Luke 16:19-31 is the background scripture.
As kids many of us would create imaginary, fantasy worlds. We thought we could do anything. Today we see people living in a spiritual fantasy world. Some don’t believe hell is real. The liberal churches deny it. It’s a fantasy world where they’ve made God who they want him to be and that’s what they believe. Our godless culture doesn’t believe in hell, yet scripture claims it to be a real place 52 times in the New Testament; it’s a literal fire and people who are there are in torments.
I don’t believe this story in Luke is a parable. Jesus used names; it’s possible that the crowd that day knew exactly who he was talking about. Even if it is a parable, remember what a parable is. They illustrate a deeper spiritual truth. So in this story hell would be a literal truth. It’s about the living dead–those who die but are still yet alive. The rich man’s existence wasn’t over.
What do we see? He still had his senses. He could see, hear, feel pain and was thirsty. Verse 24 says And 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. It was a place of emotion; he cried out. The Bible tells us there is wailing and gnashing of teeth in hell. It was a place of no mercy. The mercy of God does not reach hell. God never intended for men to go there. It was created for the devil and his angels, but it is being expanded day by day for those who follow the devil. It was a place of torment, a never-ending place of fire and darkness. Pain from fire is horrendous. People jumped from the towers seeing their death as the only way to get out of the fire. In hell, there is no place to jump. There is no escape.
Verse 25 says But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. It was a place of memory. Abraham said REMEMBER. If a person goes to hell, they will remember every opportunity they had to be saved. Their refusal will haunt them through eternity.
Verse 26 says And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. It was a place of separation. Once there, you cannot be prayed out. You can’t get out. It’s done. In these few verses we also see it is a place of unfulfilled desires. The rich man wanted only a drop of water to cool his tongue. He still wanted Lazarus–someone–to serve him. It didn’t happen.
Verse 27 says Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house. Reality sets in. He thought of his brothers. He didn’t want them to come to this awful place. But he found it’s a place of continual denial. He went so far as to say Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. He was denied. If his brothers wouldn’t hear the word and believe, they’d not believe if one came from the dead. It’s not our job to convince people. It’s our job to tell. The Lord’s work is to convince. God is good at evangelism. He just needs a light through us. If we do something, God has something to bless.
So hell is real. Men are lost. This scripture shows us that the rich man lost his financial security. He lost his wish for mercy. He lost his anticipation of relief. He lost his desire for rescue. The gulf was too large. He lost everything. Men are in danger of going there. The scripture is clear. We have all sinned. Our righteousness is filthy rags in God’s sight. Real men and women go to hell. To go there you have to do nothing. The Bible says we’re condemned already. Just continue to do nothing about it, and you’ll go to hell.
Who cares? God cares. This story proves it. God initiated it all. He came to Adam after he hid because he had sinned. He seeks men who are lost. The Bible said that God through Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost. He cares where people will spend eternity. He went to great lengths to stop people from going to hell. Only an infinite God could pay an infinite sin debt. Jesus died on the cross to pay that debt. I care. Your pastor cares. That’s why we do this. We didn’t sign up for what we can get but what we can give. We care about where people will spend eternity. We care because God does. Who else cares? Those who are awakened to the spiritual reality. It sunk in with this rich man. He became concerned about others. He wanted a soul winner to warn his family.
Who is our neighbor? Those we come in contact with. When we fall under this reality, we get burdened to do something. Start being the light. Be the witness. The rich man wanted effective repentance for his brothers so they could avoid hell. Open your heart to the reality of hell. Someone has to care.