Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďA GREAT GULF FIXEDĒ

Luke 16.26

 

In Genesis chapters two and three we read of Godís creation of Adam and Eve in a state of moral purity and complete spiritual innocence. In Genesis chapter three we read of the serpentís temptation of Eve, her sin of eating the forbidden fruit, and Adamís rebellion against his Creator in eating the forbidden fruit handed to him by Eve that immediately brought about his spiritual death because of his transgression against God. The full implications of Adamís first sin which brought about what theologians refer to as the Fall of all mankind is explained throughout the rest of the Word of God, culminating of course in the book of the Revelation. Romans 5.12 is one of the best concise statements about the Fall:

 

ďWherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.Ē

 

It is a sad reality that the full implications of Adamís fall into sin, on him and we who are his descendants, and the resultant consequences that occur even when some sinners turn from their sins to trust Christ for salvation full and free, are still not fully understood or even can be fully understood during the course of this natural lifetime.

It will be my goal this morning to attempt to explain somewhat more fully the implications of not only Adamís fall into sin and its effect on his descendants, but also the unavoidable result that takes place when one person repents of his sin and turns to Christ while another close associate or love one does not. My text for this morning is Luke 16.26. Please turn to that verse and then stand for the reading of Godís Word. Before reading our text, let me remind you that this verse is not lifted from a parable taught by the Lord Jesus Christ, but from an actual historical account of things that really happened in a manís life and death and after death, with the details of that brief history being absolutely true:

 

ďAnd 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.Ē

 

Here is the sad reality that we see in our text. The rich man died lost, unreconciled to God and without faith in Jesus Christ, therefore remaining spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. On the other hand Lazarus, though poor and destitute, died as a member of the household of faith, an heir of Christ and a child of God, resulting in his close association and proximity to father Abraham after he died. Thus, the vast but invisible spiritual gulf that separated the rich man from Lazarus during their physical lives on earth became realized in the next life as a vast physical divide that would never, could never, in eternity be overcome.

To state the matter briefly so that I can expand upon it in the course of todayís message, lost people live lives of vast spiritual separation from each other even though they are frequently physically close and emotionally compatible because of what they have in common, alienation from and opposition to the plan and purpose of God. I say that because sin separates, it always separates. Even sinners who are agreed in their approach to life and with shared opinions about many things are separated from each other nevertheless, because sin separates. Believers in Jesus Christ, on the other hand, are brought together by our common faith in Jesus Christ, our sin-bearer, our kinsman-redeemer, our Savior, the One who died on the cross on our behalf, was buried, and who rose from the dead in great victory (for us to enjoy the benefits of) over sin, death, Hell, and the grave. Because in Christ we are reconciled to God, our sins are forever forgiven, and we have been quickened to eternal life by the Holy Spirit of God, we are forever knit together as heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ no matter how far apart we may seem to be at any time in this life.

Then of course there is the situation that exists when one person has come to faith in Christ, is thereby reconciled to God and indwelt by the Spirit of God, and whose eternal destiny in the presence of his glorified Savior is a certain expectation, but whose unsaved family member, friend, loved one, or close companion is not only estranged from God by his continued rejection of the gospel and refusal of Christ, but is also separated by a vast spiritual gulf that though it may not be recognized by either him or his Christian friend or loved one is nevertheless very real, and will someday be as apparent to the two of them as it became apparent to the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.26.

Consider these men and women in the Bible whose spiritual condition does not immediately reveal the vast gulf that separates them, but comes to eventually show in this life what the reality is that will fully be shown in the next life.

 

First, THERE WAS CAIN AND ABEL

 

Cain, of course, was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, with Abel apparently being their second of many, many children. Because Adam had sinned each of the children he sired, and in turn each of the children his children begat, were also sinners. Adam became a sinner by committing a personal sin against God, while all who are descended from Adam did not become sinners, but were conceived sinners, and therefore sinned because of our inherited sin nature. Therefore, both Cain and Abel were conceived in sin and were, therefore, born sinners. Because of evidence found in the Bible it is universally held that Abel at some point became a believer and was reconciled to God through faith. Therefore, because of their vastly different relationships with God the spiritual gulf that separated those two brothers from each other from their births became even more obvious after Abelís conversion.

The climax of their separateness came, of course, when the LORD rejected Cainís offering, resulting in him becoming very angry, while accepting Abelís offering. Regardless of how well they might have gotten along with each other up until that point as the first brothers who ever existed, the difference between them could be seen in their worship of God. Then, because of the devastating effect of sin on the mind and heart as well as the soul, Cain slew his brother Abel. He murdered him. He took the life of his little brother.

What had Abel done? All that is recorded in Godís Word centers around Abelís worship of God, his offering to God, and his homicide at the hands of his brother. Everything that brought the vast spiritual gulf that separated them to light had to do with Cainís relationship with God (or lack thereof), Cainís faulty worship of God, and Cainís assault on his little brother. A fit of rage? Jealousy? We do not know. The spiritual gulf between them was at first invisible. Then, evidence of it was seen in Cainís improper worship of God. Finally, when Cain murdered his little brother the separating and dividing nature of his sin was tragically exposed.

 

Next, THERE WAS NOAH AND THE REST OF MANKIND

 

In the pre-Flood world of great wickedness we are informed that Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD, Genesis 6.8. He was directed by God to build a great ark, in which pairs of animals would be safe from Godís judgment of sin by means of a worldwide Flood. He was a preacher of righteousness who warned his fellows for more than a century that Godís wrath would be poured out, yet none listened to him or responded. The spiritual gulf between Noah and all other men was evident in his proclamation and in his activity of building the ark while they did not believe.

The spiritual divide became even more apparent when the ark was completed, when stores and pairs of animals were taken on board, when Noahís family joined him in the ark, and then ďthe LORD shut him in,Ē Genesis 7.16. The spiritual difference between Noah and all others was implied by his preaching and construction and their stubbornness and mocking. Then the spiritual difference was further evidenced by the physical separation of Noah and his family from his relatives, lifelong friends, and neighbors when he entered the ark.

And then the Flood began. The rains falling from the sky, the fountains of the deep being broken up, and all life on the land dying. There was a physical separation brought about by God that reflected the spiritual separation that already existed between Noah and all others. They were separated spiritually, and then God separated those who were spiritually separated from each other by bringing death upon all but Noah and his family on the ark, ushering the damned into the next life where they would see the great gulf that Lazarus and the rich man saw, the wide chasm that separates the saved from the lost.

 

Third, THERE WAS JACOB AND ESAU

 

Twin brothers, they nevertheless had different destinies, with Esau described in Godís Word as a profane man while Jacob was heir to Godís promise.[1] How is it possible for twins to be born into the family of a godly man, yet having opposite interests, opposite destinies, opposite pursuits, that led to great physical distances between them that reflected the vast spiritual gulf that separated them?

Rather than attempting to explain the whys and wherefores, let us simply take note of what can easily be observed. We know that Jacob was a far from perfect fellow, seeking the blessings of God by lying, deception, and conniving. However, keep in mind that he sought the blessings of God, while his twin brother Esau had no interest whatsoever in the things of God.

Regardless of the many details, choices, and actions related to these two men, keep in mind that the spiritual gulf that separated them spiritually resulted in a great physical gap that separated them throughout their later years. Even after they had both mellowed in old age and reconciled many of their past differences there was still a great physical distance between the two of them that mirrored the difference in their eternal destinies.

 

Fourth, THERE WAS LOT AND HIS WIFE

 

You will remember that Lot was the nephew of Abraham who accompanied his aunt and uncle when they went to Egypt and accumulated with them great wealth, such great herds that they could no longer dwell together. Lot ended up near the wicked city of Sodom, then in the city of Sodom, then holding a position of prestige in the city of Sodom.[2]

By this time Lot, a righteous man according to Godís Word, was a married man.[3] There came a time when God prepared to judge the city of Sodom and sent holy angels to deliver Lot, his wife, his daughters, and their husbands from the scene of destruction. However, when he attempted to warn his sons in law they mocked him.[4] The next morning, when it was time that they must leave, the holy angels laid hold on Lot, his wife, and his two daughters and removed them from the city.[5]

After removing them from Sodom and dispatching them to safety the LORD Himself said to Lot, ďEscape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed,Ē Genesis 19.17. ďBut his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt,Ē Genesis 19.26.

It seems that only Lot in the family was a believer. Clearly, his sons in law rejected the truth and so were left behind and perished in the destruction of Sodom. Perhaps because he was a child of God the LORD was merciful to provide a means of escape for Lotís wife and daughters. However, despite the warning Lotís wife looked back, cast her gaze upon the smoking ruins of the city that had been destroyed by God, and was herself turned into a pillar of salt. The spiritual gulf that separated Lot and his wife was suddenly evidenced by her disobedience to the direct command of the LORD, Who then straightway turned her into a pillar of salt.

Can a believing husband have an unbelieving wife? Absolutely. Is there still a great spiritual gulf that separates them, even when the believing husbandís life is so full of spiritual neglect and compromise that onlookers are convinced both husband and wife are of one mind and heart? That seems to have been the case with Lot and his wife if I read my Bible correctly. Then God brought about a set of circumstances, a spiritual crisis that not even Lotís wife could dismiss, and the great gulf that separated them through the course of their marriage was put on full display by her disobedience to God, and His response to her wickedness by turning her into a pillar of salt.

 

Sin separates. Sin always separates. Of course, sin separates from God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit they were immediately separated from God by their sin. Whereas they had been created innocent by the thrice holy God, their act of disobedience created a rift of monumental and eternal proportions that necessitated their expulsion from the Garden of Eden to prevent access to the tree of life that would enable them to live forever in the flesh as sinners. It was after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden that Eve was impregnated and delivered Cain, and then was impregnated again and delivered Abel. She no doubt gave birth to many other boys and girls over the course of her life, but those were the first two and they must certainly have loved each other. Even though, being sinners they were separated from each other spiritually by their sins because sin separates. It was when they both reached young adulthood that they assumed adult responsibility to worship and serve the LORD that they each brought to God an offering. However, Abel by that time being a believer brought an offering that the LORD accepted, while Cain being an unbeliever brought an offering the LORD rejected. The two brothers had always been separated from each other by their sins, but Abel was no longer separated from God by his sin. The difference between the two was clear when they presented their offerings. The difference between the two became even more clear when Cain committed fratricide and took his brotherís life.

Noahís separation from the rest of mankind because of his faith is readily seen, made more clear after his preaching and building the ark when he and his went into the ark to be saved from the Flood while everyone else perished. The same can be seen in the lives of the twins, Jacob and Esau. Once more it is seen in the lives of Lot and his wife. Do we not in this life see evidence of the spiritual separation that is made so very clear later on once a person passes from this life through the portal of death to eternity? Abraham said to the rich man who died and lifted up his eyes in Hell, ďbetween us and you there is a great gulf fixed.Ē Yet there are things that suggest this great separation even before one dies and goes to his eternal destiny.

God gives fathers to children to represent Him in the home. Yet fathers who are not believers in Jesus Christ misuse their great trust by actively opposing Godís work in the lives of his children. Think about it. Instead of functioning as a spiritual leader to encourage his children to trust Christ, serve God, and live a useful life, dads will actively resent his own children loving God, seeking to serve the Savior, and being led by the Spirit of God. Thus, the great divide between Christian children and an unsaved dad is only made worse by the dadís stubborn resistance of the truth and refusal to embrace the Savior. Yet such dads very commonly blame their children for loving God and seeking to serve the Savior, though they are the real problem because of their small-minded wickedness.

The same kind of thing is true with an unsaved mom in the face of her child becoming a Christian. Such a mom sees her children as hers rather than them belonging to God and being loaned to her to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. She imagines that she has a right to raise her children as she sees fit, all the while ignoring her responsibility before God to set before her children the example of how a believer should be related to the Savior. Then, should her child come to Christ and seek to walk close to the Lord she becomes jealous of what God might have given her had she chosen the better part, rather than throwing up obstacles to her children to love and serve Christ.

I could go on with other examples and illustrations, but I am persuaded that you see the pattern to which I refer. Sin separates. Unbelief is wicked, evil, and just plain wrong. What can clearly be seen in the next life according to our text, that a great and impassible gulf is fixed between the saved and the lost, can sometimes be seen in this life. Families in which all are lost have their share of bickering, arguing, fussing, and conflict that is directly the result of sin. And yet, when one in the family comes to Christ the ones who remain lost oftentimes openly turn against the believer and accuse him of disloyalty for daring to love the One Who died on the cross for him and forgave all his sins.

What insanity. Abel did nothing wrong. Yet Cain, who certainly should have repented of his sin and sought Godís forgiveness, which would have completely repaired the breach not only with God but also with his brother, stubbornly refused and instead committed murder. Neither of the twins, Jacob and Esau, were particularly good boys or men of sterling character. However, Jacob at least valued the blessings of God and sought Godís blessings, while Esau was a profane man. If only Esau had an interest in the interests of his father and the interests of his brother. If only he, like they, had valued God and the things of God. But, no. He chose to go his own way. He chose to ignore his father and his brother in the end. He by clinging to his sin chose to leave them.

Rather than mentioning again Noah, and Lot and his wife, allow me to bring this argument from lesser to greater, from specific cases to general principles. When it becomes clear to you that your father or your mother choose to disobey God and put your soul at risk rather than encouraging you to trust Christ, what further obligation do you have to yield to their influence? Suppose your dad is a wonderful guy, and you love him deeply, and seek to honor him greatly. However, that same dad not only will not turn to Christ but gives evidence of interfering with your own conversion or your continued growth as a Christian if you are already converted. Is that not the time you need to choose loyalty to the One who died on the cross for you over loyalty to the one who raised you, but who now seems not to care for your soul? After all, does your dad not have a God-given responsibility to obey the gospel just like you did? Can not the same be said about your mom? Sometimes unsaved moms and dads attempt to portray your loyalty to Christ as disloyalty to them, but they are misstating things. Your relationship with your mom and your dad is temporary, lasting only during the span of this lifetime. Your relationship with Christ, however, is eternal and will last forever. You tell me which relationship is more important, and which should be treated as more important? I am not suggesting you diminish the respect you show to your father or to your mother. I am only suggesting that they were given to you by God to encourage you to come to Christ and to equip you to serve God. If they do not fulfill those responsibilities then you need to do what you were created to do with or without their help. Still love them. Still honor them. However, you cannot be disloyal to Christ in order to make an unsaved father, an unsaved mother, an unsaved spouse, an unsaved child, or an unsaved friend happy. And if you think that since you are lost you will in any way help yourself by remaining lost with an unsaved mom or dad, or someone else who is lost, keep in mind what we see with the rich man and Lazarus. Though the rich man died and went to Hell, where there are millions of others who both preceded and followed him, our Lordís comments refer only to him in the place of torment. Why so? Because even in Hell, despite the millions of others who are in the place of torment with him, the rich man was and is alone. You see, sin separates.

If you die without Christ you will be alone. Lazarus was in Abrahamís company when he died. Believers since Christís resurrection go to heaven, but the point is made. In Christ, with sins forgiven, separation is no more, and will be fully realized in the next life. Without Christ, with sins unforgiven, separation is fully experienced in the next life, not only in Hell but also in the lake of fire. I speak to you who are unsaved. Sin separates, and the real definition of death is separation. If you are unsaved you are separated, a fact that will be made undeniably clear after you pass to the next life, where you will be forever and irreparably separated from everyone and everything you know and hold dear. Surely you are bright enough to both see and admit that your direction is doomed and leads only to destruction. Therefore, do not allow others who are doomed to influence you. Therefore, do not seek to influence others who would follow you though you are doomed. Turn from your sins and trust Christ, and then seek out those who are following Christ as those chosen by you to influence your life and service to God.



[1] Hebrews 12.16

[2] Genesis 13.12; 14.12; 19.1

[3] 2 Peter 2.8

[4] Genesis 19.14

[5] Genesis 19.15-16


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org