Text: Luke 16:19-21
Today, we are gathered here from different nations, kindreds, people and tongues, to worship the Almighty God who sits on the Throne, and also to the Lamb of God who was slain but now lives forever.
This event is a preamble to an event that will take place in heaven by and by. Where the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel and multitudes from every nation, kindreds, people and tongues will stand before the Throne of God and Jesus in heaven and with a loud voice saying, “salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever” (Rev. 7:1-10).
In the passage above, there are a few things we must take note:
- The story appears to be a true-life account of two people that had lived at some point in history as Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man… There was a certain beggar named Lazarus…”. It was not altogether anonymous. There was a named entity. Jesus didn’t have to make up the name of Lazarus.
- The story demonstrates to us the condition of the departed souls of people between the time they die and when they resurrect. Some erroneously believe that when we die, that’s it. Nothing more. Jesus disproves that notion with this story.
- It is a story of two beggars: one person begged in this life temporarily; the other will beg in the other life forever. May you not beg in this life, and especially in the life to come in Jesus name.
- There is a place that is called paradise; there is also a place that is called hell. They are not conditions that we go through here on earth. Some believed that the only heaven and hell people go through is their situations here, whether pleasant or unpleasant. It is not so.
- These two places are gateways to further eternal destinations, which are: Heaven and the Lake of fire. (Rev. 19:1-8; Rev. 20:11-15).
Note that the rich man did not tell Father Abraham to send someone to his five brothers to pray for him so that his time in hell will be shortened (purgatory). Some Christians believe this fallacy. It is demonic teaching to make hell become full of those who could have otherwise strive to make heaven.
- When we depart from this life, we are no longer able to come back to made amend of any mistake. Our time would be done. We will only be judged by what we have done up to that point. The rich man could not come back; Lazarus was not sent back.
Though there are stories of those whom God had used His own prerogative to send back as messengers, after death or coma. It is not a common experience. Essentially, when one dies, it’s a state of no return. (Heb. 9:27).
- Whether in paradise or in hell, one will be conscious of why one is sent there. The rich man did not protest nor challenge why he was in hell. Lazarus did not question why he was brought to paradise either.
- Having riches is not singularly evidence of God’s blessing or Divine approval. It may just be that the person has understood and obeyed the universal laws of sowing and reaping; or the principles of investments and dividends. The rich man may have confused himself with these.
Likewise, lack and poverty may not necessarily be due to God’s curse or Divine disapproval (which can be a reason). But it may be due to non-adherence to certain principles, spiritual attack, trial or laziness.
- It is impossible to cross from paradise to hell, just as it is impossible to cross from hell to paradise. There is a huge gap and height in between the two places. The rich man had to look up to see Lazarus in the bosom of Father Abraham.
- In the afterlife, we will recognise people we had seen on earth before. We will even have spiritual knowledge of what we might not have seen before. The rich man was able to figure out Lazarus and surprisingly Father Abraham?
- It is possible for people of the same family to go to separate eternal destinations. The rich man was already in hell; he did not want his brothers to come there.
What are you doing for your relations as touching their eternity? Wife, husband, parents, children, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts, etc?
Will you be happy in paradise if you see them far away in torment in hell?
When you are gone, no one may ever speak to them about their eternity again. Speak to them now.
The main concern in this story for us though is, why did the rich man go to hell? And why did Lazarus go to paradise? Father Abraham did not tell us this in plain terms. Reading the passage carefully though, one is able to know why.
According to Father Abraham, if the rich man had listened to Moses and the Prophets, he would not have found himself in hell.
So asked God, what about Moses? What is it about the Prophets? The answer I got was that Moses represents the written laws of God; the Prophets represent the direct spoken instructions from God per time.
How do you treat the commandments of God written in His words? Do you obey them?
How do you treat the commandments of God spoken to you by His prophets? Do you obey them? They will both determine your eternal destination.
The rich man was not loving. He did not love God. He did not love his neighbour. He was not sympathetic. He had no compassion. He was very selfish.
He must have lived after the laws were given to Moses, but he was not keeping them. The Jewish law on tithing, especially the particular one meant for the poor, must have been disobeyed by him, for Lazarus to be expecting trash from his table. Three types of tithes (Num. 18:21-24; Dt. 14:22-27; Dt. 14: 28-29).
Lazarus, on the other hand, must have to be a loving man for him to share the scarce crumbs he was getting with dogs. That’s why they were helping him to drive away flies from his wounds. He must have a good, sympathetic and compassionate heart. He must also have kept his mouth shut from speaking evil about God regarding his situation. No wonder he went to paradise.
Do you love God? How can I love God?
Obey His word: written word, spoken to you specifically. (John 14:15)
Serve Him: might, talent, time. (Mt. 21: 28-31).
Honour Him: mouth (worship, evangelism); material possession. (Heb. 13:15; Prov. 3:9-10).
Do you love your neighbour? How can I love my neighbour?
You will care for them, if you are privilege to do so. (James 2:14-17).
You will not seek to hurt them (deed, word). Apostle Paul said of Alexander (2 Tim. 4:14).
You will sympathise with them, and not mock them. (Luke 7:36-48).
You will have compassion on them; their soul and their plight. (Mt. 9:35-38).
As I round up, I knew a man who died 21 years ago, he once told me and my siblings when our mother died some 34 years ago; that though he did not feel like living in this world anymore, he would hang around a bit because we were still young.
One of the things he told us that I can never forget was that whatever happen to us in life, we must make sure he sees us in heaven. That man was my father.
Just like Apostle Paul faced great persecution from the Jews than from the Gentiles; the persecutions I’ve received from so-called believers have outweighed those from unbelievers. Guess what? By the special grace of God, I’m pressing on the upward way, and new heights I’m gaining every day.
It is my prayer that sometime in the distant future I too will be able to tell my children and grandchildren, that whatever happens after I’ve gone, make sure I see you in heaven.
I can then say that I have fought a good fight of faith; I have kept the faith and finished my course.
It may be that there are people in the church today, for whatever reason, we may not meet in person again, can I leave this question with you today? Will I see you in heaven? You don’t have to answer back. Maybe I should make it more apologetic “Please, whatever happens to you in life, make sure I see you in heaven”. Go home and ponder on it. God bless you.
Whatever happened to me in life, Father, help me to enter heaven.
A sermon delivered on 13th of October, 2019.