What will happen to anyone who ignores or rejects the Gift of Salvation?
As we open to Luke 16 this morning, we open to Christ's clearest and most compelling words about what happens at the moment of death, to every human that will ever live. We find more details in less space than anywhere else in the Bible. This is Christ's guide to the afterlife and is one of the most priceless insights anyone could get on what our endless future will be life.
In just under 300 words in the NKJV, Jesus outlines more than a dozen absolutes of our eternal existence that each of us will possess at the moment we pass through the door of death and out of daily life on Earth.
First, listen to Christ's description, and then we will note the no less than 13 absolute laws of the spiritual world Jesus describes. Please stand with me and hear Christ's voice as we read His words in Luke 16:19-31:
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 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. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “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.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 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.’” NKJV
Now, go back over these words Christ spoke and circle, mark, or note these absolutes, one-by-one with me. Remember as you note these details that we are getting this tour from no less a guide than the Lord of Truth Himself. Christ Jesus here gives a glimpse of the grave thru the door of death! Note these absolute laws, truths that govern both the lost and the saved at death.
Jesus notes the absolutes of:
• ENDLESSNESS: In v.22 we are shown that only the body dies, not the soul; and the righteous go to a place of bliss, and the lost go to a place of torments, there to continue to exist endlessly.
• CONSCIOUSNESS: In v. 23 Jesus notes the Rich Man as “being in torments” which means that as he enters the grave, he never stops being conscious. He did not cease to exist, he continued to be; and Jesus notes that this lost man can see, remember, and even recognize people he had never met. Jesus reveals to us which appears to be some form of spiritual recognition, as the rich man recognizes Abraham who died 20 centuries before both the rich man and Lazarus. In the afterlife we are conscious and have knowledge we never had on earth.
• VISION: In v. 23 Jesus also tells us that both the Rich Man and Lazarus can see "far off" which means long distances; and also can remember and recognize those they saw in their lifetime, because he "saw Lazarus". So our sight continues into the afterlife, and appears to be enhanced.
• COMMUNICATION: In v. 24, 27-28, 30 Jesus explains that the doomed occupants of the grave can still speak; and in v. 25-26, 29, and 31 we see that the saved can speak. So our ability to communicate with others continues into the afterlife, and can cross great distances.
• PAINFULNESS: In v. 23 we see that in the grave the lost can still experience pain. Note the vivid contrast between the saved and the lost as the Rich Man’s tongue that never lacked on earth is now used to call out for the poor, sick beggar’s hand that was never heeded when he sat at his gate. So the ability to feel pain is very present and the lost are immediately subjected to immense torment the moment they arrive in the grave.
• SENSATION: In v. 24 we see that the lost still have what appears to be all of their senses. They can see, hear, feel, and remember. This implies that most likely and chillingly—all of their body’s physical desires are still present. Can you imagine the impact of an ever growing, endlessly increasing thirst? Just that sensation would be a horribly consuming pain. But it appears that all the other desires of life are also present and unsatisfied. So desires and appetites continue in the afterlife and are either wonderfully satisfied like Lazarus’, or horribly unsatisfied like the Rich Man’s.
• MEMORY: In v. 25 Jesus explains that in the grave events from a person’s earthly life can be recalled; and it appears that all their memories of their entire earthly life are unimpaired. The Rich Man could remember his family, his decisions, and what his life had been like on earth. So our memories of all of our lifetime remain in the afterlife except for all the sins that have been forever removed from those who come to Jesus before it is too late.
• HOPELESSNESS: In v. 26 we learn that in the grave like the Rich Man, all the lost come to realize that there is no escape. The "great chasm" means that they are eternally beyond help, and that "none can pass". So for the unsaved there is an eternal hopelessness.
• HORROR: Next in v. 27-28 we see that the torments are so great in the grave that none of the occupants want anyone else to come. The reality of constant torment only drove the Rich Man to long for others to flee that place. Rather than jokingly saying that, ‘soon he will be joined by his friends or enemies’—the Rich Man can’t imagine allowing anyone else to come to this waiting room for Hell, it is so bad that anyone experiencing it wishes to prevent anyone else from having to feel such horrible pain.
• ISOLATION: In v. 27b we see another element, there is no communication from the lost dead to living allowed; and that the dead have no influence in spirit world. So every séance, every occultic practitioner and medium do not “bring back” the departed, they are only channels for angels under Satan’s command called demons, who deceive the living about the horrors of the grave.
• DISTINCTION: In v. 29 Abraham explains the power of the Scriptures, it is the Word of God that determines the destiny of all; and supernatural events do not always convince skeptics. Just as the miracles of Christ, the apostles, and prophets only confirmed faith, and never produced it. So in the afterlife those who are redeemed confess that it was faith that came by God's Word that saved them.
• INTUITION: In v. 29 we catch an interesting insight that can be gleaned from the fact that Abraham seems to know about events after his life (he lived from 2166-1991 BC), including Moses (1526-1406 BC), and the prophets (1050-435 BC). So Abraham knew history after his death. Abraham died in the 20th century BC, yet he knew about Moses who lived 600 years after him, and the prophets who lived up to 1600 years after his death. So we can safely gather from Christ's words that those who are with Him now are aware of much of what is going on here on Earth. They are aware of God’s plans, His work, and the condition of those saints who are still living on Earth. This is not an omniscient knowledge, but one that God gives and allows to the redeemed.
• FINALITY: Lastly, in v. 31 Jesus affirms the absolute that there is no second chance, no going back—just the Word that God has given by special revelation (inspired Scriptures), and the light that He has given through general revelation (creation and conscience).
People will be saved or lost according to whether or not they responded to God's Voice through His Word that was given to them. As Psalm 19 and Romans 1 tells us, there is no human that has not heard faintly the Voice of God through creation, through their conscience, or through God's Word.
Acts 17 tells us that any person who responds by “feeling after” God, will have God respond to them in further revelation of Himself. So as Christ said in John 1, He is the Word that has shined the light of the Gospel upon very human that has ever existed on Earth.
So all humans will equally stand guilty before God for their refusal of the light of His Word; and they will know and confess that He shined upon them.
There is no argument from the grave that God is unjust, that argument only comes from those on earth in rebellion against God. The lost are eternally submitting, bowing the knee and crying out to God—but it is TOO LATE. The absolute of finality is the sobering thought Christ uses to end His glimpse into the grave.
The Most Horrible
Doctrine in God's Word
Now that we have seen the absolutes or some of the laws governing those who live in the spiritual world, let’s apply these truths to our lives today and think of the implications to us and everyone we meet.
This means I would like to remind you of the most horrible doctrines in God's Word—the reality of an eternal Hell for those who do not believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
The amazing thing about Hell is how seldom we hear about it.
It was almost 20 years ago I read an article in Moody Monthly that more clearly described Hell than I was even comfortable with. Let me share the sight of Hell that author painted, with you.
That hideous doctrine of hell is fading. How often have you thought of it in the past month, for instance? Does it make a difference in your concern for others, in your witness? Is it a constant and proper burden?
Our Lord’s words on the subject are unnerving. In Luke 16, He tells us of a rich man who died and went to Hades (the abode of the unsaved dead between death and final judgment). From that story and a few other revelatory facts, we can infer several characteristics of hell.
First, it’s a place of great physical pain. The rich man’s initial remark concludes with his most pressing concern: “I am in agony in this flame” (Luke 16:24). We do not make enough of this. First think of:
The Painfulness of
We all have experienced pain to some degree. We know it can make a mockery of all life’s goals and beauties. Yet we do not seem to know pain as a hint of hell, a searing foretaste of what will befall those who do not know Christ, a grim reminder of what we will be spared from.
God does not leave us with simply the mute fact of hell’s physical pain. He tells us how real people will respond to that pain. Jesus says there will be “weeping” (Luke 13:28). Weeping is not something we get a grip on; it is something that grips us.
Recall how you were affected when you last heard someone weep. Remember how you were moved with compassion to want to protect and restore that person? The Lord wants us to know and consider what an upsetting experience it is for the person in hell.
Another response will be “wailing” (Matthew 13:42). While weeping attracts our sympathy, wailing frightens and offends us. It is the pitiable bawl of a soul seeking escape, hurt beyond repair, eternally damaged. W wail is sound gone grotesque because of conclusions we can’t live with.
A final response will be “gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). Why? Perhaps it is because of anger or frustration. It may be a defense against crying out or an intense pause when one is too weary to cry any longer. But, secondly think of:
The Blackness of
Hell has more aspects that Christ Jesus describes, rarely considered, which are both curious and frightening. On earth we take for granted two physical properties that help keep us physically, mentally, and emotionally stable. The first is light; the second is solid, fixed surfaces. Oddly, these two dependables will not accommodate those in hell.
Hell is a place of darkness (Matthew 8:12). Imagine the person who has just entered hell—a neighbor, relative, co-worker, friend. After a roar of physical pain blasts him, he spends his first moments wailing and gnashing his teeth. But after a season, he grows accustomed to the pain, not that it’s become tolerable, but that his capacity for it has enlarged to comprehend it, yet not be consumed by it. Though he hurts, he is now able to think, and he instinctively looks about him. But as he looks, he sees only blackness.
In his past life he learned that if he looked long enough, a glow of light somewhere would yield definition to his surroundings. So he blinks and strains to focus his eyes, but his efforts yield only blackness. He turns and strains his eyes in another direction. He waits. He sees nothing but unyielding black ink. It clings to him, smothering and oppressing him.
Realizing that the darkness is not going to give way, he nervously begins to feel for something solid to get his bearings. He reaches for walls or rocks or trees or chairs; he stretches his legs to feel the ground and touches nothing.Now comes the third horrible reality:
The Bottomlessness of
Hell is a “bottomless pit” (Rev. 20:1, 2 KJV); however, the new occupant is slow to learn. In growing panic, he kicks his feet and waves his arms. He stretches and he lunges. But he finds nothing. After more feverish tries, he pauses from exhaustion, suspended in black. Suddenly, with a scream he kicks, twists, and lunges until he is again too exhausted to move.
He hangs there, alone with his pain. Unable to touch a solid object or see a solitary thing, he begins to weep.
His sobs choke through the darkness. They become weak, then lost in hell’s roar.
As time passes, he begins to do what the rich man did—he again starts to think. His first thoughts are of hope. You see, he still thinks as he did on earth, where he kept himself alive with hope. When things got bad, he always found a way out. If he felt pain, he took medicine. If he were hungry, he ate food. If he lost love, there was more love to be found.
So he casts about in his mind for a plan to apply to the hope building in his chest.
Of course, he thinks, Jesus, the God of love, can get me out of this.
He cries out with a surge, “Jesus, Jesus! You were right! Help me! Get me out of this!”
He waits, breathing hard with desperation. The sound of his voice slips into the darkness and is lost.
He tries again, “I believe, Jesus! I believe now! Save me from this!” Again the darkness smothers his words.
Our sinner is not unique. Everyone in hell believes.
When he wearies of appeals, he does next what anyone would do—assesses his situation and attempts to adapt. But then it hits him—this is forever.
Jesus made it very clear. He used the same words for “forever” to describe both heaven and hell.
Forever, he thinks, and his mind labors through the blackness until he aches.
“Forever!” he whispers in wonder. The idea deepens, widens, and towers over him.
The awful truth spreads before him like endless, overlapping slats: When I put in ten thousand centuries of time here, I will not have accomplished on thing. I will not have one second less to spend here.
As the rich man pleaded for a drop of water, so, too, our new occupant entertains a similar ambition. In life he learned that even bad things could be tolerated if one could find temporary relief. Perhaps even hell, if one could rest from time to time, would be more tolerable. Next comes the reality of:
The Dreadfulness of
He learns, though, that “The smoke of [his] torment goes up forever and ever; and [he has] no rest day and night” (Rev. 14:11 NASB).
No rest day and night—think of that. Thoughts of this happening to people we know, people like us, are too terrifying to entertain for long. The idea of allowing someone to endure such torture for eternity violates the sensibilities of even the most severe judge among us. We simply cannot bear it.
But our thoughts of hell will never be as unmanageable as its reality. We must take this doctrine of hell, therefore, and make sure we are practically affected by it.
A hard look at this doctrine should first change our view of sin. Most believers do not take sin as seriously as God does. We need to realize that in God’s eyes and in His actual plan, sin deserves eternal punishment in hell. We can actually learn, by comparison, to hate sin as God hates it.
As the reality of hell violates and offends us, for example, so sin violates and offends God.
As we cannot bear to look upon the horrors of hell, so God cannot bear to look upon the horrors of sin.
As hell revolts us to the point of hatred for it, so also God finds sin revolting. The comparison is not perfect but it offers a start.
Second, the truth of hell should encourage our witness. Can we ever hear a sigh of weariness, see a moment of doubt, or feel pain without being reminded of that place? In all honesty, can we see any unbeliever, watch his petty human activities, realize what he has in store, and not be moved with compassion? It encourages us to witness in word and in deed.
That hideous doctrine may grip our souls in dark terror and make us weep, but let us be sure it also prompts us to holiness and compassion.
Jesus Explained this Place
More than heaven--Christ spoke of hell.
More than love--Christ spoke of eternal destruction.
More than the church to come--Christ Jesus warned of God’s wrath and judgment and hell.
Now pause and calculate one fact in your mind.
In the time it is taking me to say this sentence, 18 human beings awoke in eternity because they died on earth.
And, that was in 10 seconds.
Every second 1.8 people die; and every minute over 100, every hour six thousand plus immortal souls enter eternity. That’s over 155,000 per day, and about fifty-six million a year.
I believe that we must pause and reflect on the destination of all those travelers from earth. JESUS DID – HE preached about Hell at the height of His popularity. Look with me at Matthew as Jesus gives the most complete warning in all God's Word about the eternal horrors of Hell.
So what should we remember from this study in God's Word today? Three things:
Life is fragile.
Our lives are but a vapor the Lord says. We can be healthy, strong, and full of life today. A tiny virus can make us sick tomorrow, the next day we shiver, and the next day we can fall over dead--just like the countless birds dying in Asia today. Life is fragile!
Death is inevitable.
We all have to die, a few of us will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at Christ's Coming—but all lost people and most believers have an appointment with death. It is inevitable. Death is unstoppable and inescapable. With the weather growing more violent, people growing more openly wicked, with warfare becoming more globally lethal, with pestilences stalking the planet like never before—life truly is fragile, and God has said that death is inevitable.
Christ is the only answer.
Flu shots can’t help our souls. The UN is not able to stop the growth of evil. The only hope is found in God's Word; and the only pathway to escape, is laid out by Him. Do you hold Christ today as your salvation?
Salvation: The Fact, Faith, Feeling train
1. I am clinging to the facts of salvation personally by faith: Jesus died on the Cross for my sins, and I am trusting Him now;
2. Back then in the past, I was born a sinner;
3. Sometime after that God convicted me of my sin;
4. At a point in time I called upon the Name of the Lord to save, forgive, and change my heart;
5. So today I know I am saved because I love my Redeemer and Savior and await His coming or calling for me