Five Minutes After You Die

Jesus tells a story about a rich man and the poor beggar at his gate that forces us to think about our money with an eternal perspective. Five minutes after you die…

November 4-5, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Jesus on Money
#4—Five Minutes After You Die
Luke 16:19-31

Introduction and offering:

Today in the last part of “Jesus on Money,” we’re going to read a story Jesus told about a rich man and the poor beggar who lay at his gates. When both of them die, some amazing things happen. What happens when you die? And what does that have to do with our money? That’s what we’re talking about today. I want to give credit to Pastor Gene Appel who gave a talk on this text; I borrowed liberally from him. Here’s the story from Luke 16.

Luke 16:19-31

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

There was a rich man…very rich. Purple and fine linen were the most expensive clothes of the day; this guy was a power dresser! And he lived in luxury every day; he feasted every day on the finest and most expensive foods—prime rib, caviar, and Little Debbies. Super rich!

At his gate was a beggar named Lazarus, which means “the one God helps”. Lazarus was as poor as the rich man was rich. He was crippled, had to be carried to the rich man’s gate, where he waited every day, hoping for a few table scraps. The dogs, wild street dogs, licked his sores. Super poor!

The super rich and super poor…a striking contrast.

Then they both died. Lazarus died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side—to heaven. The rich man died and was buried…and woke up in hell. Heaven and hell…another striking contrast.

In this story, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the afterlife…what happens five minutes after you die.

 

Offering here:

 

Here are three things that I think are crystal clear. Five minutes after you die…

  1. You will be wide awake.

In this story, both the beggar and rich man woke up on the other side—there is life after death. They didn’t die and cease to exist. They didn’t die and enter a time of soul sleep. They died and woke up on the other side, one in heaven and the other in hell.

Five minutes…five seconds after you die, you’ll be wide awake. You’ll still be alive. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He turned to the thief who was crucified next to Him, and said,

Luke 23:43 “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

When would he be in paradise? Today. Not someday in the distant future. Today. No time delay, no jet lag. Today. When you die, your spirit lives on. Just before Jesus died, He said,

Luke 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

When Jesus died, His spirit went to be with God. His body was buried in a tomb where it stayed for three days, until it was resurrected. In that same way, when we die, our spirit goes to be with God.

Philippians 1:21-24 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

Paul is in prison, facing death. He is torn between living and dying. He says, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” Paul understood that five minutes after he died, he’d be wide awake, in the presence of Jesus. He would be with Christ!

2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

To be away from the body—that is to be dead—is to be at home with the Lord. When you die, we bury your body, but you are alive and at home with the Lord. Then when Jesus comes at the end of this age, there will be a resurrection of the body.

1 Thessalonians 4:14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

When Jesus comes again, all who have died in Christ will come with Him, and He will raise their dead bodies.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

The resurrection happens at the end of the age, when Christ returns. Meanwhile, those who have died in Christ are with Him.

This life is not all there is. There is life after death. Five minutes after you die, you will be wide awake. Five minutes after you die…

 

  1. You will be filled with gratitude or regret.

You are going to wake up filled with incredible gratitude or incredible regret. There is no middle ground. Lazarus woke up in heaven and was grateful. The rich man woke up in hell and was in agony. Five minutes after you die, you will be filled with great gratitude or great regret.

This story is fascinating because it’s the only place that gives us a glimpse of a person in hell—the words, thoughts, feelings and experience of someone in hell. I know that the Greek word here is “Hades”, and theologians debate the differences of Hades and Gehenna and hell. But I think it’s clear from the passage that the rich man is in a place of torment and agony—those are the words that are used. Whatever you call it, it was hell!

ILL: A Gallup poll found that 78 percent of Americans believe in heaven and 78 percent believe they have a good or excellent chance of going there. Sixty percent of Americans believe in hell, and only four percent believe they have a good or excellent chance of going there.

I don’t enjoy talking about hell, but Jesus did, and we should know what He said about it.

First, this story makes it clear that hell is a place of torment and agony. The rich man said, “I am in agony in this fire.” And later he wants to warn his brothers to avoid “this place of torment.” Jesus described hell as a fire that never goes out.

Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.

Other Scriptures use terms like “outer darkness” and “bottomless pit” to describe hell. Whatever hell is, Jesus used the worst terms that he had available to describe it. Hell is a place of torment and agony.

Second, this story makes it clear that hell is a place of memory. In verse 25, Abraham tells the rich man to remember.

‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’

Remember that while you had everything, Lazarus had nothing. Remember that you passed him every day and did nothing. Remember that every day you had the chance to do some good, to help him, and you did nothing. Remember?

Hell is a place of memory…but not good memories…regrets. Hell is full of regret.

Some people ask how a loving God could send people to hell. God doesn’t send people to hell. Here’s what God does. He doesn’t send people to hell; instead He sent His Son so that no one would have to go to hell. Jesus gave His life on a cross to offer full and free forgiveness, to bring you back to God. God doesn’t send us to hell; we send ourselves there by rejecting God and His gracious efforts to bring us back to Himself. If someone goes to hell, it’s not because of what God has done; it is in spite of what God has done.

You have choice where you wake up after you die. Whether you wake up with gratitude or regret depends on you. God gives you the opportunity to know Him, to trust Him, to follow Him now. It’s your choice. Lazarus chose to trust God; the rich man didn’t. You say, “How do you know that? It doesn’t say that in the story.” No, but it’s easy to deduce. The rich man walked by Lazarus every day and did nothing. He had all those riches and spent it all on himself. That’s not what a believer in God does. John asks:

1 John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

How can you say you love God and let a beggar die at your gate while you feast? No, the rich man didn’t love God, didn’t trust or follow God. And that’s why he was in hell. He didn’t go to hell because he was rich. Abraham was rich and he was in heaven. The rich man went to hell because he had no love for God or man; just himself. God didn’t send the rich man to hell. He sent himself there.

But God did send someone somewhere. God sent His Son into the world to die for us and bring us back to Him. God sent His Son so you wouldn’t send yourself to hell! God sent His Son so you’d choose Him and choose heaven.

And if hell is a place of regret, heaven is a place of gratitude. It’s better than anything we can imagine.

1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Heaven is better than that. What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard? Heaven is better than that. What’s the best thing you can imagine? Heaven is better than that.

I’ve listed a few verses from Jesus and the rest of the New Testament about heaven. Here are two:

1 Peter 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,

Peter says that you are born again into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. God has something saved for you in heaven, and unlike everything on earth, it won’t end. Everything here perishes, spoils and fades—it’s all temporary and decaying. But not in heaven!

  • Everything here is dying; everything there is bursting with life.
  • Everything here is decaying, getting worse; everything there is getting better!
  • Everything here perishes, spoils and fades; everything there lives, grows and gets brighter, better and more beautiful.

ILL: Think of our bodies. Here, our bodies grow and get stronger up to a point, and then they start to decay.

How many of you went to a high school reunion this summer? You know what I’m talking about! At my last reunion, I looked around and wondered, “Who are all these old people? They don’t look anything like the kids I graduated with!” Decay.

But in heaven we’ll have new bodies that don’t get sick, don’t get old, and don’t die. In heaven, I’ll be able to dunk…with either hand!

Here is how John the apostle saw it.

Revelation 21:1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

It’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? Every tear wiped away. No more dying or mourning, no more crying or pain.

It’s that…or a place of agony and torment. Your choice. But five minutes after you die, you will be filled with gratitude or regret.

 

  1. You will be able to look back on life with clarity.

The rich man and Lazarus both die, and find themselves fully awake, one filled with gratitude and the other with regret. And suddenly, they could see life with clarity. For the first time, the rich man could see what really mattered. And you know what it was? It wasn’t his money. It wasn’t his beautiful gated home, or his expensive purple and linen clothes, or his lavish dinners. Only one thing matters: people. Five minutes after he died, it was crystal clear: people are what matter. We should care for people.

 

  1. We should care for the poor “at our gate”. 24-26

So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

This is really the crux, the point of the whole story. I said earlier that the rich man’s sin wasn’t being rich—Abraham was rich and he was in heaven. The rich man’s sin was that he spent it all on himself, and didn’t share any with Lazarus who was at his gate every day. He gave little or nothing when he had so much and Lazarus had nothing.

Abraham tells him, “In your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now,” now it’s time for justice. “Now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” It’s a complete reversal. The one who was in comfort is in agony. And the one who was in agony is in comfort. I think Jesus wants us to share the wealth now, to start correcting injustice, and caring for the poor. And it starts at our gates. It starts with the poor and the needy at our doors—the people we see every day as we go to and from work or school.

  • The homeless person huddled under the bridge, or trudging up the street.
  • The neighbor whose heat got turned off last month.
  • The kid whose folks can’t afford new shoes or a good coat.
  • The elderly man or woman who just can’t keep up anymore.
  • The mentally ill, the handicapped, the outcast, the loser.
  • It could be someone sitting here today.

We see them every day. They are at our gates.

It’s interesting that the poor man had a name, Lazarus, and the rich man didn’t. Usually it’s reversed. We know the rich by name, but the poor remain nameless and anonymous.

I heard someone say something that really bothered me. He said that giving to charity can be bad for us. It can insulate us from the poor. It can make us think that by giving to an organization that helps the poor, we have done our duty to the poor, and we don’t have to actually meet the poor. I don’t have to know a poor person—I can stay safely removed from poverty. Then the poor don’t have a name.

But Jesus gave the poor a name: Lazarus, which means “the one God helps.” I think Jesus is saying that God knows the poor by name and helps them personally, and He wants us to do the same.

I have to confess that I am far removed from poverty. I live in a nice home, in a lovely neighborhood, far from poverty. My friends and neighbors are all doing quite well. I give a lot to charity, to help the poor. But I don’t give much to Lazarus. Like the rich man, I can walk past Lazarus at my gate and never even know his name.

ILL: About 10 years ago, a woman approached me after a service and suggested that we put in showers so the homeless could come and clean up. She said they are self-conscious about how they look and smell, and that keeps them from church, but if they could clean up, maybe they’d come. I thanked her for the idea, and off she went.

Later, I realized that I hadn’t asked this woman her story—I didn’t even ask her name. Maybe this was her story; maybe she was homeless and self-conscious. I hadn’t bothered to get to know her at all and felt badly and prayed that I’d have another chance. The next week, I saw her at church and asked her name—Debby—and to hear her story. Sure enough, she was living in poverty—not homeless, but living in a house shared with a number of other “homeless” people, a house where both the power and water had been shut off.

It was the Christmas season, and Laina and I got her address and stopped by to see her and leave a gift. It was shocking. While we were there, in the dark, lots of people came and went, and several drug deals went down. God had our attention!

Over the next couple years, we got to know Debby and walked with her through some difficult experiences. With God’s help, she is doing better.

But I almost missed it. I almost walked past the poor at my gates.

Here’s the challenge for me…and for many of you. Care for the poor at your gate. Open your eyes this week to see the people at your gates. Go out of your way to meet one. Put a face and a name on poverty. Stop and buy that person a cup of coffee and learn his name and hear his story. Then help. And then it won’t just be charity…it will be love. You’ll be loving God, because Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers of mine, you do for me.” When you love the poor, you’re loving Jesus.

And I think the rich man saw that clearly…five minutes after he died.

The other thing he saw clearly was:

 

  1. We should care for those who are far from God. 27-31

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

In verse 27, the rich man thinks of someone other than himself for the first time. He has five brothers, presumably all like himself. He begs Abraham to send someone to warn them, so they wouldn’t end up like him—in hell. Five minutes after he died, he had clarity: he finally cared about someone besides himself. He wanted to save his five brothers.

If we could spend one moment in hell, we’d be far more concerned for the people around us!

This is our big deal here at Life Center! We want to take as many people to heaven as we can. We want to depopulate hell! That’s why we’re always encouraging you to be a bringer and inviter. Do find, tell, bring!

Find someone you love.

Tell them what you know.

Bring them with you.

My 8th grade friend, Don Lang did it with me. If an 8th grader can do it, so can you. Eternity is at stake! So love people…please. Love people! Love them no matter what they do. Love them unconditionally. Love them extravagantly, sacrificially, crazily! And when they ask you why, tell them about the One who loved you that way. The One who loved you so much that He left heaven, and gave His life on a blood stained cross…all for you.

Please care for people who are far from God, and let’s bring them close. Some people say Life Center is too big. I’ll tell you what is too big. Hell is too big. And if you could spend one moment there, you’d see with crystal clarity what matters. This rich man would want a church like ours to be five people bigger! People are what matter to God. Let’s care for them with crystal clarity!

 

By | 2017-11-06T15:23:00+00:00 November 5th, 2017|Jesus On Money|0 Comments

Leave A Comment