God has blessed man with the power to remember the days that are past: the joys of youth, the pleasures of early life, the precious memories of home and the companionship of friends. Yes, memory can be a great blessing, and one poem has raised the question:
Where is the heart that doth not keep,
Within its inmost core,
Some fond remembrance hidden deep,
Of days that are no more?
But let it also be remembered that memory may be a cause of sorrow and regret, as well as a blessing in the lives of men. Memories can be happy and pleasant or filled with remorse and regret. The story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke chapter sixteen may be a parable, as most commentators regard it, or the account of two real individuals who died, but the truth in either case remains unchanged. After death Lazarus enjoyed comfort and rest in Abraham’s bosom, while the rich man entered a state of torment and suffering.
Their Situations were Reversed
After death, there was a complete reversal of their situations in life. In hell, or hades, the rich man appealed to Abraham for mercy saying, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). Then came the answer, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou are tormented” (Luke 16:25). And then the rich man was reminded that his destiny was sealed, and a great gulf separated the two men so that no passage from one estate to the other was possible. The memory of the rich man served as a curse, filled with remorse and regret. Once Lazarus lay at his gate hungry, afflicted and begging for help, but he died unnoticed; now the rich man begs for mercy and is denied. Some one has said that in the democracy of death all men are equal, the rich are divested of their wealth, and those like Lazarus lay aside their rags. There was a time when the rich man could have relieved the beggar at his gate but that day was past, and the fate of the two men was settled.
Seeing that all hope for himself was gone, the rich man pleaded for a miracle to convince his five brethren lest they too should be lost. But he was told that they had the words of Moses and the prophets, and if they rejected this testimony, they would not be persuaded by a miracle (Luke 16:29-31).
For the First Time, He Felt the Need for God
After the rich man was lost and in torment, for the first time in his life he felt a genuine need for God. Like so many in the world today, he was so busy he had never found time for God. He was not an evil person, perhaps he simply had become so involved in making money that he had not given any consideration to spiritual matters or taken notice of the poor beggar at his gate. He had sought to gain the world at the loss of his own soul (Mat. 16:26).
At Last, He Saw the Neeed for Mercy
For the first time in his life he saw an urgent need for mercy and cried for help (Luke 16:24). In the business world, he probably had neither experienced much mercy nor shown any mercy to his competitors’ ill business deals. It was every man for himself, no compassion shown, and only the strong would survive. To ask or to seek help would have been an admission of weakness. But now in torment he pleaded for mercy.
He Saw the Folly of Materialism
For the first time in his life, he learned the lack of true value in material things. All his wealth and all his goods which he had accumulated were worthless. His possessions could not purchase any relief from guilt and pain. God says “Thou Fool” of all those who lay up treasures for themselves and are not rich toward God (Luke 12:20). Someone has said that a million dollars will be worth no more than a bale of hay on Judgment Day.
He Became Interested in Saving Souls
For the first time in his life, the rich man became concerned about saving the souls of his five brethren, lest they should share his fate. He requested a special miracle whereby Lazarus would return from the dead to warn his brethren to change their lives and avoid the agony that he was suffering. He was told that such a miracle would not convince those who refuse to heed the words of Moses and the prophets (Luke 16:31). Those who exalt miracles above the Word of God need to consider and read carefully (Rom. 10:6-11). It is not necessary that Christ return from heaven or rise again from the dead, we have the Word of God today which produces faith and saves souls. Jesus has promised salvation to those who believe and are baptized (Mark 16:15-16). Believing, penitent souls can be baptized and receive remission of sins and be added by the Lord to His church (Acts 2:36-47).
Do not wait for a miracle! Believe and obey our Lord today!