Charles Stanley - The Consequences of Being Spiritually Shortsighted
Do you really believe that the way you live now is gonna make any difference in what happens to you in the life hereafter? Is your idea of God that He is a wonderful, loving Father who knows that you make mistakes; that you sin against Him; that you can't be perfect, and so He just forgives and forgets? Do you believe that somehow one of these days, in some way or another, you don't know exactly how, finally God's gonna get us all into heaven one way or the other? Well, if that's the way you feel about your future and the things you believe about God, I want you to listen very carefully to the passage of scripture we want to deal with today because I want to talk about "The Consequences of Being Spiritually Short-Sighted". The Consequences of Being Spiritually Short-Sighted.
And I want you to turn, if you will, because our text is the sixteenth chapter of Luke and I want to begin reading in the nineteenth verse and going through the thirty-first verse, and I want to encourage you to jot down a few things that I want to share with you, because two things oughta happen: Number one: When you listen to this passage of scripture, it should motivate you to live today with tomorrow in mind. And, secondly, it should ignite your heart to be genuinely concerned about people who are your loved ones, people who're your friends, people you work around, or even strangers that you meet who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. So beginning with this nineteenth verse, listen to what the scripture says:
"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels in to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and he said to, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Now, usually, this is described as a parable. And a parable is either a saying or a story that Jesus would tell in order to make, to drive home a point, and He would illustrate that by something that they understood about life. Some life situation. The only difference here is this: That this particular story does not have some characteristics of a parable. Jesus does not say, The Bible does not say, He told this parable. It doesn't begin like a parable usually begins. And in no parable did He call anybody's name. And so, whether it is a parable or not a parable, the issue is that it's the truth. This is the truth either of something that Jesus saw and knew, or it is a parable. But, more than likely, it is something that He had seen, with and knowing Jesus, as Himself, having the capacity to know these things, He was telling the truth.
So you'll meet people lots of times who say, now oh, yes, I believe the Bible. Then once in a while they'll come to a passage of scripture and they say, well you know, now I don't think I can handle that; I can't believe that. Well, let me say something. If Jesus Christ said something, He told the truth. If He said something that was the truth here and was not the truth over here, then He's not a true God. Everything He said is the truth, whether I understand it or now. Everything He says is the truth, whether I like it or not. Everything He said was the truth and is the truth, whether I want to believe it or not. The issue sometimes is difficult for us to accept the truth, because sometimes that truth is very, very painful. It stirs something within us. It gets us very uncomfortable. It makes us think about areas we don't want to think about. It makes us think about the past. It makes us think about the present. It makes us think about the future.
We don't like to think about things we can't control and we can't handle. This is a very sobering passage, because it is the only time Jesus lifts the veil and enables us to see what happens on the other side of the grave. I want us to distinguish here in just a moment about Hades, torment, and Paradise, but it's very clear and this is one of those kind of messages that people don't like to hear, and I understand that. If I didn't believe in the Lord Jesus Christ I wouldn't be very interested in hearing this. But if I had any wisdom at all, I at least would stop to say, well, I'm gonna hear the other side. I'm at least honest enough and willing enough to listen, to see what this is about. Because we're talking about something that every single one of us is going to face. We're all going to die. And we're all going to spend eternity in one of two places. There are only two. One of two places we're gonna spend eternity.
And what I want you to see is, I want you to see the consequences of living your life and making no preparation for your soul, but only for your body. I want you to see the consequences of only preparing for this life and no preparation for the life to come. It is very serious. It is tragic to live that kind of life. Now I want you to notice two or three things. We're going right down these verses here, but I want you to begin, if you will, in verse twenty-three, 'cause I want to explain something. "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom". Now where is all of that? So listen carefully. Hades is the Greek word for "the place of the departed dead". Sheol in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word for "the place of the departed dead".
Hades, according to the scripture, was the place that the lost and the saved went. Now watch this carefully, because it was divided into two compartments. That's what He's saying here. "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment". There is torment for those who die without Christ. There is Abraham's bosom to the Jew, or Paradise to us. And we think in terms of Paradise. And what He's simply saying is both of these men died. One of them went to torment and the other one to Abraham's bosom. Now what was Abraham's bosom? Abraham's bosom was Paradise. That is, for a Jew to be in the presence of Abraham the father of the nation.
Remembering now, we're talking about people who don't know anything about Jesus at that time, and the way they were saved was by faith in God on the basis of their faith in Him and the offer of sacrifices which symbolized, listen, the shedding of blood, which atoned for their sin. And you and I know that Jesus, when He died on the cross, He was the ultimate, last, final sacrifice that's why the veil in the temple was rent in two. And when He died, God the Father placed on Him all the sin of all mankind, so that He is the substitute, not for one, but for everyone. And those who accept Him as their personal Savior are saved. So, we're talking about those days before Jesus Christ was crucified. And so, here's what He said. He said the rich man went to torment; the poor man went to Abraham's bosom, or Paradise.
Now He says and in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. Now what I want you to see is I want you to see what reality is for the person who dies who's ignored God in their life. And the first thing I want you to notice is this: That when a person dies, they go to a specific place. They're not floatin' around out yonder somewhere in the ethereal nowhere. Jesus said, for example, "I go do prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you to Myself; where I am there you may be also". Jesus said here and in torment, and in torment he was suffering.
So, when a person dies without Christ, they go to a they go to a specific place. It's very, very, very evident here. Secondly, that when a person dies, immediately they know their fate. When a person passes away, what happens? In that moment they go to the presence of God. What did He say? He says this, the poor man died, and the angels came and escorted him into the presence of God. What a fantastic escort. Amen? An Escort will escort us into the presence of God. And so we know that when a lost person dies, first of all they go into a specific place and they're going to know immediately what their fate is. Not gonna be sleeping around in a grave somewhere for about two or three thousand years. The third thing is this, listen to this. Listen to what He said, "he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom".
Pain, listen, listen to this: being in torment, pain and suffering are a part of the eternal existence of people who die without Christ. And so it's very evident from this passage that to die having ignored God in the person's life, they gonna be in torment. Next thing I want you to notice. Listen to what happens here "He cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'" Let's talk about the flame for a moment. Is that some physical flame like you and I see in a fireplace? No. More than likely, He's talking about emotional pain, and Jesus is describing is it as it were flames. That is, the pain and the suffering when he said, "dip the tip of his finger," listen, "the tip of his finger in water and put it on my tongue".
Well, we know that one drop of water isn't going to do much to flames. And so, what He's using is a term here to help us understand that his pain was so, listen, was so intense it appeared that one drop of water might help. That should send us a message. When a person dies without Christ, they are going to suffer pain and agony beyond our understanding. Now let's keep reading. Listen to what He says, "he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue.'" He says, "'I'm in agony in this in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted; you're in agony".
You can mark this down. God doesn't answer the prayers of those in torment. He doesn't answer the prayers of those in torment. Crying out for mercy, "God have mercy upon me!," having gone to torment, does not change that state. God doesn't answer prayers of those who have passed on and gone to torment. Notice something else. Listen to what He says: "He cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, I'm in agony in this flame". Why? Go back one verse. "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham far away in Lazarus's bosom".
Now does that mean that people in torment can see people in Paradise? Well, according to that text, you could say yes. Does that mean that he physically saw him, or does that mean that he mentally knew absolutely, and could perceive in his mind. I don't think you can draw a very hard line. The one thing for certain: People in torment know something about what's going on in Paradise. That it's a whole different life. He says "he looked and he saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom;" that is, in his presence. "He cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; I'm in agony in this flame.'" He said, "Remember," what does it say to us? That in torment people remember what happened in their life. That in torment people have remembrance of things that were going on in their life when they lived.
This is what He said. He said, "Remember" He said, Remember, you had your good things; Lazarus bad things; now he's being comforted here, and you're in agony. A person, probably one of the worst things about torment will be memory: "If I'd a listened to that message. If I'd a listened to that testimony. If I'd a must be something that ricochets all over torment. If I'd a just listened. If I'd a just gone to church". And every single "If I'd a" is too late. I'm not being critical. My friend, you may be lost, and you may not believe in Jesus. Am I criticizing you? No. You know what I'm trying to help you understand? That the Son of God who loved you enough to go to the cross and die and give His life as a substitute for your sins and mine, and the sins of the whole world loves you enough to save you and I'm saying: Friend, don't live your life, listen, making all your preparations for the body and nothing for the soul.
Don't live your life making only preparation for this life when there's a life to come. And it's very evident here what's going on. What makes it even worse. Listen to this. Verse twenty-six: "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm", a great gulf, fixed; that is, fixed by God so that, listen, "so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none will be able to cross over from there to us". Now this says two things: First of all, God says He's fixed it. God has fixed this great chasm so there's no passing from torment to Paradise, and certainly not from Paradise to torment. There's no going from torment to heaven today or heaven to torment.
Listen to this. That gulf is bridgeless. It is bridgeless. There's not anyone who can bridge that gap. Which says, those who would say that you go to a place of torment until you have stayed there long enough, and then when you have paid for your sins, you will finally get out. Listen very carefully. That is totally, absolutely unscriptural. There's not a single verse in the Bible that indicates that. It's a bridgeless gap. There is no going from torment to glory. It's a bridgeless gap. Not only that, I want you to notice what He says. He says they can't mix because they can't go from one to the other. But it also says something else. Look at this. When He says there's no crossing over from here to you, the rich man said, "Then I beg you," speaking to Father Abraham, "I beg you, Abraham, that you send him to my father's house, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers, in order that he may warn them, so that they will not come to this place of torment".
What does it say to us? That people in torment can have a genuine concern for people that they know who are still alive, or they think they're still alive, that they not come there. Let me ask you a question. What would make hell worse any more than to meet somebody you loved there? He said, please send him so that my brothers won't come. He knew the kind of lifestyle his brothers were living. He knew that's exactly where they were headed. Because they were probably just like him. Please send him. Please send him. Please send him and warn them so that they'll not come to this come to this place of torment. So a person can be concerned, about their loved ones, in torment. But notice what happens here.
This is a very sobering thought, and I tell you, when I read this and saw it for the first time this way, I had to get on my knees and ask God, "Please, please, please, don't ever let me preach anything but the truth and, secondly, never let me compromise one single word of God, and never let me stop preaching until the day I die". Listen to this. When he said, "I have five brothers, please send him," you know what God's response was? "They have Moses and the Prophets". "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them". You know what he was saying? They have the Law of Moses and they have the Prophets down through the ages, and the Prophets in his day, who were speaking the truth of the gospel. And you know what that says? Listen to what He said. He said, now watch this, he said, "No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent"! Listen to this, but he said, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead".
Here is what He's saying, a very sobering thoughts. God's method of bringing people to a saving knowledge of Himself is through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether it is the written Word; whether it is the spoken Word; whatever it is. It is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here's what that says. It says that every single Sunday, every single message; your testimony; your witness; every time you have an opportunity; very important in the eyes of God because God is saying, listen, it's not miracles and wonders. This is not God's way. Does God perform miracles? Yes, He does. Does He perform wonders? Yes, He does. It's a wonder that any of us are saved. That's one wonder. Is He in the habit of performing miracles? He does perform miracles here and there. You see, this is the thing people forget.
Why did Jesus, what was His ultimate motivation for signs and miracles in His day? Which He said of those, He said ya'll are always looking for a sign. His purpose, listen, was not simply to heal people, though He had compassion upon people, His primary purpose for his miracles was to, listen, was to give His identification. He was the Son of God. He was God walking in the flesh. In other words, that was His purpose for doing so. Not because somebody wanted to get healed, healed, healed. He didn't heal everybody. Jesus didn't heal everybody. In His compassion and love, He healed multitudes. That was not His ultimate objective. His ultimate objective was that they may understand He's the Son of the Living God.
So, somebody says, well you know what, if I saw somebody rise from the dead, I'd believe in Him. Not necessarily. For example, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. I mean it was very, I mean they knew this man was dead. He'd been dead four days. Jesus raised him from the dead. What was people's response? Kill him. Secondly, and kill Lazarus. That is the response of fallen humanity, depraved mankind. There will always be an excuse; always be some human explanation. And so God, listen, God's method of bringing the world to Christ is not through miracles and wonders. God's method of getting the truth to mankind is not signs and wonders, but the proclamation of the gospel.
Here's what He said. He said, listen, even though people rise from the dead, that's not the issue, human fallen nature will always have a human explanation for even the most miraculous things that God does. For example, dividing of the Red Sea. Theologians say well, I'll tell you what happened. Jesus's death on the cross and resurrection, well, He just went to sleep. There's always some devilish, human, depraved solution to God's great miracles. You know what He says? My method is the proclamation of the gospel. What keeps people out of torment? Proclamation of the gospel. What gets people into glory? Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior as a result of hearing the proclamation of the gospel.
My friend, listen, I don't know what you believe. I don't know where you're coming from, but this much I know. One of these days, you and I will stand before the Living God. We will be judged by the truth of this Book. This is a loving, wonderful God who desires to have a personal relationship with every single one of us. But if you refuse Him, and deny Him, and if you turn your back upon Him, and you say no to Him, I have just described what you can expect. Because these are the words not of a preacher, these are the words of the Living God.
Now if somebody'll say, well, all right now, but what about all those people who have never heard? What's God gonna do with them? Listen carefully. He is a God of justice. He is a God of love. He is a God who is absolutely pure and perfect. My answer to that is: God will do the absolutely, perfectly right thing for every single individual, nations and every single individual when they stand before Him. It is not my responsibility to reign judgment upon someone else. It is your responsibility and mine, first of all, to believe the truth of the gospel because we have the privilege of doing so. And secondly, listen, secondly, it is our responsibility to see to it that we get the truth of the gospel to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, as simply as possible, as irresistibly as possible, in the power of the Holy Spirit so that God might be glorified. That is the work of the Church. And that's why we give time, energy, and finances, everything possible, so that you may hear the truth; you may respond to the truth; and your life be changed and be transformed.
And when you come to the point in life where you know that death is approaching quickly, you can face it, not with fear, but in faith. Not in consternation about what's gonna happen, but in absolute confidence that your Savior, who died two thousand years ago on the cross, paid your sin debt in full, and the day you trusted Him as you personal Savior, He fixed forever your eternal destiny, which will be Heaven with Him and all the saints. You can say, well, how do I handle that? What do I do?
Listen carefully. Here's what you do. You say to Him: "Father, I've sinned against you. I'm asking you to forgive me of my sins, Father. I'm placing my trust in Jesus", and I mean by that that I do believe that He died on the cross and paid my sin debt in full. And when He did and I'm willing to receive Him, that He... You're willing to receive me, so I trust You, Lord Jesus, as my personal Savior today. The moment you do that, sins are forgiven, name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, your eternally eternal destiny is fixed by God because you responded to His Son who loved you enough to give His life for you. Tragedy of tragedies that you would live your life and ignore God. Blessing of blessings that you would live your life for Jesus Christ.
Father, how grateful we are. Thank You for all those wonderful passages that tell us how loving and kind and gracious and merciful You are. I pray that You'll sink this message so deep it could never be forgotten; so strongly that it'll bring about change. And Father, I pray the Holy Spirit will bring about the salvation of multitudes of people. In Jesus's name, amen.