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God’s Word for You

Luke 16:27-28 the ignorance of the damned

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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

This is a remarkable passage. Without it, there would be many things about the dead we would not otherwise understand. There is no significance to the presence of five brothers, nor to there being six sons altogether in the family of the sinful man, unless it is that “six” is a number of sin or wickedness in certain visions (although not always, Revelation 4:8; Isaiah 6:2) the way that “seven” is a number of holiness and righteousness (Zechariah 4:2), although not always (Proverbs 26:25). I take this to be historical since it is not the kind of detail Jesus normally put into his parables (nor is the naming of Lazarus), but something that seems more like an actual event which Jesus adopted or adapted for this opportunity to teach. From these verses we learn more about the afterlife:

  1. The souls of the dead retain the memories of their lives, including the people they loved, their other relationships, the language they spoke, the concepts of danger, punishment, warning, torment, comfort, joy, and other things. The dead do not forget, and therefore it follows that the dead in hell will also be tormented by the memories of sins they committed and of griefs and losses in their lives. Those in heaven will not be tormented or grieve in any way but will receive their “good things” (Luke 16:25), including eternal comfort, from God.
  2. The souls of the dead retain their love and compassion for the living. While all of us with faith in Christ are certain that this will be our own condition, this passage also attests that the damned also retain their love and compassion. Of course, theirs is not a godly love. But whatever form their love had during the time of grace (selfish, mere familiarity, etc.), it will continue in eternity.
  3. The damned are confirmed in their sinful state and still do not understand the way of salvation even after their death and condemnation. The rich man imagines that there would be a way of warning his own family that has never been available to anyone else in the entire history of the world. He still rejects the means of grace and the gospel of Christ, seeking to convert his family only with a warning (the preaching of the law) and not with the preaching of the gospel.
  4. The damned, that is, the damned who are human, do not want more human beings to perish in hell. The condemned spirits who were once good angels, the devil and the demons, are the only beings who desire to add to the number of souls in hell. The condemned rich man joins with God, the good angels, all living Christians, and all the souls of the saved, by agreeing that hell is a terrible place to be avoided at all costs. Only living unbelievers try to ignore the dangers of hell, misguided and misdirected by the devil and his fallen angels, the demons.

We praise God for rescuing us from these tortures and agonies, and we set our goal to reach out to the whole world, as much as we possibly can, with the gospel of Jesus Christ who was crucified for our sins. Through him alone we have life, peace, joy, salvation, and union with God forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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