Many people will have nothing to do with God in this life – he is a fable or a fake. Today we hear the story of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, and we see that just as those who want to be separated from God in this life will have their choice honoured in the next life…
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
This is one of those stories which helps to crystallize so much of the attitudes and struggles of faith which will persist in our world. Many won’t even be convinced if someone rises from the dead. And that’s what happened. Jesus rose and still most will not believe.
It’s important to underline that this is not an issue of rich/poor and the kingdom of heaven. Don’t mistake the context of Jesus’ story as teaching that the poor go to heaven and the rich do not. It appears in Jesus’ day that more of the rich were relying on their wealth over the relationship with God. Their riches had distracted them from the Lord.
The poor, by way of contrast, were pulled closer to the Lord in their reliance on him for every crumb they might receive. And this is how we see Lazarus and the rich man depicted. The rich man was so distracted by wealth that he even forgot how to be generous with others. He was miserly, protecting his riches from the hands of anyone else.
Once in the afterlife, they were dealt with according to their faith relationship with God. The rich man didn’t have such a relationship, and could only see Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, which is the Old Testament picture of heaven. He couldn’t get there because of the great chasm between them. And that’s it, folks. After this life, the separation of those with faith and trust in God and those who choose to not believe will be great and unacrossable.
Just as those like the rich man want to be separated from God in this life, so will they be honoured for their choices in the next life.
That is why time is of the essence. We cannot choose to trust Jesus after we die. We can only do so before we die. Have you made that decision yet in your life? Today is the day.
The rich man begged for Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn his family. And this is the sad truth of such folly: God did send people to earth to warn and to teach. Moses and the prophets fulfilled the rich man’s request for generations. Most were killed by their own people.
And so, God, in his great faithfulness to a people who were unfaithful in return, sent his only Son, Jesus, to earth to live the sinless life we could not live, die the sacrificial death we could not die, and rise again to defeat death and sin for all of eternity. And God did that all so that we could believe on Jesus and spend eternity with him.
Oh rich man, you have it all in life, yet you have forfeited your soul. Before it is too late, turn to Jesus.