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Weekly Word

Entries in Abraham’s Bosom (1)

Tuesday
Sep112018

Your Personal Endtimes: What is after Death II?

Luke 16:19-31.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 9, 2018.

Today we will continue looking at the end times from a personal perspective rather than a global one.  In other words, we are looking at how our own personal world will end.  Up to now we have emphasized the biblical teachings that we are given one life to live on this earth and then we die.  At death those who belong to Christ go to be with Him in heaven at the right hand of the Father and in a disembodied state.

Today we are going to look at what happens to those who die, but do not belong to Christ.  As we will see, there is a heaven to gain and a place to be avoided or shunned.  So as we look at the Scripture today, ask yourself these questions.  Do I belong to Jesus?  Have I repented of my sins and put my faith in Jesus as the Forgiver of my sins (Savior) and the Leader of how I live my life (Lord)?  If the answer is not affirmative then give serious consideration to doing so today.  Don’t put it off.  However, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ then recognize the true fate of those you may be tempted to walk by without even a word of warning.

The unrighteous go into the grave awaiting the Judgment Day

In our passage today, Jesus warns his hearers that this life is not all that we have to deal with.  We do not merely go out of existence.  Rather, a good or bad fate awaits us on the other side of death.  Those who have lived their lives for themselves, and not for God, will go into the grave and await the Judgment Day.  This was part of Paul’s message among the Gentile nations in Acts 17:30-31. 

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” (NKJV)

In our story there are two individuals who physically die.  However, they do not cease to exist.  The spiritual component to humans continues to exist within the spiritual realm, after physical death.  Throughout the Bible the fate of man after death is described as being held in The Grave (Hebrew- She’ol, Greek- Hades) and in a conscious state.

Another point to recognize is the unfortunate historical reality that early English Translations of the Bible used the English word Hell to translate 3 different Greek words.  Modern translations may still use the term hell in places, but give a footnote describing the underlying Greek word.  This conflation of three Greek terms into one English term has helped promote fuzzy thinking about what the Bible is really saying.  In our passage the place where dead spirits go is called Hades.  It is synonymous with the phrase The Grave.  Though the phrase can refer to the physical hole the ground, it typically is used of a spiritual place where spirits are held until Judgment Day.

Now, even though the Bible uses the Greek word Hades here, it does not mean that the Bible supports everything the Greeks believed about Hades.  It simply means that it was the best equivalent to the already existing Hebrew word/concept She’ol.  So what do we see here?  Lazarus goes to a good part of this spiritual place, and the rich man ends up in a bad part.  He is technically not in Hell yet.  However, it is clear from their experience in Hades what their judgment will be.

I will also remind you of a point that I made last week.  Until Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross, the righteous could not immediately ascend into heaven.  They were held in the grave, but in a place of comfort and relief from all sorrows.  Once Jesus died and went into the grave, He was able to empty the good side of the grave and take all righteous spirits into heaven with Him.  So technically there are no righteous people in Hades today, like we see in this story.

Just as Lazarus was conscious and comforted, Jesus points out that the rich man is in conscious torment.  This is a term that can be used for torture.  However, we do not see torture devices and demons with bull whips here.  This word was also used for the torment of sickness or disease.  So the torment comes from his place and condition more than from any active torturers.  We are told that flames were part of his torment.  Now, the rich man is a spirit, i.e. he does not have a physical body.  Thus the flame is a spiritual equivalent to a physical flame in this world.  This brings up the point that spirits are able to “see” the spirit world and “sense” spiritual things without a physical body.  Though this makes sense intuitively, it does beg a question.  Just how does that work?  Of course Scripture does not satisfy our curiosity there.  So we see the rich man is in a place that is compared to a place of fire that leaves the inhabitants thirsty and without relief.  Thus they are in torments.

A point could also be made that the rich man also suffers from what we would call psychological torment.  Over and over again he would think of the many opportunities that he had to avoid this horrible fate and yet passed it up.

Throughout this story, Jesus hammers home the point that a good or bad experience in this life does not guarantee the same in the life to come.  Take time to think about how much of our life is spent pursuing material comforts and pleasures.  Was the rich man’s fate simply because he was rich?  Notice that Abraham is in the good side of Hades and yet he was a rich man.  Similarly, the thieves on the cross most likely became thieves because they were poor and saw an easy way to get money.  Yet, they both had very different fates.  The point Jesus is making is not just that all rich people go to Hades and are tormented.  Rather, it is that comfort in this life does not guarantee comfort in the life to come and a life that lacks comfort is not guaranteed the same in the life to come.  It was taught and believed by many that riches were proof of God’s blessing and therefore a type of assurance that one was okay with God.  Definitely riches can be a blessing from God.  But, if they pull our heart away from Him, or have been our desires all along, then they really are a curse.  The rich man did not really put his trust in the God of Abraham.  If he had, he would have been helpful to men like Lazarus. 

We can be guilty of the same today.  Are you taking your spiritual future for granted?  Most people think that they are righteous enough to make it to heaven, even if they aren’t Christians.  Yet, even if we call Jesus our Lord and Savior, it is only helpful to us if we actually believe him and follow him.  We cannot lie, lust, and blaspheme the name of Jesus as we pursue the pleasures of this life and think that things will go good for us in the life to come.  Beware that the judgment of ourself is often selfishly motivated and can set us up for a fall. 

Only the words of Jesus and his apostles can pull us back from the brink of self-deception and destruction.  We see this at the end of the story.  The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his 5 brothers (Abraham doesn’t actually have that authority, only God).  It is interesting that he asks for this because Jesus himself would be executed later and then come back to life from the dead to preach the truth about Hades.  Abraham tells the rich man that the written Scriptures are enough to give us faith in God.  If a person won’t listen to the Words of God then they won’t respond positively even though a person comes back from the dead.  God is going to hold us all accountable for what He has revealed to the world about our coming fate.  No justifications or excuses will work when we stand before Him.  I encourage you not to label Christians as “crazy” and shut out God’s warning to you.  Otherwise the day of your death may come and go, and it will be too late to heed the warnings of Scripture.

How can I avoid this fate?

John 3:16 is the famous salvation verse which reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes on Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”  First notice that if we do not believe on Jesus we will perish.  That is because we are sinners.  Before you can embrace Jesus a person must admit that they are a sinner who is in need of being saved.  Once we realize that we are a sinner and own up to it then we believe on Jesus (i.e. put your trust in Him).  I am trusting that Jesus pays the price for my sin and that His teaching will help me to please God in this world.  He alone knows how to live this life in a way that is pleasing to God and does not surrender to Satan.  We cannot live however we please and label it as believing in Jesus.  Such a charade will not work on Judgment Day.  Lastly, we must confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior publicly before this world.  Those who do so will avoid a time of torment in Hades after this life.  They will go immediately into the presence of Christ and God the Father in heaven.  May the Lord grant us repentance from a life of taking our eternity for granted.  Listen to God’s Word today!

What is after death II audio