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Sunday, October 15, 2017

posted Oct 15, 2017, 6:08 PM by Site Administrator

 

THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS

 

Luke 16:19-31

Key Verse 16:31

 

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."

 

First, "A rich man and Lazarus" (19-21). Look at verses 19 through 21. Here, we see two people – a rich man and Lazarus. The rich man was dressed in purple and fine linen. The color, "purple" shows his royal origin, and "fine linen" shows his wealth. His birth origin was great and he was rich. From the beginning of his life, he was well educated, and enjoyed all kinds of good things in the world. Probably, he had never wore the same socks twice. He had his own doctor who checked up his health every month regularly; he only ate healthy organic food. He had his own air plane. He lived in luxury and in health throughout his life. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus. He wore rags, and ate whatever was available. His body was covered with sores because of bad hygiene and malnutrition. He was even happy to dig out the trash can of the rich man’s house, and ate what was there. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. Because he was so poor, he had no concern about hygiene, or health problem at all. If he could secure two meals, and a place to sleep during night on the street, he was happy. 

 

Why does Jesus talk about these two people? In the previous passage, we learned that we must be shrewd managers who use worldly wealth to gain friends for ourselves, so that when it is gone, we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. There are two groups of people – those who use worldly wealth for their own selfish purpose here and now; and those who use their worldly wealth to gain friends, pouring out their time and energy to find what is lost, and thereby, prepare their eternal dwellings successfully. Here, the rich man is the best case of all those who want to establish their life here on earth, and Lazarus is the worst case of those who use their worldly wealth to gain friends to prepare their eternal dwellings. Jesus’ point is clear. Through this passage, through the rich man, Jesus is saying, "Let’s say, you fulfill your dream in that way."You become a billionaire at the age of 30, and your internet company is one of the fastest growing businesses in the world. You enjoy luxury, convenience and healthy food throughout your life. But what is the end result of such life? It is eternal torment in hell! Then, what benefit is there for you even if you gain the whole world? So many people want to be successful in the world; they want to first build their career, then, success in making money, and fame and honor in the world. Surely, it is not easy to be successful in the world – there is only little possibility of success. And for that little possibility, many people run after what the world offers – fame, success, money and luxury; in that way, they use their worldly wealth for themselves in this world, instead of seeking their eternal dwellings. But even if you fulfill your dream, even if you become successful and enjoy all luxury you have desired like this rich man, what good is there for you if you end up in torment in hell? We must remember that Jesus was talking to his disciples. The rich man in the passage is the dream case all peoples on earth desire. But even the best and most desirable case is really terrible.

 

On the contrary, Lazarus, the beggar is the worst case of those who use their worldly wealth for God's kingdom work as Jesus' disciples, instead of pursuing security or success in the world. Sometimes, people may be afraid to live as the disciples, saying, "If I do not work for myself, then, who will?" "Without building my career, I will be ruined." So, they are hesitant to live for God. They are reluctant to use their worldly wealth to gain friends, to find the lost sheep, because of the fear of losing too much in the world. But let’s say, you lose all only because you have poured out your time and energy, your talent and future in finding sheep. The worst scenario possible, let’s talk about. Maybe, you fail to build your career, and as a result, you become poor. And really an extreme case, you become a beggar – I am sure, no servant of God becomes a beggar, but we are talking about just a really extreme case, the worst scenario ever possible even in your wildest imagination. You become a beggar, and no food to eat, so you live a miserable life. Then, after about 30 or 40 years, you die. Is that all? No! After that, you live in comfort with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob eternally. Your hard work will be paid off well. Using your worldly wealth to gain friends is the best way you can use your life for yourself. That will be your greatest and wisest investment. Living as shepherds and shepherdesses to find the lost and wounded sheep and take care of them is the surest way to secure your eternal dwellings. 

From time to time, Satan comes and plants doubt in our heart about the life of disciples, saying, "See how successfully your peers are building their career! You will be ruined!" Sometimes, we are afraid thinking, "What if? What if?" But what can really happen to us? What terrible thing can happen to our life as Jesus' disciples? Maybe, at worst, we would not be able to live in a mansion in Beverly Hills, but in one bedroom apartment in Gardena! At worst, we would not be able to enjoy some healthy sushi at Japanese restaurant all the time, but only occasionally. Maybe, we have to eat 99 cents hamburger all the time. At worst, we would not be able to drive fancy cars like Mercedes Benz, but only used Honda Civic. But the end result will be indeed glorious – having been escorted to the kingdom of God, and seeing all glorious servants of God, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and we can only imagine the glory we will enjoy when we see Jesus our Lord face to face. We can only imagine what it will be like when we spend eternity with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We can only imagine what it will be like when we reign together with Jesus. When we live for God, even if we lose everything in the world, even our life, still we enjoy this hope of complete victory.  

 

Second, "Father Abraham, have pity on me" (22-26). Look at verse 22. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.

 

"The time came,…" People in the world do not want to hear this expression, "The time came,…" They want to avoid this time as long as possible. They are so concerned about healthy food or routine check up or exercise. They want to find really good medicine. But no matter how hard they try, death always finds them, and when the time comes, they have to leave everything behind and go to a place they have never known. Kings and queens who have enjoyed power have to leave too. Those who have enjoyed wealth also have no other choice – their wealth cannot postpone this time. 

 

While the rich man was enjoying his wealth, he looked very confident, laughing loudly, but when the time came, he became silent and was laid in a coffin. Lazarus died first maybe, due to malnutrition or eating unhealthy food all the time, and probably, without any proper funeral service, his body was thrown into a pit. On the contrary, the rich man’s funeral service was great, and his tomb was decorated greatly. It seemed that Lazarus was a loser, and the rich man was a conqueror. But that’s not true. When Lazarus died, there were angels waiting for him; in God's eyes, Lazarus' life that was fully dedicated to serving God's kingdom work had such value that God sent his angels to escort him personally; and when Lazarus finally died, they took him to Abraham's side, a place of comfort. He saw Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whom he had respected so highly. How happy he must have been to see them in comfort! There, Lazarus forgot about all his sorrows, pains and hunger. He was comforted. On the contrary, the rich man's life did not carry any value in God's eyes; so when he died, there was no one waiting for him; instead, he was sent to hell and there, he was tormented in fire! There, he must have seen many others – the Emperor Nero, Hitler, and many more bad people. 

 

Surely, life in this world is not all there is, but rather, it is just a transitional moment before we enter our eternal home in heaven. That’s why the Bible describes our life as a journey, and us as "strangers" and "aliens," in this world. We are pilgrims, journeying through this world to go to our eternal home, the kingdom of heaven. And everyone will be judged and rewarded according to what he or she has done during life here on earth. Romans 2:6-8 reads: "6God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." Whether you like it or not, the time is coming when you cannot work any longer. As long as we breathe, as long as we have a chance, we must do the work of him who sent us into this world and save souls. (Jn 9:4)

 

Look at verses 23 and 24. In hell, where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 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." Many people think of hell "a cool place"to talk about and stay. So, they like to wear black clothes as the symbol of death, and on their clothes are imprinted demons and skulls and even hellfire. But they do not know that the best thing they can hope for in hell, the best favor they can expect in hell is just someone who dips the tip of his finger into water and cools their tongue, not even a cup of water, but even that favor cannot be granted. Many people commit suicide because the burdens and guilty conscience are too heavy for them to bear, or simply because they are angry. They think that by killing themselves, they can avoid the burdens and pains. But that’s not true. After death, they will be in real pain and agony. Compared to the pains and agony they face in hell, the burdens of this life is nothing. What was Abraham’s response? Look at verses 25 and 26. Let’s read these verses together:

 

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. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

 

Abraham refused to do so, because of two reasons: The first reason was that the rich man in his lifetime had had good things, while Lazarus had had bad things, but then, Lazarus was comforted and he was in agony; in Abraham's eyes, it was just fair, and he had no intention to change it. The rich man called him, "Father Abraham," and Abraham called him, "Son," recognizing him as his great, great, great, great, great grandson; yet, he was not humanistic or emotional; instead, he was very truthful, saying no to him. The second reason was that it was impossible for anyone to cross over from one side to the other. The gap between hell and heaven is too great that no one can cross over – it is permanently fixed. Once you are placed in one place, there is no second chance; you are eternally set thereAnd it is totally up to how you live here on earth that your eternal destiny will be decided. Such a serious and important trial is waiting for each person, and no one, no Christian should take it casually or assume anything; instead, each of us must prepare ourselves thoroughly so that we can get a favorable judgment. How? Jesus gave us all information about it, saying, "Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."  

 

Third, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,…" (27-31). Look at verses 27 and 28. Now the rich man understood what was really important and how people should really live their life - people must live their life in the way that can secure their eternal destiny in heaven - people must use worldly wealth to gain friends for themselves so that they can secure their eternal dwellings. He was concerned about his brothers on the other side of the world. He knew how they were living, exactly in the same way he used to liveHe was already in hell, and nothing could be done for him. But there was still hope for his brothers. So, he begged Abraham to help them, saying, "Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment."

 

Yet, Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them." Here, Moses and the Prophets refer to the Old Testament. What Abraham means that in the Old Testament, there is the way of salvation, and if they listen to the Old Testament, they will have salvation. That is Abraham's understanding. By the way, who was talking? Jesus was! That is Jesus' perspective. They were the Jews; they believed in God, in the Bible, and in God's creation. Yet, when will they be saved? When they listened to the Old Testament! Here, we see that listening to the Old Testament is different than just saying, "I believe in God," or going to worship service regularly; it's different than believing God's creation, and despising those evolutionists; it's different than even doing many religious things. Rather, it means to accept its teachings and really live by them; it means to live in the way the Bible shows - this requires then, naturally, practical struggles of denying our own desires and dreams and obeying God's will and purpose. They were God-believing people; if they were real to God, then they would struggle to do what God wanted them to do in their practical life - that's the meaning of listening to the Old Testament. This is the way of salvation for people both in the Old Testament period and in the New Testament period. That's what God has shown us through Luke's gospel for the past several weeks. 

 

In the book of Exodus, we see God giving Moses certain instructions about how to prepare the garments for the high priest. In making the robe of the ephod for the high priest, God said, "Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe." (Exo 28:31-35) The pomegranate looks plain, but when we peel the skin, it is filled with small seeds inside, and it is sweet and sour. These pomegranates are like the Old Testament that is filled with the secrets of God’s plan and God’s love for the world, but hidden in the form of laws, regulations and prophecies. Sometimes, God’s laws and regulations seem very challenging and condemning like sour pomegranate, but when we obey and find God’s deep truth and love in them, God’s laws become so sweet to us. Then, we can understand what the psalmists said – "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Ps 119:103) "Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." (Ps 119:97) And the gold bells are like the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings joyful sound to all who have been suffering. Everyone can hear this bell sound and their hearts are glad with it. How happy and blessed we are that now we not only have Moses and the Prophets, but also the gold bells of the New Testament that explain the things of the Old Testament very clearly. Surely, we are living in the blessed era. In Abraham’s eyes, the Old Testament is enough for people to be saved. How much more thankful we must be that God has given us the New Testament also. Now with these two testaments, the way of salvation is utmost clear to everyone - use your worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you may be welcomed into your eternal dwellings in heaven. Don't live for yourselves; don't live to fulfill your own dreams and desires in the world; don't be like this rich man. Instead, live for God by pouring out everything you have for God's kingdom purpose so that you can secure your eternal dwellings in heaven very well. Those who reject God’s salvation even with these two testaments, the Old Testament and the New Testament, the pomegranates and the gold bells, reject all God's efforts for them; they can have no excuse at all when they are thrown into hell.

 

Look at verses 30 and 31. At Abraham’s refusal, the rich man said to him, "No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." He thought that if someone from the dead went to them and warn them about hell, they would be really alarmed and listen. He thought that it would be different than just a human servant telling them about heaven and hell; they would be really alarmed and change their way of life. This is many people's idea. But Abraham still refused his idea and said, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." This was Abraham's view; this is how God sees and understands. It's not the matter of who preaches the gospel to them (an angel from heaven, or someone from the dead, or Billy Graham or a nameless servant), but of what they really desire. Those who seek the truth, those who have a real heart's desire for God listen to the Bible no matter who preaches to them, but those who do not seek the truth eventually refuse to listen to the Bible no matter who preaches. Jesus says in John 18, "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." That's why even if several thousand people came to him and went away, he did not try to hold them back; instead, he kept looking for the lost sheep who would listen to him, saying, "Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me." (Jn 6:45)

 

In Jesus’ eyes, the way for people to be saved is to listen to the word of God. People will not be convinced even if they see great miracles. Even if God’s Son came and proved himself as the Son of God with his words and miracles, still people did not believe. Even if angels come and preach, still they will not be convinced. When we were in agony, when we looked for God’s help, how did God help us? He sent us his servants who taught us the word of God and helped us to open our hearts and accept God’s word. The word of God is the best and final means God offered for us to have salvation; those who respond to God's word through repentance and living for God find salvation - they are the ones who listen to the Bible, to God. For this, we diligently look for sheep and teach them the word of God.

 

One Word:Listen To The Word Of God And You Will Be Comforted

 

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