his touching testimonies, he talked about a very familiar passage of Scripture from Luke 16. It is commonly referred to as “the rich man and Lazarus”. I have read this account many times, and even preached on it, but our guest put a different light on it for me. Something to be aware of right off the bat – this is not a parable. Jesus introduces these characters as (vs 19 and following) “a certain rich man,” and “a certain beggar named Lazarus.” Lazarus was covered with sores, and was laid at the gate of the rich man’s house, longing (dreaming) to be fed with just the crumbs that fell off the rich man’s table.
Both died, and the angels carried Lazarus to “Abraham’s bosom” (paradise) while the rich man woke in hell. He recognized both Abraham and Lazarus from a distance and yelled out: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” Abraham explains that he couldn’t if he wanted to, as there was fixed between them a “great gulf”.
Realizing it was too late for him, the rich man begged that Lazarus be allowed to go to his father’s house where he had five brothers still alive – “that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied that they had Moses and the prophets that they should listen to. “No Father Abraham” the rich man replied, “but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”
Let’s turn the Spiritual Switch. Lazarus was covered with sores. We are all unclean and lacking before a Holy God. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Rom. 3:23. It is appointed to each man “once to die, and then the judgement.” Heb. 9:27. So here they are, one in paradise, and one in hell. The great chasm “gulf” represent’s the finality of judgement. Eternal flame and torment was the rich man’s lot. His first thought was of his own relief, but soon his focus turned to his siblings. Not wanting them to face the same fate, he implored an emissary from the after life to warn them. No dice. His reasoning was that if someone came back from the dead, they (his brothers) would surely believe.
Nugget: Jesus returned from the dead, and in my humble opinion, most don’t believe. Most think this story is just another in a litany of stories delineating the difference between good and evil, and the far off lofty consequences of life’s actions. This may be true, but here is what I had never realized. To whom was this story told? Jesus didn’t just fling it out there to the world at large, but rather to his disciples, and the attending Pharisees. Religious folk. This is more a warning to us (Christians), bolstering the urgency of our mission here on earth. Who do you see regularly that hasn’t yet sold out to/for Christ? What friends do you see daily that you love? Have you pointed the way to Christ? Many don’t believe in a literal hell, yet the Bible speaks of hell 7 times for each 1 time It speaks of heaven. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.”