The Great Reversal

Well, about two or three months ago a book was released entitled “Love Wins” by Rob Bell.  It immediately caused a firestorm from all the people burning Bell in effigy on Twitter.  The smoke is still in the air.  The big deal was and is, Bell questions the doctrine of eternal judgement and damnation in hell as Dante  or Spawn described it.  I haven’t read the book, only in snippets (But Cole has, and he gave me a book report).  I really don’t care about reading it, as awful as that sounds. Even if Rob Bell is a universalist, (which I don’t KNOW that he IS, that’s just what’s been asserted by others) it really isn’t that important to me.  I can still love him and respect him and learn from him even if I happen to disagree on that issue.  I just don’t remember Paul saying anything about holding to the doctrine of hell as a prerequisite for salvation…but maybe someone can enlighten me.

My point in bringing this up is…the passage we’re going to read this Sunday is one of the primary weapons of those who represent an understanding of the  judgement of hell in detail.  We’re going to be reading Luke 16:19-31. This is the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. There are not a few people who are adamant that this is not a parable, but a warning about what awaits us in the afterlife.  I’m someone, as I hope you know, who believes without reservation that there is something more, beyond this life we now live.  I believe in the eternal state, and in divine judgement for sin.  I really do.  I just am not at all certain on the details…and I have strong reservations about reading Luke 16 as a provider of those details.

If you’ve kept up with this at all, I’d like you to remember the overall context in which we find this story that Jesus tells.  The context was established back in chapter 15 and it hasn’t changed yet.  If we use chapter 15 as our context for this story…does it effect the way we read it?   If this story is a literal description of heaven and hell, are there any concerns you have about what is described?  Who goes to heaven, and who goes to hell, and why?  What is heaven described as?  Are you comfortable with reading all those details literally?

Lets think about it another way.  Lets just consider that maybe Jesus didn’t suddenly change subjects from how we handle the resources we’ve been given and how the Pharisees looked good to everyone else, but God knew their hearts… and lets imagine that He told this story as a way to reinforce the point He had been making.  What would that point be, do you suppose?

I’d be interested to hear your take on this section of Luke.  how do you read it? It’s certainly a fascinating passage, and one I think we’ll find really interesting to explore!  Hope to see you Sunday!

2 comments

  1. I am hoping this is not a literal picture of heaven and hell. It seems like scripture paints it a little different after Jesus dies and ascends to heaven and then even possibly different after the judgement. Either way I sure hope we can not see those who we knew and did not make it into heaven being tormented. Heaven is described elsewhere as a place without tears, etc and it would be so painful to see loved ones or friends who did not choose to serve Christ outside heaven in that place of eternal separation, torment and regret. Looking at this in the context of serving money, we have the rich man who was apparently living the “good life” daily feasting and having more than enough. It says Lazarus was laid at his gate so obviously others knew there was an abundance there and maybe hoped or expected the rich man to be generous. It also talked about his sores so clearly he needed some medical attention as well as food. This reminds me of the good Samaritan parable. It never tells us whether or not the rich man provided a meal to Lazarus. Just that he hoped for crumbs. Clearly though the rich man had the opportunity and means to feed, clothe and provide help to this man and chose to leave him at his gate possibly never giving him a second thought. In the end Lazarus was comforted and the rich man tormented. It is interesting to me that the rich man asked for Abraham to allow Lazarus to give him some water… wow did he want the one he didn’t help to now minister to him, still no change of heart, wanting others to serve him. I think this is the point, when he was denied that request his hearts focus went to his brothers. His next request for Lazarus to go to them reveals that he knew his heart as well as his brothers hearts were not in the right place. Their focus was on the comforts of the present not on eternity. Abraham’s insight into their heart is prophetic and sad. He knew that their grip on serving themselves was so powerful that not even the resurrection of the dead would turn their heads.

  2. Yeah, I don’t know guys. I think maybe parts of the story are based in fact or at least tradition the hearers understood. Now whether it is true, that is the question. Still I can’t see Jesus making up a scenario that was totally based in a false premise, “and there was a guy that lived on Gumdrop Lane in a cotton candy house, and he went about on a rainbow unicorn”.

    Taking a minute and thinking about this story differently, I can see how Jesus might have been using this to bookend his teachings on our “resource responsibility”. Here we see the end of someone who had much, but wasted it on themselves. Honestly, it is a sobering story. Regardless of whether the story is fact or fiction, the message seems to be, “I expect you to do good with what I have given you.”

    We westerners probably don’t understand Paradise, Abraham’s Bosom, Hell, Sheol, Heaven and the Lake of Fire. It’s sort of like John in Revelations, trying to describe things he’s never seen. What we can understand is compassion and caring for those less fortunate than us. It’s obvious from the story that you don’t have to travel around the world to do good. “Need” can be found right outside your door. It is a wake-up call for those of us that think we have to go to Darfur or Bangladesh to minister to those in need. Hopefully, we haven’t been so blinded by what we have that we miss those that don’t.

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