If you were to ask 100 people what they think about Hell what kind of answers would you get? Party. They might say “Yeah, all my buddies will be there. We’ll have a few beers, fire up a couple fat ones. It’ll be alright!” Of course, some people think that there really isn't a Hell at all. Or if there is, it’s just for a few thousand years, you have your sins purged away and you go on into glory. Billy Joel did a song back in the 70’s called “Only the Good Die Young.” This song rates about a 9.9 on the blaspheme-o-meter. If for no other reason than this verse:
They say there’s a Heaven for those who wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain't
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun
Only the good die young
Well, Billy, there is a Hell, and it ain't fun. All the sinners are there—but they ain't laughin’! They are in agonizing torment. They are in chains of darkness. They are in blistering heat. The smoke of their torment arises forever and ever. We are going to see today how the world’s ideas about Hell are wrong. A while back, ABC News did a special on Hell. They talked to several experts on Hell. One was Marilyn Manson. One was a fellow who died and had a vision that he was in Hell. One was Carlton Pearson, one of Oral Roberts’ prize pupils (which ought to tell you something right there) who now denies that hell even exists. Trying to learn about Hell from these people is like getting medical advice from watching House. Like trying to learn rocket science from Paris Hilton.
Revelation 21:7-8 says, 7 “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” The subject of Hell is one that a lot of churches don’t want to talk about these days because it might make people uncomfortable. This ain't one of those churches. And I'll tell you why. Because I would rather have you feel uncomfortable about Hell now, and feel bad about your sins now—rather than feel really bad about your sins for all eternity. There are many people who say that “All roads lead to God.” That if we are just sincere enough about what we believe, and if we’re good enough, we’ll all eventually make it into Heaven. Well, they're right about one thing--if we are good enough, we will make it to Heaven. But what's the problem with that thinking? Ain't none of us good enough.
And while there are people who have some very wrong ideas about Hell, there are just as many who believe that Hell does not exist. Hell is very real. It is not some figurative story that Jesus told. It is not symbolic. It is not just something somebody came up with to scare us. Hell—and the suffering people go through for all eternity there—is as real as the chair you are sitting in. Why don’t people want to believe it’s real? So they can go on living their lives however they want to and not have to worry about going there. They comfort themselves with this idea that if they just don’t believe it that it won’t be true. Well, I don’t want to believe the Red Sox won the World Series, but they've still got the rings, don't they? These people who are now comforting themselves with this belief that Hell does not exist are going to be in for a rude awakening when they find out that they're going to spend eternity there. So, what does the Bible have to say about Judgment and Hell? Today we’re going to look at what happens to someone when they die not knowing Christ as their Lord and Savior. A couple weeks from now we’re going to look at what’s called the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20.
So, what happens to someone when they die if they do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior? Simple answer: they wind up in Hell. But to understand it better, we need to examine some words we find in the Bible that relate to Hell. First, there is the word Sheol. This is the Hebrew word for “the common grave.” It’s where everybody goes. But Sheol—the common grave—is divided into two regions. On one side is what’s called Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom. This is where those who knew Christ will go. Then over here you have a place called Hades. This is where those people who did not call Jesus “Lord” will wind up. And in between there is a huge canyon. You’ve seen pictures of the Grand Canyon. Imagine that but with no bottom to it. You can not go from one side to the other, but you can see what is happening on the other side. Join me please in turning to Luke 16:19.
Before we begin, let me just point out a couple things. The Lazarus in this story is not the Lazarus that Jesus raised from the tomb in John 11. This is a different Lazarus. Also, some people will try to say that this is a parable—that this was not something that actually happened, that Jesus was just telling a story to make an illustration. In fact, if you have a NKJV, this section may have a heading that says, “Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.” Ignore that. It’s not a parable. This is not a parable. Number 1, whenever Jesus told a parable, we find the words, “And Jesus told them a parable…” There was always some indication that what Jesus was saying was not a true story. Also, Jesus never used anybody’s name in His parables.
What we are about to read is an event that actually happened, these were actually real people in a real place. Luke 16:19-26—19 “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.’”
Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that the people who do not know Christ will just be **POOF** wiped out, as if they never existed. Catholics will tell you that if anybody goes through Purgatory for a couple thousand years, they will eventually get to Heaven. Mormons will tell you there is no Hell. They have two different concepts of punishment. First, “outer darkness.” This is for murderers, adulterers, and apostates. Then, you have “spirit prison” for those who never heard the MORMON gospel. But let’s take a look at what we see here.
In verse 19, it simply says the one man was rich. But notice something it does not say, and this did not dawn on me until I was reading what some others have said about this passage. It does not say that this was an evil man. Being rich does not necessarily make one evil. So this rich man may have been a virtuous man. But just because somebody’s a “good person” does not mean they are saved. Now, look at verse 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." What does this tell us? We’re all going to die. Rich, poor, it don’t matter. Ecclesiastes 2:16—How does the wise man die? Same as the fool. All the wisdom and all the knowledge and all the money in the world will not buy us another breath. Romans 5:12—Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. In fact, out of every one hundred people who are born in this country, how many of them are going to die? A hundred.
To illustrate this point, Luke records a story Jesus told a parable about a certain rich man. Luke 12:16-20—16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” When are we going to die? At what time, on what day, are you going to die? We don’t know when it’s going to happen. But we do know one thing—it will happen. There are a lot of people going through life thinking they're OK. Thinking “I’m young. I’m strong. I’m healthy. I’m going to live until I’m 100.” They’ve got their future mapped out, they’ve got all their ducks in a row. They’ll think about all that Jesus stuff later. Right now, they’ve got a life to live. Then somebody gets on the Interstate going the wrong way. Or some hidden medical condition they had finally catches up to them. Or, they just up and have a heart attack, or stroke. Job 21:23-26—23 One dies in his full strength, being wholly at ease and secure; 24 his pails are full of milk, and the marrow of his bones is moist. 25 Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure. 26 They [both] lie down…in the dust, and worms cover them.
"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." In torment in Hades. What does this tell us? He’s in pain. He is suffering. He is awake and conscious of the condition he is in. There are many people who think that when you die your soul just goes to sleep, and you don’t feel anything. This is just one of the heresies that the Jehovah's Witnesses teach. This man was in torment. He was not sleeping, he was not unconscious. See, this is one of the ways Satan likes to steer people astray. Because if there is no Hell, then what do we have to worry about? 1st Corinthians 15:32—If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
In the gospels, we read about the Sadducees. They did not believe in a resurrection. In Matthew 22:23-28 they posed a riddle to Him, about a woman who was widowed from her first husband, then married his brother, he died, and so on “even to the seventh brother.” They asked Him, “Whose wife will she be in Heaven?” But He turned the tables on them. Not only did He correct their faulty beliefs by saying we won’t be married in the resurrection, He proved to them from the Scriptures that there will be a resurrection because that was the whole point of the riddle—that there was no resurrection. Matthew 22:29-32—29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” We are all guaranteed an eternal existence. There will be a resurrection—two, actually, one for the saints to life, one for the lost to death.
Even the apostle Paul had to correct the people in Corinth who thought that once you die, that was it. 1st Corinthians 15, the “Resurrection Chapter,” was written specifically because the people had been led to believe there would be no resurrection. 1st Corinthians 15:12—12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. Our preaching is vain, your faith is futile, and we are of all men the most pitiable. But then down in verse 20 he says, BUT Christ IS risen from the dead.
And not only is Christ risen from the dead, but Paul says that because Christ rose, we will rise also. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits were a kind of guarantee of the full harvest. In the time of the Old Testament, farmers would plant a corner of their field, then go back a week or two later and plant the rest. The part that was planted first would come up first and be harvested first, and this was given as an offering to the priests of the temple. This was a picture of the resurrection. On the day Christ died, after He “gave up the ghost and died,” Matthew 27:52-53 says 52 the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. Christ rising from the dead along with the ones who came out of their tombs was the “Firstfruit” of the resurrection.
But not only is there a resurrection to life for those who belong to Christ, there is also a resurrection to death for those who do not believe. Revelation 20:6—Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. There will be a second death for those who do not know Christ. This will happen at the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of Revelation 20, and we’ll look at that in a couple weeks.
So, getting back to our rich man in Luke 16, the rich man is in torment in Hades. We saw earlier that Sheol is the place where everybody goes when they die. It is called the “common grave” or simply “the grave.” When the writers of the Old Testament wanted to talk about where the wicked went, they would use this word “Sheol.” But they would always modify it somehow, and you could tell by the context that they were talking about that part of Sheol where the wicked went, which is called “Hades” in the New Testament. But before we get to Hades, let me just clear something up. There are many people who do not want to believe that a literal, fiery Hell exists. They like to say “I just don’t believe God would send someone to an eternal Hell.” Well, that’s their problem. Because He does.
Some of these people will say, “The Jewish people didn’t believe in that kind of place.” The Sadducees didn’t. But I guarantee you Jesus did. You could look at the people of Israel during different periods of their history and find that many times they forgot the God who brought them out of Egypt. And you could probably find that the belief in Hell had been lost from time to time. That doesn’t mean anything. The reality is that Hell is a very real concept, and you can find it in one of the first books of the Bible. Deuteronomy 32:22—“For a fire is kindled in My anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell; it shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” The lowest Hell. What does that say? And we will see in a couple weeks that there are levels of torment in Hell, or the Lake of Fire, Gehenna. Those who do not hear the truth will be judged less harshly than those who deny the truth when they hear it. The idea of a place where the dead go to after they die is all throughout even the Old Testament.