So it was that the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. (Luke 16:22-25)
The Reality Ignored
Death is always a difficult measure to endure. It comes without warning and is no respecter of persons. Loved ones die, friends pass away, neighbors grieve at the loss of family, society mourns the popular, famous, and notable people who die. It is a hard pill to swallow. Death comes clouded with misery, heartache, sadness and loss. The empty places are at the table. Pictures reflect happier days. Families and friends gather to memorialize those who have died. Smiling faces of days gone by flow by in endless pictures of family surrounding the deceased. Memorials are dedicated to the memory of a vibrant life. Stories regale the happiness of a mom, dad, sibling, friend, coworker, hero, and companion.
The stories are legion. A hero lost in a war. They gave their life for others. A devoted mother or father dies. Tragedy strikes unannounced and death takes the young, the popular, the famous and the unknown. Magazines fill the pages with life accomplishments. Museums establish rooms of remembrance in halls of honor. Silent voices through the ages tell a million stories of those who have died. Everyone remembers the one who died in fond memories and happy times. Videos tell the story with laughter, frolic, and fun. Life is shown to be a special part of the memory of the lost one. Death has taken them away. Memories are all that are left. In time, near memories fade into the fog of yesterday and life goes on.
What is lost in the sad reality of death is the other part of the story. This is the part of the story no one wants to think about or to talk about. Jesus tells the story of two men and their stories could not have been more different. One man lives life on the sumptuous platter of prosperity while the other is oppressed by poverty, disease and oppression. They both die. A stark reality is exposed in the teaching of Jesus. The rich man was a famous individual known by his peers as a successful businessman. His friends and family remembered him with great speeches, lavish memorials, and probably a beautiful burial place.
As the rich man’s five brothers gather to remember their deceased brother, they are unaware of what he is experiencing. They think of their brother with a smile on his face. The eternal reality is the rich man is screaming in terror. There is no relief from the pain he feels. Every part of his being is filled with excruciating horror and pain. His mind is exploding with the intensity of the suffering. He desires water from the tip of the finger to cool his tongue. The man is tormented in his agony. This is nothing anyone can endure but endure he must – and without end. The pictures shared by his brothers of a smiling and happy man are not the picture of the man now. He is in an eternal flame with no quenching, no release, and no mercy.
Jesus described the suffering of the lost in graphic terms. The unrighteous who die will experience an everlasting fire. It is possible to imagine the torture if one sees volcanic lava representing the lake of fire – yet death does not end life in the molten flames of eternal torment. The rich man felt it all and knew it all. To be lost is to face torment. It is a place of fire and brimstone and there is no rest and no relief. Torment is likened to where the worm does not die. The rich man was in the outer darkness and was weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth because he was in so much torment. Blackness is all the rich man could see in a world void of God.
Here is the greatest tragedy that everyone must consider—most people who die face this kind of torment. Good people, nice people, religious folk, famous people, young and old, rich and poor, and people we know – are lost because they have not obeyed the will of God. Many will cry out to the Lord on the last day, but He will tell them He does not know them. They are not playing the harp in heaven, hanging out with their buddies, or filling the streets of glory because they did not die in the Lord. They are not happy, they are not joyful, and they are not delighted about where they are. Those who are lost (Jesus said most would follow the way of destruction) are not smiling anymore. Death changed all that. Only the few who are saved will enjoy happiness in death.
Here is the truth you must face: you will die. People will remember you. Happy memories will be shared. If you are not a child of God, you will be screaming in terror when you die – and your screams will never end. The darkness will never go away. Your torment will never end. You will remember your life before. It will not matter. The darkness you feel will be a terror as you have never known. That is what it means to be lost. Truth!