A Tour of the Grave
"There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate."- Luke 16:19-20, emphasis added
Today we will be taking a tour of the grave--the destination of the vast majority of people whom you live with, work with, and see around you in daily life: "You and I, everybody you meet, from the mailman to the guy next to you at work, has an eternal destiny. That destiny is either a joyful existence in the presence of God, or a Christ-less eternity in the place prepared for the devil and his angels. It is a real place." What I am about to share may change the whole way you look at death, dying, the grave, and the afterlife. The expert witness, the only One who has ever gone to the grave and returned to report on it, is Jesus. No one has greater reliability or more to say on the afterlife than He. As Revelation 1 says, Jesus Christ alone has the keys to death and to the grave.
In Luke 12:16-20, Jesus told a parable of the rich man who mastered the "eat, drink, and be merry" lifestyle. He was so filled with greedy plans for the future that God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" (Luke 12:20).
Now consider what Jesus reports concerning Lazarus and the rich man. It is seen in the very important word "was" in Luke 16:19-20: "There was a certain rich man . . . " (emphasis added). Unlike Luke 12:16-20, Jesus did not use the word "parable" because He was speaking of a literal event of which He, as God, had knowledge. Jesus continued by saying: "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘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' " (Luke 16:22-24).
Jesus explains another truth in that passage. Before their pardon was secured at the cross of Calvary, the righteous dead (like Abraham, Moses, and so forth) did NOT go directly to heaven as do blood-bought Christians of the church age. Instead, they went to paradise. The grave (Sheol, Hades) was at that time divided into two parts: "Abraham's bosom" was a place of comfort; the other was a place of torment. But both were located physically in the grave, or hell, as it is called in many places.
Note that the rich man could actually see Lazarus, which indicates a literal existence and therefore a literal torment and a literal flame. Abraham explained the division of hell to the rich man, including the fact that Lazarus could not come to him. Now look at the account again as the rich man cried out: ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment' (Luke 16:27-28).
The rich man remembered his life on earth, as he will for eternity. Thus he remembered his loved ones, and was conscious of their destiny. So he pleaded with Abraham to do something, but Abraham simply told him: " ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead' " (Luke 16:29-31).
Here is something extremely revealing about their conversation: Abraham is Abraham, and Lazarus, the beggar, is Lazarus; but the rich man had no name. He had his memories; he had awareness of his surroundings; he knew the hopelessness of the situation. The only thing he wanted more than a drink of water was to save his five brothers. But he has no name. Why is that so important? Because he does not need one; nobody will ever speak it again. There will be no reprieve, no visitors, no hope, and no need for a name. To all intents and purposes, he is dead, and will be eternally aware of that fact. Eternal, conscious, perpetual, lonely torment--dead forever, yet alive--always remembering the opportunities God had given him to escape such torment!
That is what awaits the mail deliverer, the guy or gal next to you, or friends and relatives of whom you say, "I'll talk to him (or her) when the time is right." Or, when he or she says to you: "I'll think about it. Maybe tomorrow . . . " But at any moment God could unexpectedly say, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you!"
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