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Breaking the Myths of Heaven and Hell:The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

By Pastor John mateos Ong and Pastora Monique Lopez Ong


Luke 16:19-31

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 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. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

3 Lessons from the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

1. We can’t choose how we are born. V. 19-20 All people are different. Some are born rich and some poor, some are born celebrities, while others are born into political families. Some say it is unfair. Some say it is fate. It really does not matter. You cannot change how you start, but what you do with your life matters to God. If you are born in a very good family, praise the Lord. Enjoy what you have and make sure to help others along the way. But if you are born in a family whose situation is not so good, you do not have to stay there. With hard work and perseverance, you do not have to be poor forever.

The rich man had a very lavish lifestyle and probably travelled to different places more often than most people. He was dressed in the finest clothes, purple garment which are reserved for royalty. He had feasts for himself and his friends on a daily basis too. On the other hand, Lazarus had nothing. All he had were the sores on his body and was left with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. The dogs, Lazarus’ competitor for the scraps of food that fell from the rich man’s table, also licked his sores. During those times, dogs were regarded as unclean animals. And if your wounds were being licked by a dog, then that means you are unclean too. Lazarus and the rich man did not only differ in these things. They also differed in the way they worship. And because Lazarus was unclean, he did not have the right to worship.

2. We get to choose where we spend eternity. V. 25 Ravi Zaccharias once said, “You have to determine your eternity.” Your life is but a dot. Eternity is forever and never-ending. Thus, the question you have to answer is this: “Where will you go when you die?” This is more important than asking what you have in this life. So where is Lazarus? And where is the rich man? Do you go straight to heaven or hell when you die?

In the parable, the rich man went to Hades, called Sheol, the place of the dead where he waits for judgment and for Jesus’ return. Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom, also a waiting place. It is not heaven, although it has the features of heaven. Sheol is like a pre-departure area before you go to heaven or hell. Between these two is a big gap called a chasm. It is like crystal clear glass that you can see through but you cannot cross. The parable also tells you that the rich man suffers in Hades. In the afterlife, you can still see, feel and speak because he saw Abraham with Lazarus from afar, he felt the heat of the fire and wanted Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and touch his tongue, and he was able to call out to them. But alas, the rich man cannot leave and get any relief because of the chasm that separates him from the better place. Lazarus, on the other hand, is on Abraham’s bosom and he is being comforted by him.

Remember that Lazarus and the rich man are not yet in heaven or hell respectively. They were just having a taste of what was to come. In this pre-departure area is where they await the return of Jesus so that they can enter heaven all at the same time.

V. 27-28 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” Can you imagine how entitled the rich man thinks he is? While in Hades, he wants Lazarus to go back to earth and warn his family so that they do not suffer the same fate that he is going through.

The rich man wants to warn his family. Is it possible? His eyes have been opened and he knows the reality of heaven and hell. You do not want even your worst enemy to be in that place.

3. There is power in the word. V. 31 The rich man is saying that he did not receive the word and warnings of the prophets while he was still alive. Many people think that the word of God is not that powerful. But the world needs the truth which is found in the word of God, in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” When you ask somebody if they know where they will go when they die and they do not seem to care, they really have no idea what they are talking about. They are not aware of the real agony or pain that they will experience. They think that simply believing that Jesus died on the cross to forgive all of their sins is too good to be true and is therefore impossible. The verse says that there are two kinds of people, one that is perishing and one that will be saved. John 3:16 states clearly that He does not want anyone to perish but have eternal life. It is very important to make that decision because if you do not take this seriously, you have just made a decision to go to a place that is not for you. If you make something a god on earth, that will torment you for all eternity. Isaiah 55:11 says “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Whatever God says will happen. Take the Bible seriously. It was through the word of God that this entire universe was created. God’s word does not need our help. It will stand on its own. Hold on to the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:4 says “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”Remember that you have an enemy at work who is constantly blinding people so that you will not see the consequences of sin, as well as the true glory and grace of God. Everyone who does not want to receive Jesus Christ are being misled.

Breaking the Myths

A. Dead people can visit you. (Luke 16:26) Many people say they were visited by the dead but that is impossible. You can probably dream of them or have visions about them but they cannot come back from the dead. The enemy is the one who tricks you into thinking that they do.

B. You can pay for your sins later. (1 Peter 3:18) In your lifetime, Jesus already paid for all of your sins. Either you received Him in your life and your sins are fully paid for or not.

C. Good works get you to heaven. (Ephesians 2:9) No one is righteous, not one, and that is why you need Jesus. This is not about what you do but who you believed in.

D. Hell is not so bad. (Mark 9:48, Matt. 8:11-12, Rev. 21:8, Rev 14:11) Many. people say there is no hell. In the Old Testament, hell was mentioned 31 times. In the New Testament, it was mentioned 23 times.

What is hell like?

-worms eat the body but do not die.

-burned but you are not consumed.

-there will be creeping darkness.

-there will be weeping.

-there will be torment, internal suffering.

-smell of burning sulfur

-no rest day or night

E. Satan is an ugly monster. (2 Corinthians 11:14) Satan is a beautiful angel, that is why he is able to deceive so many people.

F. Hell was made for sinners. (Matthew 25:41) Hell was made for the devil and his angels. We are the children of the living God and we are meant to be with Him in heaven.

G. There are other mediators. (Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5) Only one can save you and that is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. No one can come to the Father unless through Him. So many people are deceived by idols. God is against idolatry. For so long, we did not want to offend anybody, but I think you will be more offended if you get to hell and shout to us why we did not tell you the truth. Romans 10:1-4 says “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Paul wrote to the church in Rome saying there are so many people passionate about religion because they do not know what they are doing. No one showed them the true gospel thus having their own practices and superstitions.

If you are facing the wrong direction, it does not matter how fast you go. You will not reach your destination. If you are following religion, no matter how passionate you are, you will not reach heaven. Jesus is the only way. If you are not facing Him and Him alone, you will not get to heaven. The lies you believe will not be able to save you. God is not after religiosity. He is after you and me - He is after relationship. The only way to heaven is through Jesus and a relationship with Him. Have you secured your eternity? Who is your Lord and Savior? Who defines your eternity? Let it be Jesus.


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