Jesus Christ provided us with one of the most clear scenarios we will ever read about being “in” or “out” of the presence of God. Read this quotation with great care.
Luke 16:19-31 (NKJ)
19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
20 “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,
21 “desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “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.
23 “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 “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.’
25 “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.
26 ‘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.’
27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,
28 ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’
30 “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
31 “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.’ “
There are so many lessons in this parable. First the rich man knew Abraham was his Father, so he was a rich Jew. It doesn’t say the beggar was a Gentile, but the vision of “crumbs from the rich man’s table” might well include something more than food. The Gentiles are beneficiaries of God’s relationship with the Jews. We literally feed on the crumbs of the feast first served the Jews, but it is Israel who was fed directly. We Gentiles who love God know whom God chose to be His Holy conduit, so to speak.
We Gentiles are neither the root nor the branch. We were, as it says in another place, “grafted” in. We do not have the rich traditions or bloodline of God’s chosen people. We, in a sense, feast upon the crumbs, not on the richness of those to whom God gave a special place.
Whether the beggar represents a Gentile or not, it says he died and was carried to Abraham’s bosom. It does not say that the beggar, by any external measure, “qualified” to be embraced by Abraham. He is depicted simply as a beggar. Then, in what is for me, a wonderful allegory, the rich man suggests that if the beggar were to “rise from the dead,” not only would the rich man’s fathers and brothers recognize him as the one who sat at the gate begging, but in doing so, they would now believe in life after death. The rich man felt that if they understood that fact, that it would lead them to acts of faith, which would keep them from enduring such torment. Then Abraham makes one of the most important statements a Jew could hear in the context of a parable spoken by Jesus.
Luke 16:31 (NKJ)
31 …’If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ “
I have always thought that “fear” of eternal punishment or eternal separation from God, or eternal separation from your loved ones who love God, or in the case of children whom God loves (let the reader understand), would motivate people to love and obey God. Apparently the fear of punishment, separation, and isolation, does not do it. Let me amend that a little. It does do it, intellectually, but faith is about action, not consent. I have heard many pastors say the following phrase: “People are about 18 inches from being saved. What is in their head must move to their heart.” A broken and contrite heart is one ready for healing. When you are completely disgusted with your heart of flesh and all of the sin that it leads you to commit, get a new heart. Accept redemption and renewal or prepare to be separate from those you love, forever.
The parable you just read tells you that it is the rich man who could see and envy the beggar, not that the beggar could see and feel sorrow for the rich man. It says the chasm between those who are “separated” from those who love God cannot be bridged. It looks like the beggar is unaware of the suffering of the rich man. How else could the scriptures be true when they say,
“for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
If we, in heaven, could see the suffering of our loved ones, every tear would not be wiped away.
If you choose to persist in sin, it looks like your loved ones who are with Jesus will be unaware of your circumstance. You readily know that your unforgiven sin separates you from God but have you considered how painful it will be to be separate from those you love? It is not my intention to convey the message that you should draw near to God in order for you to spend eternity with your loved ones, but that reality is simply an unintended consequence of the choice you have made.
Our earthly family is a great gift of God and the joy that parents feel as they look upon their child is almost inexpressible. Love your family as you love the Lord. Teach them and lead them in paths of righteousness. Pray with them and for them every day and pray that you will all be united in Christ now and forever.
Your children will become “accountable” adults. Show them, by example, how to cope with temptation, to be persons of faith and fidelity. Seek His righteousness in you. Ask daily to be bathed in the freshness and power of the Holy Spirit and thank Jesus daily (constantly) for presenting you to the Father wrapped in His righteousness. Thank God that His thoughts toward you exceed number. Have every thought and action be “as unto the Lord.” Your family will notice and I pray that you will lead them to an eternal reunion.