We are looking at the reality of Hell. There are so many people who do not believe in Hell, or who think that it’s just for a while, they can do it standing on their head. There are even some who think that Hell is some kind of big party. If you recall last week I mentioned that old Billy Joel song that said
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
Hell is very real. And it ain't no party. In Luke 16:19-26, Jesus tells us of the torments of Hell. This is the story—not the parable—of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man wound up in a place called Hades, while the beggar went to “Abraham’s bosom.” Hades is where the wicked go to. How do we know this? We figure this out when we read about the “second death.” Revelation 20:14—Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Are the saved going to be cast into the Lake of Fire? Only those who do not know Christ will be sent into eternal destruction. And we can see it in our story here.
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.’”
And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off. We can see from this that Hades and Abraham’s bosom are far away from each other. We will see how far away they are in a minute. The word “saw” means more than seeing something with your eyes. It means “to gaze at” or “to stare at” or even better “to discern.” He “discerned” Abraham. What does this tell us? We recognize each other. He saw Abraham, and knew who he was. One question people ask is, “Will we know each other in the next life?” Will we? Absolutely. 1st Thessalonians 4:13-14—13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. Why do we mourn when someone we love dies? What is Paul saying when he says we don’t mourn like those who have no hope? That we will see those we love—who know Christ—we will see them again and we will know them.
And not only will we recognize each other. We will have some knowledge of things happening on earth. Revelation 6:9-10—9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” These martyrs knew that God had not yet dealt with the ones who had killed them. Now, how much will we know about what’s going on? Who knows. But I can tell you this: The Virgin Mary, she may be in Heaven, but she does not know everything that is happening on earth. See, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that she—and the various “patron saints”—hears the prayers of the saints here on earth. But to do that what power would they need to have? Omniscience. They would have to be all-knowing. Because there are over a billion Catholics. And if even 10% of them are praying to her at the same time, is she going to hear them all? No.
he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. The term “Abraham’s bosom” refers to a feast, probably a “Seder,” a dinner that was prepared every year at Passover. At this feast were all the saints of God who lived before Christ. And at this feast, this beggar—this outcast, this unclean man that no one would dare even come near—he was seated next to the most beloved man in the history of Israel—the one they called “father” Abraham. Not only was he seated next to Abraham, but he was leaning back on him. In John 13, the night before the crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room, having a Seder. Jesus announced that one of them was going to betray Him. And in John 13:22-23—22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. 23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.
Time-out. You’ve seen that painting of “The Last Supper,” where they are sitting in chairs at a table? Wrong. They were more than likely reclining on the floor, or on couches. But they were not seated like you see in the painting. And when John says he was “leaning on Jesus’ bosom,” this does not mean that he literally had his head on Jesus’ chest. But the way they reclined, it would appear that that was the case. So, just as John was “leaning on Jesus’ bosom” with this being the most honored position, Lazarus, at that great feast where all the saints were gathered, he was in the most honored position next to “Father” Abraham. Now, the Pharisees would have been outraged. They would say that they deserved the honor of sitting next to Abraham. But again we see that our reward in Heaven is not going to have one single thing to do with how much money we had in this life. And according to verses 20-21, this man could not go into the temple, could not keep the rituals and all the external things of the law. Yet not only is this blighted beggar seated at this great banquet feast—he gets the best seat in the house!
Verse 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.’ He cried. Is it just physical anguish? Emotional, mental. Because he sees Abraham, and he sees Lazarus, and he knows who they are, and he sees that Lazarus is in the place he thinks he himself should be. And what does he ask Abraham to do? What do we know about Lazarus’ physical condition while he was alive? Lazarus was covered with sores. Dogs licked those sores. We could properly assume that he was probably a leper, although it doesn’t say specifically.
At any rate, his appearance alone was enough to make people shudder and probably run away at the mere sight of him. No one would want to be near him, and the fact that someone laid him at this rich man’s gate was a miracle in itself. This rich man was in such torment that he would let this man stick his finger—all covered with sores, and dogs licked those sores—in his mouth. Now, I’ve been thirsty a time or two. And I love y'all! But umm…I can truly say I've never been THAT thirsty. Lazarus was absolutely unclean in every way—according to the Law of Moses. The torment this rich man was going through caused him to lay aside all of his pride, humiliate himself, and ask for a touch of water from a man full of sores. Which only added to his misery.
‘for I am tormented in this flame.’ Let’s look at a couple of words here. Tormented. The word means “to suffer intense pain, to be in anguish.” I have no idea how anybody can read the word of God, say they believe it to be true, and say that Hell is not real. I have no idea. This is not “symbolic.” This is not “hyperbole” or “exaggeration.” This man, fully aware of where he was and what was happening to him, was in more extreme anguish and pain than anything anyone could ever feel on earth. And it will never end. 2nd Thessalonians calls it “everlasting destruction.” This does not mean that someone is destroyed forever. It means that the destruction of that person lasts forever.
“Flame.” Mark 9:43—“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.” The word “hell” in that verse is Gehenna, a word we’re going to look at next week. That is the eternal lake of fire. Death and Hades will be thrown into Gehenna at the end of all things. The fire shall never be quenched. The worms shall never die. Revelation 14:9-11—9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand…He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” While those who never worshipped God suffer the most agonizing pain—worse than anything we could ever imagine—the holy angels of God will be looking on, and they will be praising God the whole time, knowing that His perfect justice has been done. Matthew 25:41—“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” God made Hell for Satan and his angels. So many people think of God as this doddering old buffoon, this funny uncle whose sole purpose is to give us things. He created this eternal place of pain and fire on purpose.
Because this would be the place where His justice would be made perfect. We could spend all day just reading passages that talk about the reality of fire in Hell. Matthew 13:40, 18:8-9; Jude 1:7; Revelation 19:20, 20:14-15, 21:8. Hell is real, it is eternal, it is fiery, it is a torment that will never end, will never be lessened, and if anyone does not know the Lord Jesus Christ, that is where they will be for all eternity. I wonder—if Billy Joel really knew what Hell was like, would still rather go there?
Verse 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. Do we remember what we did in our lives? Oh yeah. That passage we read a little while ago about the martyrs underneath the altar of God. They knew how their lives ended. This rich man remembers how he had good things, how he fared sumptuously and wore purple and fine linen. …remember that in your lifetime you received your good things… Obviously, he also knew, while he was still alive, the wretched life Lazarus had. And he may also be remembering that maybe he didn’t do anything to help the poor man. You see all these “preachers” on TV saying how God wants you to be rich in this life? God does not care how much money you have in your bank account. He did not send His Son so that you could drive a Mercedes-Benz.
Jesus did not come to rescue your bank account or put a big-screen TV on your wall. He came—number one, He came to glorify God. Part of that work was to save sinners from the fate of this rich man. All God is concerned about is how much love you have for Him. Because we are all going to die. And why are we all going to die? Because of sin. Romans 5:12—just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. James says that when sin has conceived it brings forth death.
Now, questions: Will we know each other after we die? Will we remember our lives? Will we be somewhat aware of what’s going on in the world? Will we know where we are? Will we be able to go from one place to the other? Verse 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. You can't get here from there. You cannot go from one place to the other. They are separated, completely from each other. As soon as you die you either go to Paradise or you go to Hades. There is no Door #3.
If you die knowing Christ Jesus as your Lord and your Savior, you will go immediately to Paradise, and you will be in His presence. If your sins were never cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, if you die not knowing Christ as your Savior and Lord, or if you said a little prayer and asked Jesus in your heart, but you were never changed, you think you're OK because you said that little prayer when you were a kid—then you will meet this rich man when you die.
Hades is the place where the souls of the lost go. But this is only temporary. Because we’re going to see next week that the eternal fate that awaits them is actually far worse. At the final resurrection, the first thing that will happen is all the saved will be brought before the Judgment Seat of Christ, given their “Well done thou good and faithful servant” and ushered into Heaven. Then there will be the resurrection of the wicked, they will be brought before the Great White Throne, judged according to their works, and cast into the lake of fire, the place Jesus referred to as “Gehenna.” It comes from the Hebrew ge-Hinnom, which means “Valley of Hinnom.” When we see this term used, it means the eternal lake of fire, the final destination for those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. For those who heard Him and rejected Him, and those who never heard of Him. We will look at the Great White Throne next week.
At the beginning today I mentioned one of the most blasphemous songs of all time. Not counting Marilyn Manson, that’s too obvious. A song that talked about Hell being a party. But probably the most blasphemous song of all time was sung by a man that many people worship. A song that says,
Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
An anthem for humanists, Communists, atheists, and all those who despise God and His Christ. It would be nice to think there’s no Hell. In fact, Satan would really like for you to think there’s no Hell. And that “all roads lead to Heaven.” He would love for you to buy into the “Gospel According to Oprah,” where God is this laid-back, lovey-dovey, “Just do whatever you want” kind of God. Non-judgmental. That’s not God. He judges, He condemns, He declares what is right and wrong. His Son did not die on the Cross for being a “good, moral teacher and role model.” He died because we are dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking sinners who have no right to expect God’s grace and forgiveness. There’s a Heaven above us. But there’s also a Hell below. And it ain't no party.