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This gospel shows us heaven and hell and the way that leads to heaven and hell, the narrow way and broad way. In the example of Lazarus and the rich man those great opposites are placed before our eyes. However, the poor man Lazarus, his patience, his suffering, his blessed end is considered only briefly, more in passing. On the other hand, the life, death, and doom of the rich man is described in detail. The vast majority of people go up the broad way that leads to damnation. The sinner, the godless must, above all, [heed] the warning of doom, of eternal doom. Especially that sinner who might think this parable and its image is shown in the example of the rich man. The Lord spoke the words of our text, as well as the previous [pericope], to the honest but greedy Pharisees. Certainly dishonest sinners, murderers, thieves, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, and perjurers take the same way as the rich man, and find their reward in hell. But the virtuous men of the world and Bon Vivants form the bulk of ungodly mankind who wanders the broad way here and fills hell there. And not only unbelievers, but also Christians should heed well the warning in our text. How many that once believed [now] deny the faith and forfeit salvation! How many that appear to be Christians instead truly belong over in other camps and are children of hell, of doom! But what is really the heart of the serious warning and admonition of our text? What is the deepest reason for the condemnation of the rich man? Why pick the honest, ambitious Pharisees, apostates and hypocrites for eternal doom? That is said to the rich man in hell. His brothers should, as Abraham testifies, certainly come to the same place of torment because they did not listen to Moses and the prophets. This was the final, unanimous reason for the spiritual and eternal doom into which the rich man succumbed: throughout his life he despised the Word of God. This we learn from our text: Whoever Despises the Word Corrupts Himself. Because 1. in this life he corrupts in the service of sin, 2. after this life he reaps eternal doom. 1. Lazarus was an Israelite of the right kind. He put his whole trust in God and His word, in God's comforting promise. This his name witnesses, Lazarus: "God is his help and confidence". From this faith and confidence flowed his patience. On the other hand, the rich man did not hear Moses and the prophets any more than his brothers. Therefore he remained in sin and piled on sin after sin, he himself accumulated wrath against the day of wrath and deserved the judgment of God. Those who despise the Word, who either do not hear it or only hear it outwardly carelessly, and do not believe or obey the Word, bury and harden themselves in sin, get into the service, under the bondage, of sin and fall into the utmost spiritual destruction. Our Gospel describes this spiritual doom. It shows us the following features of doom: a. Those who despise the Word, who did not hear or hear it only superficially, deny all godliness and God's love that Moses commanded in the Law, deny the grace and mercy
of God that in the prophets is revealed in the Gospel and make their god the glory of this world, the joys of this life, their comfort and salvation. The rich man lived gloriously and in pleasure. 1 Eating, drinking, stuffing himself with food, drunkenness, dressing fashionably, vanity, the temporal pleasures of sin was his whole life. God, His Word, God's solemnity, God's goodness, had no place in this life. Such worldly people and Bon Vivants are idolaters, no better than a blasphemer, sorcerer, and perjurer. b. These despisers also deny all neighborly and brotherly love that God requires in the Law and to which the attested, gratuitous love of God in the Gospel attracts and entices us. The rich man closed his heart against poor Lazarus, whom he met daily at the threshold of his door.2 How seriously and urgently Moses and the prophets had impressed upon the Israelites mercy especially to strangers, the poor, the miserable, this he knew well, but paid no attention to it. The respectable, miserly Pharisees smother in themselves all human feeling. Their ruthlessness is equally appalling as the bloody deeds of murderers and robbers. c. Even those who willingly despise the Word feel the sting of the Word in their hearts. They are condemned by Moses and the prophets. This evil conscience drives them to seduce others to be fellow sinners. The rich man had many brothers, relatives, and friends that led him to the grave, that were involved in his life of luxury and condemnation.3 d. But because these proud, miserly Pharisees continually kicked against the pricks, dulling the conscience and despising the Word usually after persistence to the end, they cut themselves off of all possibility and means to come to repentance and faith. They persist and harden themselves in service to sin, in this spiritual doom. By nothing could the five brothers, by no resurrection of the dead, through no more miracles, be advised and helped, because the only means of salvation are taught by Moses and the prophets.4 The rich man fared sumptuously every day, until his dying day, with joy and forfeited any time of grace.5 Everlasting doom emerges from this spiritual corruption. 2. Whoever despised the Word, harvested everlasting destruction after this life. Poor Lazarus, who died in the faith and in reliance on God's Word, commitment, and grace, now rejoiced in eternal life, in fellowship with God, angels, and saints.6 But the rich man had to, and all who have despised the Word to the last, must forever live in want and suffer in hell. Our Gospel makes present and illustrates to us the dreadful torments of hell, in order to warn and scare us. It paints before our eyes the following characteristics of eternal doom:
Luke 16:19. Luke 16:20-21. 3 Luke 16:27-28; Luke 16:22. 4 Luke 16:29-31. 5 Luke 16:19. 6 Luke 16:22, 25.
a. Those in this life who have pushed away God's Word, the noblest, best gift, the Means of Grace, and all its revealed salvation, God Himself has indeed rejected, they are now separated and excluded in perpetuity from heaven, God, God's love, trust, and salvation. A great gulf is fixed between heaven and hell.7 b. They also must do without fellowship among all angels and blessed people, whom they have denied here on earth all of God's Word and whose own conscience demanded love and friendship. The rich man saw Abraham and Lazarus from afar.8 Those in Abraham's bosom can, for all on earth experiencing hardships and mercilessness, abundantly console Lazarus and may bring not the slightest consolation to the rich man in hell, who previously left Lazarus without any consolation. 9 c. The damned, who in this life have despised God's Word and eternal blessings for the sake of earthly pleasures, are not only in hell because they despised heavenly blessings from them, but also they removed from them desired earthly goods, with which they have forced idolatry. The rich man is likely in hell, probably even after the pleasures of life on earth. But no drop of cool water, no refreshment will be granted him. The evil pleasure and desire remains in hell, remains without satisfaction.10 d. And torment and agony comes to want and starvation. The soul and later also the body of the damned suffers horrible pain in the hellish flame. And there is also no relief and mitigation for this pain and torment.11 e. The previous companions in sin are now indeed companions in suffering; but their suffering, their agony in no way diminishes, but only increases the pain of the damned. A reprobate makes bitter and well-deserved accusations to others about that, that he seduces him on earth, removed the Word of God that has helped to deaden the awakened conscience from the Word. His five brothers, whom he has confirmed in his life on the road to hell, give pains of conscience to the rich man. 12 f. But above all the agony of the damned is exacerbated through the awareness: "I have condemned myself". A condemned person must say to himself: "Because I transgressed the commandment of God impudently and wantonly and because I have despised the grace of God in Christ, which also was offered to me, a great sinner, in the Gospel, until the day I die, because I did not want to hear from Moses and the prophets, because I did not want to have advice and help, therefore I am rightly in hell, I myself am to blame for my doom." The rich man
Luke 16:26. Luke 16:23. 9 Luke 16:24-25. 10 Luke 16:24-25. 11 Luke 16:23-25. 12 Luke 16:27-31.
must silently accept the righteous verdict of Abraham that Lazarus now receives good things in heaven after evil on earth, but the rich man receives evil in hell after good things on earth.13 g. But the most terrible, most horrible thing is that this agony and pain, this starvation and thirst lasts forever. A great gulf is fixed between heaven and earth.14 As the rich man has served sin all the days of his earthly life and opposed the Word, so now he is denied for all the days of eternity that has no end the comfort of God and agony is poured out on him. Yes, this is certainly true: Whoever despises the Word corrupts himself, he reaps everlasting doom. On the other hand, blessed are they who hear and keep the Word of God.15 Therefore today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts!16 G. St. (George Stöckhardt)
Luke 16:25-26. Luke 16:26. 15 Luke 11:28. 16 Psalm 95:7-8.
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