People have a fascination with death. It appears that we all will experience it, so the topic intrigues most of us. Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid of death—I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Yes, we wonder how excruciating the process of dying will be, and what the moment of death itself will be like, and in sober moments we even allow ourselves to contemplate existence after death. Especially at Halloween we get sinister reminders of death, with people even dressing up their children like ghosts, skeletons, zombies, and devils.
It would be nice if someone could tell us what to expect on the other side. But wait! Someone did. Jesus told what happened to two men after they died. In their earth-life, one was fabulously rich and had everything he needed every day. The other was a beggar named Lazarus. Someone was kind enough to lay him at the rich man’s gate, where he could beg for crumbs and where the dogs licked his sores. Jesus said, “So it was that the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried” (Luke 16:22).
Two men, who were total opposites in life, also became total opposites in the next life, but with a complete reversal of circumstances. The rich man experienced torments in Hades, while Lazarus lay in Abraham’s bosom. Somehow, the rich man could see Abraham and Lazarus, and now the [formerly] rich man did the begging. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a drop of water for his tongue, because he said, “I am tormented in this flame.” Abraham told him that no one could pass from one place to the other. Notice also that the rich man did not get a chance to change his eternal destiny after he died. Nor did he go to an “intermediate place” where he could change his status. Life after death is determined by our beliefs before we die.
The rich man also begged for something else. Would Abraham send Lazarus to warn his five brothers so they would not “come to this place of torment” after they die. Abraham told him that his brothers have the Scriptures (“Moses and the prophets,” meaning the books of what we call the Old Testament). They could discover how to escape Hades by reading the Bible.
“No, father Abraham,” the rich man objected, “but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”
Sounds logical, doesn’t it? If we knew we could end up in torment after we die, wouldn’t we all want to know how we and our loved ones could avoid it?
But Abraham answered, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
Sad but true. We Americans have the Scriptures. What Moses recorded in the Old Testament pictures it as deliverance from bondage: “I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:6-7). God does the rescuing and redeeming because He desires a relationship with each of us. All He requires is for us to put our trust in Him. To trust means to be persuaded that what God says is true.
Moses also recorded that people were being bitten by fiery [poisonous] snakes and dying. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and raise it up on a pole. “And it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). Look and live. They didn’t have to walk up to it or bow down, repeat certain words, offer it a gift. Anywhere they were in the camp, if they believed that looking at the figure on the pole would save them, it would. They would live and not die. Of course, they didn’t have to believe it. The alternative was to try something else, and then die.
We cannot trust anything else—not our own intellect, goodness, or church membership. We must trust in the One who died in our place and came back to life. Like Abraham said to the formerly rich man—the Scriptures could persuade his brothers about how to avoid torment after death. They would need a relationship with God whereby they could spend eternity with Him. The New Testament calls it eternal or everlasting life.” Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on a cross of crucifixion] that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16).
Halloween should remind us that death is inevitable. But we can prepare for it by looking to Jesus alone as the One who will give us a relationship with God that lasts for eternity? Have you looked and lived?
All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.