The three days which followed the day of crucifixion were days of silent grief. The two Emmaus disciples later summed up the feelings of those days, "We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel." They spoke in the past tense, "We trusted." Their hopes were shattered and their hearts were perplexed. Matthew tells us that it was "in the end of the sabbath" that the women came to see the sepulchre, but the word "sabbath" here is a plural word, "sabbaths!" What does he mean? It had, of course, been a busy week, and as well as the weekly sabbath there had been several feasts and their associated sabbaths or holy days. He may simply mean that now those sabbaths were past; it was the end of the sabbaths of that holy week. But might there be more in the expression? This empty tomb to which he now brings us spells the end of that old era of law and of sabbath-keeping. We are about to enter a new era with a Christ risen from the dead and triumphant.
The happenings are stupendous. An earthquake! An angel of the Lord descends from heaven, and, with countenance like lightning and his garments glistening white as snow, he rolls away the stone and sits upon it, as if to proclaim by his very presence and attitude, the greatness of the triumph. Note that he does not roll away the stone to let the Saviour out. He is already risen out from among the dead. The stone is rolled away to let His people in to see the empty sepulchre. It is not surprising that the guards trembled and became like dead men. The angel exhorts the women not to be afraid. He knows, he says, that they seek Jesus the crucified One. "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said." The tomb is empty, but they may come, he invites, and see the place where the Lord lay. What news was this! Now, having viewed the empty tomb they must go quickly and tell His disciples. It was, as another has said, "Light after darkness: calm after storm: hope after despair: joy after grief." The great Shepherd of the sheep was risen from the dead and would go before them into Galilee, scene of His early life and of so much of His ministry. On their joyful way the Risen Master Himself meets them. He salutes them, "Hail!". They bow in wonder and worship, and hold Him by the feet. He tells them, as the angel did, "Be not afraid." He affectionately calls His disciples "My brethren," and repeats the angel's message that He will meet them in Galilee.
Meanwhile, some of the frightened guards had recovered sufficiently to go into the city to advise the chief priests as to what had happened. They seemed to know that what had happened was of greater importance for the chief priests than for Pilate. This was bad news indeed for the Sanhedrin. The priests bribed the soldiers. It was to the advantage of priests and soldiers alike that the people should not know the real truth, so a story was invented and the soldiers were bribed to tell it. They were to say that the disciples had come, and had stolen the body while they slept. What a foolish story is was! Were they admitting to sleeping while on guard? Had they all slept? Professional, trained soldiers! They could be court-martialled for such dereliction of duty. Then, if indeed they were asleep, how did they know that the disciples or anyone had come? And if there was real evidence that the body had been stolen by the disciples, then why not arrest these men forthwith and recover the body? It must be secreted somewhere, if it had been stolen. The frightened soldiers took the money, it was a large sum, and they told the lie with the assurance that if the governor heard of it the priests would persuade him. They need not be anxious. Sadly, as Matthew says, the unlikely, incredible story was told and retold and to this day is believed by many Jews who seem to be willingly ignorant of the absurdity of it all. Whatever the story, it is ironical that the enemies of Jesus should bring a report which testified that the tomb was empty. Men may debate and argue, and offer their various theories and supposed explanations, but the fact that the tomb was empty has never ever been in question. It is, as has been said, "a stubborn fact!"
Eleven disciples then left for Galilee. There is a certain sadness in this expression, "the eleven." There had been twelve, but there had been a traitor among the twelve, a defector. Judas was the only one of the twelve who was not a Galilean. Judas Iscariot, Judas Ish-Kerioth, Judas the man of Kerioth, a village of Judea. The eleven knew Galilee well, it was their home country, as it was His, their Master's. They now return to Galilee, in obedience to His word and that of His angel.
The Lord meets them at the appointed place, on one of the mountains of Galilee. So much of our Lord's ministry in this Gospel has been associated with mountains, the Mount of Beatitudes, the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Transfiguration, and others too. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace," Isa.52.7. Now, at the close of His ministry, the Saviour will again meet His disciples on a mountain. When they saw Him they did homage to Him, but still some hearts doubted. How weak is our faith, even in those precious moments when in grace He shows Himself to us.
Mathew does not tell the story of the ascension. He knew it well of course, but others will tell it. Matthew's Gospel is a portrait of the King, the story of the King and the Kingdom. It is fitting then, that he should leave us with this lovely scene of the King on earth, among His people, In regal majesty He proclaims His authority, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." In what apparent weakness they had so recently seen Him die, rejected by Israel and crucified by Romans. Calvary was the crime of the Gentile and the guilt of the Jew. Together they had rejected the King, just as the second Psalm had predicted. How different now! Risen from the dead, all power committed to Him, the King will commission His servants for the proclamation of the Kingdom. They were but a remnant, these men, but they would go forth with a mandate from the King Himself. How much encouragement will these words bring to a remnant of a later day as they too fulfil the great commission. Nevertheless, we of this present interim period go forth similarly. The commission goes beyond the lost sheep of the house of Israel. They are to go to all nations. They are to make disciples, baptising them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. All the authority of the great Tri-unity would be with them in their ministry. They must teach those who responded to their message to observe all that He had commanded them, and they had the assurance of His constant presence with them. The Gospel closes with that lovely promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age."
What a story Matthew has given us. In his opening verse he promised us, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham," and he has faithfully fulfilled his promise. Jesus, Messiah, destined for the throne by the way of the altar of sacrifice. He has brought us from the Saviour's lowly birth at Bethlehem, through a ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing, to the final hours of suffering and death, and on to resurrection ground. Well might we sing, as we come to the end of Matthew's lovely story,
In the previous paper, Part 1 of the introduction we noted:
The circumstances of his ministry;
The cooperation with Zechariah;
The content of his prophecy.
We dealt with the first two and now we come to the third:
3) THE CONTENT OF HIS PROPHECY
The book of Haggai comprises four messages (1.1, 2.1, 10, 20), although it is arguable that there were actually five messages. See 1.13-15. Perhaps we can compromise by saying that the first message was in two parts! Both parts deal with the same subject. The four messages can be summarised as follows:
To reprove their idleness, 1.1-15;
To restore their confidence, 2.1-9;
To rebuke their unholiness, 2.10-19;
To reward their leader, 2.20-23.
We will note a little about each of these messages in preparation for more detailed study.
a) TO REPROVE THEIR IDLENESS, 1.1-15:
The first two messages have a double edge. They are addressed to Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest. See 1.1 and 2.2. This conveys an important lesson. Think about it! The first message can be divided in this way:
The reproof, v2-11, and
The response, v12-15.
i) The reproof, v2-11. Interest in God's house had declined, but interest in their own houses had increased. Hence the statement, "This people say, the time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built, v2, and the question, "Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?", v4. But God did not allow His people to settle down in their self-interest and self-indulgence. He cannot bless self-centredness, and their disappointment and frustration, v6, was the direct result of divine intervention: "Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house," v9. But don't end there: read v10-11 as well. They explain that the drought was no quirk of nature. Compare 2.15-19.
What about the conditions in our lives? Lack of joy and satisfaction, and lack of progress, are signals that something is desperately wrong. Compare the situation with events in Acts 4&5. It is a contrast rather than a comparison! The disciples were forbidden to speak (4.8, 5.28, 40) but they continued with the work (4.31, 5.42), and were filled with joy (5.41).
Does the work of God really concern us? Does difficulty or opposition, perhaps the surrounding apathy to the gospel, cause us grief and drive us to prayer? Or do we say in effect, "the time is not come ...?" The returning exiles had accomplished a great deal, but there was still a long way to go. Are we building for God? Are we all building for God? What are we building for God? How are we building for God? The people were back in the right place — the place of the Name (see Deut.14.23-24 etc. — but that was all. Some of God's people are happy and content to be in 'assembly fellowship,' and gather to the Name, Matt.18.20, but that is all! God was not displeased because the second temple was inferior to Solomon's temple, 2.3, but because His interests were entirely neglected. Haggai's first message was essentially a call to action. God's interests must be pursued.
ii) The response, v12-15. The reproof included a call for activity. "Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house, and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord," v8. To their credit, the people, led by Zerubbabel and Joshua, responded in twenty-four days. How long does it take for ministry to become effective in our lives? They were certainly "doers of the word, and not hearers only," Jms.1.22. We must notice the attitude in which they resumed the work. They "obeyed the voice of the Lord their God ... the people did fear before the Lord," and in that frame of mind, "they came and did work in the house of the Lord of hosts, their God." We must remember that the Christian life involves unquestioning obedience to the Word of God (remember ISam.15.22), and that the "fear of the Lord" is a reverential awe which will not permit anything in our lives which will grieve or displease Him.
Whilst, as we have seen, God cannot bless self-centredness, He can and will bless His people when they give priority to His interests. In the first place, He affirms His presence with them: I am with you saith the Lord," 1.13. In the second place, He affirms His intention to bless them: "From this day will I bless you," 2.19. The second message was:
b) TO RESTORE THEIR CONFIDENCE, 2.14:
This is a message of encouragement for the older people at Jerusalem. They are called the "ancient men" in Ezra 3.12-13. "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparision of it as nothing?" The second temple, in course of erection, was a poor substitute for the original building, and we can imagine the despair and disappointment of the 'senior citizens' who had actually seen Solomon's temple before its destruction by the Babylonians. God encourages them in two ways:
i) He assures them of His presence as they rebuild, v4-5. "Yet now be strong ... and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts." He is the covenant-keeping God, v5. He will not let them down.
ii) He assures them of His purpose for the future, v6-9. The coming glory of the temple will exceed its past glory! "I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts," v8. "The glory of this latter house (JND, 'the latter glory of this house') shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts," v9. The "ancient men" are urged to look ahead to a glorious future which will exceed 'the good old days!'
Notice that although three different buildings are involved, one "house" is envisaged throughout: "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?, v3, ... the glory of this latter house ('the latter glory of this house') shall be greater than of the former," v9. The coming glory of the temple will follow the catastrophic and cataclysmic judgments at the end-time, v6-7. The phrase, "desire of all nations," may not be a direct reference to the Messiah, but it certainly refers to His reign.
This message is an encouragement to us as well. Think about the history of the church. We can look back, and see its "first glory" in the book of Acts, and could easily be overtaken with despair as we compare the past with the present. But the 'latter glory' will be 'greater than the former!' The Lord Jesus will "present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," Eph.5.27. It is always helpful to learn the lessons of the past, but it is distinctly unhelpful to be preoccupied with the past! We can look with confidence to the future. But in the meantime, we must "work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts." The third message was:
c) TO REBUKE THEIR UNHOLINESS, 2.10-19:
This message teaches us the important lesson that sin and defilement are highly contagious, and that clean lives are a pre-requisite for divine blessing. We learn that God is holy, and demands the same quality in His people. This action can be divided as follows: (i) The existence of uncleanness, v11-14, and (ii) The evidence of uncleanness, v15-19.
i) The existence of uncleanness, v11-14.
The lesson is clear: holy things do not impart their holiness to others, v12; but defiled things do impart their defilement to others, v13. No one could speak with more authority about this than the priests, and the sad lesson follows: "So is this people, and so is this nation before Me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands, and that which they offer there is unclean." Because they were defiled, God could not accept "the work of their hands," and "that which they offer." Now read lPet.1.14-16.
ii) The evidence of uncleanness, v15-19.
God invites the people to "consider" the lessons. He invites them to "consider" the situation "before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord, v15-17, and "from the day that the foundation of the Lord's house was laid," v18-19. In both cases, He had withheld blessing, but now, since the people "did fear the Lord," 1.12, He could promise blessing: "From this day I will bless you." The fourth message was:
d) TO REWARD THEIR LEADER, 2.20-23:
This message is addressed to Zerubbabel personally. "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts."
Whilst most commentators tell us that this section refers to the Lord Jesus, 'of whom Zerubbabel was a type' (quote), it seems very clear that it does refer to Zerubbabel himself. Like David (see Jer.30.9, Eze.24.23-24, Hos.3.5, etc.), Zerubbabel will have a role in the coming kingdom. Having shaken "the heavens and the earth," and overthrown "the strength of the kingdoms," God will establish His kingdom, in which Zerubbabel will have an important place. "In that day will I take thee ... and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts." A signet conveys the authority of its owner. How much do we convey the authority of our divine Master? A signet was used to make an impression. Are we making an impression for the Lord Jesus?
We cannot end our introduction to the book of Haggai without noticing the achievements of his ministry. "And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia," Ezra 6.14.
The course of world history is chained to the chariot wheels of divine purpose. This fact is no less true now than it was in that far off day when Cyrus II, the Great, became the Medo-Persian emperor to end Babylonian domination of the Middle East.
The son of a political marriage between a Persian chief, Cambyses, and the daughter of Astyages, King of the Medes, Cyrus showed in early life uncommon and outstanding qualities. On reaching manhood he revolted against Astyages, his grandfather and overlord. Seizing the empire of the Medes around BC 550 he consolidated his rule by suppressing potential enemies to both the west and east. Ruling from the Aegean Sea to the River Indus he then turned his attention south to the mighty Babylonian empire, a kingdom which God had "numbered and finished," Dan.5.26.
Many of the people of God at Babylon had earlier experience of invasion, siege and forcible deportation. They would, therefore, have been acutely conscious that the Medes and Persians were exerting increasing pressure on the Babylonian regime. The preparations for defence were obvious. Tension was palpable. Change was inevitable and its prospect brought uncertainty. Except, that is, on the part of those of God's people whose minds were stayed securely on the immutability of God's Word. Had not God delineated the emergence of this Persian monarch some 175 years previously, as recorded in Isaiah 41? Did God not encourage His people at the same time? "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness," Isa.41.10. Changing times can be faced with confident trust in a changeless God.
Seventy years have now passed since the commencement of the captivities, or servitude, in BC 606, when Daniel and his companions were taken to Babylon. This is significant. "For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good Word toward you, in causing you to return ...", Jer.29.10. God is ever true to His Word. He therefore overturned the dominant world power of the ancient world, Babylon, to provide legal authorisation for 50,000 former captives to return to Jerusalem to re-establish a testimony to His name. And so, in fulfilment of divine prophecy "the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation ...", Ezra 1.1
Not only does God deal with nations, but He deals also with individuals. Cyrus' proclamation was the direct result of his spirit being stirred up to dynamic action by God. We are not at liberty to speculate upon whatever other influences there may have been associated with his making this decree. Scripture is clear: "The King's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it withersoever He will," Prov.21.1. Purposed by God, proclaimed by Cyrus, published by heralds, the Medo-Persian empire is made aware that the emergent Gentile ruler has given honour to The Lord God of heaven.
This is a clear example, among many in Scripture, of how God is in absolute control. Potentially the greatest obstacle now renders the greatest assistance. And this without any political agitation on the part of God's people. Our attitude to rulers should be no less tranquil. The exhortation to Timothy should define our conduct in this regard. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty," ITim.2.1-2.
In discharging his responsibility towards the rebuilding of the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, Cyrus evidences recognition of the fact that "the powers that be are ordained of God," Rom.13.1. Although few, if any, world leaders recognise this today, the people of God certainly should. "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God," Rom.13.2.
It is therefore a cause for incredulity that any believer today should waste time and dissipate energy in political activism. God is still on the throne. His purpose is steadfast and can neither be assisted nor thwarted by the exercise of popular franchise or force of arms.
Rather than become enmeshed in the passing order of this world, do recognise that changing times present fresh opportunities for service. Calculate, with solemnity, the potential of a lifetime spent in fellowship with the will of God.
By the rivers of Babylon in BC 536 every Jew had a once in a lifetime choice to make. They could with royal permission, in full liberty, return to Jerusalem. More importantly they could, in the fulfilment of God's Word, return to build for God assured of the Divine presence. Or, they could remain in Babylon.
Be absolutely clear on this, God has great designs for every saint. Similar choices have still to be made today. Two worlds appeal for the talents of the Lord's people: this passing world and that which is eternal. The choice is yours.
In their long journey across the wilderness the Israelites were sustained by the manna, Ex.16.1-36. "Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day," v4. The manna proved to be an extensive type of the coming of the Messiah, the Christ.
The bread was from heaven, "Bread from heaven," v4. The Lord was from heaven, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven," Jn.6.51.
The bread divided the people into believers and unbelievers, "That I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no," v4. The Lord divides the people, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life,' Jn.3.36.
The bread revealed the glory of God, "In the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD,' v7. The Lord reveals the glory of God, "We beheld His glory, the glory as the Only Begotten of the Father," Jn.1.14.
The bread brought with it the knowledge of God, "And ye shall know that I am the LORD your God," v12. The Lord brought the knowledge of God, "He that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me," Jn.12.45.
The bread was for everyone, "Gather of it every man according to His eating," v16. The Lord's salvation is for everyone, 'That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,' Jn.3.16.
The bread's taste was sweet, 'The taste of it was like wafers made with honey,' v31. We have so tasted the Lord, 'If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious,' 1Pet.2.3.
The bread was to be remembered, "Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations," v32. The Lord is to be remembered, 'And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me,', Lk.22.19.
The bread was with them to the journey's end, 'They did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan,' v35. The Lord is ever with the believer, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," Heb.13.5.
The Lord Jesus Christ stated that He was the true bread from heaven. As their ancestors had eaten the manna and received physical but mortal life, so those who receive Christ into their lives receive spiritual and eternal life. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die", Jn.6.47-50.
However, the bread took on a further significance, it came to signify His body, 'He (Jesus) took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you', Lk.22.19. The bread upon the table focuses our remembrance upon the One who became a true Man in a real body and gave Himself up to the cross for our redemption. "That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take eat; this is My body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me", 1Cor. 11.23-24.
(7) ABRAHAM AND THE GREATEST PARTITION (Lk. 16.19-31)
"Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed," (Lk.16.26)
The reference to Abraham in the New Testament which we will consider in this paper is unusual in several ways. It is the only occasion in the New Testament in which Abraham speaks directly. It is also unusual in that it does not refer to an incident in the Old Testament, but to an event that occurred likely not too many years before the Lord Jesus was speaking. It is unusual in the penetrating insight that it gives into the state of the lost after death. For this reason, this paper is also unusual, when compared with others in this series of articles: all those written so far have been written with much joy and gladness of heart; this one is being written with sorrow and heaviness of heart. It is a delight to write of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the promises to believers that are sure to be fulfilled, of the Person of our Saviour, and so on. To write of the awful condition of those on the wrong side of a fixed gulf can give no pleasure to anyone.
This story is not a parable. A parable is a story about physical things, which is used to illustrate spiritual realities. This story is not an illustration; it is describing reality. Both the men in this story are actual people, who lived and died. They are introduced as "a certain rich man," v19 and "a certain beggar," v20. The name of the beggar is even given (Lazarus) — from this it is clear that the Lord Jesus had a specific person in mind, not a fictional character. No-one in a parable was ever mentioned by name, as Lazarus was. The rich man is stated as having five brothers, v28. This was not merely a convenient number that the Lord chose — it was the actual number of brothers that this actual man had.
In the latter part of the passage, a conversation takes place, between the rich man, in Hades, and Abraham, in Paradise. Abraham states for the rich man, for the Pharisees and others who were listening to the Lord Jesus speaking, and for us today, three solemn facts:-
A change that is not reversible, v25;
A chasm that is not crossable, v26;
A conversion that is not possible, v29,31.
1. A change that is not reversible, v25
In this story, we see a dramatic change; a change in the relative positions of the two men whose histories are given to us. For one, the change is from luxury to torment; for the other, it is from suffering to comfort. Abraham summarises it to the rich man in v25: "thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented."
The previous verses, v19-24, have detailed the change for us:-
(a) Before death, v 19-21.
In life, the contrast between the rich man and Lazarus was sharp:
Regarding their social positions, the former was "rich", v19; the latter was a "beggar", v20;
Regarding their coverings, the former was "clothed in purple and fine linen," v19 — garments which indicated wealth and prestige; the only covering mentioned for the latter was his sores, for he was "full of sores," v20;
Regarding their food, the former "fared sumptuously every day," v19; the latter's desire was "to be fed with the crumbs," v21;
Regarding their position, the former was at his "table", v21, where he would have lain in a reclining position; for the latter, the place where he was "laid", v20, was at the gate, on the dusty street.
As far as the things of this world were concerned, there was no doubt about which of the two was better off. Surely there is significance in the meaning of the name "Lazarus": "God is my help." Certainly God was his only help. The rich man did nothing to help him. Nor did the dogs. They were not licking his sores in sympathy, but were adding to his misery:- to a Jew, a dog was an unclean animal, both in ritual and in reality. Doubtless they served only to increase the infections to which his open sores were prone.
(b) At death, v22.
In this verse, we have the only common point between the rich man and Lazarus:-they both died. This verse says that the rich man "also" died. This is the only time in the passage that the word "also" is used in comparison of the two men. Before this, they had nothing in common in this world — everything was better for the rich man; after this, they would again have nothing in common — it would all be better for Lazarus. Where did the "cross-over" occur? At the point of death. Men describe it as "the great leveller." It was not so here. Death merely marked the point at which the immeasurable change in their relative positions took place.
In this brief account of their deaths, we have an allusion to the rich man's more favoured life: we read that he "was buried." For a man of his wealth and status, this would have been an event of great pomp. By contrast, we do not even read that Lazarus was buried. If he was, we can be sure that it was very different from the burial of the rich man. In all likelihood all that he got was a pauper's grave.
Yet, on the other hand, in this same description of their deaths, we also see the contrast in their destinies. The best thing that happened to the rich man at his death was what happened to his body: he "was buried." For Lazarus, the best thing what happened to him at death was what happened to his spirit: he "was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." Men carried the rich man's body; angels carried the poor man's spirit. The rich man had lived for the physical, and that is what is mentioned in connection with his death; the poor man had been concerned with the spiritual, and that is what is recorded for us at his death.
(c) After death, v23,24.
Now the completeness of the change is vividly brought before us. Lazarus is now in a place of bliss, in a place of proximity to the revered father Abraham, v23.
No so the rich man. He was in Hades, v23, was tormented, v23,24, was fully aware of where he was, v24, was aware of the bliss of others, v23,24, and desired even the slightest transient relief, v24. How awful — that one who would scarcely have allowed a few crumbs to drop the short distance from the table to the floor, to feed a poor man, was now wanting that same poor man to come from "afar off to give him a drop of water. The change could hardly be more strongly expressed.
Nor could there be a clearer Scripture against the so-called "prosperity gospel," so popular in our day. The rich man proves it:- he surely shows that material wealth is not necessarily a sign of God's pleasure. Lazarus also proves it:- his faith in God certainly did not result in material wealth. Believing the Gospel will ensure wealth in the life to come. It will ensure no such thing in this life.
Abraham brings this change to the attention of the erstwhile rich man in v25. He calls him "Son": he was a child of Abraham physically, but certainly not so spiritually. Abraham tells him to "remember", showing that the faculty of memory is not lost in hell. With the words, he points out that the change in well-being for the rich man and Lazarus is irreversible. There is no possibility of Lazarus making a journey to alleviate the suffering of the rich man. Lazarus is now permanently in a state of comfort; the rich man is permanently in a state of torment. The roles will never be reversed again: "he is comforted" and "thou art tormented" are unchangeable. Where one goes upon death is fixed for eternity.
2. A chasm that is not crossable, v26.
The words "beside all this," with which v26 opens, indicate that there is another reason why Lazarus could not go to help the rich man: "between us and you there is a great gulf fixed." The word "gulf is a chasm, a yawning divide, which cannot be crossed: "so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." Even if Lazarus had wanted to go, he could not. The chasm was impassable.
Here again we see the permanence of the state of the lost. There is no thought of a sinner being "purified" by some type of "Purgatory", from which he eventually gets released, and enters heaven. The lost state is final — there is a fixed gulf, which cannot be crossed.
These realities are not affected by the view that one takes of the location of Paradise prior to the death of Christ. Some take the view that the spirits of Old Testament saints went straight to heaven at death. If this is true, then this passage describes the relative states and positions of the saved and lost after death, even to this day. Others take the view that before Christ's death, saved and lost went to two different compartments of Sheol, but that after His death, Christ removed the blessed ones to heaven. If this is correct, then the "great gulf has certainly not been lessened any by the change. If there has been any change, it has been increased. To discuss the relative merits of the two views is beyond the scope of this article, but whatever view we take, the conclusion is the same — today there is still a great gulf fixed between the saved and the lost after death.
3. A conversion that is not possible, v29,31
The rich man now realises that there is no help for him. So, in v27,28, he tries to get help for others — his own brothers. If Lazarus cannot come and help him, can he not then go and testify to his five brothers, so that they will repent and escape from hell? If they could be converted, at least they would not be tormented forever.
This shows the fallacy of the idea that there will be company in hell. The rich man did not console himself with the thought that if he waited a few more years, he would have company, in the form of his five brothers. No, it was now his greatest desire that they would escape the same end. Sadly, he was now powerless to do anything about it.
Abraham points out to him, v29, that they have "Moses and the prophets," a phrase which encompasses the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures. Someone who believed these would be saved. The Lord Jesus told His hearers in Jn.5.39: "Search the Scriptures ... they are they which testify of Me," and in v46 of the same chapter He says, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me." This shows that it is the Word of God that is needed in order to produce repentance.
The rich man did not agree, v30, but persisted in the idea that if his brothers saw a dead man returning to testify, they would repent. However it is not so. Abraham, in v31, states that such a conversion, a conversion based on seeing a dead man arise, is impossible. If a person does not accept the Word of God, he will not accept the word of man. Within a short time of the Lord speaking these words, they were proved to be true, twice.
Another man, also called Lazarus, did come back from the dead, but the same religious leaders whom the Lord was addressing in this passage did not repent and believe. On the contrary, they wanted to kill Lazarus, and the Lord, Jn. 11.45-53; 12.10,11.
The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The same religious leaders did their best to cover it up, and they bribed people to explain it away, Matt.28.11-15.
No, if one does not believe God's testimony, no amount of signs and spectacular happenings will bring about repentance. Jews in particular wanted signs, Matt.27.42;
Jn.6.30; 1Cor.1.22. This fact is highly relevant to us, living as we are in a day when much emphasis is put (in many circles) on the sensational and the spectacular. Let us never forget that there is no substitute for the preaching of the Word of God. Nothing else will bring salvation. Let us take no heed to the words of those who try to tell us that people are not prepared to listen to gospel preaching nowadays, and that therefore we must try to get them to repent by other methods, whether by entertainment, or stunts, or whatever. If they do not "hear", v29,31, the Scriptures, there is sadly no hope for them. Conversion by any means other than hearing and believing the Word of God, is impossible.
We see ample evidence in this passage to show that it was not the fact that the rich man was rich that took him to hell, but failure to believe the Word of God.
The fact that Abraham was in a place of bliss. Abraham was a very rich man (e.g. Gen.13.2), but it did not keep him from salvation.
The rich man himself stated that his brothers needed to "repent", v30, to escape hell. He did not say, "Send Lazarus to my father's house, to tell my brothers to give away all their wealth, lest they also come into this place of torment." No, it was repentance that was needed.
Abraham tells the rich man that his brothers "have Moses and the prophets," v29. This shows that the rich man also, when he was alive, had the same testimony available to him, in common with the other members of his family, and that he had refused to listen to that testimony. He was not "Persuaded", v31, as to its truth, and this is what determined his eternal destiny.
The passage then shows that it is possible to be rich materially and to be in agony for eternity, while it is possible to suffer greatly in this life, and be in bliss for ever. However, it is how one responds to the Gospel that determines where one will be. It is not a sin per se to have possessions, nor is it a virtue, in itself, to be poor. But the reader of the story is left in no doubt that it is better to beg for crumbs in this life than to beg for water in the next.
This story also shows up many of the errors about the afterlife for what they are. The following notions are all seen to be false:
Soul sleep:- that a person becomes unconscious when he dies;
Total annihilation for the unsaved;
A second chance:- that a person is given a second opportunity after death to repent;
Purgatory:- that a person eventually moves out of the place of torment;
That the sufferings of hell are not real, but imagined;
That there will be plenty of company in hell, which will make it less unpleasant;
That a lost person will lose his memory, and thus have no remorse.
These are very solemn things, and this passage, on the greatest partition possible, has a solemn message for each reader. If someone who is not yet saved is reading this article, then the message to you is, that your future is terrible, but you still have the opportunity to escape. You still have the Scriptures. Hear them, believe them, and be saved. For those of us who are already saved, the message is solemn too: that people around us are perishing, and we must present the way of salvation to them. But let all of us who handle this most solemn passage do so with tenderness, with pity, and with tears. The Lord Jesus Christ's narration of this story was done with compassion, not with hardness. So it should be for us.
In this passage, we have seen something of the state of the spirit of a believer after death. But what about the body? Does the condition described for Lazarus, with his spirit in bliss, and his body in the earth, represent the eternal state of the believer? No, it does not. In the next paper, we hope to see how the Lord Jesus Christ uses Abraham to teach the great truth of the resurrection of the dead.
Having mentioned the responsibility of a servant to his master in the first section of ch.14.1-4, Paul now develops in v5-9 the grand theme of the Lordship of Christ. In this theme we are getting right to the kernel of the apostle's thinking. He shows how this truth has an important bearing upon the attitude of Christians to one another. The title "Lord" is used no less than eight times in these short but pithy verses. The teaching is plain: we all belong to the Lord and therefore are accountable to Him. It is the responsibility of every believer to recognize Christ as their Lord and Master and render to Him whole-hearted support and obedience. As we consider the teaching of this chapter there are three searching questions that arise in the mind:
Am I persuaded fully by the Word of God in my convictions? (v5).
Am I pleasing the Lord or self? (v6-9)
Am I prepared to give account of my convictions to the Lord? (v10-12)
For the purpose of our study, the paragraph under consideration can easily be divided as follows:
Individual Estimation - v5
Mutual Toleration - v6
Personal Responsibility - v7
Acknowledged Possession - v8,9
1. Individual Estimation, v5. The apostle's argument centres on two truths. Firstly, our relationship with each other and secondly, our relationship with the Lord. With each other we are considered individually and with the Lord we are considered inclusively, none is left out.
One Man —one day. "One man esteemeth one day above another." This is the man who insisted on retaining the Jewish custom of observing Sabbaths and set feasts. To him some days had intrinsic value and were more sacred than other days. He belongs to those described in the preceding verses as being "weak."
Another Man — every day. "Another esteemeth every day alike." This is the man who has entered into the liberty which is his in Christ and has been delivered from the observance of Judaistic ritual. To him, every day belongs to the Lord and is to be used for the glory of the Lord who redeemed him.
Every man —fully assured. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Here is a very important principle that is applicable to every believer. In the matter of eating or refraining from eating, I should be fully persuaded in my own mind. It does not mean that everyone can please themselves as to what they believe, but in these matters which the apostle discusses in chapter fourteen, he shows that I should formulate my decisions in my own mind before the Lord. Too often we formulate our decisions on the basis of what others do or think. This is wrong. The word "fully persuaded" means completely assured or convinced. The principle laid down is that each individual has the right to private judgment in the matter of days and diets. He has the right to his own convictions but they must be held sincerely and in the knowledge that he is accountable to God for what he believes. The right of private judgment must be allowed to others and we must be prepared to recognize the sincerity of their decisions. For ourselves, we must arrive at firm convictions that are binding only upon ourselves and not on others. My responsibility is in the realm of my own mind. Far too many saints allow themselves to be brought into bondage on this point. You can allow yourself to be bound by what others expect you to do. Likewise, you can try to bring others into bondage to your expectations for them. For those who have no firm convictions on a matter of this kind, life can become a tyranny as they live in the morbid fear of what others will think and then take their decisions accordingly. Those who minister the Word of God and those who lead in assembly life must be aware of what Paul teaches in this truth. A powerful tool to ensure compliance with teaching is the improper imposition of guilt. This is often done skilfully through the inference that to be different to me is wrong. This is not what God expects.
2. Mutual Toleration, v6. "He that regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not and giveth God thanks." In this verse, the two matters of dispute are brought together: the observance of days and abstaining from food. In observing and abstaining or in partaking and ignoring, those who observe a special day as sacred or refrain from a food as defiling, do so unto the Lord. It must be recognized that both the weak and the strong are seeking to please the Lord in that which they think is right. "To the Lord" is the key expression here. It indicates the earnestness and sincerity with which both parties approach the matter. It also highlights the absurdity of a weak brother abstaining from food as unto the Lord and then condemning another who does not abstain, for his non-abstinence is also unto the Lord. If both submit to the Lord in their actions, there can be no recriminations toward each other. In spite of their differing views, the actions of each party must be dictated by a sense of allegiance to the Lord. This fact alone is sufficient grounds for mutual toleration. Where a person is genuinely seeking to please the Lord, however mistaken he may be, providing no fundamental issue is involved, we must refrain from condemning him and should exercise a spirit of tolerance. Twice in relation to the matter of eating we have the phrase, "giveth God thanks." The one who eats is able to give God thanks as well as the one who refrains from eating. This is the real test. When we are able to give God thanks regarding our convictions and conduct in this matter, then it is apparent we have a clear conscience and are acting with conviction. It is well to remember that the apostle is not teaching in regard to matters about which Scripture has spoken clearly. Rather, he is establishing the importance of living by principles before the Lord. Decisions should be made on the determining principle of giving thanks to the Lord. A plain rule of life is that when I have to make a decision in a matter about which Scripture is silent, such as eating meat or being a vegetarian; I must be able to give God thanks as I either eat or refrain from eating meat. Whichever course I take should be with a clear conscience and with the added ingredient of thanksgiving. This will be a help to young believers facing complex issues and difficult decisions. Often they are faced with a decision to go somewhere or do something about which Scripture is silent. What should they do? The solution lies in whether or not they can thank God in the activity in which they engage or in the place to which they go.
3. Personal Responsibilities, v7. "For none of us liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself." Here our personal responsibility is clearly defined. While it is recognized that we have the right to arrive at our own convictions in any matter, we are neither infallible nor supreme. Contrary to the philosophy of today's world, we are not masters of our own destinies. We are utterly dependant upon the Lord. While relationships one with another are important, they are not paramount. The most important relationship for any believer is that with the Lord. He is the final arbitrator in every decision — He must come first!
Dependance on the Lord is a general principle that affects both the weak and the strong. My life and my death are not determined by myself or solely for my own benefit. Self-centredness is not the mark of a true Christian. His life affects more than himself. Isolation is impossible. Because of our relationship to the Lord, we must take into account our relationship with one another. A life of isolation is contrary to God's plan for a member of the church which is His body. What we do and how we live affects others.
4. Acknowledged Possession, v8,9. "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." The fact of divine possession cannot be denied and should therefore be heartily acknowledged in the practicalities of life's decisions.
Loyal to the Lord, v8. " We live unto the Lord ... we die unto the Lord." Nothing in either life or death affects our relationship to the Lord, in both "we are the Lord's." That permanent relationship ought to issue forth in practical responsibility in life, as we demonstrate our loyalty to the Lord. The foundation of Paul's argument is the Lord's acknowledged possession of us, "we are the Lord's." Here is another of Paul's guiding principles in the matter of making decisions — we belong to the Lord. Since we belong to the Lord, we cannot take a decision that ignores others who similarly belong to the Him. Indeed, if I belong to Him, I have no right to take decisions as if I am sovereign of my own destiny. These verses develop more fully the doctrine of the Lordship of Christ. The sphere of His Lordship is in both life and death. We are dependant upon the Lord- in life and He determines the death of His children.
The Basis and sphere of Lordship, v9. "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living." Within the scope of a few words in this verse, the apostle announces a very significant truth. The foundation and fullness of the teaching of the whole chapter are found in verse nine. It is a hinge that opens the door to a storehouse of divine truth about the Lord, an understanding of which will thrill our souls. The apostle succinctly presents to our hearts the following four foundational truths.
The record of the death and resurrection is established. "Christ both died, and rose, and revived." He states this cardinal tenet of Christianity clearly and brooks no challenge. In this epistle the death and resurrection of Christ are shown to be the foundation of our salvation, chlO, Justification, ch5, Sanctification, ch6, and Glorification, ch8. All four aspects are gathered together in the phrase "Lord both of the dead and living."
The reason for the death and resurrection is enunciated. "For to this end ..." Paul wants the believers in Rome to know that the reason for the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus was that He might be given the place of supremacy and rule as Lord in the lives of those who had hitherto ignored Him. The dominion of sin in their lives has ended.
His rank in death and resurrection is enrolled. "That He might be Lord ..." God intended that He alone should be enrolled as Lord. The dignity and delight of this title, so often used by Paul, is often lost in the common currency of religious thinking. If we allow the impact of these words to reach our hearts, there will be a change in our attitude to the Saviour — He is Lord of all! In our lives, everything is under His sovereign control. Whether we eat meat or refrain from eating meat, we are the Lord's and neither life nor death can relieve us of the responsibility of submission to Him as Lord. Therefore, His position and claim as Lord of all, is neither enhanced nor diminished by my eating or refraining. What a death-blow to the legalism of dusty regulations and divisive rules. We have one Lord — let us recognize Him and live for His glory.
The realm entrusted in His death and resurrection. "Both of the dead and living ..." This is as wide as God would have it. Absolute control is seen in the expression "that He might be Lord," but here we have universal control over all who own Him as Lord. Those who have died still remain within the realm of His Lordship, and those who are alive, wherever found, are under His control. Here the Lord is presented as the One Who "died and rose and revived. At the Rapture, He will raise from the dead all who owned Him as Lord. Similarly, He will change by the same divine power all those subjects of His that are still alive. As Lord supreme over life and death He will rapture both into His presence in victory over sin and Satan. The final blessedness in relation to the body of the saint will be a demonstration of His supremacy in Lordship. Until then, let us live by these two great principles — He is Lord both of the dead and the living, and we are His.
I was born on 31st July 1954 and born again on 15th March 1985. I was known as the black sheep of the family and gave my dear mother many a heartache. Without spending long rehearsing my sinful youth, sufficient to say that when I was married in 1978, I had £30.00, a car, no house and a wife.
The girl I married was from a sheltered upbringing, knowing the message of the gospel and I was taking her away from all that. We spent a few days honeymoon in Portrush and upon returning the problem was where to live, because we had not got a house. We thought that I should return to my mum and my wife, Adela, would go to her grandparents until we got something sorted out. We arrived at her grandparents and when they listened to our proposal, they invited us both to live with them. We agreed and here I was to see a lot of things I never saw before. They gave thanks for their food, read the Bible, prayed and went to meetings. I thought they were really good living people. Then I was asked to go to meetings, but refused because I enjoyed my sin too much.
We soon got our own home, but due to the very high rent we were found, after three years, living next door to the grandparents. By this time we had a son and a daughter. Adela was disturbed about the coming of the Lord and on the invitation of a sister in Christ, began to attend gospel meetings conducted by Mr. S. Ferguson and Mr. N. Turkington. One evening she made a profession but it only lasted three days and she was back at the old habits. She decided to return to the tent meetings one evening to tell the preachers she was not saved after all. She asked me to accompany her for support and I readily agreed saying that if there was any difficulty I would sort out these preachers.
In that meeting I learned that I was a sinner and that Christ died for me and through faith in the Lord Jesus I would be saved. After a few months of secretly searching for salvation I found the Saviour through Isa.1.18, in the home of the late Cecil Porter. Three days later Adela was truly saved and we were baptised in Dromore Baptist Church on 22 September 1985. I had a great desire to read the Bible and in the midst of my lack of knowledge the Lord said to me, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." I was searching for truth but was leaning on various props, including my best friend Cecil. It was a great shock when after reading Jer.33.3, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not", he dropped dead in my presence.
In Banbridge Baptist Church we had studied Israel's journey from Egypt to Canaan and I was exercised to search out the real gathering centre. I began to visit various fellowships of professing believers and eventually found myself in a conference of believers in Co. Monaghan. The theme of that conference was gathering unto the Lord alone. The next Lord's day morning I was in Waringstown Gospel Hall. Eventually I was received to the fellowship of that assembly in 1989.
I began to get involved in open air preaching and tract distribution and my desire was to serve the Lord. I was introduced to missionary brethren who impressed me greatly. To me they were people who were really doing something for God with their lives. My cry to God was that of the Psalmist, "cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee." Also Isa.42.6 was an arrow from God to me, "I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles." I began to pray, "Lord where wilt Thou that I serve Thee?"
One Lord's day morning leaving the hall, I picked up a copy of a missionary magazine and as I read it, was struck with the need for missionaries in Tanzania and with the fact that the days of pioneer work were not over. Adela and I began to pray very earnestly about this and eventually wrote to Ron Cunningham. We were challenged by his reply and wondered if God would really call the like of us to serve Him. We continued to pray and one day met a brother who asked for our address. Adela and I asked why he wanted our address and he replied he wanted to send us a letter with one word in it. We asked what the word was and he answered "Tanzania". We had not told anyone at home about our exercise and we were completely flabbergasted. His word gave us confirmation of our exercise and we approached the brethren in Waringstown in relation to commendation. They were very happy to commend us to Tanzania and on 6th April 1992 we received our permit and arrived on 9th August 1992. We give God the glory for all the great things He has done since we arrived here and can testify, "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it."
There is still a great need for missionaries in Tanzania and we ask the question, "who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD?" 1Chron.29.5.
Are our moral standards being lowered? The sad cases of moral shipwreck we hear of among us from time to time, and the way these are dealt with, and the delinquents sometimes restored not only to a premature fellowship, but even to public ministry, seems to indicate some such tendency. The case of Peter may be alleged, but his fall was not one the world would take note of like immorality or financial dishonesty, and we may question how far it was even generally known.
1Tim.3.2,10 and Tit.1.6,7, teach that blamelessness is laid down as an indispensable condition for oversight or deacon work (i.e., ministry). In the former passage, vs1-7 deal with oversight (here the word is anepileptos), and 8-13 with public ministry (here the word is anenkletos — a stronger word, which however is applied to overseers in Tit.1.6,7). This latter word, found also in Col.1.22; 1Cor.1.8; 1Tim.5.7 and 6.14, denotes not only not accused but inaccusable, not only in the present, but in the past. The public minister of the Word must be a man as we say "without a past" — he must never in his Christian life have been the subject of public accusations. And yet we have known men guilty of fraudulent bankruptcy or misappropriation of funds or even of gross immorality, not only pressing back into public ministry, but no question being raised as to their fitness. But before any man is accepted for public ministry he should be tested. "Let them (i.e., the deacons) first be proved and then let them minister, being found blameless" (anenkletos) (see v10).
We remember the case of one who had disappeared from his field abroad under the darkest suspicions, but he blossomed out again ere long, under different auspices, as a much-advertised leader, and later came back and sought to fraternise with his former friends. When faced by one of them with the accusations, and asked whether they had been put right, he would only repeat, Oh, you are talking of ancient history! but with no visible trace of past confession or present sense of humiliation.
How true are the words of another! "Let us not suppose that position or even truth will of itself keep a soul. Nothing but the Spirit of God can; and He never will, where there is not self-judgment and dependence."
They're everywhere, a constant and embarrassing reminder of the perverse and errant nature of humanity. Warnings on food packaging, warnings on medicines, warnings on the roads, warnings in shopping malls. It would be impossible to spend a day without seeing a warning of some kind — yet statistics prove that most of these warnings go unheeded. Smokers carelessly disregard the health warning on their packets of cigarettes, drivers fail to reduce their speed and adjust their driving to suit the conditions, travellers become oblivious to the warnings regarding pickpockets and thieves. How many warnings were ignored by the Titanic on that fateful night in April 1912 when she struck an iceberg and two thirds of the passengers perished in the icy waters of the North Atlantic?
God's Word is full of warnings, as He graciously attempts to alert you to the danger of continuing as you are. There is danger ahead — beware and obtain the salvation God so kindly offers you in Christ. Satan will constantly try to allay your fears and assure you that all is well; there is no need for alarm or concern. Many deceivers will try to delude you into thinking there is no danger, pursue the path you are presently on, do the best you can and everything will turn out fine.
The Word of God however sounds its solemn warnings which you neglect at your own peril and to your eternal detriment and loss. It reminds you of the overwhelming need of God's salvation and the urgency of obtaining it now. Let me list some of the many warnings:
"... it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," Heb.9.27.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," Rom.6.23.
"Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with His stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee," Job 36.18.
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation," Heb.2.3.
"He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him," Jn.3.36.
There are many individuals who are beacons of warning. In Lk.12 we read of a wealthy and prosperous farmer who was only interested in this life and was forgetting eternity and while he was thinking of the 'many years,' God said, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee": In Lk.16 a man paid no heed to the Scriptures which were in his father's house, died and found himself in hell. In Lk.17 attention is drawn to Lot's wife, who delayed as she fled to the place of refuge and the judgment of God fell upon her.
Dear friend unsaved, I urge you to ponder these warnings seriously. Failure to do so will prove most costly, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy," Prov.29.1.
Thankfully, God does not merely warn of coming judgment, but clearly tells of a way of escape. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation (judgment); but is passed from death unto life," Jn.5.24.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus ..." Rom.8.1. Christ bore the judgment, He 'suffered for sins,' 1Pet.3.18, He paid the full penalty and as a consequence, eternal peace can be enjoyed by the soul who trusts Him.
Be like Noah, who, having been 'Warned of God' made preparation to escape the otherwise inevitable judgment, Heb.11.7.