The Parable of the Beggar: On Hell – Gospel in Life

The Parable of the Beggar: On Hell

Tim Keller |  July 17, 1994

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  • Doctrine
  • Heaven and Hell
  • Sin
Luke 16:19-31
RS 49-02


We’re looking at the subject of hell, one of the most unpopular classic doctrines of orthodox Christianity. I’m asking you to consider it today for two reasons: 1) I submit to you that unless you understand, unless you can reflect on, unless you can agree with the Christian doctrine of hell, you have no idea of how much love God has shown us; and 2) Jesus, the one who teaches us the most about God’s love, is the one who teaches us this doctrine of hell. Jesus, the Lord of Love, the one who knew the most about love, teaches us the most about hell.

Jesus intertwined the love of God and hell so much that you really can’t reject just one and accept the other. They have to be taken together. Let’s take a look at what Jesus teaches in this story of two men. If we want to understand hell, we have to see what he says about 1) the two men in this life and 2) the two men in the next life and 3) the two men in our life.

Luke 16:19–31

Jesus’ story about two men, Lazarus and an unnamed rich man, in Luke 16:19-31, helps us understand a tough topic – hell. Though it’s not a pleasant subject, it shows us the depth of God’s love. Remember, it’s Jesus – the man known for his immense love and teachings – who talks about hell. To understand hell, we need to look at the story of these two men’s lives, here and in the afterlife, and think about what it means for us.

1. What does he say about Lazarus and the rich man in this life?

What sets Lazarus and the rich man apart isn’t their money, but who they are. Lazarus has a name, but the rich man’s identity is swallowed up by his riches. The rich man trusts his wealth to save him, which is his downfall. On the other hand, Lazarus, even in his suffering, finds his strength in God, which shapes his identity and leads him to heaven. We all need to ask, “What do we lean on?”

2. What does he say about Lazarus and the rich man in the afterlife?

Jesus explains that hell, shown as a fire, is a place of destruction and justice, where being apart from God feels like a spiritual firestorm. In our lives now, God’s mercy protects us to some extent and allows us to experience love, thoughts, creativity, and communication. But, if we keep disobeying God and don’t ask for forgiveness, we may end up in a state of total destruction after death – that’s what hell is, the ultimate result of sin.

3. What does he say about the two men in our life?

Hell, a place of destruction and justice, is what happens when we put anything above God, leading to a hollow spiritual life. The idea of hell isn’t to scare us, but to show us God’s deep love, seen through Jesus willingly suffering more than eternal damnation. The extent of His sacrifice shows how much He loves us. If we reject His mercy, we face justice, but if we accept it, we get eternal life.



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