Jerry C. Brewer
When Lazarus implored Abraham to, “…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, Abraham replied, “Son remember…” (Luke 16:25). He called the rich man’s earthly life to his memory, but it was too late for the rich man to rectify earthly wrongs. Too late!
Luke 16:23 says the rich man, “…lift up his eyes, being in torments.” Notice that the word is not singular (“Torment”) but plural (“Torments”) It was not just the flame that tormented the rich man. There were other torments, and I am persuaded that one of those is one’s memory of earthly life—especially for the fallen Christian. Peter wrote that if one returns to the world after becoming a Christian, “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:20). Then he added, “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Pet. 2:21). An unfaithful Christian’s memory of a life begun in Christ, then abandoned, will torment his soul forever. That’s why Peter wrote that they would have been better off to never have known and obeyed the truth. The Christian who turns back and is lost forever is, of all lost persons, the most miserable. Can you imagine an eternity of regret for leaving Christ? Can you even begin to conceive the despair and torment it will bring?
What of the fallen Christian’s family whom he may have influenced to depart from Christ? The rich man was concerned about his family. When he learned that none could cross the great gulf between paradise and torments, he cried, “I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28). Can you imagine being in such a place, knowing your family is bound for that place, and not wanting them there? The rich man, who was concerned about his family after he died, was not concerned with their spiritualwelfare while he lived upon the earth. How many Christians today are lukewarm, or have abandoned Christ altogether, and are leading their children, spouses and other relatives to torment with them?
But the rich man learned that all of his concern was of no avail because it was too late. Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). Life on earth is a probationary period. Where we spend eternity depends on how we conduct ourselves here and now. “…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). There is no second chance to obey the gospel and faithfully walk in the steps of the Saviour. That must be done in this life, or it will be too late.
The rich man prayed, “Father Abraham,” but it was too late to pray. He wanted comfort for his tongue tormented in the flame, but comfort was too late. He wanted Lazarus to be sent to his father’s house to preach to his brothers, but preaching was too late. He was concerned for the souls of his family, but his concern was too late. Dear loved one, who has departed from Christ, do not wait until eternity to recognize your lost condition as this man did, for then it will be too late. Return to Christ and serve him that memory may not haunt you for all eternity.