In our wealth- and power-driven culture, we all know the “big names” out there. Our news and entertainment industries provide a never-ending stream of the latest triumphs, tragedies and gossip. Whether it’s popular athletes, actors, or successful entrepreneurs.
It would have been no different in Bible times. Everyone knows who the rich and famous are in their society, whether it’s 2000 AD or 2000 BC.
Rich Man and Lazarus
In the gospel of Luke chapter 16, we read about a rich man who lived a life of luxury. At the rich man’s gate, however, lived a poor, diseased beggar named Lazarus. While the rich man spent his life pampered by innumerable attendants, Lazarus hoped just to taste a scrap of food. But there was one thing the two men shared in common: neither could escape death.
One day, the rich man dies. The poor man also dies. The Bible says that immediately, Lazarus is carried by angels into paradise. Meanwhile, the rich man finds himself in a place of utter torment. Being in agony, the rich man looks up and sees Lazarus with Abraham. The tormented man cries out to Abraham. “Have pity on me! Send Lazarus here to cool my mouth with water – I’m in torment with these flames!”
Please Warn my Brothers!
Let’s pause here and observe several things about the rich man.
- He never repented for his self-indulgent lifestyle or failure to give to those in need.
- Although he ignored Lazarus during his lifetime, he not only recognized Lazarus in the afterlife, he knew his name.
- Even from hell, the man still refused to speak to Lazarus directly.
- Instead, he still viewed Lazarus as someone to be used, demanding that he be sent to serve him.
When the rich man realizes his situation is hopeless, he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers. In response, he is told that his brothers have already been warned. They have the ability to read all about it (meaning, the words of Moses and the prophets).
The rich man shouts, “No!… if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God!” But he is told, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.”
Wow. What a tragic prediction.
Notice that the one who is poor, disregarded, and insignificant by the world’s standards is repeatedly mentioned by name: Lazarus. In contrast, the rich man, living in splendor day after day, presumably well known among his neighbors and the talk of the town, is never once mentioned by name.
No Change of Heart
The rich man had every opportunity to turn his life over to God. Instead, he chose only to live for himself. As a result, by the time he died, he had positioned himself as a complete stranger to God, remembered only as ‘a certain rich man.’ Notice that even going to hell did not bring a change of heart. The man never repented of his selfishness. This alone is evidence that God’s judgment is just.
Having been a complete stranger to God all his life, the man simply awoke to find himself forever separated from the God he rejected. Jesus warns us, “Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord, Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven… many will say to me, “Lord, Lord!”…but I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’” Mathew 7:21-23
And, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:15
But there is Good News! You can know God today. If you feel like a stranger to God, cry out to Jesus. Call out to Him and ask Him to forgive you for your sin and rebellion. Thank Him for paying the tremendous price for your sin on the Cross, and tell Him you choose to no longer live for yourself, but for Him. Accept His promise of salvation and He will gladly come into your life to help you live the life He always intended – together with Him forever.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13)