“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Luke 16:19-31 (ESV)
When my father died several years ago, there was great rejoicing in heaven. He trusted Jesus with his life when I was a teenager. As an adult, I had the joy of hearing him tell others what it meant to be forgiven, to know Jesus as Savior. My father was a wonderful man, but it was only his belief in Jesus that allowed him to be “carried by angels to Abraham’s side.” He was a man of great pride, yet this did not keep him from recognizing his need for forgiveness. His belief led him to humble himself before God, and now he is spending eternity in the presence of God and his angels. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Jesus told the story of a rich man who died, and a poor man named Lazarus who also died. Lazarus believed and was carried to heaven by angels. There was rejoicing in heaven! The rich man didn’t believe, and ended up in Hades, a place of eternal torment. He begged for relief, and even begged that his brothers be warned of what awaited them if they continued in their unbelief.
Why is it that some believe, and respond to Jesus’ love and forgiveness, while others do not? Evidently, according to Jesus, those who do not believe would not believe even “if someone goes to them from the dead.” If tombstones were markers for who was carried to heaven, and who ended their lives in Hades, we would look out over our graveyards with tremendous grief. Few markers would show heaven, even though it is available to all.
Those of us blessed with fathers who believe are indeed blessed. We have had a witness of God’s love present in our daily lives. But many do not have a home where Christ’s love and forgiveness is evident. That is why it is important that we who believe tell others about God’s love. Once anyone dies, there is no further opportunity to hear. As Jesus story points out, “a great chasm has been fixed” between our earthly existence and our eternal home.
This Christmas let’s tell our neighbors that we believe. We believe that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world, and this is why we celebrate His birth.