The Rich Man and Lazarus

Scripture: Luke 16:19-31
What is the true meaning of the parable of "The Rich Man and Lazarus"? The real message is not about what happens when people die, but the state of those who despise the blessings of God.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Welcome once again friends to Here We Stand. This is a special series of meetings where we are going to be exploring some of the foundational teachings of Christianity that have been slowly eroding and in some respects totally lost sight of or been confused. Many of these are also -- well, I hope all of them are, the foundational teachings or some of the unique teachings found in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. And I’m inviting people to base their conclusions on what does the Bible say.

Now, our message tonight is called the Rich Man in Lazarus and it’s based on a parable that is only found one time in the Bible. If you’d like to turn in your Bibles to this parable, it’s in the Gospel of Luke. Luke Chapter 16 and it begins with verse 19. ‘There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and he faired or feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus full of sores who was laid at his gate desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

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 and being in torments in Hades he lifted up his eyes and he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and he said Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that those that want to pass from here to you cannot nor can those pass to us from there.’ And then he said, ‘I beg you therefore my Father that you would send him to my Father’s house for I’ve got five brethren that he might testify to them lest they also come to this place of torment. And Abraham said to Him they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. And he said, no, Father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead they’ll repent. But he said to Him, if they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, the one should rise from the dead.’

Now that’s the parable. Many people have read this parable and it is one of the examples of why people believe or misunderstand the subject of hell. Now, let me just tell you very quickly, one of the unique teachings of the Seventh Day Adventist movement is our understanding of the punishment of the wicked and the rewards connected with that. Typical among many Christian churches is the belief that if you’re good, you die, you go right to heaven; if you’re bad, you die, you go where? [Hell.] Yeah, you go to that place, sometimes we’re not sure if we can say the word hell because in some context it sounds like cursing, but it is a Biblical word. And there you will burn and you’ll burn forever and ever. And when people begin to learn what the Bible really says about this subject they often run back to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Now, I wanted to start out by sharing with you what this does not mean and then I’m going to talk to you and tell you about what it does mean. First of all, it is a parable, it’s in a series of parables that Jesus is using to send a very specific message. One way that we know it’s a parable; just ask yourself some simple questions. It says that the rich man was in torment and he was asking that his tongue could be cooled with a drop of water. Would a drop of water really cool you in hell, how much good would that do? I mean if you’ve got a burning radiator, how much good is one drop of water?

Secondly, it says that Lazarus died and he is carried to Abraham’s bosom. Do we really believe that every good person that dies is whisked by the angels to a holding place somewhere on the bosom of Abraham? Is that literal or is that obviously a figure?

Furthermore, do we believe that the people in Heaven and hell are going to be able to dialogue through eternity? What kind of horrific picture would that be if the saved are able to look off as Abraham did and see the lost blistering in torment. Why did Jesus tell this parable?

Well, first of all, let’s explain the word that’s used there for hell. It’s from a Greek word, Hades, and it comes from Greek mythology. Now, when I was a young man, I went to public school and among the 14 schools I went to, at one time part of our class was we participated in a play so we could remember Greek mythology and we were acting out the Greek Gods and it fell upon me to play the part of Pluto, the God of Darkness. And he was in charge of a place called Hades. You’ve heard the expression the hounds of hell. There’s all these misconceptions about the subject of hell that have come from Greek mythology and medieval teachings that have twisted the truth on this subject. So when Jesus is beginning to share this message with the Jewish people, this parable, as soon as he says the word Hades the listeners there understood he was speaking in metaphors.

For instance, in our culture today suppose that I should say look, I want to tell you a story. One day Alice was in Wonderland. Now right away, how many of you would know that this is not a literal story? Because in English literature we all know the story of Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, it’s a fairytale. So we never have taken it literally. They understood, they were acquainted with Greet mythology, they knew what he was saying. You know, so many people have spent so much time trying to explain what this doesn’t mean they forget what it really does mean. Let me tell you what it is talking about.

That rich man represented at the time, the Jewish nation. Today it represents the church, feasting on the bread of life. While around them the gentiles were starving for the crumbs of truth that fell from their tables. And yet it was the attitude of many in the church then as it is today we’re God’s chosen people, we’ve got the truth, let’s feast and on their way to church they would walk by this poor beggar who would have been satisfied with the crumbs that fell from their table and the only comfort he got was the dogs that came to lick their sores.

You remember one time the Bible tells the story about a gentile woman who came to Jesus and said please heal my daughter and He said it’s not appropriate to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs. And she said yes, but even the dogs get the crumbs. Very same words that were used. And so when they die, surprise of surprises, Lazarus is in Abraham’s bosom where every Jew wanted to be and the rich man he’s where he thought the Greek concept of punishment was going to Hades. And there’s this tremendous reversal of roles.

And so the rich man is saying, Father Abraham. The very fact he’s saying Father Abraham shows there’s a relationship, right; it’s a symbol of the Jewish nation.

Didn’t Jesus say over and over, many will come from the east and the west and sit down in the Kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the children of the Kingdom, the church members who aren’t sharing their faith, they’re in outer darkness where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth. People miss the real message, it’s a very sobering message. God has given us so many blessings in the truth. In America He’s given us so many material blessings and so much of the world is struggling and starving for the crumbs that fall from our table. And the Lord is warning us that He gives us the blessings whether they’re spiritual or tangible to share, Amen. That’s the message. He’s not telling His people in Heaven and hell are going to talk to each other.

And so, tonight we’re going to talk about the truth regarding the subject of hell. And again, there is so much I’ve got to share I can’t cover it all, but wouldn’t you know there’s even another website? There’s a website, you can’t miss this one; Matter of fact, if you Google it I think it’s on the first page; it’s very popular That website has lots and lots of scriptures and quotes and just theologians through history that know this truth from many different churches. And we’ll give you some of the evidence.

Well, you know, I like to incorporate some amazing facts when I do my presentations. That’s where we get the name Amazing Facts. If you go to California down in Barstow, California, you can still see the remnants of something that’s called a solar power tower. And what it is, is out there in that part of Southern California where the sun is very hot and it shines just about all year long, they built this -- it looks something like a lighthouse and they surrounded it with more than 1,800 mirrors that track the sun through the day and they reflect the light of the sun as it moves across the sky to this one point on the top of what looks like the lighthouse. And it ends up being the equivalent of 600 suns, because these are like dual mirrors, pointing at that one spot. And it superheats that one spot so much that it ends up creating steam and they use that steam to turn a generator and they produce electricity from the sun. It was a pilot program by PG&E. They are shutting this one down. They’re actually building a much bigger one now in Arizona and they’re looking at different methods for creating power from the sun and natural sources.

What a lot of people don’t know is the initial idea for this solar power tower goes back to before the time of Christ. There was a brilliant Greek engineer/inventor/scientist/ mathematician by the name of Archimedes. And one of the many stories you can read about Archimedes was from 312 B.C. The Romans came to the besieged Syracuse, the city of Syracuse. And they turned to Archimedes to develop these engines of war and for years they thought that it was just a myth, but he developed what they called Archimedes’ Death Ray. And finally, the historians sort of concluded that probably what it was, it’s probably a true story.

What they said happened is when the Roman ships came into Syracuse harbor, whenever they got within bow-shot he would aim this death ray at the Roman ships and they would burst into flames and be consumed. Of course it sounds a little bit like a myth until some people began to do some experiments and there have been three bona fide experiments. One of them by MIT students. The other one was actually on I think it’s a program called Myth Busters. And they believe that all these soldiers took their shields, they polished these blond shields, thousands of soldiers directed the sun all at one point and he had some way of guiding them to one point. The Roman ships were smeared with pitch, which is extremely flammable and if they attempted to come into the harbor when the sun was shining, they just burst into flames. And I’ve even got some pictures here of the experiments that they did and it shows where they did the experiments and they actually did burst into flames.

Now, our subject today is dealing with the subject of hell and the punishment of the wicked. The Bible does tell us in 2 Thessalonians that when the Lord comes the wicked are destroyed by the brightness of His coming. But that’s not hell.

Some people have falsely accused Seventh Day Adventist Christians of not believing in hell. We very much believe in what people call hell or the punishment of the wicked. There is a place where the wicked do burn. Where there’s confusion is when are they burning and what it is. A lot of mythology has come into the church over the years regarding this subject.

Well, I’m going to go to question number one in our study and I hope you’ve got your pencils handy because I think you’re going to see a lot of references and I want you to jot these down. We won’t be able to cover them all.

Question No. 1 - Do people die and go right to heaven or hell? What does it say? How many lost souls are burning or being punished in hell today? I believe what the Bible says. If you look in 2 Peter 2:9 it says, ‘The Lord knows how to deliver the Godly out of temptation and to reserve the unjust to the Day of Judgment to be punished.’ When are they punished? What did Peter say? The Day of Judgment. Has that happened yet? The great judgment day? No. That is still in the future.

And if you don’t believe Peter, listen to what Jesus says in John 12:48. ‘The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.’ When? The last day. One more time.

Question No. 2 - When exactly will sinners be cast into hellfire? Has it happened already? How many of you know in the Bible, if you go to Mark 13, you’ve got another parable Jesus told and these parables are there for teaching principles. And it’s the parable of the wheat and the tares. And it talks about this man who planted good wheat in his field and an enemy came and he sowed weeds. That’s what tares were and they were finally separated at the end and Jesus then explaining the parable and you can’t get mixed up if Jesus explains the parable. Amen. Sometimes we try to take these things literally. We get mixed up. Christ explains the parable and listen to what he says.

Matthew 13:40 - ‘As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world.’ When? Say it with me. The end of the world. The son of man shall send forth His angels and they will gather together, then which due iniquity and they shall cast them into a furnace of fire. Does the Bible teach hell fire? Yes. Are people burning in hell fire now? No.

There are very few subjects in which the Christian church is more mixed up than this subject. So many people have got this idea that way down yonder is this cavernous place called hell. It’s in the, you know, and some of the ancients they could see steam coming out of the ground where there were geysers and every now and then a volcano would erupt, not far from Rome in fact, and the idea that they knew molten was down inside the earth somewhere and they said that’s coming up from the devil. And not only did they have these fables about hell being down there somewhere, I mean you know, the idea is if you’re good you good you go that direction, if you’re bad you go that direction, right. But their idea about the devil himself that he’s in charge of hell. So many misconceptions.

I remember one day I was checking out, I’m almost embarrassed to tell you, I was checking out in the grocery store and you know they got the supermarket tabloids that are there lined up and I read the headlines, I’m sorry. Sometimes you get bored and it’s entertaining. And I’ll never forget, I saw one once. If you buy those magazines don’t tell anybody because your perceived IQ goes down 50 percent if you tell people that, but somebody’s buying those magazines because they sell a lot of them. And one day I read this headline and it said ‘Russian oil drillers go too deep, break into hell, demons escape.’ Something like that. And they got all these ideas that it’s, you know, down there.

Question No. 3 - Where are sinners who have died now? The lost who have died, where are they now? This is a big question. John 5:28, 29, ‘The hour is coming in which all that are in their graves --’ where are they, in their graves. By the way, these are the words of Jesus. If you had a red-letter edition Bible I’d have them in red. Jesus said they’re in their graves. He said it is coming. Does he say it happened yet? Future tense. They will hear His voice.

Job 21:30, 32, ‘The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction, yet he will be brought to the grave and remain in the tomb.’ They’re being held there, they are reserved; they are not burning in hell now. I think this is so important for you to understand. Do you know how many people have been nearly driven insane? I’m sure some have been driving insane by the idea that some of their loved ones that died in a lost condition went right down to this place of torment.

And maybe I should back up and refresh your memory on what the traditional view is among many Christians regarding hell. My father was a Baptist. First time I was baptized it was the Baptists that baptized me and I know of what I speak. The idea was that if you die you go down to hell and what hell is, it is a place of burning sulfur and brimstone where you burn there in bodily form and soul forever and ever and ever and some of the ancient preachers would wax very eloquence in describing the miseries of hell. And they’d talk about folks who were swimming through the molten fire, blistering and screeching in agony and they would swim to the surface and manage to get their heads just above the bubbling molten brimstone and they’d call out Lord, how long, and he’d say you’ve only just begun. And a million years later they’d come back up and ask again. He’d say, you’ve only just begun. Terrible, terrible images. And now picture that and then you have someone you love who dies in apparently a lost condition. That could really be disturbing. It should be comforting to people to know, saved or lost, they’re asleep right now. That’s what the Bible teaches.

Question No. 4 - What is the end result of sin? Now this plays -- these two subjects on death and the punishment of the wicked go hand-in-hand. They talked about death last night.

James 1:15, ‘Sin when it is finished it brings forth --’ what? Death. The result of sin is death yet some people say that the lost go to hell and they burn through ceaseless ages. Think about how long that is. A zillion years theoretically still screaming in agony, you just began. Can you imagine that? It’s mind boggling when you really think about it. It just should make you shudder.

You know, I get excited about this subject almost more than anything else I’m going to be presenting, except for tomorrow night’s subject, so you want to come back. Because I was not raised a Christian, I did go to some Christian schools and when I heard these things taught in those schools I thought to myself, God is cruel. God is sadistic. I’m embarrassed to tell you that, I don’t want to be disrespectful or blasphemous, but these are thoughts that I had. I thought how can that be just to take these creatures that are all born with this natural propensity to sin.

Let me see your hands. Anybody here you don’t have a natural propensity to sin? Okay. That’s what the Bible says too. We’re all desperately wicked. Man, Job says we are prone to get into trouble like sparks go up. It’s just in our nature so we’re born with this natural propensity to sin and then God is going to take these creatures who, for whatever reason, do not capitalize on His Grace and then torture them through eternity. And I thought to myself He’s mean, He’s cruel, He’s a sadist, I hated God.

And when I finally got that Bible up in the cave and I started reading I was getting a whole different picture going through the Bible than what I was hearing pastors say. And it was liberating to me to find out God is love. That it is a beautiful truth.

The reason I’m so excited about this subject is because it is defamation to the character of God to teach this false doctrine. And a lot of churches and pastors through history have used it to manipulate people through fear instead of the motive that Jesus used, which was love. It is a false teaching that is used to abuse people.

John 3:16, there are two choices Jesus said, ‘That whosoever believes in Him should not perish --’ One of your options is what? Perish. ‘-- but have everlasting life.’ He didn’t say you can chose between everlasting life and the fire or everlasting life in heaven did he? You got everlasting life or perish. And in the Garden of Eden, what did God say to Adam and Eve? ‘You will die if you disobey.’

Romans 6:23, ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.’ We’ve got two choices friends. Moses, he said ‘I said before you this day life and good and blessings or death and evil and cursings.’ It’s not eternal life in the fire, eternal life in heaven. And you have all heard people make fun of even the teaching of hell. Some people say, you know, I’ve got two choices; I can go to heaven sit on a harp and -- sit on a cloud, sorry, that would hurt. I can go to heaven, sit on a cloud and play a harp and, you know, be this chubby little fat naked baby and the people got these mixed up -- or you can go party in hell. And they almost make hell sound like it’s where are the wicked people are going to be, oh, it’s going to be fun. You’ve heard these cartoon analogies being made. And people don’t understand you’ve got two choices, life and death. But everybody does suffer for their sins that are not forgiven and covered by Jesus. There is punishment; we’ll get to that in a minute. That’s why God said to Adam and Eve, if they disobey that they would die and furthermore they were evicted from the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:22, God said, ‘Lest man puts out his hand and takes from the tree of life and eat and --’ does what, ‘-- lives forever.’ Now I’ll tell you why this is so important to understand. When Jesus died on the cross, would you agree with me that he died for the sins of the world and he took the penalty for the sin. Of every sin you’ve ever committed, he took that penalty. How many agree with that? All right.

If the teaching of everlasting hellfire is true, how long did Jesus stay on the cross? Seven hours on the cross, two nights in the tomb and he rose. If the penalty for sin is everlasting torment in sulfur and brimstone, how could Jesus say that he took everlasting punishment. No, the penalty for sin is death. Did he die? He suffered and he died and that’s going to be the reward of the lost. They will suffer for their sins and then they’ll die.

Now let’s get to some other questions. I’ve got so much to cover.

Question No. 5 - What will happen to the wicked in hellfire? Answer is Psalm 37:10, get your pencil, I’ve got so many scriptures. ‘For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be.’ What’s going to happen to the wicked? It doesn’t say either going to change directions or they’re going to metamorphous or they’re going to be in a new body or it says, they’ll not be anymore. The wicked will perish, into smoke they will consume away. Look at the words God is using regarding the wicked. Perish, consume, not be anymore, it’s so clear.

Malachi 4:1, 3; ‘The day comes that will burn as an oven--’ talking about that great judgment day Jesus spoke of, ‘-- and all that do wickedly.’ How many of the wicked? This is the universal punishment of the wicked. ‘All that do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day it comes will burn them up and you will tread down the wicked for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet.’ The wicked are going to be destroyed. They’re going to be burnt up; they’re going to be ashes. They’re not going to exist anymore.

You know, some of you know the story of Pompeii. I have been to the ancient city of Pompeii. It’s right there near the base of Mt. Vesuvius. It’s interesting, I was just chatting with someone tonight and talking about through history you can see a number of cities that have been destroyed for their wickedness. Sodom and Gomorrah, we’ll talk about in a minute. You’ve got, what did I say last night, Port Royale, was called the wickedest city in the world. You’ve got Sodom and Gomorrah, you’ve got Pompeii, the Lisbon earthquake that took place, San Francisco earthquake. People said it was one of the wickedest cities, it was like a big bordello back when the earthquake hit. They’re about ready for another one aren’t they? Sorry. I’m going to get letters on that. I’m from California, I take it back, I’m sorry. They sort of have become a city that seems to embrace a lot of very immortal views. Mt. Vesuvius exploded. The people in Pompeii were covered with ash and they were destroyed.

A little amazing fact I’ll share with you. The Roman soldiers that the legion of solders that led out in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple were later vacationing in Pompeii when the mountain blew up and many of them were killed because they were told to maintain their posts.

Revelation 21:8, ‘The fearful and the unbelieving and the abominable and the murders and the whoremongers and the sorcerers and the idolaters and all liars will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second --‘ what, ‘-- death.

Is there hellfire, yes. Are the wicked going to burn in hell, yes, but it says they’re consumed. They’re burnt up, they’ll not be, it is a death. It’s not just the first death that everybody dies; this is the second death from which there is no resurrection.

I heard a pastor say one time if you’re only born once you’re going to die twice. Everybody’s born once, right? But if you’re born twice, you only die once. Not just the natural birth, you need the spiritual birth, too.

Question No. 6 - Where and how will hellfire be kindled? Answer is Revelation 20:9; at the end of the world it’s talking about when Satan gathers all the wicked to assault the city of God, the New Jerusalem, and ‘They go upon the breadth of the earth and they encompass, they surround the camp of the Saints, the beloved city and fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours them.’ So to start with the first part, is hell down under the earth somewhere or is that lake of fire going to be on the earth? God reigns fire down out of heaven upon the earth. Same way it happened back in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Proverbs 11:31, ‘The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked in the sinner.’ Hell is not another solar system, hell is going to burn in Lancing, Michigan, among other places, all over the planet. The Lord is going to baptize the world in fire. 2 Peter 3 tells that.

See, the bible says unless you’re born of the water and of the fire you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You must be born of the spirit and born of the water or you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s talking about being baptized in the spirit, being baptized in water baptism. The world was baptized in water in days of Noah. It will be baptized in fire when Jesus comes again and then he makes a new heaven and a new earth.

When God asked the devil in the Book of Job where did you come from, he said I came from the earth walking to and fro on it, not underneath the ground. He doesn’t have a headquarters down in Carlsbad Caverns somewhere.

Question No. 7 - How big and hot will hellfire be? The answer, I just was actually quoting this a second ago. 2 Peter 3:10, ‘The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in which the heavens --‘ and that’s speaking about the atmosphere, ‘-- the heavens will pass away with a great noise --’ by the way, when the Lord comes as a thief don’t forget that there’s a great explosion, ‘-- and the elements will melt with fervent heat and the earth also and the works that are in it shall be burned up.’ Everything wicked, all the wicked works in the world, it’s going to be burnt up.

I remember this last year we had a very big fire in Northern California and I was driving around in the hills up there by myself in a pickup truck and I nearly got cutoff by this fire. It looked like a nuclear bomb had been dropped in the Mendocino forest. It was called the Hunter Fire. Thousands and thousands of acres and it’s pretty intimidating. You get right up where I could look and see the forest fire right there in front of me. And it scares you a little bit and puts a fear in you. This whole world is going to be consumed. God is going to use that fire to purify.

Revelation 20:14, 15, it ultimately says ‘Death and Hades or hell were cast into the lake of fire.’ This is the second death. Not only are the wicked going to be burnt up in hell, hell is going to hell, too. According to what the Bible says, hell, that’s the word He uses in the King James, is cast into the lake of fire. That means the grave. And anyone who has not found written in the Book of Life is cast into the lake of fire.

Question No. 8 - How long will the wicked suffer in the fire? Now this is important because so many people have this idea of the everlasting punishment. Let’s look at some verses here.

Revelation 22:12, Jesus said, ‘Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me to give to every man according as his work shall be.’ Now do different people have different works? Are there varying rewards for the righteous? Yes, among the saved, Christ said that, you know, there’s going to be varying rewards. Some are going to sit on 12 thrones around His Kingdom; it doesn’t mean -- some people say I’m going to be in the third heaven, you’re going to be in the seventh heaven, that’s not taught in the Bible. And God’s not going to have, you know, these kind of elevators in heaven, but there are varying degrees of rewards and people may have varying numbers of stars in their crown. You’ve heard the song, there are varying degrees of punishment, but if everybody burns forever and ever, then it would seem that everybody gets the same punishment. And that would hypothetically mean that Cain, who lived 6,000 years ago and killed his brother, one person that we know of he killed. If he died and he went right to hell where he’s been burning for the last 6,000 years he’s been burning 6,000 years longer than Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler. That’s not very fair.

Matthew 16:27; says, ‘He’ll reward every man according to his works.’

Again, in Luke 12:47; ‘The servant which knew his Lord’s will, and neither did according to His will, will be beaten with many stripes.’ In other words, stripes, when someone got whipped it left a stripe on their back and that was the word they used for whipping or flogging, that’s how they’d punish people. Those who knew God’s will and did not do it, they’ll be punished more severely than those who did not know. That’s the other verse. ‘He did that did not know and he commits things worthy of stripes, he is beaten with few stripes.’

So aren’t you hearing the Lord say there are varying degrees of punishment? If everyone’s being rewarded according to the works and everyone’s got different works. I mean suppose that some poor teenager, they’ve reached the age of accountability, they squandered their life, they die in some lost condition to punish them the same way, the same degree as Adolf Hitler; there’s no justice in that. And the Bible says that God is just.

Question No. 9 - Is hell going to burn forever? Will the fire eventually go out?

Jude 7, there’s only one chapter in Jude. ‘Even as Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.’ Now here it’s telling us in Jude 7 Sodom and Gomorrah were burnt with eternal fire. What does that mean? Well, we better go back in the Bible, take a fresh look at Sodom and Gomorrah and what happened there to understand it. You can read in Genesis 13:13 that the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord. It was a wicked, sinful city. God told Abraham He was going to judge the city; He couldn’t even wait until they expired naturally. They were going to get early judgment because it was such an abomination. You remember that the angels that came to deliver Lot and his family, the people of the city essentially tried to rape the angels.

And finally, the angels told Lot when he was lingering trying to get his children out of the city they said escape -- this is Genesis 19:17, ‘Escape for your life, look not behind you, escape to the mountain lest you be consumed.’ What does consumed mean? Consumed means to be devoured. What does consume and devoured mean? Cook Mexican food, invite me over, I’ll demonstrate. It means all gone.

Genesis 19:17, ‘Escape for your life, lest you be consumed.’ And then the Bible says in verse 24, ‘Then the Lord reigned brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord out of heaven.

Now, I just saw a program on I think the History Channel. Two channels I sometimes watch are History and Discover Channel and they were talking about the archeological discoveries of the cities. Did any of you see that; do you know what I’m talking about, Sodom and Gomorrah. They go right there, they’ve excavated and they can see that they all died suddenly. I’ve got a friend who was down there at that site and he came back, he said, furthermore in the piles of ash that have covered these sites, there are little balls of sulfur and you can take -- I’ve got one, I wish I’d brought it with me, you take these sulfur balls, they evidentially were imbedded into the ground and some of them didn’t burn completely up and you can set them on fire. I’ve demonstrated it before. It just smells like rotten eggs so I don’t do that anymore. But it does. But it’s the site, they’re there.

Now the question is, the Bible says Sodom and Gomorrah were burnt with eternal fire. We just read that. Are they still burning today? Were the results of the fire eternal? Have there been any cities built where Sodom and Gomorrah is; have they been rebuilt? There’s nothing. It is desolate down there. They were burnt with eternal fire.

Psalm 37:10, ‘For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be. The wicked shall perish.’ Verse 20, ‘The enemies of the Lord shall consume into smoke, they’ll consume away.’ I think I already shared this one with you.

Isaiah 47:14, ‘Behold there will be stubble. The fire will burn them. They will not deliver themselves from the power of the flame. They’ll not be a coal to warm it, nor fire to sit before.’ Does it burn forever or is it saying that it finally goes out? The fire finally goes out.

What does it say about Sodom? Genesis 19:28, ‘Abraham looked towards Sodom after it was judged by the Lord and lo the smoke of the country went up like the smoke of a furnace.’ Now, don’t forget this verse. Any of you ever seen fire, a big fire, and the smoke just goes up out of sight forever and ever? Do you hear me? I’ve seen it. I’ve seen some forest fires on a clear day where it looked like the smoke was just ascending up totally out of sight as far as you could see. Don’t forget that. Some people have taken some of these verses, they take a few verses out of context and they twist the bulk of evidence to try and make it say something else.

What about those verses, for instance in Revelation 14:11? It says, ‘The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever.’ Well, we just talked about that. It’s just saying that when the wicked are destroyed, their smoke ascends up out of site. Are we going to sit in the city of God because the Bible says the New Jerusalem comes down to what, earth? Are we going to be sitting there on the walls eating popcorn watching the wicked burn, watching the smoke ascend up.

What does it mean forever and ever? These verses have been misunderstood. Now, you’ve got to read a verse in its context, otherwise you can twist it.

Jonah 2:6, for instance, how many of you know the story of Jonah swallowed by this sea monster? He’s in the belly of this great fish three days and three nights, right? In Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish it records ‘The earth with her bars was about me forever.’

Now I expect -- have you ever thought about what it must have been like to be Jonah? You’re in the digestive system of this sea monster down at the bottom of the mountains and it occurred to me one day that if Jonah was still alive in there, that sea monster could have been dining on other things before he swallowed Jonah. There could other critters in there squirming and spooking around. And I’ve seen some of these deep sea programs, I’ve gone diving at night where some of these sea creatures have bioluminescence and they can flash. Be in there with the jellyfish and shrimp, squid. Do you think it felt like he was in Hades? Do you think it felt like forever; three days and three nights of that? But was it -- is he still there, no. But he used the word forever. Matter of fact you can find many, many times in the Bible when they’ve used the very same phrase forever and it describes something that did have an end.

For example, Exodus 21:6, speaking of a servant who committed his life to his master, he’d go through this ritual and it said he will serve Him forever. Well, what did that mean, even in heaven or until he died? It meant he’d serve until he died. When Hannah brought Samuel to the temple and dedicated her son to the Lord’s service, he’ll remain there at the temple forever. Question, is Samuel still there today? No, it meant for the rest of his life until he died.

And again, 1 Samuel 1:28, ‘As long as he lives.’ How long would Samuel be there, how long was that forever, as long as he lived. The word forever in Greek it comes from the word eon. Have you ever heard someone say I haven’t seen them in eons? Well, it means forever. Like it had been forever. It’s often used that way and you don’t really mean a billion years from now. And yet people have taken that and applied it to the teaching of the punishment of the wicked and they’ve turned God into a tyrant and a sadist from twisting the scriptures.

Forever and ever is a biblical expression which means until the end of the age. It’s not necessarily an infinite unending length of time. Oh, by the way, that’s a quote from a commentary of a Christian, not a member of my church, but this next picture will give you some names and I forget who said it.

How many of you know Martin Luther? Father of the Protestant reformation. He believed this way. Tyndale believed this way, who translated the Bible. John Stott, who’s considered the father in England of the evangelical movement in the world. He’s about 80 years old this year. Good Christian man. He believes what I’m teaching. This is not a doctrine that is owned by the Seventh Day Adventist. All through history many Christians have known the truth on this subject that the wicked will ultimately be destroyed in the fires of hell, they don’t burn there forever and ever and ever. Say Amen. Amen. Matter of fact, Donald Barnhouse on his commentary talking about Seventh Day Adventist, he said we cannot fault Seventh Day Adventist for believing this because after all many of the founders of the church believe this way as well.

Question No. 10 - What will be left when the fire goes out? Does it continue to burn? Answer, Malachi 4:3, it says, ‘They’ll tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this says the Lord of hosts.’

In other words, when the redeemed go forth from the New Jerusalem after God’s created this new heavens and this new earth, there’s grass growing on the ground and under the grass is the wicked. The wicked who oppressed and persecuted the Christians will ultimately be ashes under the soles of our feet. And they’re not going to be screaming ouch and that hurts as you walk around. They’re not conscious.

Isaiah 47:14, ‘There will not be a coal to warm it, nor fire to sit before us.’ Speaking of the punishment of the wicked they’ll be burnt up it goes out.

2 Peter 2:6, this is another verse on Sodom and Gomorrah, ‘Turning Sodom and Gomorrah into --‘ what, ‘-- ashes, condemn them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that afterward live ungodly.’ So if we’re wondering what is going to happen to the wicked, Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as an example of what’s going to happen to the wicked.

So we can understand this let me talk to you for a minute. A lot of people know what I’m telling you. A lot of Christians in other churches know these things. They recognize it. A lot of minsters recognize it. I was driving across Texas one time and I came across a car that was disabled out in the middle of a long stretch of country. It was a father and mother and two girls. I stopped to offer them help, I used to do mechanic work. Turned out that their engine stopped because their battery was completely dead, not even enough to fire the sparkplugs. I still remember it was Christmas Eve. Nowhere to go. Our home wasn’t too far away, invited this couple to stay with us, we’ll see if we can get it fixed. I can check it out. Towed them. It was kind of pathetic because I had a Mazda GLC and I’m towing this big old Texas boat, whatever it was, with my little Mazda. Towed them up to the house and we worked on the car, pulled out the alternator, found out what the problem was but couldn’t fix it right away so they spent the night. And he said, Brother Doug, I’m a Christian, I’m a pastor, I’m a Baptist pastor. And I said praise the Lord, I’m a Christian, and we began to talk about some of the differences.

And in our time together studying this subject came up and I said, Brother so-and-so. I said, I know what Baptists believe, as I said my dad was a Baptist and I said, how can you believe that the wicked are going to be burning through all eternity? I said, what about these verses that say that they’re devoured, they’re consumed, they perish, they will not be, it’s the second death, they are destroyed? And he got real quiet and he looked down, he said, you know, Pastor Doug, I’ve seen all these verses and it’s kind of been troubling to me, but he said if I told my members that they wouldn’t come to church. That’s exactly what he said. I said, Brother, are they coming because they’re afraid? I mean, fear is not all bad and the bible does say some things that should sober us up. I think if a person is on the way to destruction they should not be at peace. I hope you’re afraid.

You ever read the book ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ there is a part of the Christian message is to get up and flee from the wrath to come. We need to flee to that city of refuge. But you’re running from what you’re afraid of, you’re going to the one you love. And those who go to church every week and they’re afraid of God and they resent Him, that’s the wrong kind of fear. And yet so many people are being manipulated by religious leaders because of the misunderstandings on this teaching.

I hope you go to that website, I’m just covering the tip of the iceberg of scriptures that are there. This is volumes and volumes of information.

Question No. 11 - Will the wicked enter hell in bodily form and be destroyed both soul and body? Some people say, yeah, it’s true that the bodies are burnt up, but the souls burn forever and ever. Or people say only the souls are put in hell. What did Jesus say? Matthew 10:28, catch this. How many of you believe Jesus? If you forget everything I said tonight and you believe this one verse from Jesus, it is so plain it cannot be misunderstood. Jesus said, ‘Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the sole.’

A lot of Christians were persecuted through the ages. Jesus said; don’t be afraid of what they might do to your body. Stand for the truth. Amen. Say here I stand on the word of God, you might be persecuted, don’t be afraid if they even torture your body, but rather fear Him, meaning the Father, who is able to destroy soul and body in hell. Some people say, well, it’s just the body that burns up, but the soul burns through ever and ever and that’s not what it says. It says soul and body are burnt up, they’re destroyed.

If you were God and you’re trying to communicate to humans what the fate of the wicked is, what words could you use other than what I’ve already used? Burn up, destroyed, second death, perish, consume, into smoke, not even warm anymore, shall not be, I mean how much -- if you’re God and you’re trying to make it clearer than that, what more could you say?

Mark 9:47, 48, again, Jesus, ‘And if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out for it’s better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than having two eyes and be cast into hellfire --’ it says, you got your body intact; the wicked are thrown into hellfire with their bodies, ‘-- having two eyes be cast into hell where the worm does not die and the fires not quenched.

Now, I probably need to stop at this point and explain that. Wait, Pastor Doug, it says the fire is not quenched. The word that Jesus used there for hell where He says it’s better to go into heaven missing an eye or missing a hand or a foot than to go into to Gehenna. The word He used is Gehenna. Where the worm doesn’t die and the fire’s not quenched. He also uses that same terminology in Isaiah.

Outside of -- first of all, is anybody going to heaven without an eye, a foot or a hand? [No.] Okay, so right away what does that tell you about what Jesus is saying there? He’s illustrating something. Right outside of Jerusalem is a valley called the Valley of Hinnom. That’s the exact word that Jesus used there. Better to go into heaven missing an eye, hand or foot than go into Gehenna with your whole body.

It was the dump. It was a deep, very steep area; it wasn’t convenient for building because it was so steep. Outside Jerusalem, still there today, they filled in it over the years, it’s not quite as steep now and they used to throw all of the unclean animals that died and broken baskets and the pottery and the garbage, and it was full of dead carcasses and animals and things they didn’t want to bury. It was putrefying so they tried to keep it burning. It was full of worms and it was smoldering. It was the most objectionable place around the city, the city dump.

I remember I used to drive around Texas and every ten miles they have a city and every city had their own dump and people used to burn their trash and they’d go out and sometimes the trash wasn’t completely -- the fire wasn’t out and they’d dump their trash into the dump and they were always smoldering, always burning. You know what I’m talking about? Some of you who lived by these town dumps, yeah. That’s what Jesus is talking about. That’s the exact word he used. But what about the phrase where it says unquenchable?

Matthew 3:12, ‘He will thoroughly purge his floor and gather his wheat into the garner, but he’ll burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ People say, see, fire never goes out. All that means is that there’s nobody extinguishing. To quench means to extinguish. It’s a verb for that. No one is going to be extinguishing the fires of hell.

Jeremiah 17:27 is a good example of this. ‘If you will not hark and unto Me to hallow the Sabbath day and not to bear a burden even entering into the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day then I’m going to kindle a fire in the gates thereof and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and it shall not be quenched.’

Jeremiah foretold the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and part of one of their sins was they were being sloppy about Sabbath keeping. Did it happen, it did happen. Was Jerusalem destroyed, yes? Did they burn it, yes. He says it was going to be burnt with fire that was not quenchable. Did anybody quench it, no. It burned until it burnt it up. Is it still burning today? No. Is that clear friends? It just means there’s no firemen running around in the lake of fire extinguishing things. Nobody’s quenching it.

Matthew 5:30, again Jesus said, ‘It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.’ So it is the whole body cast in hell.

Ezekiel 18:20, ‘Not only does the body die, but it says, the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ Is that clear? Soul and body die.

Question No. 12 - Will the devil be in charge of hell? Ha. There’s so much mythology on this subject. How many of you have heard these stories before about the devil; you know he’s in charge of hell? He’s got the horns, he’s red, he’s got the red leotards, the tail with point on the end and he’s holding a pitchfork or trident or something like that. And he’s in charge of hell and he uses the pitchfork to make sure people are cooking evenly on both sides I guess, I’m not sure what that’s for. Could you trust the devil to be in charge of hell to make sure people get fair punishment, equal opportunity punishment? That’s like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. He can’t do that.

And all of the medieval ideas about the devil that came from Pluto and Greek mythology. You don’t find one place in the Bible that says that he’s got a pitchfork and horns and leotards and batwings and a goatee. I grew a goatee once because I hate shaving. And I had to shave it off because people said you look like the devil. Just because of these, you know, where does it say he’s got a beard? They called me a sinister minister. I hate shaving.

And so there’s all this mythology and the same mythology about the devil has stuck with hell. It’s still in the church today. Because religious leaders can exploit it to get a little more offering or to pay for someone to get out of purgatory; you listening to me? It’s not true.

Revelation 20:10, the devil’s not in charge of hell, that’s where he’s going. ‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.’

Ezekiel 28:18, 19, it says speaking of the devil, ‘I’ll bring thee to ashes on the earth and the site of them that behold thee and never shall thou be anymore.’ If anybody deserves to burn forever who is it? It’s the devil. But even Satan is going to be burnt up. And it says he’s going to burn day and night. I mean he’ll burn longer than anyone else. If everyone is rewarded according to their works, who deserves the worst? The one who instigated the whole rebellion, right? So we don’t know who long Satan’s going to burn, but it’s going to be longer than Jonah was in the belly of the fish.

Revelation 20:15, ‘And whoever was not found written in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire.’ Do we believe in hellfire? Yes. Here it is. It’s going to burn on the earth after Jesus comes and judges the wicked and we’ve got a subject on this.

Question No. 14 - What’s the real purpose for hellfire? Is it so God can get even with people that didn’t accept Him? You better love me or you’re going to get it. Is that how God gets our love? No. That’s -- that’s now how you get love. It’s prepared for the devil.

Matthew 25:41, ‘Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire --’ who is it prepared for, ‘-- for the devil and his angels.’

Revelation 20:9, it says, ‘They go up on the breadth of the earth and they compassed the camp of the saints about and fire comes down from God out of heaven and it devours the wicked.’ It consumes them. They’re burnt up. It’s the second death.

Does the Lord enjoy the work of punishing the wicked? No. It’s one of the hardest things in the world for Him to do. It breaks His heart. What are God’s plans for the earth and His people afterward?

Praise the Lord, 2 Peter 3:13, it says ‘Nevertheless according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness.’

Do you want to be part of that new heaven and that new earth, friends?

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