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!