Turn with me to Luke chapter 16, Luke chapter 16. Those of you who were at this morning will know that I announced the subject as "An Education from Hell". I want to look at this portion of Scripture, and please do note that this is not a parable, for often parables that the Lord Jesus told were not true stories in the sense of real stories, but He conjured them up in His mind to illustrate a particular spiritual truth. But this story is different because it is factual, there are many spiritual truths within it no doubt, but it is a story about two real men and two real places. That's why the Lord begins this story by saying: 'There was', verse 19, 'a certain man'...
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And 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 thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead".
Let's pray: Our Father, we sense Thy presence with us. Lord, we just pray and hope and trust that Thou art here to save, and to bring lost sheep home. So we ask for Thy help and for Thy voice to be heard. We claim that promise that Thy sheep hear Thy voice, and they follow Thee. We pray that tonight Thou wilt give them eternal life, and that none of them will perish. Amen.
The Lord Jesus told of two men. One man was rich, one man was poor. That is the division of life, the division of the class system. Some are better off, some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, some have greater privileges, and some work their way up the ladder. But nevertheless it is a very real division that you can see with your own eye here in our society today. One was rich and one was poor, both died - but one went to heaven and one went to hell. If rich and poor is the division of life, heaven and hell is the division of death. It is the only division, for when you get into eternity there is not a tab on the back of your neck that tells God whether you were a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. There is nothing in your heart that will tell God with His laser eyes that you were moral or immoral, that you were religious or irreligious. There is simply the divide of those who were saved by the grace of God and those who are not. Those who are saved by God's grace will end up in heaven, and those who have rejected the grace of God and the Son of God will end up in hell.
It's very simple, but the fact of the matter is: so many men and women and boys and girls today complicate the matter, even men in the pulpit do it - the reason being that the things that are seen, the Bible says, are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal. I'll illustrate it by using the story that the Lord Jesus told. The rich man looked OK, everything was going his way. He fared sumptuously, he had everything that he needed of luxury and affluence, he had no want - yet this poor man was at the bottom of his gate and was begging every day. He had sores all over his body, and the dogs came and licked them. The thing that was seen was the thing of time, in other words: this rich man had everything and the poor man had nothing, but that was only what was temporal. My friend, the things of eternal are not to be seen with the naked eye, you've got to go deeper to unseen things - and the only way that we as human beings can see what is unseen is to see in God's word what He has revealed to us about eternity and about the matters of salvation.
In the temporal realm this fat rich man fed his body, but when he got to hell his soul was starving and parched. This poor man, Lazarus, was poor and starving and begging, and the dogs licked his sores, but when he died the angels came in a holy royal train and brought him to heaven because he was a child of God - do you see the difference? So what you see tonight doesn't matter: how a person is dressed, whether they're in or outside of church, whether they're moral or immoral, whether they're poor, whether they're rich, whether they have everything going for them or nothing going for them - the fact of the matter is that the great division of eternity is invisible and it is this: whether your soul is washed by the blood of the Lamb, or whether it is still in its sin. Whether it has been to Jesus for the cleansing power, whether it has been to Calvary and looked upon the Saviour and seen your sin and your iniquity on Him, and turned from your sin, asked Him by faith for cleansing and, knowing the peace of God in your heart, gone into eternal life with Him - that's the great division.
I don't care what any Orange institution, any Roman Catholic church, any Unionist party, Nationalist party, 'we ourselves alone' party may say; any Muslim religion, Buddhist religion, or even denominations of Christendom - there is one divide in humanity: those that are saved and those who are lost! Now my question to you tonight is simple: are you living for time, or are you living for eternity? Are you living for things that are seen, or things that are unseen? The reason I ask you that question is because your eternal destination will be determined by the choice that you make, not after death but in your lifetime. Whether you end up in heaven, or whether you lift up your eyes being in torment in hell like the rich man, will be determined by what you do with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in your lifetime. In meetings like this, when you read the gospel tract, when you listen to the gospel tape, when you see the gospel text on a church or on an electric post, wherever you go, wherever you hear the word of God, wherever you see in nature the fingerprint of the Almighty Creator, the God of heaven - you will be responsible in eternity for what you did in time with God's Son.
The tragedy of this story that we read in Luke chapter 16 is that it was too late for this man. The blessing that we have tonight from such a tragic story is that from the predicament that he found himself in you have a privilege, and the privilege is simply to learn now what he learned too late and couldn't do anything about. So, we're going to look at this education that this rich man gives us from hell. I want to call it tonight 'The A, B, C of Hell', I want to make it as simple as I possibly can.
The 'A' simply is that all who go in never get out. All who go in never get out. I hope it's not too elementary for me to say tonight that you cannot get out of hell. This man knew he couldn't get out of hell, why? Because he never asked to get out - you would think if he thought he could get out he would ask it right away, but he didn't ask because he knew he couldn't get out of this awful place - and if he didn't know beforehand, he certainly knew after Abraham told him: 'Look, there's a great gulf fixed, and even though you're thirsty and you want Lazarus to take a dip of water on his finger and to touch your tongue that is parched, it can't happen because there's a great gulf - and those who would come to you cannot, and those who you would go to, you can't go to them because there is this inseparable gap'. Once you go into hell, you don't get out.
You see, it's a place where there's no hope, it's a place where prayer avails nothing. It's a place where this man that addressed Abraham and asked him to go and get Lazarus and bring the water to touch the tip of his tongue with his finger, but the prayer was not answered because the prayer that this rich man prayed was too late to be prayed. I want you to see this tonight, because if this man had addressed in his lifetime, and if he hadn't addressed it to Abraham but had addressed it to God through Jesus the Son, and asked God to save him - he would have been saved! When he had time, God would have heard him, but now he's in hell and God's not hearing him - and so he prays to Abraham, and Abraham cannot and does not answer his prayer. Let me just say in passing this evening that there are many people in our land and they are praying to the wrong people. They're bringing their confessions to priests in little confessionals; they're coming to Mary the mother of our Lord Jesus, and they're bringing her their repentant prayers and their contrition and their penance. These people whom I love and whom I pray for are on their way to hell - yet they're praying to the wrong person to get them out of hell, like this rich man, because the only One that can get you out of hell is the Lord Jesus Christ! But once you get there you can't get out...and if you're to be saved, you've got to pray this prayer in your lifetime. You've got to pray this prayer now.
This man prayed too late. I did say that his prayer wasn't answered, but I was wrong in one sense because God did answer his prayer and He answered it with mockery. He answered it, I believe, in the sentiments of Proverbs 1:24 when God said: "I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge when they had it, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices". Do you know where the largest prayer meeting in the universe is tonight? It's in hell, and God only answers them with mockery - because once you go in, you cannot get out.
The 'B' of this education is this: before the grave there is mercy alone. Have you got it? Before the grave there is mercy alone. You see that this rich man cried to Abraham: 'Have mercy on me, and get Lazarus to dip his finger in the water', and when Abraham turned to him he said in verse 25: 'Son, remember that thou' - mark that - 'in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things'. In thy lifetime - he said that because mercy is only this side of the grave. It's remarkable this, because this rich man that had no thought of God in his life was on his knees praying in hell. This rich man who had never thought of the mercy and grace of God ever was now in hell, and he's on his face and he's begging mercy, he's feeling his sin, he's feeling his need of a Saviour - but he's praying too late, he's feeling too late, and he's begging too late, because there's no hope in hell at all! There's not even any water in hell!
It's remarkable, for people this very night, at this very moment, are in hell, they know that they cannot get out of hell, they're praying in hell, they're feeling in hell, they're thirsty in hell, they're in torment in hell, the flames are licking at their flesh in hell, all their nostrils are filled with is the sulphur of hell, their eyes cannot see anything but the darkness of hell, all that their emotions feel is the separateness of being cut off from God in hell, they're remembering their sins in hell, they're feeling all the guilt of their shame in hell - yet when they were on earth the Lord Jesus said: 'Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled'. Isn't that what He said on earth? He said to a woman at the well in Samaria, in John chapter 4 and verse 14, these simple but profound words: 'Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life'. He says through the Revelation of John in chapter 21 and verse 6: 'I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely'. Chapter 22 verse 17: 'And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely'.
The tragedy of hell is that at this very moment, as I preach this message, I am conscious that there are those in hell who are praying but they cannot get out; there are those in hell who are feeling but they cannot repent; there are those in hell who are thirsty, and if they had been thirsty when they were on the earth they would have been saved - but it's too late for praying, it's too late for feeling, it's too late for anything! Mercy is only before the grave. I'll tell you, if someone could offer this rich man in hell tonight water, I think he would jump at it. He would give absolutely everything to take it if he could, but he cannot. I'm asking you tonight: you are offered week, after week, after week in the Gospel meeting and through other sources and resources, the water of life to drink freely, to have eternal life, to have peace with God through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on Calvary's cross - yet you don't take it! But there will be a day that you will lift up your eyes in hell, and you would give absolutely anything and everything to have it, but it will be too late!
You don't feel your need of it now, but I tell you: that rich man was like that at one time. On that day when you lift up your eyes in hell, you will feel your need of it then! He, at this moment, is crying through all of eternity for a deliverer, but he's never been able to have one and neither will he ever have one - because there is no saviour, there is no redeemer or deliverer beyond the grave! But my friend, as you stand living in shoe leather tonight, there is a Saviour, there is a Redeemer, there is an Emancipator! There is a Rescuer who can lift down His nail-pierced hand, and as you sit condemned already in your sin, believing not in the Gospel, He is able to save you now, He is able to satisfy you and cleanse you in His own precious blood, and give you that eternal life, that water of life freely!
Perhaps you don't feel your need of it...my friend, this Saviour is the only Saviour of men, and I present Him to you now as the only Saviour from hell. Do you know why we preach Christ and Him crucified? Do you know why, from this book, that we tell you that wicked men took Him, and they nailed Him to a cross after stripping Him naked and mocking Him, and plaiting a crown of thorns and putting it on His brow, after buffeting His face and pulling the hairs from His beard, after spitting upon Him, and ploughing His back like a field? Do you know why we tell you that, as He hung on that cross, and as His blood was trickling down to the ground, that God clothed the heavens with dark clouds so that men could not see what He was about to do to His Son? In three hours all the judgemental wrath of God for our sin for all eternity was compressed into time, and was poured upon the Son of God! Why do we tell you that? We tell you that because that alone will save you from hell! We tell you it because the gruesome nature of Calvary tells you of the gruesome nature of hell, because if there was no hell there would be no need of Calvary!
Our Lord Jesus didn't go to hell, but I'll tell you this: hell went to the Lord Jesus. As He hung on that cross we can hear Him crying that all the waves and the billows of God's anger against your sin and my sin were poured upon Him - they went over His head! I can hear His holy soul saying: 'I am sinking in the mire where there is no standing'. I can see Him preparing for Calvary in the garden of Gethsemane, and there He is praying and contemplating the cup of the wrath of God that He would have to drink for sinners - don't tell me there's no hell! If there was no hell, Christ would not have been near unto death and crying and sweating great drops of blood as He contemplated what He would have to go through for your forgiveness and your salvation! There, as the Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all, your sin and my sin, He was bearing in His own holy soul our hell! Your hell! The eternal hell of everyone who would ever believe in Him, and put their trust and faith in Him, was compressed and was put into the body of Jesus, and God sent down - God, who is a consuming fire - all of His anger, His wrath and indignation against sin, and He just poured it out to the point of exhaustion upon His own Son! No wonder the hymn writer could say:
'What He endured no tongue can tell,
To save my soul from death and hell'.
Did He have any mercy at Calvary? Well, let me take you there, because as He's hanging on the cross He says: 'I thirst'. There was no fingertip, whether of man or of God, that reached down with a little drop of water to help Him, but He says that His tongue was cleaving to the roof of His mouth. He was thirsting there, He was parched because He was going through your hell, your punishment for your sin, so that you would never thirst and lift up your eyes in torment! Oh, that this rich man in his lifetime would have prayed for mercy, oh that this rich man would have felt his sin when he could have, and would have turned in contrition and in repentance!
Oh, that you would see tonight that all who ever go into hell will never get out of hell, and before the grave at this moment there is mercy. 'A', 'B', and then 'C', that you would see that the chance to be saved is for the living. The chance to be saved is for the living. When I say 'chance' I'm not talking about 'luck', I'm talking about the sense of opportunity, because this man as he was in hell knew that it was too late, he knew that now he'd gone in he would never get out, he knew that any mercy and opportunity of forgiveness was before he went into the grave, and he now realises that the chance and opportunity to be forgiven and to be saved from this awful place is only for the living. That's why he says to Abraham: 'Go and send somebody to my five brethren, that they may go and tell them never to come to this awful place of torment'.
Imagine if there's a brother or sister of yours in hell tonight, and that's exactly what they're saying about you: 'Oh, would you send somebody to go and tell them', and I'm standing here tonight and you're not even listening. Abraham said: 'Sure, they have Moses and the prophets, they have Moses and the prophets'. 'But if you send someone from the dead, then they would believe' - but Christ has come from the dead, that's the Gospel that we're preaching! He died for your sin, but the third day He rose from the grave. God was so pleased with His finished work at Calvary, that He brought Him back to life, but also to give you eternal life forever. He is the resurrection and the life, he that believeth on Him, though he were dead yet shall he live - there is eternal life through an eternal, living Saviour, and He's come back to tell us, yet you still don't believe it! Abraham was right.
The opportunity is for the living, and the only way that they can take the opportunity is to believe the word of God. That's what Moses and the prophets are that he's speaking about, it's simply the word of God, the Bible, the law of God that declares your sin, makes you naked before the holiness of God. Everybody has broken the law of God, the Ten Commandments or whatever you want to call the book of Genesis right through to Deuteronomy, we've all failed and fallen short of the glory of God. But, oh, that you could see your broken state, the fact that you're condemned: he that believeth on the Son hath life, but he that believeth not on the Son hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. You're under the wrath of God tonight, you're as much in hell as if you'd died and gone there!
The word of God tells us that there is a judgement coming, and that we will be judged for our sin, and that the only way to be forgiven and to get out of hell, and to have salvation from our sin and its penalty is to trust in the blood of the Lord Jesus, to trust in the One who was slain there to cover our sins, and to just blind God's eyes to all that we have done. The tragedy about this rich man is that Abraham, the father of the Jews, called him 'Son'. 'Son, remember', he was a son of Abraham, but he wasn't a son of God. What a tragedy: to be a church goer, to be a gospel-hardened hearer, and to end up in hell - what a greater tragedy to be a son of a godly parent, and to be called 'son' in hell.
Does your heart not mourn tonight for your sin? Oh, my friend, will you not come to the cross and be saved? I have been praying in the quiet place that the pangs of hell itself would compass you and get hold upon you. I have been praying that the hell itself that we read of in this chapter would enter into your very bones, that it would put you on fire, that it would make you flee from the wrath to come - because the devils even believe and tremble, they know there's a hell, they know they're going there, and it makes them shake in their boots! Yet you can be sitting here tonight and not believe that there's a hell, not believe that you're going to - I'm telling you: there's a day coming when you will believe, when it will be all too real for you, when you will value the precious blood of the Lamb of God that could have got you out of it!
Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis' secretary, once chuckled reading a gravestone which said: 'Here lies an atheist, all dressed up with no place to go'. C. S. Lewis didn't chuckle, he said: 'I'm sure he wishes he could believe that now'. Listen my friend, all who go into hell never get out; before the grave there is mercy; and the chance to be saved is for the living. Why am I telling you all this? You might say: 'See you hellfire damnation preachers, you are so harsh, you are so unkind'. Let me tell you what the Psalmist says in Psalm 116 for a moment, I just want to turn to it, for in Psalm 116 the Psalmist tells us that the thing that drove him to God was strong crying and tears - exactly what we're preaching on tonight. He said: 'The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful' - but what drove him there? It was the fear of hell itself! It was the guilt of his sin! What will drive you to Calvary tonight is realising that you are a sinner, realising that you will be damned for all eternity! Oh, that you would suffer the terrors of the Lord tonight and be distracted from your sin and driven to Christ! The greatest curse in all of this universe is a man whom God leaves to be at peace in their sin and bound for hell!
It would be better for you tonight to be afflicted with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season and end up in hell. I'm finished, but all I've got to say tonight is this: man, woman, you're a sinner, you're on your way to hell, but there is a Saviour in this place and at this moment who will, can, and is able to save you, and will save you now if you come by faith in His sacrifice. I leave you with the word of God: 'Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart'.
Let's bow our heads. This takes a lot out of me to preach on a subject like this. Do you know what terrifies me? It could take more out of me than it does out of you, and you're going there. Isn't that awful? Some of you here tonight, and you think you're backsliders, and you're living in the depths of sin, up to your elbows - I wouldn't be too sure you're not going to hell, friend. You've got to make sure by putting your trust and faith in the Lord Jesus, and repenting from your sin. There are people here tonight and they've sat under the gospel I don't know how many times, I'm telling you: your hell will be a millionfold hell for the privilege that you have received, yet turned your back on. I don't want you to go there, I don't want any of you to be there, but it is my duty to tell you you will be there, if you don't repent tonight and put your faith in the Lamb of God.
Father, bring them in - oh God, bring them in kicking and screaming, drag them into grace we pray. Somehow, get them through the door which is Christ Jesus. Lord, if we have to get a bit burnt in the process, let it be - but that we would save some from the flames, from the fire. Pluck them, tonight, as brands from the burning, bring the backslider in. Oh Lord, our children, bring them in, let there be none told: 'Son, rememberest thou in thy lifetime thine upbringing and thy childhood'. Oh God, may men and women and young people, and even boys and girls tonight, flee from the wrath to come into the arms of Jesus, and may they sing tonight: 'Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe in His gentle care'. We wait upon Thee, and upon the work of Thy Spirit now, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "An Education From Hell" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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