“There is a great chasm between life and death”
Last week, we talked about the importance of dwelling in the shelter of God, the Holy of Holies, where the ark of God is, –the mercy seat on which the blood of the lamb is sprinkled. What it means is that, for us, by dwelling in the shelter of God, where one can see the culmination of God’s love and mercy through Jesus Christ, his suffering and death, one realizes or comprehends more and more of God’s love and mercy found in Christ’s shedding blood for us for our salvation and healing. Which means, for us, if we spend time with God in prayers and reading the scripture prayerfully daily, then, we will finally understand the full meaning of Christ’s suffering, –how much God really loves us. In other words, if our million words of prayers and our wholehearted devotion to God with our time and effort reading the scripture do not lead us to the Holy of holies, the shelter of God, where we can see Christ’s suffering and death for us, sacrificing his life for us undeserving, then, our religion, our religious habit or gestures amount to nothing. The whole meaning and the purpose of dwelling, or sitting in the shelter of God is to see the mercy seat, the blood of Jesus sprinkled for us so that we can stand boldly before the mighty and the holy presence of God. Coming to God once in a while would not do. Sitting as in making a habitation or dwelling and living in the Holy of Holies, in the presence of God, we can finally begin to understand the love of God realized in Jesus Christ, his suffering and death. Only when we understand and own God’s love by dwelling in the shelter of God, we can claim God’s mighty love for us saying, “God is my refuge and fortress; He is my God in whom I trust”. Knowing God is our refuge and fortress, we can call upon the name of the Lord in times of trouble. Only when we experience God, being under whose outstretched wing we find ourselves, we can confess our love to God and acknowledging who God is to us in our daily lives.
The reason I am iterating and reiterating what my sermon points were last week is, I want our people to really understand and apply them in their lives. The reason we listen to sermon is to apply them in our lives so that we can be transformed by the word of God. If we listen to the word of God yet dismissing or ignoring it might cause us our own downfall, and when we realize that after we die, that might be too late.
Our text today through the lectionary reading is Luke 16:19-31. It is a story of a man who ignored what the prophets and bible taught and warn us. It is a famous story every Christian knows as a story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar. I do not know how this story has been told to you, but there are a couple of points we need to clarify this story in order for us to understand.
For one thing, it is not a story that teaches the rich people will be condemned, and the poor people will be rewarded for their being poor on this earth after they die. Nor is it a story mainly teaching that the rich man was condemned because he did not help out the needy and poor Lazarus who longed after the crumbs from his table.
Let’s look at the story a little more in detail. There was a rich man who lived luxuriously wearing purple and fine linen and eating sumptuously every day. Wearing purple and fine linen was only for loyalty, nobility or very wealthy people since the purple dye was very expensive in Jesus’ time. This rich man was a religious man as we can see in the story that he called Abraham as, “Father Abraham”, a descendant of Abraham. Not only that, because he was religious, he did not prohibit Lazarus to live off from his table; Lazarus was subsisted on this rich man’s crumbs. Yes! He could have done more for Lazarus than just tossing the crumbs from his table, but he did at least the minimum of his religious duty toward the poor by allowing Lazarus to live off from his table.
Then, what seems to be wrong with this rich man in the eyes of God? The hint to understand this story more fully is with the name of Lazarus. Lazarus means “God is the help”. Although Lazarus did not have anything, and he was depended on the rich man’s crumbs for survival, his life was a life of confession that God is his help. Since this story is in the format of contrast and that if we take Lazarus as a man of his confession, ‘God is my help’ from his name, we can easily assume that, to this rich man, his wealth and his own power were his strength and pride. We see from our text, this rich man wore purple and fine linen and ate sumptuously every day, breathing and living in and for his wealth and power.
The second hint we have is from the last part of the story wherein we find the rich man’s plea to send Lazarus to his five brothers to warn them to correct their way of living that is straight toward the destruction. Father Abraham replied to him, ‘They have Moses and prophets they can listen to’. Which means, this rich man when he was living on earth, he did not pay attention to the law or the prophets’ warning and teaching. He totally ignored Moses and the prophets but was busy wallowing in his wealth and luxury, being self -indulgent thinking that he had all. To God’s warning and teaching through the law and the prophets, this rich man gave very little thought, –as little as the crumbs from his table, that he gave to Lazarus.
The result of dismissing God’s warnings and teachings about his chosen path was real and true, –being tormented in hell–, and when he finally realized that, it was too late. Our text says that there is a chasm between life and death after our first death. No one can avoid our physical death on this earth, but the second death one can avoid. One can choose the life with God in heaven or the life without God in hell in eternity. It is all depending on how we live on this earth.
Our bible, Moses and the prophets teach us that we all die because of sins unless we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus, the lamb of God, the creator God, who came down to die for us to give us eternal life. Only those people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and living out the faith they profess as disciples of Christ can have life eternal with God. We cannot become Christians by just knowing Jesus. Devils also know God and shudder at the very name of His name. Only those people who have embraced Jesus as their Lord and Savior and loving God with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love their neighbors as they love themselves, forgiving as Christ was and is forgiving, are the only ones who can have salvation.
It does not matter how successful we are on this earth. All the more it becomes futile if our success and wealth turn our hearts away from God. The rich man in our text had all on this earth, but his soul was condemned to hell because he lived a life that had nothing to do with God. His wealth and his success were his own God. The Almighty God who is the Sovereign Lord was put on the margin of his life as the crumbs that were thrown to Lazarus in his life.
Let us give heed to the warnings and teachings of the Bible and the prophets who preach the kingdom of God and repentance before God. If this rich man in our text took the warnings and teachings of God, he would have done more for Lazarus, instead of throwing the crumbs at him. If he had loved God with all his heart and might and loved his poor neighbors as himself, he would not have found himself in hell being tormented. The heaven and hell are real and the chasm that separates life from death is real. Today is the day of salvation; tomorrow might be too late!!!