“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
“But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:27-31)
Relate: As I was reading this today three different, and mostly unrelated, things jumped out at me one right after another. I am just going to throw them all out there and see what happens. I apologize in advance if this devotional doesn’t seem to flow or fit into the tightly packed message you normally expect from me.
The first of these is that the rich man in hell was still aware and concerned with what was going on in both heaven and earth. I won’t get into the speculative theology of whether or not what he was in was the future hell all those in rebellion against God will inhabit. Neither will I speculate on whether Lazarus was in the future heaven followers of Jesus will enjoy. The point here is that Lazarus had it good, really good, and the rich man had it bad, really bad, and yet even in his suffering and his torment he was aware and concerned with what was happening outside his world. I think that is part of what will make hell, hell. It won’t just be the fact that a person is in pain and torment but the awareness that they did it to themselves and that the torment was avoidable.
The second thing is that this rich man had not changed. Yes, he wanted relief from his anguish, and yes he does want his family to avoid his situation but two things are glaringly absent from everything he says. He doesn’t ask if and how he can leave that place. He wants relief but says nothing of escape. The second and more important is that there is no repentance or contrition. He says nothing about being sorry for what he has done. Instead, he is trying to order Abraham about and he still views Lazarus as an inferior. It is as though Lazarus is now Abraham’s servant or errand boy. “Send your boy over here with some water for me. No? Then have him go warn my brothers about this place.”
The third thing is that zombies and ghosts can’t save people. Can you imagine what Lazarus would have looked like if he stepped back into his body, crawled out of his grave, and then showed up at his brothers door to pass along that message? Of course you can. We have all kinds of movies and TV shows from the horrible (28 Days Later, World War Z), to the great (the first Resident Evil) showing us such a scenario in all its cinematic glory. Those brothers would be crapping their pants and desperately hoping that Alice or Daryl Dixon will show up to save the day. They would be far too frightened to listen to a word that zombie was saying. The message would be lost (but not in the psychedelic island sense of the word).
React: All three of these observations are truths that often seemed to get overlooked by those who complain about the “justice” of hell. It is a very legitimate question to ask, “How could a just God send someone to hell for an eternity based on the choices they make during a brief lifespan?” Well, God doesn’t send anybody to hell. People chose to go there. He actually does everything possible outside of taking away our free will to keep people from choosing hell. Hell, after all, is nothing more than the physical manifestation of the spiritual wish many have that God would just “stay out of their lives”. Hell is what happens when He says, “OK. If you insist.” It is completely avoidable.
More than that, people don’t just chose to go there but they chose to stay there. I am not going the Rob Bell route with that in saying that eventually, even in hell people will repent and ultimately “love wins”. I think it is more a matter that God sustains a person’s life as long as repentance is still a possibility. He knows everything and I think He knows when a moment comes at which a person has gone beyond the point of no return. Please note this is an opinion, not a dogma. If someone were to scripturally point out how I am wrong, I will gladly change it, but I do not see any evidence of repentance or even contrition coming from anyone in hell.
Hell is avoidable, people chose to go there and to stay there, and God has given us everything we need to avoid it. The scripture, His Word, and our testimony is all the entire world from the youngest to the oldest, from the richest to the poorest, from America to Zimbabwe needs to make the informed decision to chose God and avoid hell. Religion is most certainly not a private matter we should all keep to ourselves but rather a global concern we should all be shouting from the rooftops. God doesn’t need zombies to reach the world, He has given it the Church. We are the walking dead proclaiming life. At least… we should be. Are we?
First and foremost I thank You with everything within me for doing everything short of sin to keep me from hell. It is incomprehensible to me that You have chosen to love me so deeply and richly that You would allow Your Son to come and take upon Himself, on the cross, the penalty for my rebellion against You. Forgive me for making that sacrifice necessary. Forgive me also for not being vocal at every opportunity about all You have done for me. Help me at every opportunity to eloquently and persuasively shout from the rooftops the warning this world is so desperate to hear.