A Story about Hell
A. Who is this?
1. October 1, 1962 – James Meredith enrolled at the University of Mississippi – The first African=American to attend the university
a) Meredith says that he had “a very complex relationship” with the civil rights contemporaries of his day.
b) He was politically very conservative – a lifelong Republican.
2. 60 years later, James Meredith is still trying to change the world.
a) Now 89 years old, he says that he is on the most important mission of his life.
b) His mission now, which he says will be his last, is to bring people to God.
c) By sharing his faith in Jesus that he believes can make as much or more of a difference than all of the other missions he’s completed in his life.
d) Meredith, concerned by what he sees as a decline in people’s moral character, intends to visit every county in Mississippi, spreading his message along the way.
e) He says about the problems facing society, which include what he calls “the Black-white thing,” Meredith said he came to a realization.
f) While he opened the door for Black students to attend Ole Miss, including those in his family, Meredith also said he believes little about the “Black-white thing” has changed since that day 60 years ago.
g) That said, he still has hope, and he believes Mississippi must be the state to lead the way.
3. “I’m so optimistic it scares me sometimes,” Meredith said.
a) “I still think Mississippi is going to lead this nation, and the world, to another formula on dealing with the Black-white thing.”
b) “Good has to be the goal, and the only way I know of is God’s way,” Meredith said.
c) “I really think this is the most important moment in my life,” Meredith said. And I need “to just do it.”
d) So James Meredith’s mission is to take the gospel to lost people so that their lives can be changed God’s way for all eternity.
B. Join the Mission
1. Today we are going to look at the inequalities here on this earth and the equality we have before God and where these things lead after death.
2. We are going to be talking about Hell.
a) It might be unpleasant and disturbing to hear, but if people do not hear about it, then they will suffer in torment and without hope for all eternity.
b) Some people would rather not hear about it, but the teachings Jesus gave us about Hell are intended to warn us of impending danger so that we will respond to the truth of His call and save our lives for all eternity.
c) Listen carefully so that we can all know what Jesus wants us to know about Hell!
I. The Master Teacher
A. A Story – Not a Parable
1. Jesus is the master teacher.
a) And Jesus tells a story here in the Bible.
b) Some call it a parable.
c) The Bible doesn’t call it a parable.
d) Jesus doesn’t call it a parable.
2. In this story Jesus uses a man’s name – Lazarus.
a) In no other parable did Jesus use a man’s name.
b) We have no real reason to assume that this is a parable.
c) It most likely is a historical event. But if it is a parable, the truth is the same.
3. Begin in verse 19. Here Jesus tells about two men and He contrasts two men: the rich man and the poor man.
a) 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
b) 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
4. The story that Jesus told comes from a page in history, and Jesus then allows us to look into the next world.
a) There are some inequalities and equalities in life that everyone needs to see as we look at these two men.
II. Inequality in Life
First of all, there was a contrast in their lives. One was a fabulously wealthy man. The other was ignominiously poor. And there seems to be such an inequity in life.
A. Physical Inequities
1. We say that all men are born equal: that’s not true.
a) The only place people are really, truly equal is before God’s law.
b) They are supposed to be equal before the law in our country, but that is only sometimes true.
2. Some people are born strong, some are born weak.
a) Some are born extremely intelligent, some are not.
b) Some are very handsome or very beautiful, others are not.
c) From birth we are different.
3. You might wonder, “Why was I born with these particular genes and chromosomes?
a) Why is the color of my hair as it is, the color of my skin, the color of my eyes, my height, my weight?
b) Some will spend a lot of money trying to look like the person in the advertisements, but you’ll never look like that person.
c) You are genetically built and you can help it a little bit, but you’re not going to change it.
d) There are some physical inequities that we are born with and they are not going to change.
B. Material Inequities
1. Some people are born into wealth; others are not.
a) Now, do you look at people born in impoverished countries and think, “Boy, it’s too bad they’re not as smart as I am?”
b) Do you really think because you’re sitting here, because you drove here in a fine automobile and you had a nice, nutritious breakfast, that it is because of you?
c) If you were born in Sudan, your life would be very different.
2. Don’t look down your nose at others who have less and think that somehow you are better.
a) Can you imagine the servant of this rich man as he was sitting there eating his gourmet foods, and the servant says, “Look, we have some leftovers that I’m going to put in the garbage. Shall I give them to you know who sitting at the gate?”
b) The rich man would say, “No! He’ll never go away if you do that!”
3. The Bible asks this question: “What do we have that we have not received?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
a) Jesus never looked down on the poor.
b) But there are in this life certain inequities.
C. Social Inequities
1. Some people are praised and adored, but some people are not looked upon at all.
a) But this beggar, this street person was someone for whom Jesus died.
b) There are social inequities in life and so our Lord Jesus is showing us that there is a contrast in life on this earth.
III. Equality in Death
A. They Both Died
1. Jesus is going to deal with three great issues: life, death, and eternity.
a) Every other issue is a subset of these three issues: life, death, and eternity.
b) So Jesus deals with life and then He deals with death.
c) Verse 22 says, “22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried”
d) It doesn’t matter how rich a person this man was, he died.
e) Proverbs 22:2 “The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all.”
f) One thing you can say about the poor man: he’s going to die.
g) One thing you can say about the rich man: he is going to die.
2. Death is very real and death is very impartial.
a) Doctors die. Bankers die. Preachers die.
b) Little babies sometimes die
c) Life is as long as a piece of string, and that can be any length. You don’t know when you’re going to die.
d) 1 Samuel 20:3 “There is but a step between me and death.”
e) That’s all there is between a person and heaven or between a person and hell.
f) Hebrews 9:27 “ And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”
IV. The Contrasts in Eternity
A. All Face Eternity
1. Now Jesus shows us what life after death looks like.
a) The rich man died and was buried, “and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.”
b) Both of these men died, and both of them had an eternity to face.
c) And so do you and so do I.
d) There’s a life to live, a death to die, and an eternity to face.
2. Jesus teaches us by revelation that death does not mean that life stops!
a) Your soul will be in existence somewhere throughout all eternity.
b) Jesus also shows us clearly that we are all going to die, but not everybody is going to go to the same place.
B. The Glories of Heaven
1. Verse 22 “The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.”
a) Angels took him home to heaven.
2. “Abraham’s bosom”? – Abraham is the father of the faithful.
a) Jesus is talking to Jews and that is what they called heaven because Abraham was the brightest star in the Hebrew heaven.
b) This poor man, who had been feeding on crumbs, is now at the honored place at a banquet.
c) He is now in Abraham’s bosom.
d) That’s what Jesus is saying. “Many who are first shall be last, and many who are last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30; Mark 10:31)
e) Many of this earth’s nobodies are going to be somebodies up in heaven.
f) What a difference heaven will make!
3. We are now going to talk about Hell because we hear a lot more about heaven today than we hear about hell.
a) We are going to talk about Hell because Jesus wants us to know about Hell.
b) Jesus said more about Hell than anyone else in the Bible because He wants us to know what happens to lost people!
c) But Jesus takes just one verse here (v. 22) and calls heaven a banquet.
d) When I invite you to Jesus, I’m not inviting you to a funeral, but to a banquet when – to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
C. The Agonies of Hell
The rich man died, and the Bible says, “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.”
1. Jesus taches us that there is a Hell
a) Do you believe in hell?
(1) Jesus does and He shows us something of what it is like here in the Word of God.
(2) Some people try to explain away hell.
(3) Some people have made hell the object of jokes and folklore.
(4) This is a story that Jesus told.
(5) The cruelest thing that I could do would be to believe that there is a hell and not to warn you of it.
b) There is a hell.
(1) In the NT there are at least 162 texts that deal with the doom of the lost sinner!
(2) Over 70 of these were spoken by Jesus Christ Himself.
(3) So if you don’t believe in hell, you’re really taking issue with Jesus Christ.
2. The death of Jesus teaches that there is a Hell
a) If there is no hell from which people need to be saved, then why did Jesus die?
(1) Did Jesus die upon that cross to save you from a non-existent punishment?
(2) God would not allow His Son to suffer and die to save us from a place that doesn’t exist.
(3) If there is no hell, then Calvary was the greatest waste of all time.
3. The justice of God demands that there be a Hell
a) Do you think that a man can rape a child, or abuse a teen, or that a person can steal, cheat, and kill, or can blaspheme and hate God and then at the end of his life just die and it’s all over?
(1) No. God says, “Revenge is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
b) The inequities in this life will not continue after death!
(1) There are inequities in this life.
(2) But there are no inequities in God’s law.
(3) So the justice of God demands that there be a hell.
(4) If there is no hell, then there is no heaven.
(5) The same Bible that tells us about heaven tells us about hell, so we know there is a hell.
4. Hell is a place of torment and agony
a) Notice how Hell is described so vividly in this story.
(1) The rich man is said to be in “torment.”
(2) Verse 23 – He begged for even the smallest amount of water to relieve his suffering.
(3) Verse 24 – He himself says in verse 24, “I am in agony in this fire.”
(4) Verse 25 Abraham uses the word “agony” to describe the man’s condition in Hell.
(5) Verses 27 and 28 the rich man begs to warn his family about this place so that “They will not come to this place of torment.”
(6) The words “torment” and “agony” are used over and over again by Jesus in the story.
(7) Jesus is making sure that we do not miss the point of this.
(8) Jesus wants everyone to know the real truth about the suffering of Hell.
(9) This is meant to be disturbing so that we will do everything necessary to avoid Hell
5. Hell is a place of remembering others
a) Here was a man with spiritual anguish, thinking about others.
(1) And, by the way, if you go to hell, you’ll probably carry some brothers with you; you’ll carry some sisters with you; some fathers, some mothers, some children.
(2) Nobody goes to hell alone—and that is part of the hell of hell.
(3) People in Hell will remember and see that here is a great gulf that is fixed and no one can cross over it.
(4) Don’t get the idea that you’ll stay in hell for a while and then somehow step over into heaven.
6. Hell is a place without hope.
a) Abraham explains to the rich man that there is a “great chasm” between heaven and hell.
(1) There is no hope of crossing over from one place to another.
(2) His destiny is set for eternity and he knows it!
(3) There is no hope of escape or relief.
(4) Hell is not like a prison where you might be paroled, pardoned, or simply do your time and be released.
(5) Hell is forever and inescapable.
(6) There are no second chances!
(7) God will not change his mind.
(8) The story makes clear that those who go to hell are without hope as their fate is forever sealed.
(9) In Hell it is too late to pray, it is too late to change your life, and it is too late to repent.
b) Hell is a very real place. And it’s a place of eternal torment, physically, mentally, spiritually.
(1) Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night,”
V. The Equity of Choice
A. You Do Not Have to Go to Hell!
1. Hell can be avoided if a person listens to God’s word and repents.
a) One day, when Vice President Calvin Coolidge was presiding over the Senate, one Senator angrily told another to go “straight to hell”.
b) The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and Cal looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate and wittily replied.
c) “I’ve been looking through the rule book,” he said. “You don’t have to go.”
2. The same is true for everyone in this room today. You do not have to go to Hell.
a) The rich man realizes that his fate is sealed but he also realizes that his brother’s, who are still alive, do not “have to come to this place of torment.”
b) He wants to warn them so that they will repent, listen to God and go in a different direction with God’s help.
c) He understands that if a person does this they will not go to Hell.
3. He wants Lazarus to go to them so that they will have a supernatural sign from God to repent.
a) But Abraham says in essence, “People that do not listen to the Bible will not respond to supernatural sign.”
b) This verse teaches that a person can avoid Hell if they do listen to God’s word and repent.
4. What does God’s word say to do?
a) The Bible tells us to trust in Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection.
b) The Bible tells us to commit to following Jesus Christ.
c) Those who do this may still struggle with sin but when they die they will enter the joy of Heaven forever instead of experiencing the agony of Hell forever.
5. That is the greatest equality that God has given us!
a) The choice is yours and mine!
b) I know that Hell is not a popular or pleasant subject, but knowledge of Hell can save your life because it will cause you to turn to Jesus to save you from your sins!
6. God sends us to tell lost people the Good News.
a) He loves you.
b) He wants you to be saved.
c) But if you don’t get saved, you are going into hell when you die.
7. Give your heart to Jesus. Trust Him. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18
8. God loves you and He sent me here to tell you.