Trinity I
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
June 7, 2015
Central Passage
Luke 16:19-31

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

There are any number of doctrines that can be drawn from this parable of our Lord of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Among them is one that seems fitting in our day because there are so many wrong opinions about it; and that is the doctrine of heaven and hell and what is popularly called the afterlife in general. I don’t prefer the term “afterlife” although I understand it. It simply refers to life after our physical death. However, for the Christian there is no afterlife because we are alive in Christ so that those who believe in Him will never die. Our bodies fall asleep as the apostle Paul teaches in several places, and they will be awakened on the Final Day when Christ returns as He went, returning to call to Himself at the Father’s side all those who believe – that is, His Holy Christian Church.

So all those we have buried and who have been buried since Adam and Eve buried their son, Abel, are waiting. They are waiting for the Savior, the Seed of woman to conquer the enemy and the death he brings. Jesus conquered this enemy by His passion and resurrection so that now we are waiting for the culmination of the resurrection which was begun in Christ who is Himself the resurrection. As the Bible says, “He is the firstborn from among the dead” (Colossians 1:18). Those, then, who fall asleep in Christ will be raised from the dead and we who are left will be transformed in our mortal bodies to immortality. Body and soul shall be raised from the dead. This is what the Bible teaches.

So what of the saying that when folks die they go to heaven? Did the thief on the cross go to heaven? Or what is paradise? What is Hades if not hell?

Here, as everywhere, we must let Scripture interpret Scripture and inform our faith. We must first know that there is a Judgment Day wherein all the children of men will stand before the Almighty Judge, who is Christ Himself, and be separated out, the righteous from the unrighteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish. So He will say to the unrighteous, “Depart from me you workers of lawlessness, I never knew you; go into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” So they are not there now, in the fire prepared for the devil and his angels, which is hell. No one is right now in hell. Satan, his demons, and those who believed his lies will be sent to hell on Judgment Day.

So, too, will the Great King and Judge say to the righteous, “Welcome, beloved of my Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundations of the world.” The righteous will then go into eternal life and the heavenly kingdom, which is the new heavens and the new earth. But no one is there yet. This world has not been burned and the new heavens and the earth have not been established. No one is in heaven until the Judgment Day when the righteous will enter. No one is in either heaven or hell because no one is raised from the dead yet and the Judgment Day has not yet come. Everyone, whether living or having fallen asleep, is waiting. We are all waiting for Christ.

So what of those who die in the Lord, our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ? They are in paradise with the thief on the cross and with poor Lazarus. Paradise is also called the bosom of Abraham. It is where the righteous go and rest even as Abraham is called righteous because of his faith and is the father of the righteous ones as St. Paul says of him in Galatians. Paradise is not the post Judgment Day heaven. Paradise is Sheol, the place of the dead. Only they are not in torment but at peace. They are comforted with the same comfort with which we are comforted: the resurrection of Jesus. They are waiting as we are waiting.

And the unbelievers, the unrighteous? Where does their life go when their bodies fall asleep? They go to Hades, which is also called Sheol but which is tortuous. Their lives are in torment because they rejected the peace of Christ. The heard but did not listen. They saw but did not perceive.

Remember: Christ destroyed death. No one will stay dead. The righteous will go to eternal life and the unrighteous to eternal damnation, but everyone will be raised in their bodies. The word “soul” in the Bible means “life”; that which animates and is full of passion, be it good or evil passion.

So where does that leave us. Well, first we can leave off the heresy that our loved ones who die are now in the final heaven. That’s pure superstition and paganism. Secondly, we can be assured that those who die in the Lord are at peace in Christ and are waiting just as we are waiting for the resurrection and the return of Christ. We can stop buying comfort Hallmark cards that say things such as “God only takes the best” or “God was ready for him or her” or “God needed them more than we do.” Or those cards calling our departed loved ones “angels” or talk about their wings or any other such malarkey. That stuff is pure evil because it is lies and lies are always evil. It is said that these bring comfort to the bereaved. But it is a godless comfort because it is not born of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since we are godly people and Christians we will have nothing to do with these godless lies. Instead we will comfort those that mourn with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted: the resurrection of Jesus and the life of the world to come.

That is what the Spirit is teaching you today. He is teaching you through the mean of grace, the mysteries of Christ who is raised from the dead. Though you are covered with sores which is the guilt of past sins and wicked lusts, yet you have the promise of being comforted at the side of Abraham for the sake of Christ. You believe the promises of God in Christ as Abraham did and it is credited to you as righteousness. Though you may be hungry, a poor beggar for righteousness, unable to satisfy your hunger for life and godliness, yet you will be filled with the Bread of Heaven and your weakness and death will be exchanged for the Lord’s strength and life.

Here in this life you receive bad things for this world is bad so that we who put our hope in the Lord reject this world lest we gain the world yet forfeit our soul, our life. But we, like poor Lazarus, loose our life here so that we may gain eternal life with Christ.

In Nomine Iesu