Reversal of Fortune
Bible Reading: Luke 16
Luke 16:22-23, “The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.”
The context of this passage is Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. He had spoken of the impossibility of serving both God and money (Luke 16:13). But the Pharisees, “who were lovers of money,” ridiculed Him (Luke 16:14). Jesus replied by distinguishing between God’s and man’s perspectives on such matters. The Pharisees were proud, rich, callous, and unreceptive to truth. The story of the rich man and Lazarus illustrates the future implications of these contrary perspectives.
The rich man had it all. He was clothed in royal colors and expensive materials. He was well fed every day. In contrast, Lazarus was destitute and homeless. He sat at the gate of the rich man, longing to be fed, like a dog, with crumbs from the rich man’s table. To add insult to injury, the dogs came and licked his sores. Their situations could hardly be more contrary and as far as the world is concerned, no one would envy Lazarus’ plight. And while many might long to sit in the rich man’s place, from God’s perspective, it was not one to be sought after (Luke 6:20-21 and 6:24-25).
An incredible reversal of fortune was experienced by both when they passed from this life. Lazarus was carried by angels to Abraham’s side and was comforted. The rich man descended to Hades to experience torment and anguish in its flame. So great was the rich man’s discomfort that he called upon Abraham to have Lazarus “dip the end of his finger in water” to cool his tongue (Luke 16:24).
One thing proven by the rich man’s plight is present wealth and security are no guarantee as to a corresponding future estate. The rich fool, of which Jesus had elsewhere spoken of in a parable (Luke 12:13-21), thought himself secure in his wealth, saying to his soul, “Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years, relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). Yet he was a fool because he laid up treasure for himself but was not rich towards God (Luke 12:21; Cf. Luke 9:25). Wealth, power, or position do not secure refuge, or eternal advantage from God’s pending wrath and judgment (Revelation 6:15).
Abraham refused the rich man’s request. “A great chasm has been fixed,” he said, “in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26). An impassable gulf separates the future destinies of the lost and the saved. Decisions in this life determine the fixed eternal estate of a soul in the next. Those refusing the gospel of the Lord Jesus “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The believer, on the other hand, will be brought into His presence to marvel at His glory (2 Thessalonians 1:10). There will be no purgatory and no second chances.
The rich man had another request for Abraham, “Then I beg you, father, to send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he might warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he replied, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’ (Luke 16:27-31).” Jesus did rise from the dead. Yet, with few exceptions, the people of that day did not repent, and most refused to do so in ours. The problem is not a lack of evidence, but the prideful and independent spirit that is the very heart of man’s sin problem. Riches can deceive a man as to his need, which can place a soul in danger. Present wealth and security are no guarantee of corresponding future results. The determined eternal destiny of every soul lies in each person’s response to the One who died for sins and rose from the dead (John 1:12; 1 John 5:11-12).
“Take care to not allow an earthly sense-of-security to deceive regarding the more urgent concern regarding the security of your soul (Proverbs 30:8-9), lest you experience a rich-man-like reversal of fortune.”
The vision of a dying world
Is vast before our eyes;
We feel the heartbeat of its need,
We hear its feeble cries:
Lord Jesus Christ, revive Thy Church
In this, her crucial hour!
Lord Jesus Christ, awake Thy Church
With Spirit-given power.
The savage hugs his god of stone
And fears descent of night;
The city dweller cringes lone
Amid the garish light:
Lord Jesus Christ, arouse Thy Church
To see their mute distress!
Lord Jesus Christ, equip Thy Church
With love and tenderness.
Today, as understanding’s bounds
Are stretched on every hand,
Oh, clothe Thy Word in bright, new sounds,
And speed it o’er the land;
Lord Jesus Christ, empower us
To preach by every means!
Lord Jesus Christ, embolden us
In near and distant scenes.
The warning bell of judgment tolls,
Above us looms the cross;
Around are ever-dying souls—
How great, how great the loss!
O Lord, constrain and move Thy Church
The glad news to impart!
And Lord, as Thou dost stir Thy Church,
Begin within my heart.