“And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then 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’” (Lk. 16:23-24).
It is likely that when you read these words you can recall the details of the entire story. However, these words were far more than a captivating story when they were spoken and heard by that rich man. This is not a parable of an imaginary man who never lived. Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man.”
Death brought changes to the rich man. He now knew that gold has no value in hell. He knew that those who make gold the focus of their lives will someday recognize this truth, but it will be too late. The rich man’s dwelling, his clothing, all the excesses of living and his riches brought to him had no advantage.
Death brought changes to the beggar Lazarus. He no longer was hungry. He no longer was begging for crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. He no longer had sores, nor dogs to lick them. Instantaneously, it all changed. He was changed from being an unwanted member of earthly society and had become the honored guest of heavenly beings who escorted him to the other side. Death changed almost everything around these two men and us.
One thing which did not change was the remembrance of one’s earthly life before death. In two brief words Abraham brought profound truth to the forefront. The two words were, “Son, remember.” The rich man remembered and recognized Lazarus. He recalled the crumbs which fell from his table and were evidently never given to Lazarus. He remembered his five brothers and their ungodliness and begged that something might be done to bring about their salvation.
Now, think of how all this impacts your life. How will you feel when you remember that you never did anything to help the least in the kingdom? How will you feel about your selfishly spending almost all you were prospered on your own pleasures when the church struggled to make its proposed budget? How will you feel when you recall the sermons you heard pleading with you to get involved in His work and to grow spiritually? Wasted money, wasted time and wasted opportunities will be part of the agony in the torment of fire.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Think of what great memories the rich man could have had if he had changed his behavior. On the other side you will remember. The real question is whether the memories will bring regret or joy!