Walker, MN

16th Sunday after Pentecost             “Real heaven,  real hell”

Sept. 25, 2022                                           Luke 16:19-31                                        (see CPR10; 9/26/10; ‘16)


Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

           The Gospel lesson today,  from Luke 16,  to me,  is one of the more interesting parables.   For one thing,  Jesus uses a personal name for one of the people,  not just generally = ‘a poor beggar.”   It prompts us to believe that this is a true event.  Even if it is just a parable,  since Jesus cannot teach falsely,  the information here has to be accurate.  And it -very bluntly-  pictures our own mortality & future.   Yes,  you & I are going to die.   Even IF Christ returns

in His glory while we’re here,  the future is on the line;  either we’re going to heaven, or we’re going to hell.   *Are you prepared to die?   Our Lord prepares us with His real Words  about   the real heaven  and the real hell.

During our days here on earth,  everyone receives blessings from the Lord; …everyone.   In Matt.5,  Jesus says that the Father… “causes His sun to rise  on {both} the evil and the good,  and sends rain on {both} the righteous  and the unrighteous.”   Our Creator & God cares for the good and the bad alike;   He grants life & family, /air & food,/ work & technologies;  all kinds of blessings,  to the whole world generally,  and to individuals ~ according to His will.  And for His purposes,  we are not all the same;  there are some differences,  as we see in this story today.


Jesus tells this parable because the Pharisees,  who were lovers of money,  were ridiculing His teachings.  Jesus had just told the parables of the lost sheep,  the lost coin,  the lost/prodigal son,  and the shrewd manager.   Jesus finished up that last one by saying  ‘you cannot love both God and money’  == those are two opposite ‘gods’,  and they form two opposite religions.

So the Pharisees mock Jesus,  because they think they can handle both.  Like the rich man in our parable,  the Pharisees love themselves,  first & foremost;  they’re so busy providing for themselves that they forget others.    Jesus’ parable shows that the love of money,  and the selfish-self,  will lead to hell;   but to  fear,  love,  & trust in God above all things is faith, & will lead to heaven.            This picture Jesus paints IS true-to-life;  whether or not the two men are real from history.   One truth is this:  the two men die,  just as we will all die.   Another truth is the contrast between the future of the believer and the unbeliever.   The difference between these two men is simple,  but drastic.

The rich man wears ‘purple’ & fine linen & eats a buffet every day;  it’s a sign of his luxury.  He’s affluent & likes to show it.   And even if he gives a few dollars to charity  =as we all do=  He really spends his money on himself,  on what makes him look good,  & feel good.

The second man,  Lazarus,  is a beggar.   He’s at the opposite end of the socio-economic scale.   Lazarus is sick & crippled;  he was daily ‘dumped off’  at the gate,  where he might get some charity.  He’s a pitiful sight;  he’s covered with open sores.   With no clean clothes or medicine,  his only hope is that someone might happen-by to help;  such as this rich man  or his rich friends.   From the gate,  Lazarus would be able see the rich man’s lifestyle.   No doubt he yearned for a few table scraps,  maybe a dry crust of bread.   The rich man had more money than he could spend in his lifetime;  but he ignored the troubled life of Lazarus,  just outside   his gate;   who’s name,  it seems,  he knew = but that didn’t move him to care.   Even the scavenger dogs are in better shape than poor Lazarus.


In Ecclesiastes 3,  thru Solomon,  God has written,  “there’s time to be born,  and a time to die.”   And the time came,  as it does for everyone;  as it will for you & for me.   The time came when Lazarus died.  Since there was no family to care for him in life,  there would’ve been no care in death.  Typically that meant an unmarked grave in some ‘potter’s field,’  where he’s dumped again & quickly forgotten.     God’s Word teaches that death is the great equalizer.

And so the rich man also died and was buried.  No doubt it was a grand funeral,  with a feast in his honor,  with hundreds of paid mourners;  with a expensive, ornate mausoleum,  followed by months of family & lawyers fighting over his massive estate.

But there’s another contrast here.   Lazarus is carried by God’s angels to Abraham’s side.   This was a very common way to refer to the kingdom of heaven,  the ‘promised land’;  where all of God’s promises to Abraham, & to the faithful Israelites,  would be fulfilled.   As the old slave-song says,  “rocka my soul,  in the bosom of Abraham.”    So,  immediately upon his death,  Lazarus is taken to heaven;   where there is peace,  comfort,  and the very real presence of God;  earth & pain,   poverty & sorrow  are forgotten..

And immediately upon his death,  the rich man finds himself in hell,  & the real anguish,  torment,  and very real absence of God & anything good.

Not only is the rich unbeliever excluded from the glory of heaven,  but he’s in extreme agony,  being tortured continually,  taunted by being able to see heaven & Lazarus. The contrast couldn’t be greater!

And Jesus does not teach here about any ‘wait time’ for either place;  there’s no place     of purgatory or limbo  for people to ponder their earthly lives,  or change their future.

And certainly a person who dies  does not get to wander around earth as a ghost before getting to the ‘afterlife’.    So, two men claim to know father Abraham  =that is, God=  one dies, & receives the riches & glory of eternal heaven;   the other dies, & is cast into hell,  to suffer God’s wrath & condemnation upon the sinner  who has no savior.   These two men were opposites in this life & in faith;   so they are also opposites in death & eternity.


*What made the difference?   The rich man seemed to be ‘blessed’ by God in life with good physical & material things,  but now he is in damnation & cursed by God.  What was missing is that the rich man had no real faith or trust in God.  He had a false god = himself,  & he based his life on his money/possessions.  He imagined he was favored by God as a descendent of Abraham.  But he had no mercy or love for others;  he ignored God’s teaching about caring for the neighbor.  He had no fruit of faith = a dead tree.  Like the Pharisees,  he loved himself.  Lazarus had nothing but his trust in God.  In fact,  the name ‘Lazarus’ literally means,  “God is my help.”   So,  which one was truly blessed?

A Scripture promise is  that those who cry out to God for help  are not disappointed;    and there is no help better than the blessing that is eternal.   Lazarus is carried by angels to heaven.  The rich man in hell lifts his eyes to see.  *And what does he see?   Pitiful Lazarus being embraced by God!   Only now does he see his deep & real need!  He’s so desperate,

he begs for just one drop of water to cool his tongue.   He had no mercy for Lazarus before,  but now he wants mercy from Lazarus.   But it can’t be.   There’s a vast canyon,  or separation,  fixed between the two places;  no one can cross.

It’s important for US to understand  what it means that the rich man is in hell;  that word should never cross our lips  unless we’re talking about this terrible place.    He’s in very real agony;  it’s not a dream.   He is being tortured continually in flames.

Hell is a very real physical & spiritual place;  the worst place,  and it never ends.   Scripture teaches us that it was not made for man;   it was made by God as a place  for the devil & his demons.   There was no salvation plan for them;   but God’s desire is that ALL humans would know the truth:  to believe in Jesus Christ ~ who is the only Savior from hell.  With repentance & forgiveness & Baptism into Him,  we will take up our place & life in heaven.   That is salvation.

But for those men, women or children  who are not connected to the Son of heaven,  who have any other ‘god’ than the Triune God,  they remain under the same condemnation for their sins  as  the devil & his demons.   Whether people or demons,  those who reject God & rebel against Him,  have only one place to go.   Elsewhere Jesus describes hell as a place  “where their worm does not die,  and the fire is not quenched,” // “where there is weeping  and gnashing of teeth.” (Mk.9, Mt.8)


In Exodus 3,  Moses saw a bush on fire,  but it was not consumed.  Hell is a fire that burns,  but does not consume;  it continues for eternity.   *Do you know people who believe there’s a heaven,  but not a hell?   They may say that word a lot =in cursing=  but they refuse to believe the Bible’s teaching about it.   And if there isn’t a hell,  *who needs a Savior?   The truth is    that they will one day see,  like this rich man,  and will have to acknowledge hell  and how   they ignored God and the Savior.

So, the rich man,  seeing that he can’t save himself,   finally thinks of someone else.

He pleads for his brothers,  who are still on the earth.  He says, ‘please send Lazarus to warn my brothers about all this.’    Jesus has Abraham speak the truth about how God works upon  the hearts and minds of men:  ‘Your brothers have Moses and the Prophets,’ he says.

In other words:  they have the Holy Scriptures,  beginning from Genesis,  & now all the way to Revelation.   The rich man still thinks he knows better;  he argues,  ‘No,  that won’t work. 

But if someone should rise from the dead,  that will bring them to repent & believe.”

So now this man,  who couldn’t keep himself out of hell,  is now telling God  how to reach   the hearts & minds of his brothers!    It’s amazing how the sinful mind works.

This rich man was familiar with Moses & the Prophets,  but he hadn’t believed them.    He was familiar with Abraham & the promises,   called him ‘father,’  implying that he was a child of Abraham;   but his life  did not have the fruit of the faith that Abraham had.   Moses & the Prophets taught the true faith:   Love the Lord your God,  and serve him only;   fear,  love,  and trust in God above all things.   Love your neighbor as yourself.   This is the confessional,  visible,  & living faith of a true child of Abraham.

The rich man thinks  that if there were just more miracles being done  that more people would believe in Jesus.  That didn’t work with the rich pharisees in Jesus’ day;  & it won’t work in our day.  Faith comes from hearing, not by sight.  Only the Spirit can revive a cold, dead soul.

The man thinks: ‘if someone goes to them from the dead  they will repent.”   Not true, says God.    “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets,  neither will they be convinced  if someone should rise from the dead.”   And that’s just a fact;  it shows how doomed man is,  and how the Holy Spirit uses the message & power of the Gospel  to change the heart from unbelief to believing.  The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit that saves.

This foolish rich man reminds us of what happened when Jesus actually raised another man  -named Lazarus- from the dead.   Some then began to trust Jesus’ word;  others continued to doubt,  and some made a plan to kill Jesus.  Even an actual, live resurrection  will not bring someone to repentance,  IF they reject God thru His Holy Scripture,  they will not know what it means to repent & trust God by faith ~~ not by sight.

*What’s a main point of this parable for us today?   Two related points:   #1:  All of us are mortal,  and #2:  there is a real heaven  and a real hell.   People do know that they will die;  but many don’t live like it.  At the moment of death,  God judges us  in connection with His  son Jesus;   as a believer  or an unbeliever.    And with that judgment,  there is a place to go.  Heaven and hell are very real places.     What determines which place is ours for all eternity  is +faith & trust in Christ Jesus,   or     +the absence of that faith & trust.    He who believes  and is baptized in Christ  shall be saved;   he who does not believe  will be condemned.


The rich man had a sinful love of his earthly things,   and it substituted for God in being the center of his life.   His money & possessions were not evil.

We are to be good stewards of whatever money & resources that God puts into our lives;  including – using them for to support the gospel mission,  and care for those who are being sought by the Good Shepherd.

Jesus said,   “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;  a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”   He said,  “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”    *Why?   Because,  like this rich man,  his love of money crowded out faith & trust in God.


Faith and trust  is what God declared thru Moses & the Prophets;   and that’s what Jesus preached & fulfilled.  Faith is believing that the Triune God is a merciful God.   He has had mercy upon you & me.  He knows our condemning sin & fallen nature;  he knows our troubles & sorrows,  our doubts &fears,  and our separation from Him & his heaven.    The reality is   that we walk thru the valley of the shadow of the consequences of sin = the shadow of death.

But our loving Father determined to rescue us.    He sent Jesus to die on the cross,  bearing our sin  and it’s penalty.   Jesus died & was placed in a tomb.    And on the third day after,  He rose;  defeating our enemies,  and gaining for us that heavenly place.

Even with the miracle of Jesus’ Easter resurrection,   some believed, / some doubted,/  some tried to cover it up like it doesn’t matter.    So even our faith  is not based on having seen someone raised from the dead;  or any other miracle.   But we still have Moses & the Prophets,  now with the Apostles & Evangelists.   The Bible  ~the Gospel of Jesus~  is the Spirit’s tool to change our hearts & minds. The Old Testament proclaimed what God’s salvation plan would be.   The New Testament proclaims what God has done  to fulfill it all in Jesus, the Son.

And that is where our faith rests secure = in Jesus,  crucified & risen,  and who is ready  to return.   As Paul said:  we face death all day long.  But our Savior is living,  and He is giving us a real heavenly home.