First Hear from Moses and the Prophets (Luke 16:19-31)

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which 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 saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then 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 in your lifetime you 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 who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,  for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 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 will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

(Luke 16:19-31) 

The scripture we read is something Jesus said Himself. You probably have a purpose for coming to church. We come to church to worship God, and because we want to worship God, we have to receive the grace of Jesus Christ, and thus enjoy the things that God provides to such people. That is the purpose for living a faith life and a church life. To put it simply the reason for going to church is to attain eternal life. That is what Jesus Himself has said. Jesus said, “I came to give them eternal life and for them to have life in fullness.” You know how we use the term “afterlife”? That refers to a world or life to come in the future. The goal of our faith must be the afterlife.

Some people come to church for the first time because they are told, “If you come to church your business will do better! You will find inner peace when you go to church!” Even if they come with these thoughts in mind, everyone must clearly know what God intends to give individuals when they attend church. What God desires to give us is none other than eternal life. Eternal life, meaning everlasting and unending life. However, if there is no life after death, there can be no eternal life either. Living forever on this earth is impossible because this world will eventually fade and disappear. Even though the sun currently shines on this earth, according to scientists, even the sun has a finite lifespan. Consequently, after a considerable amount of time has passed, sunlight will cease to exist. Naturally, the earth will disappear as well. Humanity will likewise no longer exist. Therefore, it is impossible to live eternally on this earth.

However, there is a certain god who created the sun, the world and humanity. This god is the one we call our God, and He exists eternally. It is God’s will to grant us the ability to live eternally, that very eternal life.  Therefore, we will attain eternal life, but not on this earth. We will depart from this earth and the universe to live eternally in the place that God has prepared for eternal life.

Nobody else had entered there except one-man 2000 years ago. Who might that man be? He is Jesus Christ, the One in whom we place our faith. As a man He is the only One who entered that eternal kingdom. He  is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Is Jesus alone in heaven then? Not at the moment. There are countless personalities in heaven, and they are angels. But as a human, He stands alone. One day, we will also go there, and on that day, there will be many people, just as there are many angels in heaven. This is God’s desire to fulfill.

Therefore, if the purpose of our faith life were solely to have a better life on this earth, it wouldn’t align well. If the goal were to become wealthy in this world, personally, I wouldn’t attend church on the Lord’s Day. Some workplaces even offer double pay for those working on the Lord’s Day. I have been leading our Chinese worship service for about 15 years now. We have many foreigners that came over from China. What do you think they came over to Korea for? It is to earn money. So, for them to come to church on the Lord’s Day for worship and not work can be very difficult because the primary reason they came all the way to Korea is to work and make money. Even if they tried not to work on the Lord’s Day, the temptation is hard to resist. Working on that day would be given double their regular pay in many places. Therefore, some individuals with weaker faith choose to go for work for getting paid more.

Hence, living a faith life does not necessarily make everything beneficial on earth; in fact, it may even be more challenging. So, what is the reason for us to live our faith lives? It is not for a better life on this earth but for the everlasting life we will have after this life. The problem, however, is that we can’t see the life after death. What we do see is the reality of our present life. As a result, we often find ourselves pursuing what we can see with our own eyes. This is precisely why we need faith – to follow what we cannot see.

Jesus spoke about Lazarus and a rich man. The rich man used to host feasts every day with his friends while he was on earth. Do you think he had a great personality or a bad one? I think he would’ve been a very kind and generous person. People who have wealth usually do not become narrow-minded. They tend to be calm and collected, generous and giving. So, this rich man had many friends, lots of money, and didn’t lack anything on earth. However, there was a beggar named Lazarus in front of his house who had nothing to eat. He hoped to eat whatever leftovers were thrown out from this house. However, when he tried to eat them, dogs would come and lick his sores as he sat in front of this house. What a tragic fate?

But, ultimately, both of them depart from this world. Both the wealthy man and the beggar Lazarus passed away. Lazarus passed away and was escorted by angels to Abraham’s side. Here, ‘Abraham’s side’ can be seen as a part of the eternal kingdom that God promised. It is referred to as Abraham’s side, because Abraham was the first man to plant the seed of faith. Therefore, you can understand it as the afterlife, that is, eternal life after death. He went to Abraham’s side, whereas the rich man also died but went to Hades, not to Abraham’s side. Perhaps he lacked faith and was only focused on living a prosperous life on earth, and then died.

So, when he looked up from Hades, he could see Lazarus in Abraham’s side. He cried out and made a request. “Father Abraham! Please send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue!” Why? Hades is a place close to the fire of hell, so he must have been thirsty. He asked, “Please send him to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue!” However, he was told that it is impossible. Why? Because of a great fixed gulf between Hades and Abraham’s side, the place where one enjoys eternal life. It is impossible for anyone to come and go between them.

We will be having eternal life but if anyone fails to have eternal life, he will have to go to a place called hell. Hell is a tormenting place but just because it’s painful, one cannot say, “I don’t want to be here!” and move to heaven from there. The rich man who realized of this shocking reality far too late said to Abraham, “Father Abraham! I know it’s already too late for me, but please send Lazarus to my brothers to let them know of this truth! Please let my brothers know that there is an afterlife, that a world exists after this life. Please let them know that believing in Jesus, believing in God is not only for the purpose of having a better life on earth but that there is eternal life after everything on earth is over. Then they would believe!” So, since he knew he has no chance, he wanted Lazarus to go and tell his brothers who were enjoying their wealthy life on earth but don’t know about the afterlife of this truth.

Then Abraham told him, “They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them hear from them!” The rich man answered, “No, if a person returns from the dead and speaks to them, they would turn and have faith!” What he said does sound reasonable doesn’t it? Think about it. A person died. But suddenly he comes to life again after a day. And this man says, “After I died, I saw that there is an afterlife! When I died, I went to heaven! I saw Abraham there. God’s kingdom does exist! And there is even hell! So, you need to have faith properly!” You will think people would believe in him, right? Because he speaks after he came back from the dead.

However, Abraham responded, “No! Unless they listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone were to rise from the dead!” So, he emphasized once more that they must listen to Moses and the Prophets. To truly know God and attain eternal life, one must always have faith. However, to achieve this, it is essential to first listen to Moses and the Prophets.

Have you listened to Moses and the Prophets? Even though you do come to have faith, your faith could easily become meaningless. Therefore, we must first listen to Moses and the Prophets. So, what do Moses and the Prophets speak about? Do you have a Bible? Everyone that goes to church carries a Bible, don’t they? The Bible comprises the Old and New Testaments, containing not only the words of Jesus but also those of Moses and the Prophets. It means that to truly know Jesus, we must first grasp what the Old Testament is trying to say.

What is it that Moses was speaking of? It is God’s Law. Moses is the one who taught God’s law. He said, “You sinners! If you want to be with God, then keep these commandments!” And there were many commandments. A summary of these many commandments is the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments include: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me; do not worship idols; keep the Sabbath as a holy day; do not misuse God’s name.’ And then there are commandments with regards to people: ‘Honor your parents; do not murder; do not steal; do not make false testimony; do not covet; and so on. Apart from the Ten Commandments, there are additional commandments in the Law, which specify rules for punishment if they are not obeyed.

So, what do they teach about? They teach that if one sins, he will be punished. Those who misunderstand would think, “Oh so I shouldn’t sin! And since I don’t sin, my faith in Jesus will be sound and I will go to heaven!” Such people are greatly mistaken. Can you live without sinning? If we don’t sin, we won’t need Jesus. If we were able to live without sinning, then God might later deem us righteous, and we could go to heaven. But anyone who thinks this is possible is deceiving themselves. Man thought he could live without sinning, that he should just try not to sin, but that turned out to be false.

What Moses was trying to teach was not simply “Do not sin!” Rather he was teaching that everyone is a sinner. You can make an effort, try your best not to sin, and after a while, you might feel satisfied thinking, “I’ve done enough”. However, push yourself harder than that. Put all your efforts into avoiding sin. Ultimately, what conclusion will you reach? You will come to the realization and confession, “I am a sinner!”

Is there anyone here who has never had a disagreement with their spouse? In some cases, disagreements can even lead to physical altercations, although that is a shameful act. While you may not engage in such behavior now, you might have had arguments with your spouse when you were younger. However, there are individuals who claim they have never had a fight with their spouse. I know a theology professor who said he has never argued with his wife. Even so, do you think he never have any negative feelings in his heart toward his wife? God does not consider such a person as extraordinary by saying, “Wow, he’s never beaten his wife? Outstanding!” Even if he has never fought with your wife, God doesn’t think it is commendable for this person. Did you hate someone in your heart? God sees these feelings as the same as murder. Therefore, there is no one who can stand before God and declare “I am righteous. I am sinless”. Everyone is sinful. Hence, what the Bible is trying to teach us is that we are all sinners.

Sin is accompanied by punishment, and as a result, those who commit sins must be put to death. It is stated, “The wages of sin is death!” Therefore, anyone who has sinned is subject to death. We are all already under the sentence of death, and this is what we must first recognize. However, acknowledging that we are already condemned to death does not mean we should simply resign ourselves to hell by saying, “Alright, I am a sinner who deserves to go to hell.” If they do this, they do not need to believe in Jesus. After that, if we have listened to Moses, who should we listen to? We must listen to the Prophets.

What did the prophets convey? “You are sinners, but you will not be left to perish! God has a will to save you. Therefore, accept God’s gift!” This is the message of the prophets. Imagine a father scolding his son for wrongdoing, saying, “How dare you do this! Get out of here!” and the son responds, “Yes Father. I deserve to die!” and then leaves the house with the intent to die. That would be a terrible situation, wouldn’t it? However, that is not the father’s will. His desire is not for his son to leave home but to say, “I am sorry, Father! I have done wrong!” and stay with him. Similarly, when God spoke through Moses, saying, “You are sinners!” it was not His intention for everyone to be destroyed. Instead, He wants all people to repent, turn, and accept God’s love. Thus, when the time came, He sent Jesus Christ.

Therefore, there is something you must do first if you want to come before Jesus. You have to confess, “I am a sinner!” What kind of sinner? “I am a sinner destined to hell!” This is what you have to admit. After that, you should believe that God has provided a solution to pay the price of our sins and accept that solution. And that solution is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to die instead of us. Aren’t you glad? To those who believe in this, God provides many testimonies.

So, if you have not repented yet, start to thoroughly confess that you are a sinner. If you have not met God yet, begin by recognizing your sinful nature. After that confess, “I can’t live without God’s help! And since God has provided a solution for someone like me, namely Jesus, I will accept Jesus!” For those who make this confession, God will fully reveal Himself to them.

Before I came to know Jesus, I had an encounter with a certain religious organization. Initially, I thought they were Christians, but later I found out that they were a cult. However, in my pursuit of meeting God, I followed the evangelist for a while. For about a month, he continuously explained to me that “Noah’s ark was a real event! The flood truly happened!” He presented various scientific pieces of evidence regarding Noah’s Ark to convince me. By doing that, he was trying to tell me that the Bible is true. He showed me photographs of Noah’s ark being on Mount Ararat in Turkey and so many other evidences. As a result, I began to think, “Ah, this could really be true!”

But would I be able to accept God in that way? According to what Jesus just said, all those efforts are in vain. Even if someone were to rise from the dead and proclaim, “God truly exists!”, it would not work. The problem is not external but within ourselves. Without acknowledging that I am sinner, it will never be possible to meet God. So, start by confessing that you are a sinner. I am not telling that you admit you’re a sinner to harm yourself in any way.

I once spoke to my father-in-law and told him, “Father-in-law, you are a sinner!” It seemed like he felt somewhat being criticized by my words. He continuously felt regrettable, saying, “He called me a sinner! He is judging me!” However, that misunderstanding has now been resolved. Initially, he felt as though I was attacking him.

However, when God tells you that you are a sinner, it is not to destroy, attack or punish you. Rather, it is to lead you to repentance, to turn to Jesus, and to accept His grace and merits. Only through this can you attain eternal life. Do you understand?

So, if you haven’t met God yet, the first thing to do is when you are praying alone or during a worship service, confess, “I am a sinner!” But don’t stop there. If you acknowledge that you are a sinner and stop there, you become subject to punishment. Therefore, give thanks to God, saying, “But to save a sinner like me, God sent His beloved Son to shed His blood on the cross and bear the punishment for my sins. Thank you, God!” Then the Holy Spirit will inspire you and reveal to you that God is alive. Hallelujah! I’ll pray.

Thank you, God our Father. We are grateful for allowing us to meet You and obtain the eternal life that only You can give. If there is anyone who has not yet met God, may they truly acknowledge, as You spoke through Moses, that we are sinners. May they also understand as the Prophets have said, that Your will is not to destroy us but to save us. Ultimately, may everyone here receive eternal life by recognizing the merits of Jesus Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center