Luke: Encountering Jesus : The great Chasm (Part 2): 01/20/19

Message: ‘The great chasm’ pt.2             Text: Luke 16:19-31

PP: Introduction: Jonathan Edwards, considered America’s greatest theologian was a pastor in New England in the 1700s. He is best known for ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ perhaps the most famous sermon in American history.

He preached it on Sunday, July 8, 1741, while ministering in tiny Enfield, Connecticut. A group of women had spent the previous night praying for revival. When Edwards rose to speak, he quietly announced that his text was Deuteronomy 32:35, “their foot shall slide in due time.”

During the sermon, Edwards neither gestured nor raised his voice. He spoke softly and simply, warning the unsaved that they were dangling over hell like a spider over the fire. He said:

  • O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God,

whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell.

  • You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder;
  • and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do,
  • to induce God to spare you one moment.

Edwards’ voice was suddenly lost amid cries and commotion from the crowd. He paused, appealing for calm. Then he continued:

  • Let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let everyone fly out of Sodom.

It is reported that strong men held to pews and posts, feeling they were sliding into hell. Others shook uncontrollably and rolled on the floor.

Throughout the night, cries of men and women were heard throughout the village, begging God to save them.

  • 500 souls were saved that evening, sparking a revival that swept thousands into the kingdom. The Great Awakening had come. (adapted from Blueletterbible.org)

In a day when hell is not even popular to talk about in the church, perhaps, like Jonathan Edwards,

  • out of compassion for the lost in our midst,
  • out of fear of the removal of God’s hand of favor over our church community,

we should boldly warn the lost that they are

  • Dangling over hell like a spider over the fire.

Perhaps w/o fear of offending people, making them feel bad about themselves, or fear that that they might not come back next week, we should warn the lost, those heading to a Christless eternity in Hell as Jonathan Edwards did:

  • O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God,

whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell.

  • You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder;

Dare we swim against the tide of the self-proclaimed wisdom of the ‘Church Growth and Seeker Sensitive movements’ and rather

  • seek to save the lost who are doomed to an eternity in hell
  • unless they repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness?

Do their lives truly matter to us?

Does where they will spend eternity even prick the conscience of our hearts?

Are we so comfortable in our own eternal security that it has lulled us to sleep in our efforts to save the lost from hell?

We’re told in God’s Word For by grace you have been saved.

  • Are we willing to extend God’s amazing, abundant and extravagant grace, to the lost in our spheres of influence? Jesus was.

Background: A little background: Remember, what we read in Luke 16:19-31 did not come from a heart of condemnation…we all know John 3:16, but what about John 3:17:

  • PP: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

Luke 16:19-31 is yet another of Jesus’ compassionate offer to the lost, in particular the Jewish religious leaders, of forgiveness of sin and a seat at the table in God’s Kingdom.

BUT, the condition is repentance.

  • The religious leaders loved money, so much, that it had authority over their lives; over what they did, thought and said.

Leaving God with no real place in their lives, and that’s sin… AND w/o repentance, there is no forgiveness of sin.

  • Once again Jesus was offering them the gift of grace. Because He knew they were heading to hell.

So, as we continue in our text,

  • Don’t look at it as a condemnation of the rich, the religious leaders, and the lost.
  • See it as Jesus showing them their sin so they’ll avoid the eternal fire of hell.

Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 16:24

PP: 3. Luke 16:24-25  Rich man’s 1st plea

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.’ 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.’’

There are a number of truths that stand out in this text that need a closer look at.

First, this is a parable, a made up story, and not all parts of the story are meant to be literal, or have spiritual significance.

  • The rich man in hell speaking to Abraham in heaven does not teach us that people in hell will be able to see or speak to people in heaven.
  • It’s used as a means to illustrate the moral of the story, not to teach a point.

Second, notice the rich man calls Abraham Father.

  • This may not seen immediately evident, but this was the rich man’s attempt to remind Abraham that he was his descendant…
  • and as such, didn’t deserve to be in the torment of hell.

 Third, when the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue he was showing that he still considered Lazarus beneath him, not on the same social level as he was.

  • The rich man wouldn’t give Lazarus a crumb that fell off his table to quench Lazarus’ hunger,
  • but now he’s asking Lazarus to give him a drop of water to quench his thirst.

Showing, that he had no remorse over his refusal to help/care for Lazarus, and no brokenness over his life of sin.

Fourth, the rich man acknowledges that he’s in anguish, in pain, suffering in the fires of hell.

  • So yes, this parable shows that Hell is a place of unending torment and pain, of an eternal fire that burns yet does not destroy the body.

Finally, the parable contrasts the lives of the two men. 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.

  • The extravagance and frivolity of the rich’s mans live w/o God ends with a cry for mercy and an eternity of pain and suffering. But in hell, there will be no mercy.
  • While Lazarus’ life of pain and suffering, all the while trusting in God, ends with being forever comforted. And we’re given a glimpse in Revelation 21:1-4 what that comfort looks like:

 PP: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Christian, is this parable vivid enough to pierce your heart, to stoke the coals of passion for the lost?

PP: 4. Luke 16:26  A great chasm

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.

Lazarus couldn’t help the rich man even if he wanted to. The distance between them is too great.

  • Now, I don’t believe this is a literal distance like heaven is way up there and hell is way down there.
  • It’s spiritual in nature and significance.

 It shows that in Hell…

  • There are no bridges, no escape hatches, no off ramps, no space-age teleporters, no second chances, no praying someone out of hell.

The word fixed in a great chasm has been fixed, is in the perfect tense in the Greek. It means:

  • permanent, ongoing, never ending.

 The idea here is that once you’re dead, where you spend eternity is a done deal.

Two things…

  • That’s why you can’t come back from the dead to tell people about your time in either heaven or hell.
  • And that’s why it’s imperative that we make that choice now, while we’re still on this side of mercy and grace.

If you have yet to place your faith in Jesus, when you sense God reaching out to you… grab hold of Him for your very life.

Because you don’t know how many days you have left. And once you die, you don’t get another chance.

 PP: 5. Luke 16:27-31  Rich man’s 2nd plea

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 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.’

Understand that the rich man in hell isn’t miraculously given the gift of evangelism. His motive here isn’t pure.

He wants his family to get what he thinks he didn’t get… ample evidence to choose to follow God by believing in Jesus:

  • He thinks ‘It’s not fair, I didn’t have all the information I needed, to live the right way, so I could avoid this place.’

Truth is, while he was alive, he was just too focused, too absorbed; with money, pleasure, privilege, stuff and seeking the acceptance of others, then he was on his relationship with God.

  • Honestly, not unlike many today, even many Christians.

So the rich man suggests Abraham send Lazarus back from the dead, to warn his family. Sounds like a reasonable request, right.

  • I mean if God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell,
  • then why not give us all the information, all the miraculous signs, all the opportunities possible,
  • so we’ll believe and live differently?

Look, here’s what I see:

  • The rich man wasn’t denied his request because God doesn’t want to give us all we need to believe in Him, to believe in Jesus.
  • He was denied because his family, people in general, while having all the evidence they need, still won’t believe.

It’s interesting that a little while after Jesus told this parable, He will raise another Lazarus from the dead… and we’re told in Scripture that these very same religious leaders, sought to kill him.

Abraham told the rich man, his family had all they needed; Moses, the Prophets, and not to mention they had Jesus, God Himself.

  • But they still didn’t believe.

Think about it, the parable has played out to be true, for most of the religious leaders, and for many today:

  • Jesus, Himself, died on the cross, was buried and was raised from the dead, revealing Himself to many, many witnesses.
  • Yet, few still believe.

PP: Next Slide

 Conclusion: This parable would have been greatly offensive to the good law-abiding Jews.

  • And the idea that they needed to repent of their sin, was outrageous.

Author and Scholar J.C. Ryle wrote:

  • God knows that I never speak of hell without (myself experiencing) pain and sorrow. I would gladly offer the salvation of the Gospel to the very chief of sinners. I would willingly say to the vilest and most profligate of mankind on his deathbed, “Repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” But God forbid that I should ever keep back from mortal man that Scripture reveals a hell as well as heaven…that men may be lost as well as saved.” (adapted from Darrell Bock)

There are at least four general takeaways from this parable:

First: For those who have yet to place their faith in Jesus:

Hell is real, it’s a place of torment and it’s forever. But it’s not inevitable.

  • Repent, recognize your life is not pleasing to God, ask His forgiveness, seek His mercy, then accept His grace.
  • Place your faith, your life in Jesus’ hands, acknowledge that He is both God & Savior.
  • Hold on tightly to the power of God’s written Word, the Bible.
  • Trust that Jesus has secured a place for you in heaven… forever.

Second: For those who have already given their lives to Jesus:

Hell is real, it’s a place of torment and it’s forever. But it’s not inevitable.

  • Who, in your sphere of influence, is heading in that direction?
  • What are you going to do about it?

God has not only given them Moses, the Prophets and Jesus, He’s given them YOU.

  • Tell them, about heaven and about hell about sin, repentance, forgiveness, mercy and grace.
  • Then live Christ in front of them.
  • And pray for God to touch their hearts with faith.

Third, for God’s church, the community of faith that meets in this building:

Hell is real, it’s a place of torment and it’s forever. But it’s not inevitable.

What can we do that we’re not already doing to advance the cause of the Gospel

  • In your home, neighborhood, school, in your workplace, and the places you recreate?

What can we do that we’re not already doing to advance the cause of the Gospel

  • in our church neighborhood, our surrounding communities, in the USA and beyond?

Talk to the Elders, talk to Ellen, Lucas, Nurgul, Izabela, Stan, Holly and me; your KB Board. We want, we need your input!

  • But we also need people willing to speak and to be living examples of the Gospel as we try to reach the lost.
  • We can’t do that on our own.

God has charged us all in His Word, to be stewards of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (1 cor. 4:1-2)

Finally, we must not leave the Lazarus’ of our time, needy and helpless by our gate.

Calvary Baptist should be known for its generosity to the poor, the needy, the lonely, the broken… to the lost.

  • That means we must individually and corporately be good stewards of all that God has given to us… especially our time, money and possessions.

I’ll be on vacation this week in Kansas, but when I get back, I’ll set a dinner date for those who want to do something about the lost, both personally and corporately here at CBC.

I hope to see many of you there.