December 1, 2014
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
The scripture for today’s blog is too long to reproduce here, so I will summarize the story and just give you the two verses that get to the point of the idea I want to convey.
In Luke 16:19 through 31, two men lived and died, one an ungodly rich man and the other a poor but believing beggar. The rich man found himself in hell. The beggar, Lazarus, was in paradise. Tradition says the former man’s name was Dives. He wanted Lazarus to give him water to “…cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:24). And when he found out that not even a drop of water was available for him, and that he was past all hope of comfort or rescue, he requested for Lazarus to do this – from Luke 16:27 and 28:
I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I
have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place
Hell (or Hades – the place of the unsaved dead as they wait for the final judgement) is a place of being “…tormented in this flame…” (Luke 16:24). And while Dives had enjoyed the luxurious lifestyle his wealth afforded him, he had given little thought to where he would be for eternity! And all too suddenly, he was there! And it was all real – horribly, horribly real – the flames, the thirst, the torment! There would be no escape, no relief – forever!
Most of us seem to have a love and concern for our families, both immediate and extended. We don’t know if Dives was a wealthy bachelor without immediate family or not. Only five brothers are mentioned in verse 28. And he did not want his brothers to “…come to this place of torment.” (verse 28).
Last month I took part in the funeral of a dear friend who had been sick for most of three years. Dick had come to Jesus in his early 50’s, and walked closely with his Lord for almost 30 years. He was responsible for several people coming to faith in Christ, and he played a major part in the local Baptist church I then pastored. This dedicated Christian man was a great blessing to me personally, and he also helped found three parachurch ministries – one that today is a multi-million dollar youth ministry!
For the message for Dick’s memorial service, I used the story of Lazarus and Dives from Luke 16 – An Unusual Funeral Scripture! It was unusual because one does not talk about someone suffering in hell at a funeral! But I used it because of the rich man’s stark realization that it was all real! I’m sure as a Jew in Israel in the time of Jesus he had heard about heaven and hell and eternity, but it was all sort of fuzzy and far off – a fairy tale to be believed by the poor slobs that had little to enjoy in this life! But now he was there, and it was all a terrible reality!!! Most likely his five brothers were also rich and focused on the here and now of this earthly life. And they too were headed for hell! And they too didn’t know it! He had to warn them! “…send Lazarus…to my…five brothers…lest they also come to this place of torment.” (Luke 16:24, 27, 28).
Dick was in heaven, not hell! And he was blinking at the wonders, the bliss, the beauty of it all! Oh yes, he had read about it in the Bible, and he believed it too. But this thing called heaven was beyond all he could ever wrap his earthly mind around! But didn’t Paul say in I Corinthians 2:9, “…as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him…’ ”? We have never seen anything like it, we have never heard of anything like it, we have never even imagined anything like heaven will be! And so I pictured Dick – open-mouthed, wide eyed, and blinking back tears of joy – turning around and around in heaven and saying, “It’s real! I knew it was, but I never imagined it was like this! Oh, I want to go back and tell all my loved ones – it’s real, it’s real, it’s real!” And I said to those gathered for the funeral,
Dick can’t come back, just as Lazarus couldn’t come back. So he sent me to
tell you – it’s real! And he wants you to join him there someday. Put your
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s the only way to eternal life, the only way
to heaven. He totally paid for your sins on the cross. Just reach out the empty
hand of faith and accept Him into your heart and life as your Savior.
Yes, it was An Unusual Funeral Scripture. I had never heard of another minister using this passage from Luke 16 for a memorial message. I was the first speaker that day. Pastor Jason, the minister at Dick’s church, was the second. When he stood to speak, he looked at me and said, “Now Chip, we never spoke about this service to plan it, did we?” I confirmed we had not. He then began to read the scripture God had laid on his heart for Dick’s funeral – Luke 16:19 through 31!