I would like to talk to you this morning about what I believe to be the most important subject in the entire Bible. It’s the subject of your eternal soul. You see, five hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, one million years from now you are going to be alive somewhere; either in heaven enjoying fellowship with Christ and His saints, or in a Christless place, a place of eternal torment, where your agony and suffering will never end, a place the Bible calls the “lake of fire,” a place called hell.
Let’s talk first about what Jesus is not saying. He’s not saying that if you’re rich you go to hell and if you’re poor you go to heaven. First of all there are going to be many poor people who die and go to hell. One of the reasons why missions exist is to reach people with the gospel and the majority of the countries that we send missionaries to are poor. Not only that, but Abraham was one of the richest men in the Old Testament, and yet he is in heaven. So Jesus is not saying that the rich go to hell and the poor go to heaven, or that the rich are ungodly while the poor are righteous. Again, Abraham being a godly man was rich and he is in heaven, so status has nothing to do with it.
In this parable Jesus is doing several things. First He’s destroying the theology of the Jews. You see, the Jews thought that wealth and health was a sign of blessing. If a man was religious, and we know the rich man was religious because first of all he called Abraham his father, and second he knew about repentance, 30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent. John MacArthur says: we know he was religious, 'cause he had a view of repentance, which means he had a view of sin, which means he had a view of law, which means he had a view of the Lawgiver, which means he had a view of God; so he had a fairly significant theology. He also calls Abraham his father, which indicates that he was a Jew; so he knew the law of the Prophets. He knew the covenants and the adoption and all the things that belong to the Jews...
And so the Jews had the idea that if someone was religious, healthy, and wealthy they must have God’s blessing and therefore must be on their way to heaven. And if a man was poor, sick, and destitute, well, he was under God’s wrath and was on his way to hell; otherwise he wouldn’t be in the shape that he was in.
Can you imagine the utter shock, and surprise that the rich man must have felt when he woke up in hell? It should make us shudder, because there are many that are in the same boat as the rich man. The rich man, being a Jew and religious had a faulty view of what it was to be accepted by God. And many today have a faulty view of what it means to be a Christian. There are many who are deceived. They may be involved in Church ministries and activities, but their lives do not reflect holiness or godliness. They aren’t concerned with sin and repentance. They live in continual habitual sin and think that because they had a religious experience of some sort, whether praying a prayer, walking an isle, or signing a card that they are saved, when in reality they are self deceived. In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, John MacArthur says:
A…contributor to self deception is failure of self examination. Through a faulty and presumptuous view of God’s grace, some professed believers blithely go through life, oblivious to and unconcerned about their sins…When a couple lives together without being married, when a person practices homosexuality, is deceptive and dishonest in business, is hateful and vengeful or habitually practices sin without remorse or repentance, such persons cannot be Christian-no matter what sort of experience they claim to have had or what sort of testimony they now make.
And so it must have been utterly shocking for the rich man to wake up in hell.
The second thing Jesus is doing is giving us a warning about the reality of eternal torment. Hell is only a holding place until the Great White Throne judgment.
Revelation 20:11-15 (New International Version)
11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So then, hell is a temporary holding place until the Day of Judgment. At the Day of Judgment those who are in hell will be brought up and judged. After they are judged they will then be cast into the lake of fire.There are some things to notice about this parable; first notice that the dead go immediately into the presence of God, or into the place of torment: 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. 23In hell,[a] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. Notice then that eternity starts the moment we die. There is a false view that some hold to called “soul sleep.” Soul sleep says that when a person dies his soul sleeps or is unaware until the Judgment. Basically, the soul neither goes to heaven or hell, it stays with the body until God is ready to judge the world. This is an unbiblical view of the soul. There are many places in the Bible that refute this faulty view of the soul.
1. There is the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Philippians.
Philippians 1:21-23 (New International Version)21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
A. the statement he made to the Corinthians.
2Co 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
2. We have the statement that Jesus made to the Pharisees when defending His deity. They said that Abraham died and so did the prophets “are you greater than our father Abraham, who do you think you are?” And jesus answered with these words:
Joh 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."
A. Not only are we sinners but we are enslaved to our sin: Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
B. Our minds then are darkened and our hearts are corrupt: Gen 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Heb 12:2 looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith,
Acts 16:14 (New International Version)14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
a. What is faith? Faith is embracing Jesus not only as Savior but also as Lord: Luk 14:33 So then, everyone of you who does not forsake all his possessions, he cannot be My disciple.