Three Good Things In Hell

Bible Book: Luke  16 : 19-31
Subject: Hell; Judgment; Salvation; Prayer; Witnessing

Three Good Things In Hell

Luke 16:19-31
Dr. J. Mike Minnix

The passage we are reading today contains facts, not fiction. Jesus is not sharing a parable here but is relating something that actually happened. How do I know that? At no time did Jesus ever place a personal name in a parable. In fact, ambiguity is concomitant with the purpose of a parable, for a name in a parable destroys the purpose.

I feel that those who heard Jesus relate this incident knew exactly who He was talking about. In other words, they knew the poor man named Lazarus and the rich man who was not named. Why did Jesus not share the name of the rich man? I will you that before I finish this sermon today.

Some will tell you that Jesus is speaking here about the danger of wealth, and to a degree that is true; however, that is not at all the major purpose of what He shared. All rich people don’t go the hell and all poor people don’t go to heaven, and anyone who knows the Bible is aware of this fact. There is much more here than a message about social consciousness.

Now, let me tell you something really important. Hell is a subject that is avoided in the church today like the plague. Why? Preachers don’t like to talk about it because so many people don’t want to hear it, and many don’t even believe that such a place exists. There is something bewildering in rejecting the idea of hell. Jesus was the most loving, kind, compassionate, giving, and sacrificial person who ever lived and He talked about hell as much as He did about heaven. In fact, if there is no judgment to face and no penalty to pay for sin, why did Jesus come to the earth and did He die such an ignominous and horrible death? And, why did He speak of the subject of judgment so often? Jesus talked about this subject because His distinct purpose in coming to this earth and dying such an awful death was to give us a path to eternal life with Him in heaven.

I not going to discuss every aspect of hell today – that is a subject far too complex for a worship service. To be honest, we don’t know every aspect and feature of the place called hell. We only know what God told us in His Word. So, I am not going to answer all the questions you have about it. Do people that never hear the gospel go to hell when they die? If you make a commitment to Christ but never follow that up with a godly life, do you go to hell when you die? Is hell the same for every lost person? Not only are these questions beyond our time today, I can’t answer them all. I can tell you today that there is a place called hell, and everyone under the sound of my voice can avoid going there. So, let’s look at the facts Jesus gave us.

A poor man named Lazarus lay at the gate of a rich man and the day came when Lazarus died. You do know that you are going to die, do you not? Certainly I know that I will, unless Jesus comes beforehand. Death is a reality and it is another subject most people don't like to discuss in church. Jesus tells us that Lazarus died and that the angels came and took him to Abraham’s bosom. Abraham is the father of faith, and thus this man went to place that Abraham is enjoying in eternity with God.

The rich man also died, but he was buried. In other words, he had a funeral service. I’m sure that the rich man enjoyed a beautiful, well-attended funeral, and that he was buried in a lovely spot with a great stone to memorialize him. Jesus tells that the rich man went to Hades, which is often translated as hell. It means he went to a place where lost people go when they die – a place of sadness and suffering.

The body of Lazarus, the poor man, was likely dragged off to a garbage dump in the Valley of Hinnom, which is called Gehenna in the biblical Greek.

“They dragged his bones over the stones,
A wretched man, to them unknown.”

This valley was a place where the Jewish people, under godless leaders like Manasseh and Ahab, practiced idol worship by sacrificing children to a fire-god. Jesus spoke of this place being like hell – where the fire never goes out and the worms feed endlessly.

Listen to just a couple of examples from the lips of our Savior.

Matthew 5:29 " is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna."

Matthew 10:28 “….rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna."

Look at the contrast here. The rich man had a beautiful funeral and many good things were likely said of him, but note that it doesn’t matter what the preacher says about you when you die – what matters is what you have done about your soul. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank – what matters is whether you have a treasure in heaven. Poor Lazarus looked like a loser, but he was in heaven. Image may mean a lot on earth, but it means nothing in eternity! What you do with Jesus means everything when you heart stops and you meet God face to face.

Now, the title to this sermon is three good things in hell and I want to share those with you today. There are many terrible things in hell, but Jesus pointed out that there are at least three good things in hell – though all of them are too little, too late!

So, first, not that …

I. There is Good VISION in Hell

Jesus tells us that the rich man looked up from his place of judgment and saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. Sadly, He looked up too late. If only he had used his inner vision to look to God while he was living! I will tell you this for sure, everyone in hell can see exactly what they’ve missed. There is no impairment to one's vision in hell.

I’ve had eye problems all my life. When I was a boy, I started wearing glasses and the lenses got thicker year after year. Thankfully, along came high density plastic lenses to abate some of the heaviness of the glasses I wore. But my eyes continued to worsen to point that walls and doors in a room looked curved to me. I also had floaters that on occasion blocked out the world in one of my eyes, making it impossible to read effectively. Then, later in life I had a detached retina in my right eye. When it was repaired, the process wrinkled the retina so that everything I looked at was wrinkled or twisted. When I looked at my congregation, they all looked like senior adults - wrinkled all over! Years later, when I was approaching sixty years of age, I was introduced to a doctor in Atlanta who had operated on many famous people. He performed surgery on my right eye and later my left as well, and for the first time in my life I had 20/20 vision in both eyes without glasses. Even the doctor said, after the results of the surgery were known, “Well preacher, we walked on water this time.” But, let me tell you something far more important about my sight. I am so thankful that long ago, when I was young, I looked to Jesus for salvation. I heard the Word of God preached, knew I was a sinner, and turned to Him and He saved me. I didn’t need human eyesight to see my need for Jesus. People who will not look to Him in this life, will look to Him one day – it will just be a day too late!

It was Isaiah who said, “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up…” Isaiah had his eyes opened to the true nature of God and it made all the difference in his life and eternity.

A chaplain on a troop ship was talking with some sailors. One of them asked him, “Do you believe in hell?” The chaplain replied, “I do not.” The sailor said, “Then you ought to resign your commission, for if there is no hell, we do not need you, and if there is a hell, you are of no use to us.”

Be assured of this. Christ does not want you to see hell, He desires that you see Him with His nail-scarred hands reaching out to you. His desire is to save you from destruction. Look up to Him today and trust Him as your Lord and Savior.

So, there is great vision in hell, but it is just too late. Now, look with me at another good thing in Hell.

II. There is Good MEMORY in Hell

Memory is one of the great gifts that God has given us as human beings, but it can also be a problem. Forgetting what we ought to remember can be costly. One little girl went into her bedroom one night and threw one of her shoes under the bed. Her mother saw her and said, “Honey, why did you throw your shoe under the bed?” The girl answered, “Sometimes I forget to pray in the morning, but if I have to bow down to get my shoe, it helps me remember to talk to God every morning.” Smart girl!

Memory, however, can create problems. Often we remember the things we ought to forget and forget the things we ought to remember. I’ve counseled with many people through the years who simply can’t let go of what someone did to them. The memory haunts the heart and mind. On the other hand, people forget what they need to remember. Every student can tell you that. During a test or exam in school, the memory can be your worst enemy.

I love the story of the man who was talking with a friend who was visiting him. He said to the visiting friend, “I’ve read the greatest book of my life recently. It is about how to remember everything. I tell you, it is a wonderful book. You mind becomes sharp as a tack after reading it.” His friend asked, “What is the name of the book?” The answer escaped the fellow and he asked his friend, “Uh, what is the name of that flower that has thorns on it?” The friend answered, “Rose.” The man bragging on the memory book said, “Yes, Rose, that’s it. Hey Rose,” he said calling out to his wife, “what is the name of that book on memory I’ve been readying?” Well, so much for a book on how to remember - he couldn't even remember his wife's name.

One great thing about heaven is the fact that God will erase from the memory all the things that have the potential to hurt us. How do I know? The Bible tells us that in heaven there will be no sorrow and no more tears, for God will wipe all tears from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). That means that all those things that worry us, hurt us or cause us to weep from the past will be removed. God will re-boot your mind and only leave the memories that will bless you forever.

Hell is a different story, when it comes to the memory. Abraham spoke to the rich man who died and said, “…Remember…” That rich man was forced to recall memories he surely didn’t want to remember. It appears that hell is a place where one remembers all the opportunities lost during one's lifetime.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a wonderful poet from another generation wrote in The House of Life, these words:

“Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
I am also call'd No-more, Too-late, Farewell.”

One athlete said, “Don’t weep over the shots you’ve missed; weep over the ones you’ve never taken.”

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem in 1856 entitled Maud Muller. In it he penned these words:

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been."

In hell you will remember every lost opportunity. Every sermon you heard and every invitation you rejected will come back to you again and again. You will see the faces of those who shared the story of Jesus with you. Your memory will be your worst nightmare!

I love God’s promise of heaven, for God never forgets. He promised that to me and to all of us who know Him. I may have dementia or Alzheimer’s one day not be able to remember my own name. I may have Jayne walk into my room and not even recognize her after more than 55 years of marriage. I might not remember the face of my own children one day, but this I can assure you – God will never forget me. He promised, and He never breaks a promise.

If you reject Christ today, it will be a memory that haunts you out there in the eternal future.

Sadly, people in hell have a perfect memory, it is simply of no avail or help. In fact, it is a torment forever.

Now, think of the third good thing in hell with me.

III. There is Good PRAYER in Hell

This is the most surprising of all the good things that exist in the abode of the lost is the act of prayer. Jesus reveals that the rich man prays in hell. Specifically, he prays for two things.

A. For the Water of Life

He prays for Lazarus to bring him water to place on the tip of his finger so that he might find some relief in the burning torment he is experiencing. Now, let me say something at this point that is important. People ask, “Preacher, do you believe there will be fire in hell?” Some say there will be fire – a burning but not consuming fire. Some posit that the fire in hell will be like that which Moses saw at the burning bush - a fire that burns but never consumes. Others say that the absence of God’s presence will leave a burning desire that is hotter than any flame could ever be. One thing I can tell you for sure; you don’t want to find out what that experience is like.

Had the rich man cried out for the Water of Life while he was on earth, he would not be crying out for water in the place of the unsaved. He is praying the right prayer when he prays for water, but He is praying too late. You can find the Water of Life - Jesus - right now, at this very moment. You can trust Him as your Savior and never have to be concerned with the judgment and the place of the lost.

Note also, that the rich man was calling out to the wrong person when he prayed. Why don’t we see God speaking to the rich man in hell? Why is it Abraham? The lost have no contact with God. Even here on this earth, the saved and lost enjoy God’s world and His presence in general. Certainly the saved have the Lord in their hearts and lives, but the lost have God’s presence in this world as we, for they enjoy the food His earth provides and of the beauty from the mountains to the sea. They enjoy His presence in the snow that falls in winter and soft breezes that blow in spring. Yes, sadly, they don’t acknowledge His Son. But, be assured fo this one truth - the presence of God is removed from those who refused to accept in their lifetime. God is not being cruel. He is simply giving the lost person what he so she desired in this life – the absence of God. There is no pleasure for God in the death of the lost soul. He tells us that plainly in Ezekiel 33:11. He sent His only Son to redeem us from our lost, sinful condition. Yet, outside the redeeming work of Jesus a person has chosen absent himself from God forever once death occurs. Those who reject Jesus are, in essence, saying to God, “I want nothing to do with you. If you let me come to you the way I want to, perhaps I will embrace you, but I’m not coming to you by bowing down to Jesus.” Well, my friend, that is not God’s fault. The rich man is in hell because he rejected the water he now cries for.

But, he prays for one other thing.

B. For a Witness to the Lost

Note that the rich man in hell prays for someone to go to his five brothers so that they will not come to the place called hell. This is very interesting. This man, in hell, is praying for more lost people than most people in any church on earth today. He has a heart for souls, for missions and for God’s love to be presented to the lost. Yet, his prayers are too late. Abraham tells him that there is only one way for the lost to be saved. No one from the grave can help them. They must hear the Word of God and act by faith to receive God’s Son.

How about us today? How about those of us who are Christians and in the Church of our Lord! Do we pray like this? Have we a burden so deep that we cry out for witnesses to be sent? Paul prayed that He might be accursed – that is, that he might be sent to hell – if his Jewish brothers could be saved. What a heart for the lost. John Knox, the great missionary in Scotland, cried out in prayer, “O God, give me Scotland or I die.” He was praying for God to allow him to win Scotland to Christ or to just take his life.

Do we have that kind of heart for the lost?


When I was in college, I went with a fellow ministerial student to the student center to await our next class. We bought a soft drink and some fries and sat there talking. As I looked over the students who in that student area a strange thing happened to me. I was watching some guys shooting pool, some students playing ping pong, others were just sitting and talking, and one couple in the back sat at a table holding hands across a small table and looking intently into each other’s eyes. It was apparent that they were in love. Suddenly, the scene changed before my eyes. I was shocked, and a bit overcome. Every single student I saw was pictured to my mind as being old – very old. Their hairs were gray and they were bent with age. God spoke to my heart sitting there that day, and said, “My son, every one of these people you see is dying. One by one, they are passing away. They are like all flesh, heading for death. They need to hear my word of love. Witness before it is too late.” Maybe you think I am a bit weird, and perhaps I am. But I promise you that the scene I saw was as real as if it were actually happening. The words of the poet, Henry Wordsworth Longfellow came to my mind:

“Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, thought stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.”

Today is the day of salvation. Come now to Christ. Not tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come. Today. Today. That is God’s word: Today!

Then, dear Christian, will we let the people in hell pray for souls better than we in the church pray? No, never! Bring some soul to God in prayer today. Here at this altar, bring a name, or two, or like the man in hell, bring five! Let us call out to God for a lost world. Let us pray that He will give us boldness, with love, to share Jesus with others.