Imagine you just received a very
special gift for your birthday. It is something you've wanted for a long
time - a short-wave radio.
You unwrap it from it's packaging,
meticulously follow all the instructions in setting it up, plug it in,
flip the "on" switch, and begin to turn the dial. Suddenly, you're receiving
your first transmission.
You quickly assess that it is a
desperate message coming over short wave radio at sea: "Mayday!
Mayday! This is the Blue Dolphin One Seven Seven. We have encountered a
storm (static)... taking on water (static) ...two overboard... (static)
repeat... taking on water! (static)... Mayday! Mayday! ...any ships in
vicinity, please...(static).. " then silence.
Those few words of terror picked
up on a short-wave radio, set you into motion. Even in your novice status,
you know what to do. You quickly contact the Coast Guard to relay the message,
giving them the name of the vessel, the frequency of the broadcast, and
the exact time you picked up the transmission. "Is there anything else
we can do?" you ask. "We're willing to help further if needed." "No," says
the dispatcher. "We'll take over from here," is the response. "Thanks for
"That's OK," you reply. "It's the
least I could do. I wish there were something else we could do to help
those poor people."
A few words spoken in terror from
the high seas... they set you into motion. You identified with the panicked
person on the broadcast. For a few short moments, his terror became yours.
This morning I would like to call
your attention to a few words of terror - eighty of them to be exact -
that are recorded in the Bible. The transmission did not come from someone
in distress on the high seas. They were spoken by someone in distress from
the very depths of Hades.
The words are these:
Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of
his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame...
I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father's house--for I have five
brothers-- that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of
Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!"
The eighty words you just heard
make up the only transmission we have from that place the Bible calls Hades.
Like the short-wave distress message, they ought to set us into motion.
We should identify with the person transmitting them. I hope I can help
you do that in this message.
The words are recorded in your
Bible in Luke 16:23-31. I'd like you to join me there, please.
(Read Luke 16:23-31)
For the sake of you careful students
of the Bible, let me say that in this message I will make no distinction
between Hades (the temporary abode of the unbelieving dead) and Hell (the
"Lake of Fire," the final resting place of the unbelieving dead.) I do
understand the difference, but I see little need to distinguish between
them in this message. Suffice it now to say that both places are places
of fire and torment, and there is no escape from either. In the end, after
the judgment according to Revelation 20:14 death and Hades are thrown into
the lake of fire.
In the transcript we have before
us then - this message from the depths of Hades - we see first
1. A Man Caught
in a Terrible Circumstance.
Verse 23 says, "and in Hades
he lifted up his eyes, being in torment."
We do our best to euphemize unpleasant
circumstances. People don't want to hear words like these. Consider the
last funeral you attended of an unbeliever - someone who lived all the
way through life with no regard for the things of God. Look around in your
mind's eye. What do you see there at the funeral? The flowers are meticulously
placed, the music is soothing, the funeral director is wearing his best
sad/pleasant/understanding face, and the person with the eulogy is winsome
as he recounts the person's accomplishments in life. Little or nothing
is mentioned about life after death. Everyone carefully avoids that
subject unless it's the oft mentioned and misleading phrase, "at least
he's in a better place." Now imagine that suddenly the funeral of that
unbeliever is interrupted by the terrified voice of the deceased coming
over the loud speaker system:
"Please, somebody help me! I'm
in agony in this flame! I'm in torment! Help me!"
It would certainly change the mood,
wouldn't it? All the somber faces would change to looks of horror. The
farce would be exposed for what it is. All the talk of peace and rest and
"he's in a better place" would cease as people came face to face with the
truth. Yes, some would still wonder what was going on. Was that really
the deceased they heard? Was someone playing a cruel prank? There are some
that would not be convinced even if someone returned and spoke to them
from the dead.
No, such a thing is not likely
to happen. But if it did, it would be an accurate picture of what is really
Twice in this passage the word
is used. Twice the word "agony" appears - once the word "flame."
No, you won't hear any of these words mentioned at a funeral. Rest assured
though, according to the Bible, in the context of the deceased unbeliever,
that is what is going on.
My friends, we dare not allow ourselves
to be caught in such a terrible circumstance! In the words of Scripture,
we must "be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling
and choosing" us. Don't dally around with your salvation! Don't play
games with your eternity. The stakes are too high!
We see secondly in this passage,
2. A Man Whose
Situation Was Desperate.
Verse 24 says, "Father Abraham,
have mercy on me..."
Considering the rest of the story,
we need to realize that this man was not used to asking for help. He had
probably never been desperate in his entire earthly life. According to
Jesus, he had lived a life of splendor. He regularly wore clothing of purple
and fine linen from only the best shops. Like some well-to-do people living
today, his biggest worry was probably deciding what to wear when he opened
his walk-in closet - or whether he had forgotten to pick up his favorite
blue shirt at the dry cleaner's. He had no needs - at least he had none
to which he was accustomed that required a pleading for help. Human need
was as far away from his conscious mind as his wealth could keep it. Though
such desperation existed just outside his front gate in the beggar who
lay there, this man managed to keep it from spoiling his day.
Now suddenly, he is crying out
for mercy. As Lazarus once "longed to be fed with the crumbs" that
fell from his table, now he was longing for just one drop of water. It
is hard to imagine a more desperate condition than the one this man was
in. Yes, people have died horrible deaths in fire here on earth, but the
key word there is "died." They died. This man wasn't dying! All
the agony was there without the ending of it!
Revelation 14:11 contains these
words: "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and
they have no rest day and night..."
Matthew 25:46 says, "And these
will go away into eternal punishment..."
Eternal punishment! No wonder
the man is crying for mercy!
How do you describe eternity? I
don't really know. It's longer than a lifetime. It's longer than a millenium.
It's longer than the entire history of man. Think of the longest period
of time you can imagine. Live every day of that span and whenever you get
to the end of it, realize that you have no less time remaining. All hope
of an end is gone in eternity away from God.
If the punishment in Hades or Hell
lasted only a week, perhaps one could endure it without crying out for
mercy. If it went on for year, at least he could dream of the time when
it would be over. But to imagine a punishment that never ends, that is
a desperate situation!
I know there are people who do
not want to believe that Hell is eternal.
US Catholic Magazine recently
asked its readers what they thought about the idea of an afterlife. The
article concluded that the old "hellfire-and-brimstone" idea seems to be
on its way out, being replaced by the idea of hell as an absence of God.
It went on to say that one result is that people are becoming more concerned
about doing good for its own sake -- and less about doing good to avoid
While that may certainly be the
trend in people's belief, I want you to know that this preacher is still
concerned about doing good to avoid hell. I believe you should be, too.
I know there are those who say,
"I cannot believe that a loving God could do such a thing to a person!"
But the fact remains - the Bible teaches that there is a literal Hell and
that real people will go there.
Listen to the words of Jesus Himself
in Matthew 10:28:
"And do not fear those who kill
the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able
to destroy both soul and body in hell."
Reject the Bible's teaching on
a literal Hell and you reject the words of Jesus Himself.
Saying it isn't so or refusing
to believe it does not change what this book of God says. Reread the transcript
of this message from Hades. Jesus Christ relayed it to us. Show me where
it means something other than what it says.
Robert Ingersoll, a famous lawyer
and atheist in the latter part of the nineteenth century, once delivered
a blistering lecture on hell. He called hell the "scarecrow of religion"
and told his audience how unscientific it was, and how all intelligent
people had decided there was no such place. A drunk in the audience came
up to him afterward and said, "Bob, I liked your lecture; I liked what
you said about hell. But, Bob, I want you to be sure about it, because
I'm depending upon you."
We'd all better consider very carefully
whatever it is we are counting on to get us through.
If you are depending on what this
preacher tells you, then listen carefully. On this side of death, you can
obtain ten thousand gallons of the water of God's mercy whenever you need
it. On the other side, if you die outside of Christ, there will be none
- not even one drop.
From this passage we see also,
3. A Man Who Needed
Help but Couldn't Get It.
Verse 24 says, "send Lazarus...that
he may...cool off my tongue..."
He was used to people waiting on
him. When he needed help, he clapped his hands or pushed the butler's bell
and someone came to wait on him.
"I need help! Send someone! Send
Lazarus who is there with you. He can do it. He's used to doing what I
But it didn't work. There is no
"butler's bell" in Hades. You cannot go to the blue pages of the phone
book and dial up a government agency to assist you. Hell isn't hooked up
to the 911 system.
On earth this man commanded attention
and service. All of his life was meticulously arranged for his convenience
and comfort and the filling of his needs. Right up through the black
chauffeured limo that took his body to the cemetery. (They probably tossed
Lazarus' body into a ditch!) But that arrangement was no more. Things are
not the same in the afterlife as they are here. Do not make the mistake
of thinking that comfort here will insure comfort there. It won't.
Fourthly, in this transmission
from Hades, we see
4. A Man for Whom
Nothing Could Be Done.
The passage says in verse 26, "there
is a great chasm fixed...that none may cross over from there to us."
I had an acquaintance on the Internet
point out to me that in the beginning of the story, the two men are separated
by a gate, by the end of the story they are separated by a gulf!
You can step through a gate. You
cannot step across a gulf. The point is, there was nothing anyone could
do - even if they had wanted to.
Oh the futility of hearing the
desperate cries of someone in agony without being able to do something
There is no remedy for one in Hades
or Hell. The only thing that can be done is preventative and it has already
been done. This man was told, "They have Moses and the prophets, let
them here them." Having lived and died under the Old Testament, he
should have listened to the Old Testament Scriptures. That was the only
hope for his relatives, too. Today we must listen to the terms of the New
Many living today think that if
there were really such a place as Hell and if it were really as bad as
all that, God would somehow alert them in a special way so as to get their
The now deceased atheist, Carl
Sagan was fond of saying that if God would place a burning cross in the
sky, he would believe. Whether he was sincere in that, I cannot say. I
can say two things for certain, though, about Sagan. First, according to
this, that isn't going to happen. All the warning that is to be given has
been given in today in New Testament Scripture. Second, Sagan is a believer
The rich man in Luke 16 chose either
to be ignorant of the Scriptures or to disregard them. There was no additional
Neither would there be a special
warning to his five brothers. Nor will there be any more warning to you
and me or to others living today.
It is possible that someone here
is thinking, "One of these days God will do something really big to get
my attention, then I'll change. That didn't happen in this man's life.
He had received all the warning he was ever to get.
Once a person gets to Hades, there
will be nothing anyone can do to help him.
Finally, we see here