Threats Don’t Work

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Luke 16:22-31

The context of the account of Lazarus and the rich man focuses on the subject of repentance. In Luke, Chapter 15, with the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son, we see that the proper response to repentance is rejoicing. The first half of Luke, Chapter 16 tells us about the unjust steward. That lesson showed that the wicked will do anything to maintain their comfortable status in this world and not glorify the righteousness of God by repenting from their wicked deeds. Now, we have an account that shows us that the wicked do not repent even when they are in hell suffering for their sins.

The rich man neglected and probably tormented Lazarus while they were both alive. Look closely at his requests and you will find that he is continuing in the same sin. He is still trying to hurt Lazarus by getting him out of heaven. He is not really interested in getting any relief for himself. I mean, look at one the requests. How much good will a drop of water do for someone who is burning in fire?!?

Even the rich man’s show of concern for his brethren is an effort to hurt Lazarus.

The story ends with some very clear statements about the effects of preaching on such individuals. It doesn’t do any good. The wicked are not interested in the righteousness of God and will not be brought to repentance even when clearly shown the gospel message. In fact, this story shows that actual punishment in hell does not bring repentance. So, how would threatening with eternal damnation do any better?

It wouldn’t.

Jesus stated it is impossible for a man who is dead in sin to see and understand the kingdom of God (John 3). Further, Jesus Himself states that it is impossible for them to be changed by preaching!

Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

John 8:43

The Apostle Paul tells us in detail what Jesus meant:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

1st Corinthians 1:18

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1st Corinthians 2:11-14

A man in his natural, fallen state cannot believe and therefore will not believe even if it helps himself. 

Messages that focus on scaring people into obedience are not true gospel messages. You can scare them into acting right, but you cannot scare them into loving Jesus (Elder Dan Delmo).

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