THEME: A Warning
Jesus’ parable tells us that the final separation of the saved from the unsaved is awning.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Two things that will make hell terrible are suffering and memory of the blessings of one’s previous life. There is also a third thing that will make hell terrible. It is guilt over the role the wicked have played in bringing others to their end. More than one hundred years ago, as part of the last great religious awakening to sweep Britain, a man named Brownlow North preached a classic series of revival sermons on the rich man and Lazarus, in one of which he makes that last point well.
He referred to the place where the rich man is said to have interceded for his brothers (“I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment,” (vv. 27-28), and asked how it is that he had suddenly become anxious for his brothers’ well-being. It was not because he loved them; there is no love in hell. North believed that it was because of guilt. The rich man was his brothers’ keeper, but he had neglected his responsibilities. They had grown up in unbelief like himself, following in his footsteps. Their fate would be like his, and he anticipated how they would reproach him for his role in their destruction. North concluded, “The one thing that can add agony to the agony of the lost is, the being shut up for ever in hell with those they have helped to bring there.”
Is that not true? Is Brownlow North not right? You godless fathers, be warned! If you lead your sons along the path you have chosen, they will be present to condemn and curse you in that day. Your agony will be greater because of it.
You mothers, be warned! If you have neglected the spiritual welfare of your daughters, the day will come when you will want to pray, “Send Lazarus to my daughters,” but the time will be past. They will perish, and you will be to blame.
Above all, be warned, all godless ministers! There are ministers who are so ignorant of the God they profess to serve that they never even truly pray. But they will pray in that day. Too late, they will beg God to send someone to warn their congregations. They will have condemned their people by their false gospel and criminal neglect, by their failure to warn them of the wrath to come. North concludes, “I do not believe there exists a more miserable being, even amongst the lost themselves, than a lost minister shut up in hell with his congregation.”
This study concludes with a question Jesus asked after he had finished telling the parables of the kingdom. He asked, “Have you understood all these things?” (Matt. 13:51). The disciples answered, “Yes.”
I find that answer amusing, since the parables of the kingdom have always been one of the most puzzling sections of the Word of God to most readers. Hardly anyone today would dare to say that he or she understands all these things. But the disciples thought they did. “Yes,” they said, as if the matter was not at all difficult. I must say, however, that I think I know what was involved. Their “yes” did not actually mean that they understood all that Jesus was teaching, but only that they at least believed all they did understand and were prepared to act upon it.
It is in that sense that I would ask the same question of you: Do you understand these things? No doubt there is much you do not understand, just as there is much I do not understand. But do you believe What you do understand? Are you prepared to act upon your understanding and come to Jesus? Just admit that you are a sinner, in rebellion against God, deserving of his judgment. Believe that, in spite of those facts, God has sent his Son to be your Savior. Then commit yourself to Jesus, promising to follow him as your Master and Lord. Jesus himself said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).
How are memories of the unrepentant to be part of their judgment?
Why did the rich man want to warn his brothers?
Is there love in hell?
Are you in a position of influence? Will you be reproached for not giving the gospel?
How real do you think hell is? How does this parable deepen your understanding?
What is your answer to Jesus’ question, “Have you understood all these things?”
Review the three things that make hell terrible.