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. (Luke 16:22-23)
He Is Gone … But
The story of Lazarus and the rich man is a compelling story of life’s inequalities and God’s righteous judgment. Lazarus was a man whose earthly journey was marked with misery, suffering, neglect, and abuse. The rich man represents the whole of humanity that lives each day in the sumptuous enjoyment of life with riches, pleasures, frivolity, and self-indulgence. What separated the two men in life ended in the commonality that all men face: death. Lazarus welcomed death. The rich man was unprepared to die. All the riches in the world could not keep a wealthy man from dying.
When someone noticed Lazarus had died, they cast him into the pauper’s grave without markers or fanfare. Few took note of Lazarus, and few mourned his death. The rich man’s death shocked his five brothers and the community at large. There was no doubt a lavish funeral procession ending at an extravagant tomb of marble where great lamentations were made for the rich man. The contrast in deaths could not have been more remarkable. Where Lazarus had been laid for many years, no notice was given by those who passed by. Days following the rich man’s death were busy sorting out his wealth. Relatives and friends divided up the estate and greedily devoured the dead man’s riches.
What everyone did not realize or take note of is that while Lazarus and the rich man were gone, they were not gone. Lazarus died and was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man died and was cast into the abyss of darkness and suffering. Jesus makes a significant statement by calling Lazarus by name and leaving the rich man nameless. Those found in the Book of Life have their names inscribed on the heavenly ledger. The Lord knows the names of His saints. Those who reject the will of the Father assemble with the nameless and the rejected. The rich man was left to the suffering of eternal flames where the fire is not extinguished, and the worm does not die.
Death is the saddest of emotions to share. It is final, complete, and without mercy. The righteous and the unrighteous die. No one can escape death. Denying death does not remove the tentacles of its far-reaching grasp on young and old. One thing remains as certain as death itself: death only begins eternity. Lazarus did not disappear. The rich man did not fade away into non-existence. Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man two thousand years ago, and Lazarus continues to feel and know the presence of God’s loving grace and mercy. The rich man continues to feel the anguished pain and suffering of an eternal flame. His thirst remains unquenched, and his misery unending.
The joy for the Christion is two-fold. Many loved ones have died in Christ. Reflections are made that our loved ones are gone. They died thirty years ago, twenty years ago, two years ago, and last year. The joy for the Christian is to know those loved ones who died in Christ are enjoying eternal showers of blessing that are without description. They still live, feel, think, and see. There is no more suffering, pain, and sorrow. The list is filled with names of those that are missed in life but thrive in eternity. I can only wonder how marvelous what they share must be. The second joy for the Christian is to know that I will share in that glory. Death will take my life, and I will slip the bonds of this earth to the eternal blanket of peace. My eyes will behold the glory of God. The pain and suffering of life will vanish. Angels will carry me to eternal bliss. I will see, know, feel, and remember. And all I can think about is how to praise God.
I am gone, but I am not gone. Death has opened the portals of life. The darkness of life has turned to the light of eternity. Sadness is turned to joy. Loved ones will mourn my passing, but my passing will find its love in God’s grace. Death is not to be feared for those in Christ. We welcome with anticipation an unknown that has been made known in the joy of death. We are not gone. Eternity opens its arms and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in.” And I get to enter in.