Perhaps one of the scariest, and most brilliant, stories ever told. In it we are introduced to a rich man who has everything this world can possibly give him. And then to a poor man who has nothing but pain and suffering. Such is the way of the world—but this world is not all that there is. And in the next life, their fortunes are turned. The poor man is at peace with God, while the rich man was in hell “in torment.” The rich man begs Abraham to intercede for him, but there is no way to cross from hell to heaven once the curtain of death has fallen. Then the rich man begs Abraham to send the poor man to warn his family of their danger. Abraham says that they have the prophets, the Bible, already. But the rich man says that they will not listen to them, but if a man came back from death, then they would listen. And Abraham replies that even if a man was raised from the dead, they would not listen.
There are three particularly extraordinary elements to this extraordinary story.
First, the rich man has no name. The poor man is called Lazarus. But the rich man, for all his wealth and success in this world, is nameless. We long for fame. We long for celebrity. We want out name “in lights.” We want “everyone to know our name.” But the reality is that in the perspective of eternity, those who do not follow Jesus are nameless. The lack of giving the rich man a name, even just a name, indicates the value shift that comes when we look at life through the lens of eternity.
Second, Abraham is the one who is asked to intervene. The rich man is genetically from Abraham’s lineage. He is, perhaps, religious, or at least knew enough to know who Abraham was, and to know to whom he was referring when he talked of Moses and the prophets. Genetic descent, intellectual familiarity with religion, is not enough to keep someone from condemnation and ruin.
Third, the final sting in the tail. “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (16:31). In other words, if someone would not listen to what the Bible was saying about Jesus, they would not listen to Jesus even if he rose again from the dead. Our willingness to believe is not based upon the quantity of the evidence, even a miracle, but the heart desire to believe in Jesus. If someone won’t listen to the Bible, they wouldn’t listen if someone rose from the dead. And this was fulfilled as many of those listening to this story at the time did not repent when Jesus did rise from the dead.
There are two takeaways from this story:
#1 Heaven and hell are real. Therefore, live our lives for eternity, and not merely for time and this world. Invest in people by investing in them the gospel and thereby invest in eternity.
#2 Riches are not enough to save us. People give all they can to have more money; and yet in the light of eternity how foolish that lifestyle will seem. Use these resources here to invest in eternity.
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