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 ….  Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.

In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.  And 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.”  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 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.”  (Luke 16:19-25, 27-31)

This passage is not a parable.  It does not have the “markings” of a parable.  It does not use common, daily life (known to the audience) to teach eternal, spiritual realities (unknown to the audience).  Furthermore, proper names are used (Abraham and Lazarus), something absent from parables.  No, what Jesus is presenting here is an actual historical event, something that happened to two real people … who lived during a real period of time … in a real place.

What should immediately catch our attention is what is on this rich man’s mind after he dies … and what is not.  Did you notice?  Not one thought, not one word, is given to his investment portfolio.  For the first time in his life, the temporal had finally taken a back seat to the eternal.  Not once does this man bring up what had captured his heart while on earth.

Instead, the salvation of his five brothers is the one thing that consumes this man’s heart.

The most impassioned plea for the Gospel to go forth to others – recorded in all of Scripture – came from a man in Hades.

Dear friends, I really doubt that Cornelius Vanderbilt is wondering right now what happened to his wealth.  Or J. P. Morgan.  Or John D. Rockefeller.  Or Henry Ford.  Or Andrew Carnegie.  According to this passage, when these men lost consciousness on the day of their death, they awoke to find themselves in their eternal home.  Whether in Paradise or in Hades, these former billionaires are fully conscious of their present situation. What thoughts do you think filled their minds on the day they died?  And what do you think they are thinking about right now … and will be thinking about 10,000 years from now?

I’m not a betting man; but if I were, I’d bet a year’s salary that the status of their wealth hasn’t crossed their minds once.  Probably, the one thought that does fill their minds – and will forever fill their minds – is this:  “To what did I give my life?”  “For Whom did I live?”  Whether in eternal glory or in eternal torment, they’ve got a lot of time to think about that … and will be thinking about it long after their stocks and bonds have turned to dust and their mansions have collapsed into rubble.  No matter where these billionaires are, what they are focused on right now is this:  the eternal consequence of the lives they lived on earth.

So, to what are we giving our lives?  If to the Kingdom of the eternal One, immortal, invisible, the only true God, then we are in the company of the wise.  But if to anything less, then we are in the company of fools.

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