11/4/18 “Glimpse Into Eternity”

Well, it’s good to be here at Westside. I love this place. I’m thankful to God that He’s connected us here, and I want to first of all say thank you to my good friend Pastor Shane for the opportunity. I know his heart is to be here, and if you are visiting today, please come back to hear Pastor Shane. He’s a man with God all over him. And what you’re seeing around here of course started in his heart. I’ve learned just in my short time of ministry that when God wants to do a work, He uses people, regular people, but He uses people who have a heart for Him. So what we are enjoying here this morning is because God put it on the heart of a man to come, and to start a church, and do, quite frankly, from experience, one of the hardest things you can possibly do. There is so much opposition, spiritual opposition, when you set out to do a work for God.

So he’s away, but you guys be praying for him. He’ll be back next week, and I know you’ll want to be in your place. I just want to thank you guys. I thanked the earlier service for this as well, but just for how you guys have welcomed us and have loved on us and have been so kind to myself, my wife, and our four kids. You guys didn’t know this, but we were going through a rough season right when God brought Pastor Shane to my life, and he’s been a mentor-friend, and he’s brought us to meet you, of course, and have opportunity to speak a few times. You guys have just been a blessing and encouragement to myself and my wife and our family. So I just want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts—just continue to be a church. You all understand that in Christ we’re a family. We’re family, and I feel welcome and at home right here with you guys today.

Take your Bibles with me to Luke 16. Luke 16, this is where I feel the Lord has led us to preach from this morning. Luke 16:19–31. We’re going to get a glimpse into eternity from Luke 16. And of course, we are in the verses where Jesus is speaking, and because He is eternal God, He has insight that you and I wouldn’t have. Here He is talking to His followers, and there are others in the audience who are not His followers, and He kind of pulls back the curtains on eternity. Jesus was a masterful teacher and preacher, and one of the best methods of teaching is through stories, or in the Scripture we call them parables. Now I don’t believe this to just be like other parables. I believe this is an actual account, because there are names and specifics given, and we don’t find that in the other parables. So we get a glimpse into eternity. Jesus, of course, being our master Teacher, our Lord and Savior, eternal God, He gives us insight, and we’re going to learn from this story, a real account, that Jesus gives.

So if you’re there in Luke 16:19 this morning, say, “Amen.” All right. The Bible says:

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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. 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. 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. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

Let’s pray one more time, and then we’ll get into the message. Father, I pray You will speak through me now, over the next few moments. I pray You will empty me of self, sin, and anything that would hinder Your Spirit from working. Lord, I pray that Your eternal Word would do the work that only it could do. You’ve promised that it will never return void, and I pray over the next few moments that You would accomplish that which You will. Lord, I pray above all else that You’re glorified, and then I pray secondly, Lord, that if there be anyone here without Christ as their Savior that today will be the day that they make their most important decision to trust You. Lord, we love You. It’s in Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

As we read this account in Luke’s Gospel, we get a glimpse into two lives. The lives could not be more different. We get a glimpse into the life of a man who’s unnamed, but he is described as a rich man. And of course, Jesus is the one speaking, so we can take Him for His word. In the Bible it says, in verse 19, that “there was a certain rich man which was clothed in purple and fine linen.” You see here that this man was a man of affluence. The Bible is very clear that he wore purple. This was a sign of royalty almost. This was a sign of affluence. For someone to wear purple in that age, it was a status symbol because purple clothing was so expensive to produce. The purple clothing of that day was produced by the dye from a root of a particular plant that was very hard to extract, and so this man was a rich man to a high level.  And the Bible says that every day he wore these clothes that were purple and fine linen. And the Bible says, “He fared sumptuously every day.” So he had the best of the best every day. He ate the best food. (I told the early service that this man went to In-N-Out every day. I know some people argue Five Guys is as good as In-N-Out, but we’ll have an altar call after service, after you get right with God. In-N-Out has Bible verses on their—you know what I’m saying; it’s God’s food.)

Well, this man lived a life that you and I would say he has “made it.” He’s living his best life, as they say. He lived a life of luxury. On the contrast, there’s Lazarus. The Bible describes him as a beggar, a man who was outside of the gate of the rich man’s house, and he would beg, and he would desire to eat the crumbs that would fall from the rich man’s table. Not only was Lazarus without means but he also had health issues. The Bible says that he had sores all over his body and that the dogs would come and lick him and he was so weak he couldn’t even fight off these dogs. You see, dogs in this day were not romanticized like you and I romanticize dogs today in our culture, Western civilization. Dogs in that civilization would have been bottom feeders. They would’ve eaten out of trash cans and the dirtiest of things and any type of thing that died on the side of the street. So you would not want this dog coming and licking you, but Lazarus was so weak, he couldn’t fight the dogs off him—talk about a lifestyle that none of us in here would want—while the rich man lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

For last few months I worked in Beverly Hills, and I’ve gotten a glimpse of that lifestyle. All day long I’m dealing with people with money, that it’s just special on a different level. I was working the other day, and a gentleman came in, and I was helping him rent a vehicle, and he put down a card—it was an American Express—and when he put it on the counter, it kind of clanged like it was metal. I was like, that’s interesting. And it was black. I helped him, and we went through the process—he rented a Range Rover for an entire month, and the bill on that was several thousand dollars. He left, and my coworker said, “Do you know what kind of card that was that he had?” And I said, “It was an AMEX; I saw that.” And he said, “No, that’s a Black Card,” and a person who would have that card is required by American Express to spend $300,000 per year to have it, on that card alone. I was like, “Wow, good night.” You know, it’s a different level of affluence in the world. Maybe some of you come from that world, I don’t know. But I don’t.

So this rich man lived the life that the world would say is the life that would want. So we see the contrast in lives, but I want you to see, secondly, the contrast in death. The Bible says in verse 22: “And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.” So we see first of all that Lazarus passes away first. And, of course, Lazarus lived a life where he wouldn’t have gotten all his needs met on a daily basis, so his health was bad and probably caused him to go into eternity sooner than the rich man, who lived a life of luxury. The funny thing about Lazarus is his name means “the one whom God has helped.” Even though he lived a rough life, Lazarus at some point had trusted Christ. He had believed on God and the Word of God, and he had placed his faith in Him. So the Bible says that the angels took him away; they carried him into Abraham’s bosom.

Now let me just explain that term, Abraham’s bosom. See, this was in the old covenant. This is the Old Testament Jesus is speaking about here, and so in that age, when someone would pass away, they would go to what’s known as paradise, or Abraham’s bosom. They wouldn’t go straight up to heaven like you and I who are in Christ now, because Christ had not yet provided the sacrifice necessary for atonement, so that those who are absent from the body here would be present with the Lord. So the Bible speaks about this place, and if you remember when Jesus was on the cross, there were two thieves who were also being crucified, and one believed and one didn’t, and the one who believed, Jesus turned to him and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” and this is what He was speaking about—Abraham’s bosom. It was a temporary holding place where those who were saved, the Old Testament believers, the Old Testament saints, they went there as an in-between place. Now we don’t find anything in the Bible that speaks of purgatory or anything like that, but we do find Abraham’s bosom. If you read in Ephesians, the Bible talks about during the three days that Christ was in the grave, He did not go to hell; He went to Abraham’s bosom. The Bible says that “He led captivity captive,” and so He went down, and He met Lazarus, and He met Abraham, and He came to them and said, “Hey guys, see the scars. See, I’ve completed the sacrifice that had been prophesied from eternity past. Now come along with me. Let’s go to heaven, a place that’s being prepared for you.” So, study your Bible. It’s so important that we understand these important theological truths.

So we see Lazarus dies and is carried away by the angels into paradise, but we see, secondly, a contrast. The rich man dies. The Bible says he was buried. Now we don’t hear about a burial for Lazarus, because he didn’t have any money. He was probably just thrown into the city dump. But the rich man had prepared for his burial. He had a funeral. He was probably honored and had a lot of friends, but he died not prepared for eternity, for the Bible says that when he opened his eyes he was in hell; he was “in torments.” What a nightmare. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” Here was a man who lived a life of luxury. He prepared for everything, even his burial plot, but he didn’t prepare for eternity. Maybe he was too busy with that AMEX card. Maybe he was too busy with living the high life. I don’t know what caused this man to not think about eternity. I’m sure he had loved ones that passed away ahead of him, and I’m sure he had attended a few funerals himself.

I find it very telling and also familiar with our culture today how we live like we’re going to live here forever, and we all know that isn’t the case, but we want to push it out of our thoughts. The truth of the matter is we all have a time when we will pass away. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die”—we have an appointment with death—but the Bible says, “But after this the judgment.” You see the world will put a period after die. They put a finality after the physical death, but the Bible says that there is life after death, there is eternity. The Bible puts a comma there. (Now don’t talk to me after the service—I know that the punctuation in the Bible is not inspired, okay? But it just sounds goods. I’m just messing.)

But the truth of the matter is this life is just a vapor: here for a moment, gone the next. Eternity is eternity. It’s something that we should be mindful of. Jesus, when He was on earth, spent more time talking about eternity in heaven and hell than anything, because He knew of it, because He saw it, because He created it, and He knew that was the most important thing that we could ponder. I want you to ponder this. Here was a man who had it all, but he didn’t have the main thing: a relationship with God. Maybe you’re here today, and maybe you’re not the rich man, but you live pretty comfortably. You don’t have to worry about much.

You know, most of us in this room would be in the top 3 percentile in the world. If you drove here in a car this morning, if you had breakfast, if you have shoes to wear, clothes, multiple clothing. Some days, our biggest dilemma is which shoes we’re going to wear. We have Western-world, first-world problems. So if we’re here today, we can all put our names next to this rich man’s. But if you’re here today, and you’re like that rich man, and you’re not certain that if you were to die today that you will spend eternity in heaven, I will say that you should consider that truth that we have a day when we will go into eternity. And in a moment, we’ll show you how you can get that settled once and for all.

So we see contrasting lives. We see the life of Lazarus was one of suffering and poverty, and we see the life of the rich man was one of pleasures and affluence. We see contrast in death. Lazarus dies, but he’s carried into paradise; he’s now comforted. The rich man dies and is buried, and then he wakes up in torments. I want you to see contrast in eternity. The rich man is in pain. I want to you to see it.  The Bible says, verse 23, “And in hell.” You know, sometimes I think we don’t think about, as believers, even though we don’t have to fear that in Christ, sometimes I think that we don’t ponder the truth of the reality that there are people we know right now, if they were to die, they will go to hell. And what’s even scarier to me, in my life sometimes, and I’m sure you can echo this as well, is that there’s no emotion, there are no tears; there’s a lack of concern.

The rich man is in hell, and he’s not in hell partying like the songs say. He’s not in hell having fun with his friends. He’s not in hell extending the party life. The Bible says he’s in torments. 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” (v. 24). He’s to the point of torment that he would take just a millisecond of relief by one drop of water on this tongue. My friends, Jesus spoke about heaven and hell more than anything on earth because it’s a real place that people go who reject Jesus Christ. No one goes to hell because God sends them there. I want you to understand that statement—because He’s made a way that none should perish. But many go to hell because they reject [Him].

And he’s tormented. We see Lazarus is being comforted. Abraham speaks to this man after the request is made for just a drop of water, and he says, “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” (v. 25). The sad thing is God knows how many people give up an eternity of comfort and pleasures in the presence of God for temporal things. Sixty-seven years of pleasure or sin or whatever it may be that keeps a person from trusting Christ—self-sufficiency, you know. Jesus said it this way: It is hard for a rich man to get into heaven. Because they have it all. We have it all. I see it all day, not just in Beverly Hills but I see it in Inglewood. You knock on the doors, or you talk to someone, and you start talking about God, and they don’t want talk about God. They don’t want to talk about eternity. They have no time for that. They are too busy going to the next vacation, they’re too busy trying to get the next promotion, they’re too busy with their lives, and it is just heartbreaking.

Lazarus lived maybe fifty-six years, and he had some rough days, but maybe that suffering is what caused him to have his ears open to the gospel. I don’t know how you pray for your lost family members, I don’t know how you pray for your lost coworkers, and I don’t know how you pray for them, but this text almost changes the way that I pray for people. I’ve begun to pray, “Lord, afflict them if you have to. Afflict them, so that their ears would be open.” You know, I’ve seen it, guys. I’ve seen when the cancer comes. I’ve seen when the trials come in, and a person who was once closed up to the gospel, now they’re open. They’re all ears, and they realize that their life is just a vapor now, and maybe that’s how we should pray.

So the rich man was now in torments. Abraham begins to explain in the verses following that there’s a gulf between paradise and torment that no man could cross. No man can go from them to there, or no one come from there to them. He explains this wide gulf, and one of the hardest things about hell we see in the Scriptures, guys, is there’s no hope, there’s no chance, there’s no redo.

I want you to see what takes place. After this rich man realizes there’s no chance for him, his attention is diverted to his loved ones. I want you to see verse number 27: “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house.” Listen to this. He says, “I pray, I beg you, send Lazarus to my father’s house.” “For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”  You see, he was concerned with his lost brothers, his five brothers, who probably were rich as well and probably were living the life and probably were going about their days not giving any mind to God and eternity. And his heart was that they would hear from Lazarus the truth that eternity is coming.

Abraham’s response, verse 29: “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets.” He says, “They have the Word.” They have the Word, they have Moses. That would be Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And then the prophets, of course, the men who God sent, who penned the Scriptures. I think about Isaiah who penned that a virgin would conceive, of course, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and that Messiah would come and that He would save those who believe in Him. And he said, “Hey, your brothers have the Word of God. If they don’t believe the Word of God, even if someone came from hell with the fire and flames still on them, they wouldn’t believe.” And I find that very telling, because if you can’t believe this Book, this inspired Book, the Word of God, which has been proven for century after century to be, in fact, accurate historically, geographically, anatomically, every type of way you can think about. This Book has been verified. It’s been scrutinized. It’s been tested. It’s been tried to be destroyed in silence. But the Word of God is powerful, and it’s quick, and it’s alive, and I’m telling you, this is what Abraham said: “Hey, they have the Word.”

You know what’s scary? They probably had Bibles in their house. They probably had a copy of the scroll of the Old Testament in their house. They say the average American today has three copies of the Bible in their home, but the average American does not read the Bible. There is supposedly something like three hundred million professing Christians in America—but look at our country. And what’s very telling is that the rich man recognized Abraham, and he called him “Father.” I think he was religious. I think maybe he observed the Passover a few times or he went to church a few times. But he didn’t have a true relationship. He was not truly converted, and that’s scary.

Contrast in eternity. The rich man was in torment; Lazarus is now in heaven. But we see the concern of this rich man for his brothers. I don’t want to just gloss over that, because that spoke to me. Can it be that there is more concern for the lost in hell than there is on earth in the church? Could it be? God forbid. God forbid. We’ve got to ask the Lord to break our hearts for the lost anew and afresh. There are people I know, there are people you know, who don’t know Christ.

Now we are not responsible for the results. I’ve learned that a long time ago. I’ve witnessed to a lot of people who did not profess Christ as their Lord and Savior. That’s the work that only the Holy Spirit can do in converting someone. But you know what the Bible does say that we are to be? Witnesses. There should be no one in our lives who hasn’t heard from us how we got saved. I’ll say it again. There should be no one in our lives, who we know well, who we spend time with for any extended period of time, who has not heard about our Jesus. If that’s who we are, we’re not doing what God has left us here to do. This is Jesus telling this account of these contrasting lives. He gives us a glimpse into eternity. If He were to show us again today, Lazarus is in heaven; the rich man is still suffering, and the only difference between the rich man and Lazarus spiritually was a relationship with the Savior. See, there’s nothing wrong with affluence, there’s nothing wrong with having money, and there’s nothing wrong with living and enjoying the things that God has so graciously blessed us with on earth, but there is something wrong if that stuff crowds out Jesus and we never give Him ear and we never come into relationship with Him. There is a problem there.

I want to share some good news though before we’re done this morning. Jesus, just a few chapters later, said this: “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus’s whole purpose of coming was to save sinners like you and me. The Bible says about humankind as a whole that we are all sinners. The Bible says in verse 23 of Romans 3: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But the good news is this:  Romans 6:23, that Jesus saved sinners: “For the wages of sin is death.” What the Bible is saying there is that what we deserve because of who we are and what we do is death. And it’s not speaking about just the physical death; it is speaking about the second death found in Revelation 21, where we are to be banished from God.

But the Bible says it doesn’t end there: “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It’s a gift. I want you to hear that with me this morning. You can’t earn it. You can’t be good enough for it. No church can give it to you. No pope can give it to you. No baptism can give it to you. Only Jesus can give it to you, because He’s the only one who can save. He said to Nicodemus, a religious man, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him”—that word believeth means to place your faith in Him and Him alone; not Him and the church, not Him and your works, but Him and Him alone—“should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He said, “He that believeth in the Son hath life, and he that believe not on the Son shall not have life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

We like to paint God as this God who’s just going to sweep all sin under the carpet, that everybody’s His child, but that’s not what we find in the Scripture. We find that those who receive Christ receive mercy. They get grace. They get eternal life, forgiveness of sins, assurance of salvation. And I’m so thankful that once saved, you’re always saved. That’s what the Bible teaches. But those who reject, those who do not have that relationship, those who do not trust Christ, there is a reckoning day. You know, in our Western civilization we don’t like the thought of a God who judges, but I think people in other countries understand the necessity of it more. Ask somebody in Africa. Ask somebody in the Middle East, who ISIS came through their village and raped and killed their people.  Ask somebody if they are looking for justice to be served. I think in our clean-cut lives here in America and in the western side of the world, we like to try to intellectually divorce ourselves from the fact that God is judge, and there’s coming that day when He does judge the world. So for those of us who know Christ, we’ve got to let that motivate us to tell others, to seek others out so they can hear the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And for those who don’t know Him, we plead with you: trust Him.

The final eruption of Mount St. Helens in May 1980 was not a sudden event. For two months it was told and warned to those residents nearby that there would be a destructive earthquake and volcanic eruption. The authorities did everything they could to warn everyone near the blast radius. There was a man by the name of Harry Randall Truman, a World War I veteran, who had a lodge. It was called the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake. He was eighty-three years old, and he was warned on multiple occasions of the coming danger, yet he ignored it, yet he said, “I’ve survived my ship being sunken by a submarine in World War I. I’ve survived so many things these eighty-three years. I can ride this out as well.” But on May 18, 1980, when Mount St. Helens erupted, he was buried in 150 feet worth of debris. His body was never located.

And I want to tell you guys, there’s coming a day when God’s wrath will be poured out on those who are not in Christ. It’s not something we should look forward to as believers even, because there will be people that we know there. But I want to just remind us this morning that there’s coming that day. Jesus gave us a glimpse into this eternal, this story here, this truth, because there’s coming a day when judgment comes for each one of us. Those of us in Christ don’t have to worry about judgment of our sins. That’s been paid for by Jesus on the cross. We will spend eternity with Him. But for those without Christ, it’s not good. It’s the worst. If you’re here this morning without Christ, I plead with you, trust in Him today. Don’t put it off to tomorrow. The Bible says today is the day of salvation. Those of us who are in Christ must remember that everybody we meet, everybody we know, will have an eternal destination, and it’s one thing for them to reject, but it’s [another] thing for them never to hear—and we’ve got to not allow that to be who we are, that we don’t tell, we don’t warn. Jesus spoke about eternity more than anything. We should ask God to help us to be more like Jesus.