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Now or Never: You Only Die Once (Luke 16:19-31)

Luke 16:19–31 - 19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” What does today’s passage say? In today’s passage, Jesus a story that contrasts the eternity for a selfish rich man who ignores a suffering beggar named Lazarus (vv. 19-21). After their deaths, Lazarus is carried by angels to comfort in “Abraham bosom” in heaven. Conversely, the rich man suffers torment in Hades (vv. 22-23). He pleads with Abraham to have Lazarus bring him relief, but Abraham says no crossing exists between the saved and the damned (vv. 24-26). The rich man then asks that Lazarus be sent to warn his still living brothers to repent (vv. 27-28). But Abraham says his brothers have already been given Moses and the Prophets as Scripture to lead them to salvation if they are willing.  He says that if they won’t believe that, then they also won’t believe “if someone rises from the dead” (vv. 29-31). How can I apply Luke 16:19-31 to my life? Jesus shares a sobering account contrasting two very different men representing divergent eternal trajectories based on their earthly lives. Their afterlife outcomes stand independent of any entitlement from privilege or reversal of affliction due to disability in this world. One man obsessively indulged in temporal comforts to the exclusion of compassionate care for those in desperate need around him. The other endured chronic agony and isolation without hope of relief in sight. Yet beyond the grave, their situations dramatically switch as one enters paradise while the other suffers torment. Christ uses these striking reversals to underscore key truths. What we pursue and trust in during our fleeting time on earth reveals where our faith rests - either in God’s eternal promises or in the temporary pleasures of sin that the world offers. The choices we make each day to either indulge our flesh or invest in God’s Kingdom where our hearts and our faith truly are and what our eternal status before Him truly is. Scripture presents a consistent standard for receiving either justification through repentant faith or justice for rejecting Christ. As followers of Jesus, we plead with loved ones to embrace God’s truth today before it becomes too late. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Prioritizing Worldly Happiness in this Life at the Expense of Righteousness Will Lead to Eternal Disaster (vv. 19, 22b-24): Jesus illustrates through the rich man and Lazarus how obsessively indulging in earthly pleasures while ignoring the needs of others ushers one towards damnation. This rich man lived decadently without concern for poor Lazarus at his gate, representing his greater craving for self-satisfaction over compassion. Yet after death, the rich man faced agony in Hades while Lazarus was comforted in paradise. When we elevate pursuit of wealth, entertainment and comfort in this fleeting life above selfless generosity and ethics, we demonstrate hearts aimed away from God’s righteousness. Becoming absorbed in materialistic happiness often numbs our sensitivity to the suffering around us that God calls us to relieve through merciful action. Every spending, consuming or leisure choice either aligns us more toward greed or more toward godly compassion. As John Piper said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Evaluate whether your priorities aim toward enjoying God or enjoying His gifts. What we indulge our flesh in now at the cost of obedience leads to weeping in the next life. But honoring Christ through sacrificial generosity and righteousness stores up eternal joy (Psalm 73:2-9, 12-14, 18-20; Mark 8:34-38; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

Food for thought: What evidence indicates I sometimes overindulge in possessions, entertainment, or leisure at the expense of obeying Jesus’ commands to love others? What things of this world have become too important to me?

  1. The Believer’s Faithful Perseverance and Patient Suffering in this Life Will Be Replaced with God’s Richest Blessings in the Next (vv. 20-22a): Lazarus represents those saints who endured hardship and rejection because of devotion to God. Though living in desperate poverty, likely due to disease or disability, Lazarus remained faithful through the testing. His name meaning “God is my help” affirms his reliance on Divine care and hope. After death, angels carried this righteous sufferer directly into paradise to be comforted and honored. God promises to wipe away every tear and lavishly reward those who persevere in following Christ despite affliction and opposition. Any pain experienced in obedience now accrues eternal blessings later as we inherit resurrected life with no death, mourning, crying or pain. Knowing the richness of our future hope in glory helps follower of Jesus endure mistreatment in the present. Take heart if your obedience costs you comfort or relationships in this world. God sees your steadfast loyalty to Him. Only what’s done for His glory lasts forever (Matthew 5:11-12; Romans 8:18; Revelation 21:4).

Food for thought: Have I stayed faithful to Christ despite facing hardship because of my ethics or beliefs? How does reflecting on future rewards in heaven help me endure difficulties today?

  1. After We Die, There Are No Second Chances to Repent and Be Saved (v. 26): Once in Hades, the rich man begging for relief represents souls paying eternal consequence for rejecting God. No further appeals or mercy exists after death to escape damnation. All determine their eternal status in this earthly life before facing judgment - either covered by Christ’s righteousness through repentant faith or stained with the debt of their own sin apart from submission to Jesus as Lord and Savior. No Scriptural evidence supports praying to advocate someone’s release from Hell. The terrifying prospect of everlasting justice for those who selfishly ignored God and rejected Christ while alive motivates us to boldly share Gospel truth now. Our fleeting time on earth constitutes each person’s opportunity to have their sins taken away by the shed blood of Christ and to be transformed through trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice. Christ’s return ushering final accountability gives urgency to make every moment of this precious chance count by drawing near God (Isaiah 61:1-2; Hebrews 9:27-28; 2 Peter 3:8-13).

Food for thought: Whose eternal destiny are you burdened enough to earnestly intercede for and relay the Gospel to while you can? Do your daily choices reflect urgency given the limits of this window of grace?

  1. God Gives Us Everything We Need to Know Him, Repent, and Put Our Faith in Christ Alone for Salvation (vv. 27-31): The rich man pleaded for someone to return from the dead and warn his brothers of their need to repent. Yet Abraham explains even Scriptural testimony is enough to lead those sincerely seeking God to saving truth and receive mercy. Though they had Moses and the Prophets, the rich man and his family ignored what God had already spoken. Jesus' resurrection demonstrates God's extraordinary compassion toward mankind by validating Christ's authority to offer salvation. Still, many reject Him. Accessibility to truth never guarantees one's response. Do not presume lost friends and family will one day get here!  While God has given us everything that we need to know Him and to have our sins forgiven in Christ, these privileged resources also expose our guilt if we neglect so great a salvation or neglect to proclaim these truths. Let the Spirit work through you to open spiritually blind eyes and soften resistant hearts through applying Scriptural truth. Trust God's Word and Spirit to awaken repentant faith while you keep sharing the Good News (Ezekiel 3:4-11; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 16:14; Romans 10:13-15; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Food for thought: Do I couple sharing the Gospel with urgent prayer for God to open hearts to believe? While taking quick action to communicate truth, do I patiently trust the Spirit's timing to convince and convert souls? Jesus makes clear that wasting our fleeting time on earth chasing selfish pleasure at the cost of caring for those in need or obedience to God leads only to eternal regret and judgment. However, enduring affliction now with faith in Christ results in abundant life with Him forever. We must plead with family and friends to repent while there is still time, before the finality of death seals one’s fate. Yet we can have confidence that God has already given sufficient revelation through Scripture to lead seekers to salvation in Christ. As followers of Christ, we demonstrate genuine belief in eternal realities through our compassion, generosity, faithfulness in trial, urgency to redeem time and warn others. May God examine our hearts and realign us to live with eternity in mind each moment more than fixating on temporal distractions. Let us spur one another on toward godliness and good works as we eagerly anticipate the fulfillment of our living hope secured by Christ’s empty tomb. Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would give me an eternal perspective to shape my priorities and choices each day. Help me turn from selfishness and indulgence to pursue generosity, compassion for those suffering and Your righteousness no matter the cost. Give me wisdom to leverage resources toward bearing eternal fruit in keeping with repentance. Allow me to rest in hope of the coming glory with You even amidst present difficulties because of my faith. Burden me to urgently share about Your salvation before it is too late for my unsaved friends and family. I know You alone change hearts to respond through Your Word and Spirit's work. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Luke 16:31 - “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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