Tormented in a Flame
September 9th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
TORMENTED IN A FLAME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-9-84 10:30 a.m.
I especially want to thank you for that song about Lazarus dipping his finger in water, "to cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" [Luke 16:24]. That is the title of the sermon this morning, Tormented in a Flame. And we pray that God will hear your intercessions for us on radio and on television as we expound the last half of the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke; Luke chapter 16, beginning at verse 19. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the message brought at this pivotal and prayerful hour. Luke chapter 16, beginning at verse 19:
There was a certain rich man, clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day:
There was a certain beggar named Lazarus, laid at his gates, full of sores, so hungry,
he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, 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 receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
For I have five brothers; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
He said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one of them went unto them from the dead, they would repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
In any literature in the earth, a story like that would command profound and trembling attention. There was a certain beggar named Lazarus, Lazarus. His name was Eleazar, and when it comes out through the Latin, from the Greek, from the Hebrew, it comes out Lazarus. But in Hebrew it’s Eleazar. And it means "God is my help." His name was "God is my help."
And he was in the street before a palatial palace because the rich came in and out through the gate that led into that gorgeous and resplendent home. He could hope to find from the great political leaders who gathered in that sumptuous palace, and the rich who came in and out, maybe a gift and alms. So he was there before the gate of that palatial home, out in the street.
And he was so hungry that he wanted to be fed from the crumbs that fell from the table [Luke 16:19-21]. Now to us a crumb is a little piece that might fall from a crust of bread; it has nothing, any connotation like that at all. They never had knives and forks and spoons in that day, and for napkins they used hunks of bread. So they would wipe their fingers and their hands on those hunks of bread and then throw them aside. And it was that that the poor beggar hoped that they would throw some of those hunks, on which they had cleansed their fingers, out for him to eat.
"And the dogs came and licked his sores" [Luke 16:21]. In all Oriental culture, ancient culture, a dog is an unclean animal. And this beggar, whose name is "God is my helper," is so weak, and full of sores, and diseased, and sick that he can’t even ward off the dogs. "And it came to pass that the beggar died" [Luke 16:22]. No mention of anything about a funeral or a service, a memorial, they just took his carcass, his rotting flesh, and they flung it out for the carrion birds and animals to eat or they dumped it in a potter’s field. Isn’t that a picture of wretchedness and misery? And I can easily see all the infidels and the scorners and the unbelievers gathering around that beggar. And they say to us, "Ha, you religionists, you Christians, you believers in the Bible, the Word of God, look at this lump of wretchedness, and look at this heap of misery, and look at the sign above him: ‘God is my help.’ His very name refutes and repudiates your religion; look at him! Look at him, ‘God is my helper.’"
Well, let’s look at him. Let’s look at God. "It came to pass that the beggar died, and," [Luke 16:22]; God is not done yet. There never was more meaning than what lies beyond this little conjunction "and," over, and beyond, and away, and up. ",and he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom" [Luke 16:22]. Abraham’s bosom is a Talmudic description of Paradise. He was carried up to God; he was carried into heaven. I repeat, was anything more full of meaning than what lies beyond that little conjunction "and"? "And he was carried by the angels up to heaven" [Luke 16:22], up to God.
"Now, there was a certain rich man" [Luke 16:19]. He doesn’t have a name; his name is not in the Bible, and his name is not in the Book of Life. We call him Dives because the Latin vulgate for "rich" is dives. Something rich and costly is called dives; in the Greek, it’s plousios. So because he didn’t have a name not in the Bible, not in God’s Book of Life we just call him Plousios, or we call him Dives, because he doesn’t have a name before the Lord.
"And he was clothed in purple" [Luke 16:19]. His inner garment was of the costliest fabric, made out of the dye of the murex, a little sea animal in a shell in the soft, warm waters of the Mediterranean. Remember, Lydia sold purple, that is, garments that the rich people wore. He was clothed in an undergarment of purple, and his outer garment was of the finest Egyptian flax.
And here are two words that I just can hardly believe the Lord is able Himself to do. With just two words, He describes the whole lifestyle of Plousios, of Dives. One of those words is euphraÃnō, euphraÃnō, euphraÃnō. That means "to make merry." It is a euphonic word, making merry, making gladness. And the other word is lampros; lampros refers to something brilliantly and magnificently done or presented.
While he is there in torment, he sees Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and he cries, So this Plousios, this Dives, dressed in beautiful and costly garments, lives ostentatiously. He lives magnificently, he lives brilliantly. He has the wealth to buy anything that his heart desires, and he buys it: he lives it to the full. "And the rich man died, and was buried" [Luke 16:22]; special attention to that "and he was buried." He had a magnificent funeral. When he died the head of these great corporations, it was flashed all over the world; the stock market wavered. All of his employees had a holiday; they took the day and the week off. And he had the most magnificent funeral the world ever looked upon. Those long, sleek, black limousines in the procession, all of them coming into a high-steepled, Gothic, wealthy church. The altar is banked with the flowers, and the pulpit is flooded with lights.
And the orator-preacher stands there, and he expatiates, and he elucidates, and he continues all of those magnificent perorations, one piled on top of the other, describing the achievements of this Plousios, this plutocrat; this Dives, this rich man. He doesn’t say anything about God, he doesn’t say anything about the world to come, he doesn’t say anything about heaven, because there wasn’t anything to say. The rich man lived all of his life in this world. His hope, and his dreams, and his fortune, everything that the rich man desired and loved and enjoyed was in this world. So when the pastor stands up there and delivers his funeral oration he speaks of those tremendous accomplishments, the affluence, the success of this tycoon, this major-domo, this high-factotum Plousios, Dives.
But he didn’t fool God. With all of his oratory, and all of his expatiation, and his accolades and plaudits, and with all of the recounting of his successes, he never deceived God. And all of those magnificent accouterments of funeral never, never influenced God; for I read the next verse, "And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments" [Luke 16:23]. Isn’t that amazing? This is the richest man that that city had ever produced. This is the greatest tycoon that the corporate world had ever seen. This man was magnificent in his life. He was magnificent in everything that he did. He had it all, "and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments" [Luke 16:23].
Well, was that because he was rich, and successful, and affluent? Is that why he lifted up his eyes in hell? Abraham was a rich man; the Bible repeatedly will refer to the riches of Abraham, and Abraham is just one out of a multitude of gloriously successful and affluent and rich men in the Bible. Joseph of Arimathea, in whose tomb the Lord Jesus was raised, is described as a rich man [Matthew 27:57]. Many, many glorious rich men in the Bible; he didn’t go to hell because he was a rich man.
Abraham, I say, was a rich man; unusually so, magnificently so. But the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews describes the rich man, Abraham. It says in that book that he confessed that he was a stranger and a pilgrim in the world [Hebrews 11:8, 13], and that he was seeking a city whose builder and foundation is God [Hebrews 11:10]. Then the eleventh chapter of Hebrews can say, "Wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called his God, for He hath prepared for him a heavenly city" [Hebrews 11:16].
What was the matter with Dives, with Plousios? The matter was his life and his hope, and his dreams, and his work, and his love, and his prayers, and his vision, the whole circumference and summation of his whole life was in this world! And when he was buried in this world, he was buried in every dream, and every work he ever entertained in his heart. It was in this world; it was not in the world to come. He had no time for God; had no thought for God; it was in this world.
One of the reasons that I am so emphatic about that is the occasion of our Lord recounting this story. It came out of the Sadducees and the Pharisees and the scribes and the elders ridiculing Him. For our Lord said, "You cannot serve God and mammon" [Luke 16:13]. You cannot make this world and worldly things your god and the same time serve the true Lord God in heaven. Then the next verse, "And the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him" [Luke 16:14]. Our Lord said that a man cannot worship like an idol this world and the things of this world and the same time serve God. You cannot serve God and mammon, the world. "And the Pharisees, who were covetous . . . derided Him," and made fun of Him, and ridiculed Him [Luke 16:14].
And out of that came this story that our Lord recounts concerning Plousios, Dives, and Lazarus. This man did not go to damnation and to hell because he was rich, he went to damnation and to hell because his god was an idol; namely, this world. He worshipped his success; he worshipped his magnificence; he worshipped his affluence; he worshipped his brilliance; he worshipped the things of this world. His heart was here, his life was here, every vision and dream was here. All of it was here, and when he died he was buried in this world. And his soul lifted up eyes, and he was in torment [Luke 16:23].
While he is there in torment, he sees Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and he cries, wanting Lazarus to come and to cool his tongue. All of his life he’d been accustomed to commanding servants, "You do this," and they did it. "You go there," and they went there. That was his lifestyle, and in torment he has the same personality. Isn’t that remarkable? We’re the same over there as we are here. And his imperious, authoritative, commanding manner is seen over there. "Send Lazarus, send Lazarus, that he can cool my tongue" [Luke 16:24]. And Abraham says, "Son, remember, remember" [Luke 16:25].
Isn’t that a remarkable faculty that God has given us? And sometimes it can burn like a flame of fire. "Son, remember." I think of Cain. Do you suppose in a thousand eternities he could ever forget the blood of his brother Abel crying unto God from the ground? [Genesis 4:10]. Remember! I think of the antediluvians. Think of their remembrance of the preaching of Noah for one hundred twenty years [Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5], pleading repentance and turning to God, and his ark there of safety with the door wide open [Genesis 7:23]. Remember! I think of Judas Iscariot. Do you suppose, if he lived for a thousand eternities, he could ever forget the kiss that betrayed his beloved Master? [Matthew 26:47-50]. I think of Felix, the procurator of the Roman province of Judea, when Paul stood before him and pled with him for faith in Christ, and he answers, "When I have a more convenient season, I will; not now, but some other time" [Acts 24:25]. Remember!
One time we went to Waterloo in Belgium, where Napoleon was finally defeated. And there in Belgium, in that place, is a great picture entitled, Napoleon in Hell. And he is surrounded there by the thousands and thousands of the dead whom he slew in his Napoleonic wars.
"Son, remember" [Luke 16:23], a burning, searing, scorching faculty that God has given us when we’re lost; "Son, remember." And in his remembrance he says to Father Abraham, "I have in the earth five brothers, and they are lost as I am. Father Abraham, send Lazarus that he will testify unto them, lest they come into this horrible place of torment, my five brothers" [Luke 16:27-28].
Now isn’t that a come-to-pass? This man is now a personal soulwinner. He’s going up and down the streets where his brothers live, testifying repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; he’s preaching the gospel now. In his lifetime, had you been able to enter into that palatial home and spoken to this Plousios, this Dives, about the Lord, and invited him to turn and to repent and to accept the Lord as his Savior; had you been able to do that he would have turned you over to his secretary, and his secretary would have turned you over to the butler, and the butler would have turned you over to the doorman, and the doorman would have turned you over to the yardman, and the yardman would have turned you over to the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper would have thrown you out in the street where Lazarus and the dogs were. That’s what would have happened to you. But he’s not that now; he’s a personal soul-winner, and an intercessor, and a prayer, and a pleader. "My five brothers – O Abraham, Abraham, that you would send Lazarus as a witness to them, pleading that they repent and turn to God, lest they come into this awful place" [Luke 16:28].
And Abraham says to him, "They have the Word of God. They have the Bible. Let them listen to the Word of the Lord" [Luke 16:29]. And Plousios Dives says, "No, Father Abraham, no: but if one went unto them from the dead, they would repent, they would turn, they would change" [Luke 16:30]. And Abraham says, "If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, if they will not listen to the Bible, the Word of God, neither would they repent; neither would they turn; neither would they believe, though one rose from the dead" [Luke 16:31].
Now I want to look at that just for a minute. That appealed to me when I read that, and I think it might appeal to you when you hear that read. I think he had a pretty good idea. "Raise up this man Lazarus from the dead, and send him back to testify, and to plead with my five brothers" [Luke 16:27-28]. I think the device might be smart. It might be successful. It might be good. It might accomplish its purpose. "Raise him up from the dead, and send him back to my five brothers, and they would turn, they would repent, they would be saved. They’d come down that aisle of church; they’d accept the Lord; they’d be baptized; they’d be servants of Jesus. Raise up Lazarus from the dead and send him back" [Luke 16:27-28]. I say that’s a pretty good idea. That’s a smart device.
Then as I consider it and begin to think about it, what if God did that? Raise Lazarus from the dead, and send him back to testify about the horrors of hell and the splendors, and glories of heaven; suppose God did that. Then what? Would we really believe? Would we really turn? Would we really repent? Would we really be saved? Would we accept the Lord? Would we really? So I began thinking about that, if that man were to be raised from the dead, this Lazarus, and sent back to testify, immediately around him would gather all the infidels and the unbelievers and the scoffers and the scorners, and they would say to him, "You, you mean you were really dead? You were really dead? How do we know but that you were not in a swoon, or that you didn’t faint?"
I read that all the time from the infidels and the scoffers about our Lord Jesus, "He didn’t really die on the cross, nor did He come back to life, He was in a swoon; He was just fainted!" And they’d say the same thing to him: "You, you say you died? How do we know but that you were in a swoon, that you didn’t just faint? You never really died."
And so he brings in the undertaker and the undertaker says, "Yes, sir. He really died." Then the infidel and the scoffer says, "So you really died? How do we know that you were really buried?" And they’d bring in the sexton and the gravedigger, and he says, "Yes, sir. He was really buried. I dug the grave and put him in it, he’s really buried." And then the scoffer and the infidel says, "So you died and you were buried? How do I know that it was you, that it wasn’t somebody else? How do I know you were the one that died and you were the one that was buried? And how do I know it was you and it’s not somebody else?" And he says, "Well, I’m just telling you. I’m just telling you the truth, it was I." And the infidel says, "I don’t believe it! It’s against science, it’s against experience, it’s incredulous, it’s not possible; I don’t believe it!" And he’s just as lost and damned an infidel as he was at the first.
So I think again, you know that idea of raising this man Lazarus, and send him back to testify to the Lord, and they would repent, and they would believe [Luke 16:27-30]. Then I began thinking, you know, he’d be just a commonplace miracle, if anyone would accept that he had done it. Just walking by, everybody would point to him and say, "Look at that guy! Look at that guy; that’s the guy that says he died and rose from the dead! Look at him! That’s what he says." And the miracle would be as commonplace as dirt. So I begin thinking, what if the whole cemetery came to life? And what if the whole graveyard came to life? And they all said the horrors of hell and the glories of heaven, "Repent!" If you had a stupendous miracle like that, they would be filled with ennui, with triteness, and they’d want another miracle, a bigger one, in order to validate that miracle. Finally they’d ask God to pluck a star out of the sky, and to pick up a mountain and to throw it in the sea; and to change the earth in its course around the sun, in order that they might be convinced.
You know this thing of a miracle of God? My soul, my friend, look around you. We live in the miracle of God every day of our breathing life. Is not this a miracle? How does God make this out of the mud and the dirt and the fertilizer, which is a nice word for filth of the earth, how does God do that? How does God do that? That’s a miracle of the life! The springtime is a miracle; the sun shining is a miracle; the stars in their glory they’re miracles. The hands that fashion a newborn babe is a miracle. We live in a world of miracles!
And we’re not going to be convinced if a man were to come walking by who said, "I was raised from the dead in order to tell you how to be saved." So I began thinking further about that idea, which I at first thought was a pretty smart idea, a smart device, a shrewd one: raise him from the dead and send him back. And then I began thinking, what would he say? What would he say if he was raised from the dead and came back to witness and to testify? What would he say? What credentials would he possess that Moses and the prophets and Jesus and the apostles did not possess?
God says that He spoke to us by Moses; it was the voice of God on Mount Sinai [Exodus 33:11]. God says that He speaks by the prophets [Hebrews 1:1]. God says that He spoke to us through His Son [Hebrews 1:2]; Jesus came to reveal the Word of God [Matthew 11:27; John 1:18]. And we have the apostles who spoke by the inspiration and the authority of the Holy Spirit of God [2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17]; we have their words here, these are God’s words. This is God’s revelation and how is it that a man raised from the dead would be more authentic, or go beyond in his descriptions of the horrors of hell and the glories of heaven, than what we have here in the Bible? No wonder Abraham says, "If they will not listen to the word in the Bible, neither would they listen, though one was raised from the dead" [Luke 16:31].
Do I turn aside from the Bible, the Word of God, and begin listening to a sheeted dead? Do I turn aside from the gospel in order to listen to a ghost? Am I persuaded that the word of a specter is more authentic and powerful than the Word of the living God in the Bible? "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, and Jesus, My Son, and the apostles, neither would they listen though one was really raised from the dead" [Luke 16:31].
Then I, thinking about it, I have one other thing that came to my heart and mind. There was a man named Lazarus who was raised from the dead. His name was Lazarus, the same name, and he was raised from the dead [John 11:43-44]. And when he was raised from the dead, what happened in that marvelous miracle in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John? It says, "From that day forth the scribes and the Pharisees took counsel together for to put Jesus to death" [John 11:53, Mark 3:6]. Instead of that marvelous miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, they were so infuriated against the Lord Jesus that they gathered together for to put Him to death. And then the next chapter, the twelfth chapter of the Book of John, it says, now I read, "But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus" [John 12:10-11]. So, they gathered together to put Lazarus to death.
That’s what happens when a man says in his heart, "I will not believe. And you can preach to me forever. And you can threaten me forever. And you can tell me about damnation and hell forever. You can tell me about God forever, and you can quote the Bible to me forever, but I’m not going to turn! I’m not going to change; I’m not going to repent; I’m not going to believe." That’s what happens. They said, "We’re going to slay Jesus." Then finally, "We’re going to put Lazarus to death." Isn’t this a remarkable thing? I thought it was a good idea, I thought it was a shrewd device: "Raise Lazarus up and let him go back. And ;et him talk to my five brothers, lest they come to this awful place of torment" [Luke 16:27-28].
Then as I began to turn it over in my mind to look at it, and look at life, and human nature, and look at us, I can see why God would say we have the Bible. We have the witness of Moses. We have the witness of the prophets [Luke 16:29]. We have the witness of Jesus, our Lord [Hebrews 1:2]. We have the witness of the apostles [Hebrews 2:3]. And if I won’t listen to the voice of the apostles and the voice of the Lord and the voice of Moses and the voice of the prophets, if I won’t listen to them, neither would I listen though there stood before me one raised from the dead [Luke 16:29-31]. What an indictment against the man who refuses the light of the gospel of Christ, and hardens his heart, and turns away from Him who alone can save us from death and damnation [John 14:6; Acts 4:12].
Dear people, in my studying this week, I came across a sentence from an old Puritan who lived three hundred years ago. Here’s a little bitty sentence. "Brethren," said this old Puritan, "Brethren, take a look out of your graves." And I stopped and looked at that sentence, "Brethren, take a look out of your graves." I thought, "That’s one of the strangest sentences I ever read in my life." Brethren, take a look out of your graves; it’s not very far between here and there. For some of us it’s a matter of days; for others of us it’s a matter of months; for others of us it’s a matter of a few years; but for any of us it’s a small run from here to there. Take a look out of your graves, look at the world from beneath the sun, what does it look like? What do you know? What do you learn? Take a look out of your graves.
There are two things: number one, destiny is settled in this life. As Ecclesiastes 11 says, "As a tree falls, so shall it lie" [Ecclesiastes 11:3]. All of eternity to come is just an extension of this life that we live here. If I refuse God here, I’ll do it there. If I turn aside from the gospel of grace here, I’d do it there. Character crystallizes, personality settles, it is fixed. And the Bible says all eternity is just an extension of this life here. My decision is settled here, now; not there, never there, never there. It is always here.
The second thing, taking a look out of our graves, the second thing: I don’t have any hope, I don’t have any way other than God’s way, the hope that I would have in the Lord. There’s no other way, there’s no other hope, there’s no other promise. There’s no other salvation; there’s no other forgiveness of sins; there’s no other hand to open for us the gates of glory, invite us into heaven. It is the Lord, or it is nothing at all. I make my decision now, O Lord God.
I went to see a saintly, godly young woman dying. And when I sat by her bed, she had enough strength to ask, "Pastor, would you read to me out of the Bible." And I read to her from the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Then she said, "Pastor, would you sing me a song?" And I sang the best I could, "In the Sweet By and By." Then she said, "Pastor, would you kneel here by the bed and pray?" And I knelt by the bed and prayed. And she closed her eyes and was with the Lord. There is not any other way, "Would you read to me out of the Bible?" It tells us how to be saved, "Would you sing me a song of the hope?"
There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith I can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way
Preparing us a home over there.
In the sweet by and by.
["Sweet By and By," by Sanford F Bennett]
And would you pray? And on the wings of a prayer, wafted up into the glory where God is. Why would you – why would anyone turn aside from so dear a way, so precious a promise, so sweet an invitation? I don’t understand; I don’t understand. Why would a man die when the saving cross is so nearby? Why would a man die?
And that is our appeal in the Holy Spirit to your heart this day, this morning. Where you are seated, make that decision in your deepest soul. "Lord God, with all of the help that heaven can afford for me, I am this day answering God’s call with my life. I am coming to Jesus. I am dedicating every hope and every dream that I have to Him, asking Him to forgive my sins, to save my soul, to write my name in the Book of Life, to stand by me in life, to stand by me in death and to be my Mediator and Intercessor and Savior and Advocate in heaven. And I am on the way, pastor, just as soon as you will cease your pleading. And as soon as we stand for our singing, I am on the way." And following you a family, putting your life with us in the church; a couple, or just one somebody you; in the balcony round there is time and to spare, coming down one of these stairways. And in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me and I am on the way." Do it. Do it, and I will meet you in heaven someday. On the first note of this first stanza come, while we stand and while we sing.
TORMENTED IN A FLAME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The two men
1. Greek form of Hebrew "Eleazar" – "God is my help"
2. Infidel scoffs at his situation and name
3. But God is not done yet – "He died andâ€¦"
1. Unnamed in Bible – "Dives" Latin for "rich man"
2. Beggar laid at his gate, a palatial home
C. Why Dives in hell?
1. Because he was rich? (Hebrews 11:10, Genesis 23:4)
2. Because of worldly self-love (Luke 16:13-14)
A. We have our remembrance
B. Dives is now a personal soul-winner
III. Would a miracle of resurrection bring repentance?
A. Would we take him at his word?
B. Would the critical blasphemer believe?
C. The miracle of being raised from the dead would not make us believe (John 11:53, 12:10, Matthew 28:12-15, Luke 16:29, 31)
D. Even such living signs soon become commonplace (Matthew 12:38, 16:1, Luke 11:16, John 2:18, 6:30)
E. Would we view voice of testimony of raised man better than that of prophets, apostles, Jesus?
IV. The appeal
A. Our eternal destiny is settled in this life (Ecclesiastes 11:7)
B. Our only knowledge of salvation is the witness of the Scriptures