Luke 16:31 “Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced if someone rises from the dead.'”
Our Lord Jesus Christ told of two men, a rich man who rejected God and a beggar whose trust was in the Lord. Both of them died, and the beggar went to heaven while the rich man went to hell. One of the reasons he told this story was that we may know something of what lies after death. Many will enjoy the pleasures of heaven but others suffer the horrors of hell. That is the conscious experience of all who die. We all live in a room and there are two exits. On the one ‘Heaven’ is written and on the other ‘Hell’. There is no other door. There is no purgatory; there is no second chance after death; there is no soul sleep; there is no limbo. There is no such thing as the annihilation of the soul, but there is after death the judgment and then there is heaven or hell. The Son of God is emphasizing here that souls do not die as bodies do, but after death the souls of men and women live on and are consciously, intelligently aware of the love of God or of his wrath immediately.
This rich man who was suffering the torments of hell holds a conversation with Abraham. It is with this patriarch in particular because Abraham is the father of all who believe. God once had spoken to Abraham and made great promises to him. He pointed out to this man the stars and said that he would so bless Abraham that his progeny would become as numerous as the lights of heaven. He would give Abraham a child in his old age and through this child all the nations of the earth would be blessed, because one day in the line of Abraham’s own son a child would be born who would be the Saviour of the world.
Abraham responded by believing all that God said. He left his house in Ur and set out with his family to this unknown place which God said he was preparing for him. In such trust Abraham became a real model for all who similarly hear the Word of God, believe and are justified. All men have sinned and deserve the judgment of God for ever, but the Lord has provided redemption through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Through him believers in all the nations of the earth are blessed with the Gospel of salvation when they entrust themselves to the Son of God alone. All of these believers, then, come into the blessing of glory after death. Jesus said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” He said to the dying thief who believed in Him: “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” One day he will say to those on His right hand: “Come ye blessed of my Father and take your inheritance.” This beggar, whom Jesus spoke of, was one of those who trusted in the Son of God.
The same Saviour who spoke of heaven also spoke in unambiguous language warning the world of the awful truth of the place of woe, of the worm that does not die, the flames that are not quenched, wailing and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. The Lord Jesus taught that hell is real, is ruled by God, involves rejection and pain. He said more about it than anyone else in the Bible. If we are serious in our understanding of the man who preached the Sermon on the Mount, who when he addressed the waves and winds they obeyed him, who healed every elderly incurable who in the last stages of his illness came to Jesus of Nazareth for life, even raising the dead, and who was himself resurrected, then we must take whatever he says with the utmost gravity. We must reckon with the fact that this man of integrity, patience and love said plainly that some people will spend eternity in hell. Although he said that this present life was important, it is not all-important.
So the Lord Jesus told this parable, and New Testament scholars can save us from distorting the meaning. For example, Dr Craig Blomberg argues that we should derive one point for each major character in a parable. He shows that this rule helps us understand Jesus’ main points in many parables and keeps us on track. The three main characters in the parable before us are Abraham, the rich man and Lazarus. Abraham is the spokesman for God. The rich man represents every unrepentant man. The name Lazarus means ‘God helps’ and so the poor beggar signifies those who have received the saving help of God. The parable has this great theme of being “too late.” The rich man pays attention to Lazarus too late; he sees the unbridgeable chasm too late; he worries about his brothers too late; and he heeds the law and the prophets too late.
THE FIRST CONVERSATION
Now the first conversation of the man in hell concerned a request that he might be relieved of his torment – which was unbearable. But Abraham told him that that was impossible telling him in effect, “all your lifetime you received your good things; you were reminded of the certainty of death and judgment; you were warned to flee from the wrath to come; you had been told of the mercy and longsuffering of the grace of God; you were told to seek that mercy and find peace through the Gospel.” But after death it is too late. Mercy is unattainable; death fixes the destinies of men and women for ever, and in hell he is experiencing the justice of God and he will do so for ever. Some might think that is unfair, but only God is an adequate Judge of what sin deserves.
The rich man’s condition, then, cannot change; there is no hope. There is a great gulf fixed between them and those who are in the presence of Abraham, because those who are there did entrust themselves, their lives and every detail of every day, into the hands of a faithful Saviour. Those who are in hell cannot cross over that impassable gulf. There is no possibility of a change from the one estate to another. None whatsoever. Abraham tells the rich man that awful fact.
THE SECOND CONVERSATION
The second request of the man in hell deals with his five brethren. These brothers were still in the world, so the man in the pit devised a scheme by which they would not join him there, because their presence, no doubt, would make his hell five times worse. So he devised a plan of evangelism – which many human beings do. He imagines a way of delivering his siblings from the place of woe. The five brothers all knew the beggar who lived his life at the gate of their rich brother’s house. He was always there – that was where his patch was – and they all knew that he had died. So the rich man says to Abraham: “Send that man, Lazarus, from your side back to my brothers to show himself to them as one raised from the dead. The result of that will be that they will all become believers, especially when he tells them about hell. If a man should be raised from the dead and tell them what is happening to me they will change. They will no longer curl their lip and say, ‘Nobody’s ever come back’ but they will believe in God and escape hell.”
That is the wisdom of a man in hell. That is his proposal. From that request arises a discussion between Abraham and the man in hell. Abraham argues one side and the man in hell argues the other side. Abraham is defending the position of those who believe in God through the Lord Jesus Christ, and the man in hell is defending the position of those who use human reason and never trust the Saviour in this world or the next. This argument is going on still, and it is important for us to see what this argument consists of and the difference between the two approaches.
On one side there is Abraham and all who believe as he did. One thing is true of every one of them, and that is that they are satisfied with the Bible. Theologically we would say that they hold to the sufficiency of the Scriptures to save any person from hell. In verse 29 Abraham says: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” Moses wrote the first five Books of the Bible. There is Genesis which tells us that God is a personal God, an almighty Lord, how He made the world, and why the world is in the state it is. It speaks of the great answer to man’s rebellion in the Christ who one day will come and bruise the serpent’s head. Then in Exodus we are told of the Passover, of those for whom a lamb had died substitutionally, and how the angel of death had passed over all of them. Because of the lamb that had shed its blood they were forgiven. The Book of Leviticus tells us that “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins”. It points to the sacrifices of redemption instituted by a loving God. The Book of Numbers tells us of the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness and if men obediently look on who and what that represents they will have life. The Book of Deuteronomy tells us of the covenant relationship between God and his people, Jehovah Great I Am pledging Himself to be their God and Saviour for ever and ever.
“They have Moses,” Abraham says, and the rich man’s brothers had all the rest of the Old Testament written by the prophets who together speak of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is there in it all. So Abraham says, “Let them listen to them”. How much more should we today listen to those who were eye-witnesses of Jesus’s majesty, who were with him in the upper room, and heard his cry, “Peace be still!” and saw the waves obey him, and who helped unloose risen Lazarus from his graveclothes. Should we not listen to them who by the Holy Spirit were led into all truth in what they wrote? Do you see Abraham’s argument? The Scriptures are enough to bring a man to faith in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures themselves are more than sufficient to save a man from hell.
Then Abraham adds in words to this effect, in verse 31: “If they do not listen to the Bible, nothing else will convince them; nothing else will do any good, not even the specter of a resurrection before their very eyes.” So the question is, Do you agree with Abraham? On the one side of the debate (verse 27) the man in hell is saying that it seems a great idea to him to send a man back from the grave to the world of the living to warn them. But Abraham says, “They have the Scriptures, let them hear them”. “No,” the rich man says, “the Bible is not enough.” He has no confidence in the Word of God. He is saying, “They need something more than the Bible if they are going to be saved from hell”. This man thinks that the Bible is an ineffective book, that you cannot expect anyone to get serious about eternal life and flee from the wrath to come simply by reading the Bible, or by hearing sermons from the Scriptures.
Now, it is very interesting that here the man in hell addresses Abraham respectfully and he calls him, “Father Abraham,” and that the patriarch acknowledges that and responds to him with the word “son”. In other words, this man was a fellow Jew – a member of the Old Testament covenant people. He has been circumcised, and ethnically and outwardly he is a son of Abraham. The Lord Jesus in Luke 16 is speaking to fellow countrymen. He is addressing the Pharisees who are sneering at Him – “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him” (v.14). They could not imagine that they themselves were in any danger of hell. Even when they saw Lazarus raised from the dead they continued their plotting to kill the Lord Jesus Christ.
This rich man, then, grew up in the Synagogue, memorising the Scripture, hearing it week by week. But he never obeyed it, nor did he love it, finding it boring. He never dreamed for a moment that he would end up in hell. He never thought that one day there would be a great chasm fixed between himself and Abraham. There are many like him who hear the Word of God preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Judas heard it; Ananias heard it; Sapphira heard it; Demas heard it; the Judaisers heard it – but all were lost.
Now, you see what the rich man is saying from hell – “If the Scriptures are the only thing that you are going to give my brothers, well … I had them, and what good did they do to me? They did not change me.” In fact, he is saying in hell, deep within his heart: “It is perfectly understandable that I didn’t believe and that they don’t believe – all we had was the Bible. I know my brothers; I am aware how they live; I know where they are going. The Bible is not going to touch them – those kinds of men need something more.” In effect, he is saying: “It is excusable; if only I had seen a miracle that thrilled me, I would have believed. If a man had been raised from the dead and spoken to me, then I would have paid attention. If I could have gone to a meeting where amazing things happened, it would have been different. But all I had was the Bible. The Bible!” That is what many people say still. “You don’t expect the world to be attracted by the Bible, by preaching the Scriptures, by texts outside chapels, and verses on railway station hoardings, and tracts with Scriptures on them, and memorising the Bible, and lessons from the Bible to children in Sunday School, and camps where young people are taught the Bible, and conferences where the Bible is proclaimed. You don’t expect people to be attracted by that? We need concerts! We need drama! We need costumes! We need bands! We need choreography! Bring in the drums and the synthesizers. Send for the clowns! Then the people will come. We need superstars and celebrities to give us their testimonies – not just the Bible alone!” But, you see, Abraham was unyielding. “The Bible is sufficient,” he said.
Now there are many religious people who argue like that man from hell. The Roman Catholic Church says that the Bible is not enough, we must have Sacred Tradition too. The Quakers say that the Bible is not enough, but there must be an inner voice in the congregation. Modernists say Scripture itself is not enough, it must be interpreted by “the assured results of modern criticism”. They say that we must go back to sources “behind” our present gospel narratives to find the “authentic” sayings of Jesus. Cults say the Bible is not enough, men must obey a Book – the Book of Mormon, or Science and Health With a Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, or the Watchtower’s productions of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many Charismatics say that the Bible is not enough, that it needs to be authenticated by miracles and signs. All such people are saying that the Bible is not good enough. They say: “It’s a good start, but it needs a bit of help from us.”
There is a preacher who has written that when the apostle Paul was preaching in Athens he slipped up and as a result few were converted. Paul used wrong methods; all he did was to preach the Word of God sensitively to the philosophers who were gathered there on Mars Hill and only a few were converted, so Paul went to Corinth and he drastically changed his methods and performed miracles and many were converted. But the conversion of one of the members of the Greek supreme court named Dionysius, and a woman named Damaris as well as a number of other people converted (Acts 17:34) would be considered by us to be very encouraging for the first meeting in a community that had never heard the gospel before. But people are taught that this is not ‘power-evangelism:’ “Unless we can do miracles then there will be no converts.” “No, Father Abraham,” says the man in hell, “not the Bible alone – the Bible plus. The Bible plus informal entertainment; the Bible plus background music. You choose the plus; you enthuse about it; you give lectures about it and write books about it; you can grow rich on it – “How I found the plus that helps the rather inadequate Bible.” You can hold summer schools and conferences and tell the world the method that you discovered of compensating for the failure of the Scriptures. Just like this man in hell who had no love for God – he thought of a way that could make up for the inadequacies of the Bible.
Now remember Abraham was in heaven before Moses wrote the first five Books of the Bible. Abraham had a unique perspective on the Books of Moses and the prophets. Abraham was there in the presence of God when the Lord gave the Word to Moses and to the prophets. He was listening to the Lord on those occasions when God commanded the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of illumination, “Go to Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and assist them to understand my word, proclaim it and write the Scriptures, to the jots and tittles.” Abraham heard God speak, and he knew the source and power of that which had come from the Throne of the Universe. From the lips of the living God had come those words. Abraham knew and loved them: they were Spirit and life. They were powerful words, =
as effectual as when God had said, “Let there be light” and there was light. The Almighty has broken the silence of the heavens. God has spoken to sinners. He has opened his heart and revealed his inmost Being. He is there and he is not silent. We have his Word. “God, who at sundry times and divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). He is a speaking God, but now in these last days he has spoken by his Son – the Lord from heaven, the speaking Saviour, the Prophet, God’s final Word. The Lord Christ has said that no one knows the Father save the Son, he alone having that infinite acquaintance. There is the immensity of the Almighty and only the Son knows him comprehensively. When at the end of his life he is praying, He is thanking the Father for all the help that he has had to discharge the commission which the Father had given him. He had omitted nothing, and when Jesus sends his apostles into the world he gives them the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth, and they also omit nothing. Everything has been provided for all that is needed for the 2,000 years of the church’s history. When Paul acknowledges himself as an apostle he says, “And then last of all to me also.” In other words, Paul was the last apostle. No more apostles are needed. No house needs more than one satisfactory foundation.
We have Moses, we have the prophets, we have the Gospels and we have the epistles. We have them all in our own English language. We may hold them in our hands and we can read them. When John Jewel, one of the great English Reformers who became the Bishop of Salisbury, was preaching on the Scriptures he ends by rousing his congregation: “Are you a father? Have you children? Read the Scriptures. Are you a king? Read the Scriptures. Are you a minister? Read the Scriptures. Has God blessed you with wealth? Read the Scriptures. Are you a usurer? Read the Scriptures. Are you a fornicator? Read the Scriptures. Are you in adversity? Read the Scriptures. Are you a sinner? Have you offended God? Read the Scriptures. Do you despair of the mercy of God? Read the Scriptures. Are you going out of this life? Read the Scriptures.”
Abraham was saying words to this effect: “Do you want your brothers to see a miracle? Your brothers have got a miracle; they have in their hearing at every visit to the synagogue Moses and the prophets. They may purchase for themselves Moses and the prophets. They may read and memorise Moses and the prophets.” We who live twenty centuries later have more, having the Gospels, the Acts, the letters and the book of Revelation. These new covenant writings are the miracle which leads the church into the new millenium. When I take this Bible in my hand, I am holding a mighty work of God. I have something absolutely unique. Here is something miraculous in its independence of thought, in the comprehensiveness of its theme, its utter and invincible confidence that it is the most relevant word to my own life and to that of every man. Sometimes in moments of doubt our minds must rest in this – “I have the Bible”. I have this great intrusion from heaven, this Book that comes from another world in which men may hear the unique utterances of the Son of God. I have read much of human literature at its best but I find here in this Book something that is discontinuous with everything else. Here is a book which is absolutely unique. The Bible is a Word from God that knows me, that describes me, that searches me, that finds me. The Scripture speaks to man’s deepest needs. Here are words that contain concepts of unsurpassable grandeur, in words that are invincible in their sheer originality. Every Sunday when gospel churches meet they do so around this miracle. Every single service has at its centre this miracle – not just those red letter Sundays when everything is just right. Not merely when the Holy Spirit comes, convicts and moves, but every time we are gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and this Book is in the centre of our gathering then we are meeting in the presence of a miracle. Do you say you want a miracle and then you will believe? Well, here is a miracle! Abraham says “No!” to signs and wonders as the means of saving sinners today, because here is the Bible and it is a miracle. “So then, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Roms. 10:17). Abraham knew that this was the Divine method. So then, you must go to a church where there is a man sent to preach the Word of Christ. That has been and always will be the means of saving anyone. Not since the apostolic age has a single person come to faith in Christ through seeing someone raised from the dead, but millions have become believers through hearing the Word. Abraham knew that all the children that were now there with him in the presence of God had been saved through the Bible, and that the millions more who would join him there would get to heaven in the same way. It was the Scriptures which made them all, “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). God in mercy has said: “I have as many people coming into the kingdom as the sands on the seashore – they are all going to share heaven with me. They are corrupted rebels. They provoke me dreadfully, but I will forgive their sins, and I will do this for all who have believed in Jesus Christ. And this will be the way – by bringing my Word to them. I will send them a Christian neighbour; I will put them in a university and there they will meet witnessing students. I will work through a member of their family, or through the woman who works in that office with them, and I will bring them all to a congregation where they will hear the Word of God preached. That is the way I will rescue them from hell. They do not have to be scholars to understand the Scriptures, but I will open their understanding to know the way of salvation through faith in Christ as that is found so plainly in the Bible.” “The testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.” Ordinary folk can read or hear this message of the Gospel and understand it. It tells us that we deserve eternal hell because we are sinners, but Jesus, because he loved us, died for us that we might be saved. We have that message. If men will not listen to it they will not be convinced even if God should change teeth fillings from amalgam to gold.
The Scriptures are sufficient to make the man of God perfect. How far can the Scriptures take you? They can take you to total maturity, that is to “be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). What lies before us? What duties, challenges and sacrifices will we be called upon to meet? The Bible will completely equip us for them. How may we grow and put away childish things? How can we become mature men and women? How will we become wise? How may we become conformed to the image of Christ? Through the Bible – that is the divine way. The Scripture sanctifies and perfects what is imperfect. It thoroughly enables us for the challenge of every good work in whatever God asks us to do. Every mountain God asks us to climb, every burden God asks us to bear, every service God asks us to give, every pressure God asks us to endure, every sacrifice God asks us to make – the Scriptures can enable us to do it all by comprehensively preparing us for every single good work. They tell us how to do it, why we should do it, give us strength for the task, and they also warn us how not to do it. The Scriptures will complete that good work which God has begun in us. The Bible helps us to put away childish things. The Bible saves a man from being a wimp, and delivers him from being a nerd. It transforms him into being “the man of God … thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). It is a supernatural blessing to have the Bible.
Our Lord Jesus Christ ends the Sermon on the Mount by speaking about a wise man who built his house upon a rock and the storms, winds and floods came, and the house still stands. That man was building his life on the teaching of the Lord Jesus and it stood. Christ was looking forward down the centuries, even looking into the hideous 2Oth century in which we have lived for so long. Christ knew all the storms that would be hurled at little Christian boys or girls; the gales of scientific pretension, of philosophy and humanism, of materialism and fleshliness, yet every young Christian who stood on the teaching of Jesus would survive any storm. The Saviour is absolutely confident about it.
The professing Church is in a hopeless demoralised state should its members begin to believe that the Bible is insufficient for the task before us. The Roman Catholic Church, the Quakers, the Modernists, the Cults and the Charismatics are all looking for some additional signs and voices. None of them is in a healthy state; none of them is convinced about the sufficiency of divine truth. The issue confronting the Christian is, Are you contented with the Bible or not?
One man was being presented with what the Scripture was saying, verse after verse being quoted to him. Finally he said, in his opposition to those truths, “Let’s close the Book and listen to the Spirit.” Now that immature man was in the greatest danger. Sometimes when men say they are “listening to the Spirit” they are merely listening to their own hormones.
1. The Scriptures tell us what we are to think and do. So when an issue arises we are to comb the Bible to find everything God has said on that subject. We will not find answers to everything that we can imagine. There are those “secret things that belong to the Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29). But for everything of necessary importance for living a life pleasing to God we will find all-sufficient help in the Bible. As we become increasingly familiar with it so our ability to formulate answers to our problems and questions will also arise.
2. We are to add nothing to the Scriptures. There are no additional ideas about the future, Christian living, the nature of God, angels and demons, or life after death which God has spoken to any individuals. These are all human speculations. Out-of-body sickness experiences with people thinking they saw figures of light welcoming them through golden doors are all flimsy foundations on which to believe all is well between them and God. What does the Bible say? Every time it says the word ‘sinner’ it is speaking your name. Every time it speaks of the blessings of those who believe then you should cry to God to give you the gift of faith. And do not stop praying until you know God has answered you. No additional words alleged to come from God bind our consciences so that we have to believe them. Our consciences are captive to the Word of God alone. It does not matter for our Christian lives if we never heard of one single ‘prophecy,’ or one ‘saying of Jesus’ which was not found in the New Testament, or one so-called infallible utterance made by a pope, or never attended a revival where the greatest preacher in the world was preaching an inspiring sermon. It does not matter that we went through our entire lives and missed such words. We have “Moses and the prophets”, and their words we must not miss out on. Every document placed alongside Scripture never fails to de-emphasize the teachings of the Bible and to say things that are contrary to Scripture itself.
3. We are not to call sin anything that is not forbidden in Scripture, either explicitly or by implication. The cults would say that God has given them the authority to impose moral rules in addition to Scripture upon all their followers. They may forbid blood transfusions, or eating meat on Fridays, or keeping the food-laws of the Old Testament, or prohibit wearing ties, or working for non-Christians, or “artificial” methods of birth-control. Widespread disobedience and false guilt is the result of such directives. Fellowship with Christians who do not practise those rules is broken. The duty of keeping these regulations will be blown out of all proportion to the alleged benefits they may bring.
The Holy Spirit does not empower obedience to rules that do not have God’s approval, and so commitment is performed by the flesh, and defence of those practices made by one’s own wits. ‘Victory’ over their transgression is sought by penance and prayers, yet no victory is given. When such behaviour patterns fit into one’s own constitutional preferences smugness and pride flourish. God has given us “Moses and the prophets” and it is enough to spend our days heeding their wise commandments without increasing the burdens of others.
4. Nothing is required of us by God outside Moses and the prophets. Should a pastor inform us that we should take a certain course of action, get involved in a certain relationship, take money from the bank-account for a specific expenditure, change our employment, or move our abode then it is never sinful to think about the suggestion, smile sweetly and say, “No, I wont do that.” We have the same heavenly Father as does any leader in the church. We have the same access to Moses and the prophets as they do, and unless the principle or implication of those writings guide us to agree we are free people to say No. Christians find guidance in the Bible alone, not in coincidences, changes in circumstances, feelings of animosity or delight. God speaks in the Word and says, “Be this kind of spouse, parent or child. Live in society in this way. Follow these guide-lines as a church member. Believe these things about God and make these your emphases in daily living.” As we study the Scriptures we gain more peace and freedom as Christians.
5. Men should be content with Moses and the prophets. Because there is much God has not revealed to us let us believe in the wisdom of this divine decision. It has not made the Bible any less helpful, and the omissions are no excuse for our being less diligent in heeding what is there. There may arise small issues which require an inordinate amount of time to reach a conclusion. One word from God, we may think, would have satisfied us, and so Roman traditions, and the cults’ authority, and ‘prophecies and tongues’, and the elevation of the subordinate standards of the church become a new foundation for our convictions. The issues themselves may not be unimportant, and we must not judge that what Scriptures says about them is inadequate, but if these themes receive relatively little direct emphasis in Scripture it is ironic that certain men have virtually given their lives and sacrificed friendship and fellowship in maintaining one interpretation as sacrosanct. Are they motivated by the pride of insight? Or in imposing a unity upon the church? Or absolutised this teaching to a messianic message which can deliver congregations from all kinds of errors? We have to be content with the balance of truth in Moses and the prophets. Skillful inference is very different from direct biblical statement. The necessary truths of belief and conduct are very plainly taught in the Scriptures
It is the man who is perishing who thinks that the Word of God is foolishness. Psalm 119:155 says: “Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.” As far as the east is from the west so far is salvation from the wicked. This is the reason – that they are not seeking God’s Word. They are not saying: “My life is in a mess; my marriage is dreadful; I do not know where I am going; the years are slipping by and I am frittering my life away; death is coming nearer and nearer; let me leave this city of destruction and find a place where the Bible is taught; let me find a preacher who will preach the Lord to me; let me take the Book of God down from the shelf and blow the dust off it; let me read it; let me cry mightily to God that he will show me what is in Moses and the prophets; let me go to that religious acquaintance whom I have shunned for so long; let him tell me where I may find life.” But the wicked do not do this. They remain far from God’s salvation because they will not seek out God’s Word.
The rich man was an ignorant man when he lived in this world. He was still an ignorant man in hell, and God says: “He that is ignorant let him be ignorant still.” He never faced up to the reality of the human condition. He thought all that would be needed was a miracle, some resurrection from the dead and that then people would believe. He was always wiser in his own eyes than God, and never acknowledged the hostility that still existed in his heart to Almighty God. He snarled, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?”. People do not want the Bible because the one who speaks to us in its pages is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is always so inconvenient to bow the knee to serve and follow Him. It will mean that we must take up the cross every day and deny ourselves and walk in His steps. That is the reason why men do not believe in Him, not because of lack of evidence, not because of the inadequacy of the Bible, not because of no miracle workers in this century, but because men do not want God. It was the people who saw Jesus’ miracles who cried “crucify Him”. The nine men who were healed of leprosy could not be bothered to give any doxology to the Lord. God has given this Word as a the means of sinners’ salvation. Then let us be satisfied with it, heed it and obey.