The Realities of Eternity
We see a
lot about reality T.V. today. Reality T.V. programs are filmed in real time.
There is nothing staged. The program is filmed as a real life drama unfolds
in the lives of real people. You see the actual real life dramas that range
anywhere from normal to bazaar. You see them in real time as they transpire
in the lives of real people.
is a book about the real life dramas of those it is written about.
Have you noticed that the Bible is only a book written about the lives of
people? There is nothing fake, staged, or imagined about the biblical
stories. The story of Jesus Christ is a real life story. There is nothing
staged about his heavenly origin, his earthly roots, birth, childhood,
ministry, or his resurrection. It’s Jesus resurrection that assures us that
it all was real, but the resurrection does more. His resurrection assures us
of the reality of life after death.
one real life story that rivets my attention on the next life—eternal life.
It is something that happen upon the death of two individuals before Christ
ever walked the earth. It describes a real after death experience
for two individuals. I know that you have heard volumes about after death
experiences, but this story is told by our Lord, so I know it is as real as
it gets. It is up close and very personal. Most stories told about after
death experiences leave us wondering if they are real or a trick of the
mind. I want to assure you that this story is as real as it gets.
A Real Story from an Eternal
want us to note that the Bible says volumes about life after death.
On the Mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah met and talked with Jesus
Christ. If your remember Moses died in the wilderness—but he is present with
Jesus. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. They were very much
alive and well.
God of the living not the dead. The Sadducees question Jesus about the
resurrection, notice Jesus answer.
24 Jesus replied, "Are you not in error
because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead
rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like
the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising-have you not read in the
book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the
God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 27 He is not the
God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!" NIV
of Revelation portrays Jesus opening the fifth of the scroll:
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw
under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of
God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud
voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the
inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" 11 Then each of them
was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until
the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as
they had been was completed. NIV
Christ gave John the vision of Revelation. He saw the door of heaven
open and he was invited to peer into the heavenly realms to see what would
take place. I want you to notice that the souls of those who had been slain
for their testimony were crying out to God from the heavenly realm as the
earth was rotating on its axis—earth was still in existence. They were very
much alive as they cried, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true,
until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
actually the theme the book of Revelation. It is about God’s judgment upon
the inhabitants of the earth for refusing to repent of their sins. It is a
real life story that is being unfolded as I speak. God is at work judging
the world. Those have died are already in the presence of God for good or
of Revelation paints us a picture of life after death in broad strokes, but
Jesus told a story of a rich man and a man named Lazarus that is up close
and personal. It is as close to the reality of what happens when we
die as you can get. Keep in mind that this is a real story.
19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in
purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid
a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell
from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 "The time came when the beggar died and
the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was
buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham
far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham,
have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and
cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that
in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad
things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides
all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who
want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to
27 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father,
send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn
them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29 "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and
the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30 "'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if
someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen
to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises
from the dead.'" NIV
die. One is in torment, and the other in paradise. Notice the rich man’s
brothers are still alive on earth. This isn’t a scene of the
judgment. The judgment comes on the final day—this isn’t the final day. The
earth continues to rotate on its axis. In fact, Abraham told the rich man
that if his brothers wouldn’t listen to Moses and the prophets neither would
they be persuaded if Lazarus was sent back from the dead.
life story happened during the Old Testament period before Christ died on
the cross during the time of Moses and the prophets. But it is the
same story that happens every time someone dies today. It is what will
happen when you and I die. We will be in one of two places.
Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come NIV
6 Remember him-before the silver cord is
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the
or the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
die our bodies return to the dust of the ground and our spirit will return
to God who gave it. James says the body without the spirit is dead
(James 2:26). It is the spirit within our bodies that give our bodies life.
When your spirit leaves your body, your body will be dead. However, the
spirit will remain very much alive. All life returns to God who gave it.
3 Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
4 When their spirit departs, they return to
on that very day their plans come to
12:1 "At that time Michael, the great prince
who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such
as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that
time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be
delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some
to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. NIV
Bible speaks of multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth it is speaking
of our bodies that have returned to the dust of the earth as a result of
death. The Bible makes it clear death occurs when our spirits leave
our bodies. When the spirit leaves the body it returns to God who gave it.
we believe about life and death we must understand that we will be in one of
two places when we die. Our bodies may be asleep in the grave, but
we will be very much alive.
Jesus Relates the Real Story of
didn’t raise Lazarus from the dead to warn the man’s brothers, but Jesus
chose to tell us this story so we can beware of what happens at death.
We have more than Moses and the prophets—we have the words from the mouth of
Jesus. What will we do with the story—will we take it to heart?
about after-death experiences of those who have been resuscitated.
We hear of people seeing the light and experiencing such a peaceful
existence. They see themselves leaving their bodies. Seemingly those who are
lost experience the same thing Christians experience when they have an
after-death experience. It may be that we will pass through a very pleasant
experience of the presence of God before we reach either of the places we
find the rich man and Lazarus. I wouldn’t want to put a lot of confidence in
after-death experiences unless it is the one Jesus speaks of hear in these
verses. I can trust the story Jesus tells of the reality of eternity.
it be like when our spirits return to God upon our death? Each of us
will probably experience the glorious presence of God as we return to him. I
believe this will for the saved and the lost—at least initially. I believe
it may well be that the lost will experience God’s presence in such a way
that they will never forget the peace they lost as a result of not choosing
to be saved.
must be the top priority for each of us. After death the rich man
doesn’t mention his Fifth Avenue apartment. He doesn’t mention his fine
clothes and sumptuous meals. He desperately needs a drink of water. Worldly
concerns are the furthest thing from his mind—he is totally focused on the
spiritual The one thing he is most concerned about is the salvation of his
five brothers. He knows no hope remains for him. He has forfeited his soul.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If
anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and
follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he
gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in
exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his
Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person
according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are
standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in
his kingdom." NIV
imagine the kind of eulogy given at this man’s funeral. There is
pomp and ceremony with spell binding speeches, perhaps given by his five
brothers. They speak of his worldly success, and his affluence. Floral reefs
with ribbons imprinted with the message “Rest In Peace.” We can hear many
say, “Well he is in a better place.” But we hear the rest of the story from
the lips of our Lord.
his anguish. “In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw
Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father
Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in
water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things,
while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are
in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been
fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone
cross over from there to us.'
'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 for I have
five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this
place of torment.’”
is said about the things he didn’t get to do before he died. He
didn’t wish that he had gotten to take the trip around the world that he
never took time for. He only wished that he had done the thing at hand—he
thought about feeding beggars. He thought about how he should have left a
better example for his brothers to follow. Imagine, forever remembering the
simple things that keep us from being lost—a cup of water in Jesus’ name. He
thought about the really simple things of life that he failed to do, but it
was too late.
This is a
man with absolutely no worldly concern. He is completely focused on
the spiritual world. He is more concerned about salvation than ever, but not
his own—he knows it is too late for him. He is concerned about the spiritual
welfare of those he left behind—please send Lazarus back to warn them of
this awful place. Abraham simply, “They have the Scriptures—the scriptures
are simply the law and the prophets—let them read them.
Scripture—the Bible is the road map to heaven. Why is it so hard for
us to look at the road map? The Bibles lay on our coffee tables, on the
dashboards of our cars—they even get lost in church buildings for weeks at a
time. I have noticed that some lost in the church building are never found
by their owners. I wonder if they are looking them.
Things Time and Eternity Have
have our sight—not a world of darkness—we will see exactly what life was all
about. We really already know what life is about—we just refuse to
do anything about it.
We will see
clearly the battlefields of life in hindsight. Elisha prayed that God would
open the eyes of his servant when Dothan was surrounded by the Syrian army.
When the Lord opened the servants eyes he saw the army that surrounded the
city of Dothan surrounded by the army of the Lord’s host. You are living on
a battlefield. The battles you face are eternally relevant. You are
surrounded by heavenly beings who are engaged in this battle with you. Satan
at this very moment is trying to place you in harms way so that he can bring
hurt to as many people as possible. God is our only protection.
will also be 20/20 hindsight. The rich man seems to never question
why he is where he is—he fully understands.
Memory—without memory there would be no true existence. You can’t
try a person for a crime if the person loses their mental capacity to
remember the crime they committed. Imagine remembering all the insignificant
things that sent him to the place of torment. What lament—what sorrow—how
tragic—how insignificant worldly things will appear from this vantage point.
will be recognition—we will recognize our loved ones. Peter and John
recognized Moses and Elijah on the Mt. of Transfiguration. Saul recognized
Samuel when he came back from the dead to give him a message. We will
recognize our love ones. If they are lost it will only make torment more
will be regret—regret over a misspent life—regret for those who have
misspent their lives as a result of our misspent lives.
Scriptures will be there—they will be binding. The same scripture we
are studying this morning—the same story will be more real than ever before.
We will meet the rich man or Lazarus.
will time in the next world—plenty of it. But our existence will not be
measured by seconds, minutes, hours or days. It will only be measured by
will be no grace period. A preacher carried a stack of books he had
checked out of the library back two weeks late. All the books at the library
received a five day grace period before any late fees were charged. However,
the preacher had exceeded his grace period for each book. So the preacher
wanted to know if he would have to pay for the five days grace period for
each book. The librarian told him once the grace period was over the full
penalty was due.
When we die the
grace period will be over. If we have not received God’s grace the full
penalty for sin will be due.
will be no second chance—no purgatory—no end to the sentence.
will no chance to repent and turn to God. There will be eternal
regret and sorrow over what could have been, but no chance for repentance.
Is it any
wonder why Paul says, “Behold, today is the day of salvation.”