Luke 16 v 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.’”
The very idea that God would send him to hell, or for that matter, any of his own set of cultured, wealthy and sophisticated circle of friends, was to him a totally preposterous idea. No one believed that God would do that among his friends and he certainly did not believe that. And that unbelief that lay behind his own inaction and carelessness comes to the fore in his final conversation with Abraham (verses 27-31).
Jesus presents this man as pleading for Lazarus to be sent to his brothers to warn them. But Abraham tells him there is no need for they have all the warning they need in the scriptures and they could read it for themselves.
But the rich man protests that his brothers would not take such warnings seriously. Rather if one could return from the grave, one who has crossed over and seen the reality; if such a person could go to them, then they would repent.
But Abraham persistently refuses his request and it is important to notice why. It was not God’s reluctance to give evidence of what happens after death, but people coming back from the afterlife would not have helped them. The rich man’s brothers would not have needed to be convinced that the afterlife was real, or that there was a judgement, or for that matter, that there is a hell. They needed to be convinced that they themselves had neglected God’s law and that their neglect was serious enough to land them personally in hell. The most important evidence they needed was the plain statement of God’s Word directed to the conscience. So too with us. There is no more evidence to be given to us other than God’s authoritative word. If our moral judgement is so irresponsible that it enables us to treat the warnings of God’s Word so lightly, then our guilt mounts up (John 3 v 18. Romans 1 verses 18-20). In that case no amount of visits from those who have already crossed over will help us to understand that we must repent.
The fact is the human heart is not only hard and stubborn, but also deluded. Most people live under the delusion that they are eternally safe. It does not dawn on them that they are in terrible danger of judgement. In spite of the warnings in God’s Word, many live in a wilful ignorance and an arrogant perception that while it may be true that others will be judged and condemned – not them!
God speaks through his word – not through apparitions or visits from the afterlife. We should be careful of the many stories we hear in these days of people with near-death experiences. Near death is not death. And real, final death is final indeed.
We will all cross over one day. Have we heeded God’s Word and repented? Have we turned to Christ for eternal life?