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Late and Futile Pleading

Luke 16:27-31
‘He answered, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” ‘Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” ‘“No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” ‘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.”’ (NIVUK)

Jesus' parable about the reality of hell (Luke 16:19-31) now reaches its climax.  The once-rich man had lost everything.  Nothing could comfort him in his hellish agony and he realised that there was no hope of any goodness coming to him – he was the wrong side of an uncrossable chasm separating Him from God’s love (Luke 16:26).

At least he had some conscience about the fate of his brothers and pleaded that the beggar be sent from heaven to warn those still living on earth.  But that was not possible either.  In fact, sufficient warning had already been given in God's Word (Isaiah 2:12; Daniel 12:2).  The final plea was that somebody could rise from the dead and return as evidence of the afterlife along with warnings as to how to avoid hell.  That resurrected person was Jesus and they still did not believe in Him (John 6:36).

There is an English saying, ‘There's none so blind as those who refuse to see’.  There is no problem with the evidence of eternity – Jesus came from heaven and returned there (John 3:13) with the promise that He will come again (Acts 1:10-11).  Many saw Him after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  Most of the apostles’ evangelism majored on the undisputed fact that Jesus had risen from the dead (Acts 2:32; Acts 4:10; Acts 10:39-41; Acts 17:18).  The problem lies not with the evidence but with those who deliberately choose to ignore it, so that they can remain focused on the trivial games of this life.  Jesus was also making clear that His own resurrection would not automatically win the world, because however clear the evidence, some people would still refuse to believe.

This remains true.  The principal sin which marks the road to hell is a refusal to believe in Jesus (John 16:8-9).  But those who hear the call of the living Jesus, repent of their unbelief, and place their trust in His salvation alone will certainly receive His everlasting life (John 3:16-17).  So it is most important that we share the good news with unbelievers while they are able to respond in faith (Jude 1:23).  However, for those who refuse, it is as though they never heard until death closes their options and they realise that it is too late.

Dear Lord. Thank You for supplying ample evidence of Your eternal nature and the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we might repent and receive Your grace. Forgive me for the times when I have been indifferent to the reality of hell for those who refuse to trust in Jesus for salvation. Please help me to place the evidence about Jesus in front of them, and please help them to soften their hearts so that they can receive forgiveness and peace in You. May I never be complacent about the destiny of those who rebel; help me to pray for them and tell them how warmly You will receive every repentant soul. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams