Sermon title:  A POWERFUL PARABLE TEACHES MULTIPLE LESSONS

 

Luke 16:19-31       

 Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, April 28, 2019

 

 

For some time now

we’ve been going through the Gospels

in chronological order,

looking at everything our Lord Jesus said and did

in the order in which those events occurred.

 

We interrupted that

to discuss the special events of Palm Sunday and Easter,

but now,

as we resume our chronological coverage,

we come to a section in the Gospel of Luke

where he relates to us

examples of Jesus’ teaching

on various topics.

 

We pay special attention to Jesus’ teachings,

because they come to us directly

from the divine Son of God.

 

Some Bibles are printed with Jesus’ words in RED LETTERS

for that very reason—

his words are so important.

 

The One who was in the beginning,

and by whom heaven and earth were created—

he walked the earth as a man

and carried on a public ministry

for 3 ½ years,

preaching and teaching

and performing miracles.

 

And, in his teaching, Jesus revealed secrets—

secret information that only God could know—

information that was kept secret

throughout Old Testament times,

but that finally got revealed

in the teaching of the Son of God.

 

At Matthew 13:35 we read that Jesus said,

 

“I will utter things

which have been kept secret

from the foundation of the world.”

 

or, in another translation

 

“I will utter things

hidden since the creation of the world."

 

In our sermon this morning,

we’ll look at some of those hidden secrets

that were first revealed or made known

through Jesus’ teaching.

 

And we find some of those secrets revealed

in Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus,

which begins in Luke 16:19.

 

Only Luke tells us this parable—

which helps us appreciate the value

of having 4 different Gospels,

that all tell us different aspects

of Jesus’ ministry and teaching.

 

The name “Lazarus” was popular among 1st Century Jews,

and there is another Lazarus in the Gospel of John,

but he is not the same Lazarus found in this parable.

 

Jesus begins the story in Luke 16:19 by saying,

 

19 "There was a rich man

who was dressed in purple and fine linen

and lived in luxury every day.

 

20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus,

covered with sores

21 and longing to eat

what fell from the rich man's table.

 

Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

 

22 "The time came when the beggar died

and the angels carried him to Abraham's side.

 

The rich man also died and was buried.

 

23 In hell, where he was in torment,

he looked up and saw Abraham far away,

with Lazarus by his side.

 

24 So he called to him,

'Father Abraham, have pity on me

and send Lazarus

to dip the tip of his finger in water

and cool my tongue,

because I am in agony in this fire.'

 

25 "But Abraham replied,

 

'Son, remember that in your lifetime

you received your good things,

while Lazarus received bad things,

but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

 

26 And besides all this,

between us and you a great chasm has been fixed,

so that those who want to go from here to you cannot,

nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

 

27 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father,

send Lazarus to my father's house,

28 for I have five brothers.

 

Let him warn them,

so that they will not also

come to this place of torment.'

 

29 "Abraham replied,

'They have Moses and the Prophets;

let them listen to them.'

 

30 "'No, father Abraham,' he said,

'but if someone from the dead goes to them,

they will repent.'

 

31 "He said to him,

 

'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,

they will not be convinced

even if someone rises from the dead.'"

 

That final sentence appears to be

the main lesson Jesus was teaching though this parable:

 

'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,

they will not be convinced

even if someone rises from the dead.'"

 

His point was

that Jews who refused to repent of their sins

after hearing what “Moses and the Prophets” said

in the Old Testament

would still “not be convinced” to repent

even when Jesus rises from the dead.”

 

And he was right about that, of course.

 

There were thousands of Jews

who repented of their sins

and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

 

They became the nucleus of the first Christian churches.

 

But the vast majority of the Jews—

and especially the religious leaders—

refused to repent,

even after Christ rose from the dead.

 

They were like the rich man’s brothers in the parable.

 

They were headed for punishment after death,

but, as Abraham in the parable said,

 

“'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,

they will not be convinced

even if someone rises from the dead.'"

 

And the same is true today.

 

There may be some people close to us,

who we’ve been witnessing to from the Scriptures for years,

but they won’t budge.

 

They turn a deaf ear to the Gospel message.

 

We may be thinking,

‘If only God would show them a miracle!

That would convince them to believe.’

 

But, the conclusion of this parable

seems to indicate otherwise:

 

If they won’t listen to the Good News in the Scriptures,

they won’t be convinced even by a miracle.’

 

Of course, there’s always hope

that an unbeliever will finally accept the Gospel.

 

I myself was an adamant atheist as a young man.

 

Then, after years of denying God,

 I finally saw the light and came to believe.

 

But, we can’t put the blame on God—

as if people continue in unbelief

because God won’t show them a miracle.

 

As Jesus said,

 

“'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,

--and the Good News in the New Testament--

they will not be convinced

even if someone rises from the dead.'"

----------------------------

 

But that isn’t the only lesson we can draw from this parable.

 

There is also a reason why Jesus illustrated his point

by showing a rich man going into torment after death

and a poor beggar

joining the faithful patriarchs like Abraham

at God’s table in Paradise.

 

I believe the reason was that Jesus’ audience

would have expected the opposite to happen.

 

A popular view back then

was that wealth and riches were a sign of God’s favor.

 

So, poverty would be a sign of God’s disfavor.

 

But that was a false belief.

 

And our Lord Jesus shot down that false belief

by showing the rich man going to hell

and the poor beggar enjoying

the blessings alongside faithful Abraham.

 

Unfortunately, that same false belief

is taught today in many Christian churches.

 

It’s called the “health and wealth gospel,”

or the “prosperity gospel.”

 

It’s also related to the “Word of Faith” teaching,

which has been nicknamed

"name it and claim it" and "blab it and grab it."

 

And it’s just as false today

as it was when Jesus shot it down

to his audience back in the First Century.

 

But these false teachers in Christian churches

will tell you that,

if you’re not healthy and wealthy,

it’s because God is withholding his blessings

due to sin in your life.

 

And that if you’re a believing Christian,

you are entitled to good health, wealth and prosperity.

 

Some names associated with this false teaching today

include

Oral Roberts,

Joel Osteen,

Creflo Dollar,

Kenneth Copeland,

Benny Hinn,

Jim Bakker,

Paula White

and Kenneth Hagin.

 

Joyce Meyer earlier this year renounced

her own past teaching of the prosperity gospel.

 

But, even among those

who don’t blatantly teach the health & wealth gospel,

that false doctrine has influenced and tainted

the teaching of many other churches.

 

I recall one time years ago

receiving a letter from someone

about a photo of me

that was published in connection with my ministry.

 

The man who wrote the letter to me

said he didn’t believe I was really a Christian

because I wasn’t smiling in that photo.

 

His thinking was

that Christians should always look happy,

always smiling.

 

He must have forgotten that Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as

“a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

 

Isaiah 53:3 prophetically tells us that the Messiah would be

“a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

 

The rich man in Jesus’ parable

may have been smiling all the time

as he feasted and lived in luxury.

 

And the beggar Lazarus must have looked sad

as he hungered for crumbs from the rich man’s table.

 

The false “health & wealth” prosperity gospel

would say the rich man enjoyed God’s favor.

 

But Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

blows holes in that false teaching—

a teaching that was popular among many in Jesus’ day

and a false teaching in many churches today.

--------------------------------

 

Now, besides his main point—

that the Jews who didn’t believe Moses and the Prophets

wouldn’t be convinced when Jesus rose from the dead—

 

and besides his second point,

that wealth and riches are not an indication of God’s favor—

 

Jesus also taught a 3rd very important lesson

in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

 

He pulled back the curtain,

so to speak,

giving us a glimpse of the afterlife—

what happens to people after we die.

 

This was

secret information that only God could know—

information that was kept secret

throughout Old Testament times,

but that finally got revealed

in the teaching of the Son of God.

 

There were 8 places in the Old Testament

that use the Hebrew word “rapha” singular or “raphaim” plural,

apparently in reference to “shades,” “ghosts,” or

 the departed spirits

of dead people.

 

Isaiah 26:19 says,

 

“But your dead will live, Lord;

    their bodies will rise—

 

let those who dwell in the dust

    wake up and shout for joy—

your dew is like the dew of the morning;

    the earth will give birth to her dead.”

 

That last word is raphaim—meaning departed spirits—

and the passage speaks of

their bodily resurrection.

 

The Old Testament revealed the hope

of a bodily resurrection,

to life again in the flesh.

 

At Daniel 12:13, God’s angel told the prophet,

 

"As for you, go your way till the end.

You will rest,

and then at the end of the days

you will rise

to receive your allotted inheritance."

 

So, the angel promised Daniel

a resurrection to life at the end of the days.

 

Faithful Job, too, more than 1000 years before Christ,

 was inspired by the hope

of being raised to life again

in God’s presence.

 

He said, at Job 19:25,

 

“I know that my Redeemer lives,

and in the end He will stand upon the earth.

 

26 Even after my skin has been destroyed,

yet in my flesh I will see God.

 

27 I will see Him for myself;

my eyes will behold Him,

and not as a stranger.

 

How my heart yearns within me!

 

So, it was revealed to Job

that he had a Redeemer

who was already alive then

and who would stand someday upon the earth.

 

And Job had confidence that,

even though his body would die,

his flesh would be raised to life again,

and he would see God.

 

His heart yearned for that day!

 

All of that was in the Old Testament.

 

But the details of a heavenly reward for believers

and punishment after death for the wicked

remained for Jesus to reveal.

 

And reveal it, he did!

 

In fact, Jesus had more to say

about rewards and punishments after death

than anyone else in the Bible.

 

He revealed that all who hear the Gospel

and put faith in Christ

will end up with him in heaven.

 

At John 14:2, Jesus promised us,

 

In My Father’s house are many rooms.

 

If it were not so,

would I have told you

that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

 

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back

and welcome you into My presence,

so that you also may be where I am.

       

That’s a clear promise of our future home

with Christ in heaven.

 

Jesus also had more to say

about punishment after death

than anyone else in the Bible.

 

At Luke 12:4, Jesus said,

 

4"I tell you, my friends,

do not be afraid of those who kill the body

and after that can do no more.

 

5 But I will show you whom you should fear:

 

Fear him who,

after the killing of the body,

has power to throw you into hell.

Yes, I tell you, fear him.

       

Yes, there can be punishment

“after the killing of the body,” Jesus said.

 

This topic of punishment after death

is one that is ignored or avoided

in many churches today.

 

People today want to hear only feel-good sermons.

 

Unlike the early days of this country

when virtually every church in town

featured “fire and brimstone” sermons,

churches today have been pressured into

preaching “half-of-the-Word” heresies,

talking only about nice things

that don’t offend anyone.

 

Otherwise, people will get in their cars

and drive to another church

where they don’t have to listen to

the tough stuff.

 

Yes, Jesus preached love,

but he also had more to say

about punishment after death

than anyone else in the Bible.

 

And if we preach only the “love”

and don’t include Jesus’ call to repent from our sins

or else face punishment,

then that’s preaching just half of his message:

It’s a “half-of-the Word heresy.”

 

Actually, it’s because of Christ’s great love for us

that he gives us those warnings

about torment after death.

 

At 2 Peter 3:9, the Apostle Peter tells us that God

 

does not want anyone to perish,

but wants everyone to repent” of their sins.

 

And that’s why Jesus warns us

about punishment after death.

===============================

 

 So, our Lord taught us 3 important lessons

through his Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus:

 

(1) That it shouldn’t take a miracle

for people to believe.

Those who failed to repent after reading Moses and the prophets

wouldn’t be convinced

by Christ’s rising from the dead, either.

 

(2) That the “health & wealth prosperity gospel” is a false gospel.

 

It’s wrong to view personal wealth

as an indication of God’s favor.

 

And (3) that this life is not all there is.

 

Rather, there is a conscious afterlife,

with rewards and punishments.

 

Just as we plan for retirement

or plan for next month’s expenses,

so we should also plan

for where we will spend eternity.