What the rich man didn’t say
Jesus once told about two men. One was rich and the other was a beggar.
There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:19-21)
The two men died and their fates were very different.
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.The rich man also died and was buried,and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. (Luke 16:22,23)
The rich man made two requests of Abraham.
And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.”
But Abraham said, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”
And he said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:24-28)
He asked for relief from his suffering and he asked that his brothers be warned so they would not suffer what he did. It seems to me that these are reasonable requests for someone in his situation, but recently it occurred to me that there is something significant about what he did not say. He never asked why he was suffering or complained that he was being punished unjustly.
It seems strange that he didn’t say anything about this. No doubt he knew that his suffering was going to last eternally. Most people seem to think that an eternity of punishment is too much for the sins we commit in this life and while he was alive his conduct seems to say that he didn’t consider himself a sinner at all.
Something must have happened to bring about a massive change in his attitude. An incident in the life of Isaiah tells us what it might have been.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5)
When Isaiah had this vision he was already a prophet of God and had made the prophecies found in the first five chapters of his book. The sight of God’s holiness showed him that the was really a sinner who didn’t deserve any good from God.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6,7)
It was only after God took away his guilt that he was able to continue serving God.
None of us realizes how guilty we really are because we lack any standard against which we can measure our sin. We often see that there are others who seem worse than we are so we find it hard to believe that we deserve eternal punishment. It is only when we get some idea of the holiness of God that our guilt becomes real to us. Sometimes the Bible helps us to understand this. I have heard people say that reading the Bible makes them feel guilty. They are being exposed to the light of God’s holiness so that they will see their need of forgiveness.
Today, if you aren’t saved you can receive eternal life by submitting to Jesus. If you fail to do this you will still submit to him but it will be too late for this submission to result in salvation.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Those whom God condemns to Hell will praise him because they will know that his judgment is just and they deserve the punishment they are suffering.