Before Death and After Death

Luke 16:29  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In our Lord's words concerning the rich man and Lazarus, He brings before us most solemn pictures of great realities both before death and after death. With regard to the present time before death, there are three things to be particularly noted—the man of the world, the believer, and the word of God.
The sketch given of the man of the world is not that of an immoral or malicious person, but of one who has the best he can get to eat and drink and also to put on. More than these things the world cannot give, and his aim is to have the best that it affords for the gratification of his desires. "He was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day." Self is the object of his heart, not God; yea, he is " without God in the world." But all his comforts are bounded by time and sense. At length the chilly hand of death lays him prostrate, and all his good things are gone, and gone forever. He dies, and is buried. What is often called "a respectable funeral" is the finishing stroke in the history in time of a man of the world. " The rich man died, and was buried." To such death is awfully serious, but what must it be after death? How searching are the Savior's questions! " What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
The man of faith, however, though in the world, is little known or noticed by it. His heart's interests lie far beyond what is seen and temporal. Not only does he find nothing here for his soul, but he proves that everything of the world is adverse to it. He is a stranger here. His path is solitary; his sorrows not a few. The waste of those surrounding him, only makes him feel more keenly the poverty and trials of his lot as to this life. But he finds that God is with him, and can turn everything to good account in the most unthought of ways, so that even dogs may give relief by licking his long-neglected sores. He has also learned that it is given unto him in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. (Phil. 1:2929For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; (Philippians 1:29).)
Besides the man of present good things and the man of faith, the Lord speaks of the third thing, the possession of the holy scriptures—t( they have Moses and the prophets/' Thus the three leading features of what is found in this present world are: the unbeliever with his " good things," the believer with his "evil things," and the word of God, which speaks of eternal things. The Bible is the condemnation and death-warrant of the unbeliever, and the comfort and stay of the believer.
The Lord then lifts the curtain, and shows the amazing contrast in the state of these two men after death. The needy and dependent man of faith no sooner quits his suffering body, and a heartless world, than he is carried by the angels into the bosom of the father of the faithful. He joyfully proves the truth of scripture that " they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." Sweet resting-place. He is now where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary arc at rest. He is where righteous Abraham and all departed believers are. How vast the change! Yesterday in suffering at a rich man's gate, worn out with the pain of his many sores, and thankful to have his wounds licked by a passing dog; but to-day his spirit is with the father of the faithful, where all is peace and love. And has it not been truly said that it is far better to depart and be with Christ?
And where is the rich man with all his boasted elegance and luxury, whose burial was only yesterday with such pomp and ceremony? We are told that in hell (or hades—the place of departed spirits), he lift up his eyes being in torments. No sooner is he there, than he sees the beggar that had sat outside his gate now a long way off, but shut in with Abraham in blessing and rest. How wide the contrast of the state of these souls now; the one in bliss unspeakable, the other in anguish unutterable! Both in hades, the place of departed spirits; but one, like the thief, in paradise with the Lord, while the other is miserable beyond description. How very solemn, and yet how real the picture! We know that if a believer dies, or rather falls asleep in Jesus, he departs to be with Christ—to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
But the unbeliever, alas! is in a very different compartment of the place of departed spirits. On quitting the body, he is at once conscious of being shut out from the presence of God, so that his misery is great. His being spoken of as parched with thirst shows the depth of his anguish. How he envies the man now who was once a poor beggar at his gate! Observe, there is no idea of purgatory here. No: it is exactly opposite, and the most perfect exposure of the utter falseness of the doctrine of purgatorial fire. Every one after death tastes misery or blessing. Let the reader carefully note that this is not the eternal state, for then all will have bodies; and that the Lord here contemplates a people on earth still unsaved with the word of God in their hands. Besides, we know from other scriptures, that the wicked will be brought from hades before the great white throne for the sentence of their eternal banishment from the presence of God, and to be deservedly cast (with death and hades) into the lake of fire. Let not the reader fail also to note there is no annihilation here, and no possibility of ever getting from the place of misery to the place of blessing. When the lost soul prays, as he never did before, saying, " Father Abraham have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame; Abraham said... + Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence." No language could more clearly show the impassable distance between the saved and lost after death, or the utter impossibility of one who dies in his sins ever being where Christ is. What remains for such is to be brought up at " the great white throne" at the close of the millennium, when the heavens and the earth will have fled away, and receive the final judgment, and their sentence of banishment to the lake of fire. All that appear there for judgment must be forever lost, because, having refused salvation by grace, they will be "judged every man according to their works."
But another most affecting part in this appalling scene after death, is, that the lost one thinks of his relatives still living on the earth. He implores Abraham to send Lazarus to his father's house, " for," said he, " I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." The infidel sometimes taunts the Christian, by saying, " We know nothing about what is after death, because no one has ever come back to tell us." But the Savior, who knew all things, has told us. And one thing is clearly made known—that there will be no infidels after death—all will be real then. Purple and fine linen are of no value there; even the lost will realize then the priceless worth of souls. If there will be one longing in such after death, it will be that their sinful relations on earth might hear the gospel, believe, and not "come into this place of torment/' But they have the gospel. They possess the Bible which contains it. "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them."
Observe, it does not say, they have religious teachers, or religious privileges, or duties—but they have God's word, and their responsibility is to hearken to it. As saith the prophet, " Hear [not do, but hear"], and your soul shall live." As the Savior also said, " He that heareth [not feeleth or giveth, or doeth, but heareth] my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life."
They are to hear Moses and the prophets. But. says the lost one, " if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." And Abraham said unto him, " If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." How very solemn! But so it is. For faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. No, not even seeing a man rise out of his grave would convert a soul; it must be by hearkening to, and receiving into the heart, the word of God. "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them."
Now what does Moses say? Does he not by types and shadows, and also by the plainest statements, show that salvation is alone by Christ, and through His precious blood? Does he not plainly say, u It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul?יי Was not the blood of the lamb the only shelter from the judgment of the destroying angel throughout the land of Egypt? Did not Aaron make atonement for the sins of the people by carrying in the blood of the sacrifice, with burning incense, inside the veil? Did not Abel's sacrifice of the firstlings of the flock so plainly set forth the sacrifice of Christ, that we are told that the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering? And was not Cain rejected because his offering did not set forth the sacrifice of Christ—a life laid down for others? Again, was not the leper pronounced clean when sprinkled with the blood? We might multiply quotations to show the constant testimony to the infinite value of the one offering of Christ from the books of Moses. Now let us look for a moment at some of the prophets. Hearken to Isaiah, who says, " He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.... and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.....He hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." And to show the sin-cleansing efficacy of the blood of Christ, the prophet says, " Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white a& snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Again, " I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins.'" Now what figure could more completely show the thorough blotting out of sin, as gone forever, than that of the cloud; for where is the dark cloud we saw yesterday? Is it not gone, and gone forever? You will never see it again. As the prophet Jeremiah plainly states, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer. 31:3434And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34).) Again, we hear Isaiah saying, " I, I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." Hezekiah also said, "Thou hast, in love to my soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption; for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back." (Isa. 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; 53:5-1217Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. (Isaiah 38:17)
25I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. (Isaiah 43:25)
22I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. (Isaiah 44:22)
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:5‑12)
.) Another prophet says, " As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103)
In this brief glance we see how clearly and fully Moses and the prophets point out the only way of salvation. It is no marvel, then, that it was said, 61 They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them!"
And now, dear reader, you have not only Moses and the prophets, but the testimony of our Lord Himself also, and of His apostles. You know, too, that One has risen from the dead, has been seen alive again by many infallible proofs, and has commanded that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations. And what effect, dear reader, has all this had on you? Has the word of God, which speaks of the finished work of Christ, persuaded you? Have you heard God's word? " Hear, and your soul shall live!" God speaks, and Christ has declared that the scripture cannot be broken. You have not wonderful things to see, or marvelous experiences to pass through, or many things to do, in order to be saved; no, " Jesus did it, did it all, Long, long ago."
Then hearken to Him who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. Let His infallible word, which will never pass away, have its due weight upon your soul J Listen attentively to Him who said that His blood was shed for many for the remission of sins. Oh think of His sinner-loving heart, who, with open arms, could most touchingly say, " Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!יי Come then and be saved!
Thank God, dear reader, that you are this side of death, where God's word of forgiveness of sins by Christ sounds on all sides! Thank God you are not where that rich man was crying out for one drop of water to cool his parched tongue! What deep mercy has spared you to the present moment! Do think of this; and also consider what an immeasurable distance there is now between you, a sinner in your sins, and the infinitely holy, sin-hating God. Still His word is that He delighteth in mercy, that He saves sinners to the praise of the glory of His grace. Listen, then, not to your own thoughts, or to the doctrines of men, but to the word of the living and true God. "Hear, and your soul shall live."
" Ο, poor sinner, do not doubt,
Christ will never cast you out.
If you come in simple faith,
Just believing what He saith;
If you wish for peace and rest,
You will find it on His breast."
Η. H. S