The Rich Man and Lazarus

Sunday service, Erlo Stegen, 05 Jun 2016

Luke 16:19-31

The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “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.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Jesus made it absolutely clear what happened to the dead. We are privileged. We don’t know the name of the rich man. He was well-known and famous on the earth during that time. Sometimes he is called Dives, which is Latin for rich man. You might have a famous name here on earth, but be unknown in heaven. Most people know this story. Many say that they are the Lazarus’ of today, while Dives represent the whites who have everything. Of Lazarus it was said that he suffered here on earth and was comforted on the other side. But what a pity if you suffer here on earth and continue to suffer on the other side.

These two people walked completely different paths, and they ended up in two completely different places. Lazarus knew the Lord and was known by the Lord. When he died angels came and took him straight to the bosom of Abraham. But when the rich man died he had no one to accompany him to the other side. He went all alone and found himself in Hades. One can speculate that the rich man’s funeral was a pompous affair, but he went straight to hell. Lazarus on the other hand had no one in this world to comfort him and the dogs licked his sores, but at his death God sent angels to accompany him to the bosom of Abraham.

We are privileged that our Lord Jesus came from heaven and told us these things so that we might know what it is all about. There are some who say that Christianity is the white man’s religion. But you are blinded if you think that Christianity belongs to the white man. Did whites write the Bible? It was written rather by God’s people, predominantly Jews. Do you think that the rich and famous would write a story such as this, which condemn them? It was not written by the Europeans or any other whites. There are also many whites who do not even believe the Bible, like the Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventist etc. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, spoke of three heavens, one at the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom, but no hell. And so too the other cults believe in a heaven but not in a literal hell. But Jesus put it so clearly that there are two categories, some who go to heaven and some to hell. Where will you go when you die? Jesus came to save you that you might escape hell and go to heaven.

Here Jesus paints the picture of these two different ways and He compares one to the other. There should be no misunderstanding of what’s being said here, even a child can understand it.

Firstly the life of a person on earth. Secondly the life of a person when he dies, and thirdly what eternity holds.

Life on earth. It says that the rich man, Dives, only lived for himself. He couldn’t care less about other people. He didn’t think of tomorrow. He thought of today only. Even in hell he was still only thinking of himself. He put his trust in the riches of this earth. The rich man depicts the egocentric, the one that thinks about himself only. His thoughts are not about the Lord or His word. Had he not been so self-centered he would have thought of Lazarus. He didn’t think whether the poor man had soap to bath with. He thought of himself only. And with that he was headed for hell.

The rich man asked that someone be sent from the dead to warn his five brothers that they would not also come to hell. But Abraham answered him that they had Moses and the prophets and should heed them. Even if someone were to rise from the dead, they would still not believe. Only a short while after that, Jesus did die and rose from the dead, and yet there are millions even today who still don’t believe.

Asaph in Ps 73 says that when he focused on the rich worldlings around him, he almost slipped. He was looking at them and how they prospered in the world and looked happy, while he, Asaph, didn’t have all the luxuries. He couldn’t just buy all the necessities of this world. So too with Lazarus, he couldn’t just buy what he needed. And he was full of sores and the dogs licked them.

Lazarus is symbolic of believers. The rich man is symbolic of those who live in the lusts of the flesh. He had money to buy just what he wanted. And if the people of this world don’t have enough they simply steal to get what they want. They spare no thought for those they are stealing from.

There are many who say that they are like the modern-day Lazarus, while living in their sin. No, not at all, you are rich in your sin. As poor as Lazarus was, he didn’t try and break into the rich man’s property to get what he needed. But maybe that is exactly what you do? Don’t equate financial poverty with Lazarus. You might not have a car but you know how to steal one. You might not have many things, but know how to steal them. Lazarus was the true Lazarus. His eyes were focused above.

The rich man was totally unconcerned about the things above, and so too are the modern day Dives, who live in the lusts of their flesh. They don’t go to church but simply sit in front of their TV, gazing on the things of the world and the news of the world, pornography, which has them in their vice-grip.

Asaph says that when he then entered into the sanctuary of the Lord and saw the end of these worldly people, he realised the difference between those who served God and those who don’t.

The rich man died alone, even with thousands attending his funeral. How will you die and what will your funeral be like? Will you also die alone, without Jesus? If you have Jesus you have everything, even in life, and then in death He is gain to you.

In Daniel it speaks of those who will shine like the stars because they’ve turned many to righteousness (Dan 12:3). Jesus again in Matthew speaks of the righteous who will shine like the sun (Matt 13:43). If you are just seeking the pleasures of this world, you will go into the flames of hell for eternity. But if you seek the things above, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will shine like the sun. John writes that if we live in His righteousness we will be like Him (1John 3:2). Paul writes that that which was dear to him he count as dung to know the Lord Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

Moses was known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, an heir to the throne. But Moses denied all that, for he looked towards the reward (Heb 11:26). If we’re in Christ, even if we suffer in this world, the suffering is so short in comparison to the glories of Heaven.

In one of his sermons, E. V. Hill tells of a time when he preached in Michigan with Dr. Jack Hyles, the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Hyles’ church averaged 20,000 in Sunday school back then. “[E. V.] asked, “Jack, let me in on why you’re so caught up in soul winning. You’re on the verge of fanatic. What’s behind all that?”
He said, “One night, I was awakened by this piercing scream from my sister. I ran upstairs to her bedroom, and there she was sweating and in hysterics. I shook her, and I couldn’t get her attention, so I had to slap her. I said, ‘What’s wrong? You had a dream?’ She said, ‘No, no dream.’ I said, ‘You had a nightmare?’ She said, ‘No it was real.’ I said, ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘Jack, I just got back from hell. After a few miles of the glitter and lights and all of that which deceives mankind, there was nothing but desolation. It was a bummed-out situation. It’s nothing but desolation and hopelessness. You walk towards the gates of hell knowing that you will never again be free. I got to the gates of hell and the keeper said, “Hold it.” I stood outside hell, and I saw people whose faces were twisted and tongues were thick, eyes bulging and hands split, dropping blood. I said, “Sir, please let some air in.” And he said, “No air in hell.” Then I said, “Kind sir, let them have a drink of water.” And he said, “No water in hell.” Then I said, “If that’s true, let ’em die.” And he said, “No death in hell.” She said, “My God, how long will they suffer?” And he said, “Forever and ever! Hell has no exit and there is no death.”
“She said, ‘Just as I turned to leave, he said, “Go back and tell the story.” And just as I turned I saw Daddy.'” And I said, “Yep, our Daddy is in hell, because he never got around to doing the most important thing. He schooled us, he fed us, but he never got around to saying yes to Jesus Christ.” Jack concluded by saying, “I win souls every day so that nobody else’s daddy has to go to hell.” Citation: E. V. Hill, A Savior Worth Having (Chicago: Moody Press, 2002), 91-2.

Jesus said, he who has an ear to hear, let him hear (Matt 11:15). Will you go without getting right with God, without leaving your sin at the feet of Jesus? Will you die the death of the rich man, Dives, who was egocentric and did what he wanted. Rather choose to suffer with Lazarus and be carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham.

May you have the right response today, that today things change in your life, that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

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