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What Happens After You Die? Pt. 5

Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join our hosts, Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw, speakers for the Amazing Facts Ministry, as they now open the Bible and discuss themes that affect your life today. Stay tuned, because the next 15 minutes will deepen your understanding of God's word.

John Bradshaw: Hi, and welcome again to Bible Talk. I'm John Bradshaw. With me is Gary Gibbs. Gary, we've been talking lately about what happens to a person when they die. You've really taken us over some interesting ground in this series of studies.

Gary Gibbs: We've seen, John, that there are only a few texts that people use to base their belief that when you die, you go immediately to Heaven or to Hell.

John: You've been saying that death is a sleep. You've substantiated that from the Bible. And you've said that there are, what, over 50 texts saying death is a sleep? But really, if you are trying to build a case for having a soul that goes on living after you die.

Gary: It's only a handful of them. You know? Just absent from the body, present with the Lord, those type of texts. One we'll look at today, the rich man and Lazarus. Only a handful of text compared to all the other text that say death is a sleep.

John: I think that's an important principle when it comes to studying the Bible. That at the end of the day, you've got to go with the weight of biblical evidence, don't you?

Gary: You do. And when I first began studying the Bible, somebody showed me how to use a concordance. A concordance has every word in the Bible in it. And you can look up whatever the Bible says about death. And when you put all that together, I am confident you'll find that death is a sleep until the resurrection.

John: Nobody is going straight to Heaven, straight to Hell, off to Purgatory. That's something we need to discuss, just very briefly. I was raised with the idea that if you weren't good enough for Heaven and really weren't bad enough for Hell, Purgatory, that's where you were going to go.

Gary: But where is it in the Bible, John? Get your concordance and look up the word Purgatory.

John: Well...

Gary: And by the way, it's "Purgatory" not "Purgatry."

John: Well, I guess it depends which hemisphere you've emanated from.

[laughter]

John: No one in my church was ever going to go to "Purgatory." We were all going to go to "Purgatry." But either way, I guess those two places are pretty close to each other.

Gary: Yeah. So, look it up in the Bible, get your concordance out. Or type into your computer Bible, "Purgatory." And how many instances do you think you'll find of Purgatory mentioned in the Bible?

John: I think we know what the facts are, even though I was taught it. Many friends, family members believe it because they were told it. You just don't find it in the Bible, do you?

Gary: It's not there at all, in fact. You just won't find it. The Bible talks about Heaven, or Hell. Those are our two options.

John: So, there's no middle grounds where you can land a while to work off your badness or pay for your sins?

Gary: No, salvation is a free gift from Jesus Christ. It's as we accept him as lord and savior that we get eternal life.

John: So, you can't be like 80 percent saved go to Purgatory and work off the remaining 20 percent.

Gary: No, thank the Lord, you can't.

John: OK. Well, you mentioned that there are just a few texts that lend itself to supporting the idea of going straight to Heaven when you die. Of the fact that there might be an immortal soul. You touched on one of them, we'll talk about it now.

What about the story of the rich man and Lazarus? And I'm going to try to make this as difficult for you to wiggle out of as possible. Because here you've got a passage where someone is dead and goes to what appears to be Heaven. Someone dies and goes to what appears to be Hell. We find it in the 16th chapter of the book of Luke.

A very well known subject. And this is one of those subjects that I'm sure there's someone listening to this series of subjects on Bible Talk that have been saying, "Yes, very good, this is fine, this is great. But what about the rich man and Lazarus?" So, that's my question for you. What about it.

Gary: Just for our listeners' sake, let's talk about what does the story say. There's a certain rich man, it says, in Luke 16:19. He's clothed in purple and fared sumptuously every day. And then there's a certain beggar. So, you have these two characters. You have the rich man and you have the beggar.

And the beggar is named Lazarus. And he is at the gate of the city, he's full of sores. And he's desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fall from the rich man's table. Then the rich man dies and the beggar dies. And the beggar goes to Heaven. Or, in this case, he actually says it's Abraham's bosom.

John: OK.

Gary: The rich man dies and he's buried, and he goes to Hell. And in Hell, he lifts up his eyes and he sees Lazarus there in Abraham's bosom and he cries. And he says, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. For I am tormented in this flame."

And Abraham said, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receives thy good things. Likewise, Lazarus, evil things. But now he's comforted and you're tormented." And so we have to ask ourselves, "Is this a literal story?" Does this actually happen? When people die, do they go into Abraham's bosom? Now, what would Abraham's bosom be, John?

John: It would have to be enormous, I guess, if everybody who died went there.

Gary: Yeah, it would be his chest cavity, right?

John: Sure.

Gary: And apparently it doesn't get in the way of Abraham talking. Because here the rich man is talking to Abraham is saying, no, I'm not going to let Lazarus leave my bosom to come give you a little drink of water in Hell. So, what we're looking at here is a story, the Bible calls it parable.

John: Now, how do you know it's a parable?

Gary: It's in a series of parables, plus you just look at the context of it. As I just pointed out, if one part of it is literal, then the whole thing has to be literal. Do we die and go into Abraham's bosom?

John: Well, no, we don't.

Gary: Can we talk to the dead? Is there just this little space between those who are in Hell and those who are in Heaven?

John: Well, no.

Gary: And do they have conversations back and forth?

John: You'd think not.

Gary: Yeah.

John: Cell phones.

Gary: Yeah. Cell phones.

[laughter]

Gary: Not in Heaven. Never read that in the Bible.

John: OK.

Gary: It's also in a series of parables. It's the fifth in a series of parables. You start there in Luke 15. You have the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin, the lost boy. And then in Luke 16, the parable of the unjust steward. And a couple of these parables start with the phrase, "A certain man."

John: That's how this story of the rich man and Lazarus starts, too, right?

Gary: That's right. And some people say, "Well, definitely, there have been a certain man that this happened to." Well, these other parables, which are clearly parables, start with a certain man as well.

John: OK. So, we don't have to believe, then, that the story about the rich man and Lazarus is something that literally took place. Perhaps Jesus is speaking descriptively and trying to make some points from this. Well, what in the world would he be trying to say by coming out and saying these things that seem, at least to some, to indicate there's a Hell right now, a Heaven right now where people go when they die?

Gary: Well, it was designed to teach three major lessons. First, the Jews believed riches were a sign of God's favor and poverty a sign of His displeasure.

John: Right, they would have thought that this beggar Lazarus was somebody who was cursed by God.

Gary: Certainly. And definitely he wouldn't be going to Heaven. And then they would look at the rich man and say, "He's blessed by God! And he certainly wouldn't go to Hell." But Jesus turns it on its head, he's got the rich man going to Hell, and he's got the poor man going into Abraham's bosom.

John: I guess that had effectively negate that idea that blessings are God's favor and difficulties in this life is God's cursings. All right, what else would Jesus be trying to teach in this parable?

Gary: Well, you know, there was a big problem between the Jews and the Gentiles.

John: Sure!

Gary: The Jews thought they were saved just by virtue of being the descendants of Abraham. And they thought all the Gentiles were lost. But watch what happens here. The poor man ends up where? In Abraham's bosom. Now, did you notice when we began that it says the poor man, the beggar man Lazarus, was desiring to be fed with crumbs which fell from the rich man's table? And the dogs liked his sores?

Well, the Bible uses that term "dogs" in certain places to represent Gentiles. If you go over to Matthew 15:26 and 27, there was a Samaritan women, a Gentile woman if you please, who was begging for God to bless her and to take care of her needs. And He said the bread was for the table of the Jews, that's the meaning of what He said there. And she responds and she says, "Yeah, but the dogs get the crumbs." And she says, "Even though we're Gentiles we get blessings from the Jews, the crumbs that fall over from them." And so this poor man, beggar man Lazarus, represents the Gentiles. But because he has true faith, when he dies where does he go?

John: Well, he's the one who ends up saved. That would be an appalling thought to many of those Jews back then.

Gary: Certainly. And that's why it shocked them. And for them to be said that they're going to die and end up in hellfire! That was very appalling to them. So it has to be a parable and it has to be teaching the lesson that you're saved by your faith in Jesus Christ.

John: Something you'll notice too, I guess. This guy in torment cries out to Father Abraham. He doesn't cry out to God, does he? Nor does he cry out to the Messiah. These people were really into their connection, their lineage, their family tree which led them all the way back to Abraham, weren't they?

Gary: Yes, and I think there's another significant point here, John. Notice He names the beggar man as Lazarus. Now there's a real Lazarus in the Bible that a short while later, Jesus actually resurrects him. We referred to him in an earlier program. You read that story in John 11. This was the most conclusive proof that Jesus was the Messiah that he claimed to be. He resurrected Lazarus after he'd been dead many days!

This parable ends with Jesus saying that if they didn't hear...how did He put it? Verse 29 of Luke 16, "They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them." And he said, "Nay, Father Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they will repent." And he said to him, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." And I believe the reason Jesus used the name Lazarus was to point out that one day he's going to resurrect Lazarus. But did that convince the Jews at that time...

John: Well, it didn't. They...

Gary: ...that Jesus was the Messiah?

John: On the contrary! They plotted to kill Lazarus, didn't they?

Gary: That's right. This was a story that illustrates Jesus' prophetic foresight. That even though he resurrects somebody that's been dead several days, they're not going to listen to Him. And so they're not going to listen to the Bible either.

John: I would derive from that, he says, "Let them hear Moses and the prophets." Friend, there are people today, people who listen to Bible Talk, people who attend church who quite honestly don't believe Moses and the prophets. They're not building their faith on what the Bible actually says. They will build their belief on what happens after death and what they see on a television program or heard the preacher say. Whereas Jesus is saying, "Let your faith be built on Moses and the prophets. Let your faith be built on the Word of God."

Gary: I believe that's more important and I think there's a better benefit in blessing, in believing in the Bible, compared to believing the common teaching.

John: Well, what are the benefits then? Let's get practical in these remaining moments. What are the benefits to me? Surely it's comforting to think that Auntie Effle is in heaven right now. You've said "No, she's resting in the grave waiting for the resurrection." Why am I benefited believing that?

Gary: Is she were in Heaven, she would be looking down on an Earth filled with sorrow and soon she'd see every painful thing you went through, every painful thing every family member of hers goes through. She'd see the terrorism and all of the awful things that take place on this planet. Would that be Heaven to Auntie Effel?

John: That would be more like Hell, wouldn't it?

Gary: Exactly! So, that's not benefit, to think that you're in Heaven looking down on the suffering. It's more beneficial to sleep in the grave, waiting till Jesus comes. They're not experiencing anything painful, they're totally at rest.

John: Gary, to be honest with you, I think we can all say we don't want anybody up there watching into all of your details of our private lives! [laughs] It's enough to know that God sees us sometimes.

Gary: God is enough! God and the holy angels.

John: I appreciate this time that we've had to study this subject. We've discovered the Bible teaches rather than possessing a soul. Every human being is a living soul. Look at Genesis 2:7, you will find it. We have found, as we've studied together, that we kind of fought to visit psychics and believe these people with so called supernatural powers. The Bible teaches that death is a sleep.

There's much more to study and we'll cover it here, don't miss it. Join us next time on Bible Talk.

Recording: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible Study Guide we'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we've just discussed and expands on the subject, including information you'll want to know.

To receive this free informative Bible study guide, simply call, write or email and ask for BT110, "Are the Dead Really Dead?" The toll-free number is 866BIBLESAYS. That's 866-242-5372. You can write to us at Bible Talk, P.O. Box 1058, Roseville, California, 95678. Or email us at bibletalk@amazingfacts.org.

Bible Talk has been produced in association with Amazing Facts in the studios of Life Talk Radio.

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