Luke 16.23-28



1.   Turn in your Bible to Luke chapter 16.  When you find Luke 16.19, stand please and read along silently while I read aloud:

19     There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20     And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21     And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22     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;

23     And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

24     And he cried and said, 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.

25     But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

26     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.

27     Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:

28     For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

29     Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

30     And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

31     And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. 

2.   Please keep that place in your Bible while you look up.  Several preliminary comments:  First, this passage we have read is not a parable.  If this were a parable the Lord Jesus Christ would never have named any of the characters.  But the fact that He specifically mentioned two real people, Lazarus and Abraham, establishes that this is not a parable and that the occurrences in this passage are real and not fiction.

3.   Second, this passage is concerned with Hell, which is not the lake of fire.  Hell and the lake of fire are entirely distinct and separate.  The lake of fire is the place of outer darkness, yet in Hell the rich man can see Abraham, and can see Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom.

4.   There are three things about Hell that you unsaved people need to keep in mind this evening, since it is very likely that you will actually go there someday.  Ironically, however, the more you think about Hell the less likely it is you will go there.  So, you need to think about Hell a great deal, and think even more about the sins that will send you to Hell. 

1A.   First, HELL IS A PLACE

1B.    In verse 22, we read that the rich man died and was buried.  You will someday die (God has appointed that you die[1]), but it’s a question whether or not you will be buried.  It’s nice for the family to have a fit and proper burial.  A funeral service provides a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel to unconverted people.  What do you think will happen when you die?  Will your family bury your body, or will they burn up your body by having it cremated, and then put your ashes in a little bottle?  Because he was a Jew, the rich man’s family buried him.  In my opinion, it really is pagan to cremate someone’s dead body.

2B.    But notice that after the rich man died and was buried this account of true events does not end.  Verse 23 begins, “And in hell he lift up his eyes.”  What does this show us?  This shows us that the rich man went some place when he died.  He did not cease to exist.  He was not reincarnated to get a second chance of life on earth.  Nor was he sent to a place called purgatory where he could atone for his sins and thereby gain access to heaven.  No.  Just as Lazarus went some place when he died, so the rich man went some place when he died.

3B.    This establishes that Hell is a place.  The rich man did not cease to exist when he died.  He continued to exist after he died.  But he no longer exists on earth in his physical body after he died.  The rich man could not have gone no place when he died, so he must have gone some place.  Hell is that place where he went.  Hell, therefore, is a place. 


1B.    Hebrews 9.27 declares that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”  So, it is established in the Bible, and by your own observations, that people die.  Everyone dies, you know that.  Enoch and Elijah, two Old Testament prophets, have not yet died . . . but they will.  So, the requirement that God has established is that everyone will die.  That means, of course, that you will die.  It’s only a matter of time before the grim reaper fetches you, before that beast called death devours you, but it will happen.  Perhaps suddenly, by means of a gunshot wound or an automobile accident.  Perhaps slowly, because of some wasting disease.  Perhaps when you are young.  Perhaps a middle aged heart attack.  Perhaps when you are old, the ravages of advanced age and senility will spell your demise.  But, eventually, you will die.

2B.    Several days ago, as I was preparing this sermon, I received a telephone call informing me that a friend of mine was in an Orange County hospital, barely hanging on to life.  My friend used to play baseball and basketball at UCLA.  He was an all-star athlete, and he runs five miles a day, does 100 pushups and 100 sit-ups every morning as soon as he gets out of bed, eats mostly fish and fresh fruits, and has absolutely no excess body fat.  He runs on the beach and plays basketball with kids one third his age, and beats them.  But they were, when they called me, preparing him for six by-passes in an effort to save his life.  As Isaac once said, “I know not the day of my death.”[2]  Do all you want.  Be as cautious as you know how.  You still do not know how your end will come.

3B.    When you die, where will you go?  Of course, you will go to Hell.  You must go to Hell.  You can only go to Hell.  And why is that?  Because Hebrews 9.27 informs us that God has appointed all men to die, but after this the judgment.  The judgment referred to by the writer to the Hebrews is the judgment of the great day, more than 1000 years from now.  When you die you will have to go some place where you will be held until the judgment of the great day.  So, where will that place be?  Hell.  Hell is the place where you will go after you die; the place where you will be imprisoned awaiting the judgment of the great day.

3B.    How do we know that you will go to Hell when you die?  We know that you will go to Hell when you die for two reasons: 

1C.   First, you are not going to heaven.  Christians go to heaven.  Believers in Jesus Christ go to heaven.  People whose sins are forgiven go to heaven.  But since you are not a Christian, not a believer in Jesus Christ, without any real interest in having your sins forgiven, only a truly great miracle could alter your eternal destiny.  So, you are going to Hell because you are not going to heaven.

2C.   Second, God is no respecter of persons.  Simon Peter made that observation in Acts 10.34.  And since God is no respecter of persons, where one ungodly sinner goes when he dies without Christ is where every ungodly sinner goes when he dies without Christ.  We know the rich man went to Hell when he died, therefore, you will go to Hell when you die.  You see, you have to go some place when you die.  And since you are not qualified to go to heaven, you must go to Hell when you die.

4B.    So, it is established that Hell is a place.  It is also established that Hell is the place where you will go when you die. 


1B.    I asked you to keep your place in your Bible so that you could quickly glance at several phrases in this passage that we read earlier.  Look to those phrases with me now, if you will:

Verse 23 begins:  “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.”

Verse 24 ends with these words:  “. . . I am tormented in this flame.”

Verse 25 ends:  “. . . and thou art tormented.”

Verse 28 ends:  “. . . this place of torment.”

2B.    Do you think the Lord Jesus Christ wanted to emphasize some particular feature about Hell in this passage?  I think that is obvious, don’t you?  What does it mean, this word “torment?” 

1C.   In verses 23 and 28, the words “torments” and “torment,” from the Greek word basanos, refers to the severe pain that results from being tortured.[3]  Did you get that?  The severe pain that results from being tortured.

2C.   In verses 24 and 25, the word “tormented,” odunaomai, then odunasai, is a different word, but a word that still has to do with undergoing physical torment and suffering great pain.[4]

3C.   So, understand that you will be tortured in Hell.  You will experience horrible pain associated with that torture, and there is nothing you can say or do to make it stop.

3B.    What will this pain from your torture be like?

1C.   From verse 23, I might suggest that part of the pain of your torture will come from your ability to see those who are saved afar off enjoying their bliss and delight, while you are suffering your tortures in Hell.

2C.   From verse 24, we see that the pain of your torture will come from your unquenched thirst, and from the fact that you will be engulfed in flames.

3C.   From verse 25, and Abraham’s reference to the rich man’s memory, I think that you will be tortured by your forever guilty conscience.  You will realize how stupid you were to settle for the passing pleasures of sin that led to eternal punishment.  And, again, you will be able to see those who forsook the pleasures of sin for a season in favor of the eternal delights that faith in Christ would bring.

4C.   From verse 26, there is the frustration and the anguish associated with being caged up in the prison house of Hell, knowing that there is no way of escape.  If you have never experienced claustrophobia before, that closed in feeling that makes you think you are being smothered, you will experience it in Hell.

5C.   Verses 27 and 28, the rich man’s sudden concern for his still living relatives, suggests that he dreads their deaths and descent into Hell, that he regrets the roll he played in their rejection of Christ, and that he knows he is partly responsible for their foolish rejection of the gospel.

4B.    But the comments that I have made to this point speak really to your mind.  And I do not think the human mind can fully comprehend the horrors of Hell, the pain that is involved, or the fact that in Hell you will literally be so painfully tortured that your suffering will be unbearable.

5B.    Perhaps a mental picture would help you to imagine in your heart the torment of Hell.  Ever go camping?  Ever see food cooked over a camp fire on a hot griddle, that flat metal plate placed over the fire that gets really hot?  Old cowboys used to spit on the griddle to see if it was hot enough to cook on.  When spit dances on a hot griddle it’s hot enough to cook on.  Imagine you being that spit dancing on a hot griddle.  That’s what Hell will be like for you.  So hot, and so painful, that you will not be able to stand still, or to sit still.  Instead, you will be squirming and rolling around in a vain attempt to lessen the pain.

6B.    Have you ever been burned?  Have you ever accidentally touched a hot clothes iron?  Have you ever accidentally spilled hot water or coffee on yourself?  Have you ever accidentally sipped hot coffee or hot chocolate that was so hot you burned your mouth?  Have you ever burned yourself with matches?  If you have, imagine that intense, searing pain over your entire body, between your fingers and toes, under your arms and between your legs, in and around your ears, in your nostrils and mouth, and in your eyes, without relief.

7B.    One of my uncles mixed gasoline and water in a milk bucket on the family farm once, when he was a boy.  He was doing an experiment, trying to find out if gasoline was still combustible, even when it was mixed with water.  He poured gasoline and water into a bucket and threw a lit match on it.  With the air bubbles still churning in the gas and water, the explosion splattered gasoline all over him and set him on fire.  Many years later he still had the scars on his side, on his chest, on his back, and under one arm, a testimony to the fact that fire burns even in water, and that third degree burns are horribly, horribly, painful.

8B.    While I was pastoring in the Imperial Valley there was man, Mr. Singh was his name, who went out to his car one morning to go to work.  But he couldn’t get his car started.  His neighbor, who had a big arc welding and acetylene cutting torch setup on his truck, asked what the problem was.  They popped the hood and looked at the engine for a while, and then decided that perhaps there was no fuel getting to the carburetor.  So the welder took some dirty rags and packed them around his torch nozzle and stuffed the nozzle into his neighbor’s gas tank.  Knowing that acetylene is highly combustible, he wanted to play it safe by opening only the valve on the oxygen tank, in an attempt to use the pressure of the oxygen to force the gasoline in the gas tank through the fuel line to the carburetor.  When the oxygen, mixed with the gas fumes, reached the spark plugs in the car’s cylinders there was an explosion, and Mr. Singh, sitting behind the wheel and trying to start his car, was engulfed in flames.  They flew him to San Diego in a rescue helicopter with third degree burns over 80% of his body.  After only one day of torment, Mr. Singh asked the doctors how long he would have to endure such pain.  They said it would be a minimum of six months, but they were quite sure he would make it.  Mr. Singh said, “No, pull out the IVs and let me die.  I can’t stand the pain.”  So, Mr. Singh, incapable of standing the horrible pain of his burns, died and went to Hell, where the pain of his torments has, for these last 25 years, been so much worse.

9B.    So, perhaps we should look at verse 24 again.  But instead of reading the words of the rich man in a dry and unemotional monotone, perhaps we should seek to imitate in some small way what he must sound like, how his voice would sound if we could open the lid to Hell right now and mute everyone’s voice but his.  What would you hear?  How would he sound?  What would he say?  I dare say you would hear these words:  “. . . I am tormented in this flame.”

10B.  It will not be like my uncle for you, you know, even though he suffered greatly.  It will be more like Mr. Singh for you, only far, far worse.  Burning all over, terrible thirst, horrible guilt, unimaginable pain.  Like the rich man, you will cry out, but to no avail.  You will scream and wail, but there will be no relief.  You will do this and that, move this way and that way, writhe and twist in agony, but you will never escape the pain, never escape the anguish, never escape the horror, never escape the torment of the flames. 


1.   Hell is the place where you will immediately go when you die.  The lake of fire is the place where you will eventually go when you die. 

2.   Hell is the place where you will go after your physical death.  The lake of fire is the place where you will go that is called the second death.

3.   If Hell will be a place for you of constant and conscious torment, and Hell is only a prelude to the judgment of the great day followed by an eternity in the lake of fire, what eternal torture awaits you at the hand of an angry God cannot be imagined.

[1] Hebrews 9.27

[2] Genesis 27.2

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 168.

[4] Ibid., page 692.

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