Is there life after death? Is this life all that there is? Is the grave simply the end?
The Word of God gives the clear and truthful answer to those questions. Hebrews 9:27, “For it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Ecclesiastes 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
Anyone who has read the Bible at all, or is in the least way acquainted with it, knows that the Bible testifies of the reality of God, of sin, of judgment, of hell, of grace, and of heaven. The answer to those questions is, therefore, not left in doubt. God, before whom we live and in whose hands we are, is the God before whom all men and women, boys and girls must stand in death.
But perhaps someone listening to this broadcast would say, “You’ve taken all of your evidence from the Word of God. If you want me to believe that there is a life and a judgment after death; if you want me to know that, you have to give me some proof.”
It is for that very reason that I want you now to turn in your Bible to Luke 16. Beginning with verse 19, consider with me one of the parables of the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to consider this parable of the rich man and Lazarus, not so much because of the many different teachings that we could bring out of that parable, but because the Lord Himself teaches the reality of eternal torment in hell for unbelievers and the glory of heaven for the redeemed believer. He teaches us that the Word of God is adequate, clear proof to assure a person of the reality of heaven and hell. He teaches, further, that no other evidence than the Word of God can ever convince a person of these realities. The problem of unbelief, you see, of saying “I’m not sure if there is a heaven or hell,” is not that there is a lack of evidence. But the problem, says Jesus Christ, is the heart of man. Until that heart is given faith by the Holy Spirit a man will not believe, even though the evidence and the reality stands before him. His heart must be renewed by the Holy Spirit of God.
In the parable to which I am referring, the rich man and Lazarus, let me simply remind you of some of the highlights.
The Lord speaks of a rich man who had everything he could possibly want, and also of a beggar who was at his doorstep, his gate, full of sores. This beggar wanted only to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. It came to pass that this beggar died and was carried into heaven. The rich man also died and was buried and went to hell. While he was in hell, the rich man lifted up his eyes and saw the beggar (who was called Lazarus and was in Abraham’s fellowship). And the rich man cried, “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.” The response to him was, “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.” The rich man responded, “I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” The response was this: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” But the rich man said, “Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” And Abraham said unto him, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
You see, the fundamental point that is being made here is that the evidence for the reality of life after death, of heaven and hell, of God, judgment, sin, salvation, and grace is clearly given in the Word of God. It is only the Word of God which can convict a person of them as the Holy Spirit uses that Word and brings that conviction.
The rich man in Jesus’ parable was a man who was acquainted with the Word of God, the gospel. In fact, we could say that this man was a “church-goer.” That is evident from the fact that he calls Abraham his father, meaning that he was a Jew. And it is very evident, from what Abraham says to him, that he was a church-goer: He and his brothers had Moses and the prophets. Moses and the prophets refer to the Old Testament Scriptures. In today’s terms, this man was in church every Sunday and he heard the Word of God and even boasted that he was a member of the church. But he went to hell because, although he was a member of the church, he lived his life for himself. His besetting and abiding sin was that he lived for himself in his own pride and lacked repentance. He was clothed, said Jesus, in purple, in royalty. He fared sumptuously: he had luxury, he had the best money could buy. He had everything a heart could ever want. But at center was his sinful self in his heart, unbroken and unsubdued before God. And he showed it. He did not take care of the poor at his doorstep. The poor were simply those who got in the way of enjoying his own pleasures. Now he was in hell for his covetousness, his worship of himself, his idolatry.
The rich man requested that, after all, someone should be sent back from the dead, to warn his brothers of the reality of God and of judgment for sin and of hell. Evidently his brothers were living the same kind of life that he had. Evidently they also knew this man Lazarus, this poor beggar. Maybe they would step over him as they would come to visit their brother while he was yet living. So he says, “Send Lazarus.” Does this not show that he is concerned for them? No, that is not true. Really when this rich man is requesting that Lazarus return from the dead to warn his brothers of hell and of sin and of God’s judgment, that was a wicked request. It was not motivated by a desire for his brothers’ good, but it was motivated, really, in an accusation, a criticism of God, a criticism which is saying, “Really not enough was done to warn me of the realities of God’s judgment which was over my sins. You see, if someone had come back and warned me, someone from the dead, that would have been enough to bring me to repentance and to belief, and to change my life. That would have been enough to jar me to faith to believe in the God of the Bible and to accept the gospel that the Bible teaches.”
The response is very sharp. Abraham says to that, “No, they have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.” Then the rich man holds on to it, “Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead they will repent.” The rich man in hell is saying, “Moses and the prophets (which, remember, refers to the Old Testament Bible) are not enough. I am not to blame for my being in hell. God did not do enough. If He had brought more concrete evidence, if God had given a little bit more proof, I would have believed.”
That is his accusation. And the answer is “No!” Moses and the prophets are enough, if they will not hear (notice that verse 31). These are Jesus’ own words: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Jesus is saying that if a person will not receive the testimony of the Word of God concerning the reality of heaven and hell, of sin and judgment, of grace and repentance; if they will not receive the testimony of the Word of God, nothing would ever be able to convince them of these things. Not even if one rose from the dead. You see, the Bible is enough. The Bible is sufficient.
We ask the question today, perhaps, “How can I be sure? Must not God give some proof of heaven and hell, of justice and holiness? Then men would believe!” But the answer is No. The problem is not lack of evidence. The problem is not even man’s ignorance, because man knows, in his heart of hearts, that God is, and that the wages of sin is death. But the problem is one of his heart. He will not believe, he rejects it. What is needed is the grace of God to soften the heart, and then the holy Scriptures to be poured into that heart. That is the evidence and the conviction of the reality of God and of sin and of judgment and of grace and of Christ.
More and more the church, which claims that it is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, is taking the argument of this rich man and saying, “You know, really, the Bible is not enough to get people to believe. We have to have other things if we expect people to believe the Christian message. Preaching the Bible for forty-five minutes in a church service? Oh, that’s not going to accomplish it. That’s simply one man talking. Exposition of the Word of God? What we need is some new techniques. So we must change the gospel. First of all, we want to make the gospel more palatable, more acceptable to modern man, and say that God will take you any way He can get you. God is not overly concerned about how you live. He simply wants you to throw in a vote for Him. And God exists for you, not you for God. Then, after we have downplayed the gospel, we want to use other techniques to gain people’s attraction rather than simply a Bible and the preaching of a Bible.”
The answer is: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
But would not a rising from the dead be something dramatic for a Christian service? If one were to advertise a Christian service by saying, “Come Sunday morning, we will have someone who has just come out of the graveyard. He’ll tell you that the Christian message is true,” would we not say, “Wow! That will certainly bring people in by the droves. Oh, what repentance and conversion we will see!” If we could get Gabriel or Michael to come to our church service to say, “Now, look, people! The Word of God is true. Creation is true. God’s creation of the world in six twenty-four hour days as it is said plainly in the Bible – that is all true. God, salvation, Christ, eternal punishment, or eternal glory – all of that is true.” We would say, “Oh, boy, we for sure will have conviction! If we can get someone to come from the dead or someone from the realm of the angels, all crime will stop, all swearing and men’s filthy languages, all immorality, all living together outside of the bond of marriage. There will be great repentance.”
And the answer of Jesus Christ? “If they will not hear the holy Scriptures, if they will not receive the testimony of the ‘Thus saith’ of Jehovah God, if they will not receive the infallible Bible, the Bible which is not the word of man, the Bible which is given of God, which page for page, word for word, is God’s own Word given by the Spirit of God so that it is God’s Word; if they will not receive that Word and if their faith will not be grounded and rooted upon that Word, they will not be convicted. They will not be persuaded even if one came to them from the dead.”
You see, the problem is not the type of evidence. The problem is not the lack of some dramatic, flashy, showy event whereby men can be gotten to believe in Jesus Christ. That is not the problem. The problem is the heart! A fallen and a dead heart, and a heart which needs to be renewed by the very hand of the Creator. The great Creator must create us again. He must give us a new heart. As I said, then He must pour into that heart the wonderful ointment, the living Word, the living water of the Word of God. And then comes forth the wonderful conviction and persuasion that God is, that He is a holy God, and that He has taken away my sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, and now I no longer live unto myself but unto Him all my days. Jesus Christ is speaking here. Not a man. And He says, “Let them hear the Scriptures. You do not need someone from the dead. You do not need a seance, some kind of experience, some kind of bright light all of a sudden, or some voice speaking to you out of the clouds, or an angel.” The Word of God is enough! The gospel is not at fault. It is not the fault of Jesus Christ as presented in the gospel. But the fault is man’s sinful heart. Ephesians 4:18, men have their “understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God … because of the blindness of their heart.”
I say again, the problem is the heart of man. Man, as he has fallen in Adam, hates the living and true God and His Son Jesus Christ, denies his sin, and will not come to Jesus Christ that he might live. And because the fault is not in the gospel but in the heart, there is nothing outside of the Word of God which will ever persuade that heart of the truth except the work of the Holy Spirit. You see, there is the horror of unbelief and of sin. Unbelief does not deny the truth of God’s Word because the truth is not clear. Unbelief does not deny the truth of God’s Word because the Word of God is not credible. Unbelief denies the truth because it hates God. That is the problem with your and my sinful heart. And that is why God has sent His Son. That is why salvation is of the mighty God who alone can give a new heart to believe in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, you see, had performed many miracles. And the people had to admit that they saw many miracles. What was their response? Did it bring forth faith? Can a miracle produce faith? No, it cannot. Remember the incident that is recorded in John’s gospel narrative that a voice spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son.” Imagine that! If a voice would come from heaven and would say, “This is my beloved Son,” we would say that everybody would have to believe. Did they believe that day? No, they did not. They said, “It thundered. We didn’t hear anything. It was just a clap of thunder. That’s all it was.”
Jesus Christ cast demons out of people while He was upon the earth. What did the Jews say? “He did that by the prince of demons, Beelzebub.” They said, “Give us a sign.” What more did they want? He fed 4,000 of them and yet they would not believe. And when He was on the cross, what did they say? “Come down and we will believe you. We need just a little bit of proof. What we need is for you now to pull those nails out of your hands and come down as if nothing has happened. Then we will believe that you are the Messiah, the one sent of God to save us from our sins.” No, they would not. Because the problem is not that they lacked dramatic proof. The problem is sin, and sin will not believe.
That is not my opinion. That is the Word of God. And the Word of God is telling you straight out and straight forward what your problem is, and from what you must be delivered. Salvation is not that you have to get into the mode of decision and make a decision for Jesus Christ. That is not the way salvation is accomplished. No, it is a miracle, a great miracle of God. He must give you a new heart. He must open your heart to the holy Scriptures. And He must pour into your heart the holy Scriptures.
We do not need further evidence and more proof. We have enough. The Bible, and the preaching of that Bible, is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Right now, the preaching of this Word of God is the power to make saints out of sinners, to bring out of darkness into light. It is a greater power than an earthquake. It is a greater power than for one to rise from the dead and stand at this moment before your face. It is able to make a blasphemer of God to praise Him. It is able to make one who hates the truth confess it. It is able to make a coward brave. And it is able to make little children praise God from their lips.
You have Moses and the prophets. Believe it!
Let us pray.
Father, we pray that Thy Word may enter into softened hearts. Prepare our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit and give us to base our faith upon nothing other than the “Thus saith” of Jehovah. Amen.