“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.’”
What Must We Believe In?
Dear fellow believers, upon reading today’s Scripture passages, I feel as though I’ve just seen a movie called “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” Truly, as I saw these two people’s lives, I felt as though I was seeing a certain drama unfold. Unclear as to what kind of family background this rich man had, one thing which is clear is that he lived sumptuously as a great rich man without any indisposition, eating well and living richly until the day he died. Contrastingly, this beggar of poverty named Lazarus lived in true misery all throughout his life, although it is unknown how his household had fallen like that. He lived his life by sitting in front of the rich man’s gate and begging and by going through garbage bins and eating the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Like so, while in this world, these two men had led a life of two extremes.
However, what happened to them after their death? The situation changed. It’s like watching a movie with a dramatic turnaround. After death, Lazarus the beggar was carried to Abraham’s bosom. In other words, he got to live tasting all sorts of wealth and glory in Heaven and receiving God’s love. However, the rich man, the other protagonist, fell into the fire that never quenches and had no choice but to go on receiving the utmost torment among all torments after death. Like a drama, the lives of these two men are portrayed before us. The Gospel of Luke chapter 16 speaks of such things like these.
Dear fellow believers, like so, a life is but an empty dream. Like a night’s dream, it is futile. And we are like fisherman sailing across that wide and rough ocean called life. Truly, a life is like fog, and its glory is like a grass flower. I think that is why there are so many words like that used as metaphors to life. Our lives are like flowers blossoming in spring only for short while and then fading away.
Then, regarding our lives, what do you think is most important? Also, what do you think we must obtain while we are alive? Through the Scripture passages we have read today, the Lord tells us the answers to such questions and also the answer to the question, “What kind of life is a successful one?” The most important thing in one’s entire life is only faith. Therefore, we all must possess the true faith. Even though Lazarus had suffered hardships while on this earth, begging for leftover food coming out from the rich man’s house, but after death, he got to be held in Abraham’s bosom. Lazarus could be carried to Abraham’s bosom after death precisely because he had the faith of believing in God.
Abraham is the father of faith, and he was a man whose faith was the greatest among those who believed in the Word of God. Then, why do you think the Bible said that Lazarus got to be held in Abraham’s bosom, instead of directly saying he had entered Heaven? It is likely that this very Lazarus got to enter Heaven only by ‘the faith’ of believing in the righteousness of God just like Abraham did.
Anyway, Lazarus was a man who knew what he really needed while living on this earth. It means that he was a man of faith. His situation was difficult, and the story of his life was so tiresome and agonizing that from a fleshly perspective, it would have been better if he had not been born at all. But because he had the most important thing in his life, that is, the faith of believing in God, he was able to become a successful life. I hope you will realize the fact that we all need to have the faith that this Lazarus had, and that the faith will allow us to be carried to the bosom of Abraham, the father of faith. Lazarus’ faith is the sincere faith of believing in God, just like Abraham.
In our lives, what is the most important thing that we need? It is the faith of believing in the righteousness of God. Even if we don’t get to possess anything else, we must at least possess such faith without fail. All those born onto this earth must possess the faith of believing in God’s righteousness inside their heart. We must believe in God. The faith has to be inside our hearts. But instead, should we not possess true faith inside our hearts, our lives will only become something trivial, and they will be of the vanity of life. Although we came into life empty handed, we must at least possess faith when we go to God. If we cannot take faith with us when we go before God, then our lives would be a failure. Regardless of how we have lived in this world, when we go before God, we must go with the faith of believing in God inside our hearts, just like Abraham. Instead of saying, “This is what Lazarus did,” we the born-again must follow Lazarus’ example and possess the faith of believing in the righteousness of God.
In this world, there are numerous people who do not do so. It precisely means that there are many people who are like the rich man mentioned in today’s Scripture passage. The Bible probably did not disclose the name of this rich man because most people end up falling into a life of such a man. This rich man could not get carried to Abraham’s bosom after death. He was thrown into the burning fire of hell.
Some people ask, “Did you see hell? How do you know if you didn’t even see it?” But you have to keep in mind that the image of hell is clearly depicted in the Bible. A place where it is so hot that one wishes in earnest for not even a sip of water but just a drop of water at the tip of the finger is precisely what hell is. The substantive manifestation of torment is precisely hell. There was a reason as to why we often use the expression, ‘hellish torment.’ In any event, this rich man got to go to hell because he didn’t have the faith of believing in God. He ended up falling into hell, rather than being able to be carried to Abraham’s bosom.
In This Passage, There Is Nothing That States Whether or Not the Rich Man Had Sinned More than Lazarus Had and Vice Versa
People usually think that one has to go to hell because he or she had sinned much more than average people had and that another one has to go to Heaven because he or she had sinned less. However, people do not go to Heaven or hell just by having committed a lot of sins or a few. Things like that are one’s own standard, and they are just erroneous human thoughts. Can you or can you not enter the Kingdom of God? Are you going to Heaven or are you going to hell? Dear fellow believers, it only depends on whether or not you believe in the righteousness of God. It depends on whether or not you possess the faith of believing in the Word of God. The reason why all lives have to have true faith is right here.
We must surely have the faith of believing in the righteousness of God. If we start to believe in the righteousness of God, that faith will grow inside our hearts, but if we do not believe in the righteousness of God, such faith will not even be formed from the outset. If we believe in the righteousness of God with heart, God will be with us, but if we do not believe, He will not be with us. Also, if we believe in the righteousness of God in our hearts, Heaven awaits us; but if do not, there is only hell that awaits us. If we believe in God having remitted all our sins, that is, the Lord having remitted all our sins by receiving the baptism of water and by shedding His blood to death on the Cross, we will become people of faith, but if we do not believe in this fact in our hearts, we become faithless ones and sinners. In short, if we believe in the righteousness of God, we become the righteous.
The Bible says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17). Dear fellow believers, all you have to do is believe. If you do not believe, then there is no faith. Yet, if you believe, then the faith shall come into existence. Therefore, you must possess faith without fail. We must surely believe in the righteousness of God.
As for us, the believers, receiving salvation isn’t everything. Even after having received salvation, we must go on living holding fast to that faith lest we should lose it. We must always live by faith, and then when the Lord calls us, we must be carried to Abraham’s bosom, in other words, the bosom of our Lord. Without the faith, this cannot be possible. Without the faith, we cannot please God.
Dear fellow believers, you cannot imagine how severe the ruins of disbelief is. However, if we believe in God, we can escape from all such ruins. If you and I continue to keep the faith of believing in God for always, there will be nothing worry about. We should always possess the faith of believing in God, and go on living amid that faith. We should possess the sincere faith of believing in all the Words of the Lord. In our lives, the most important thing is none other than the faith. God clearly says so. He says that the most important thing in life is precisely the faithful heart of believing in God. The Lord said in today’s Scripture passage that those who possess the faith of believing in God are those living a successful life.
Whether or Not We Know and Believe in the Righteousness of God Is Important
We cannot just haphazardly believe. We must have the faith of believing in the righteousness of God. I see instances of people relying on and believing in truly all kinds of things. People who believe in Buddhism rely on Buddha, and those who believe in superstitions believe in various gods. To believe in superstitions is indeed a type of faith, but such a faith isn’t the faith that can ever lead us to Heaven. I am saying that only the faith of believing in the righteousness of God is needed. We must believe in the righteousness of God only, and we must believe in God Himself having blotted out all our sins. We must believe in the Words spoken by God only. People who possess the faith of believing in the righteousness of God will be able to go to the Heavenly Paradise in the end, having lived a successful life.
People say that if a human being were to act evil and not carry out virtues, that person will be punished. Such thinking is based on the notion of the law of causality. But, no matter how virtuous one may seem, no human behavior in itself can be approved as absolutely virtuous in God’s eyes. Can someone trust his or her own act? Who can assert that one’s own standard of good and evil is right? Knowing how weak human beings are, who can possibly say something like that with confidence? Can superstitions be trusted? If not, can we rely on material things? Besides our Lord, what is there that we can trust? All we have to do is to believe in the righteousness of God only. I am saying that one is safest when one lives out one’s life by having faith in God. One must go on living by believing in the righteousness of God to lead a successful life. Dear fellow believers, one must genuinely live like that in order to be carried to Abraham’s bosom. Only then, will one be able to go to Heaven. On this earth, we get to live out our lives by receiving God’s help and God’s love. Despite all that, if a person were to not believe in the righteousness of God, that is, if a person were to not believe in God having blotted out all his or her sins once and for all by the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then, regardless of what else that person believes, that person’s life will only be in vain.
In today’s Scripture passage, we can see the life of Lazarus and the rich man completely reversing after their death. Each man went to where they were suppose to go, but one of them went to an immeasurably hot place, a burning place where it is so hot that the tongue would roll up into the throat because saliva would dry up completely. In contrast, the other man, that is, Lazarus got to go to a place where beautiful flowers blossom and fruit trees and things to eat abound.
But there was a great gulf between the places where each of these two had gone. There was a deep sunken hollow, that is, an endless hollow. Thus, the Bible tells us that these two men could not visit each other. It tells us that there is a gulf so great that if a person in Heaven were to try to visit another person in hell out of pity, that person would not be able to do so. Thus, people will not be able to go back and forth to visit each other.
In conclusion, this means that a person who has sins can never go to Heaven, and in the same manner, a person who is without sin can never go to hell. In the passage that says people cannot visit each other for there is a great gulf fixed, this great gulf symbolizes none other than sin. It is a metaphor for the sins of people. There is a river between Heaven and hell that no one can ever cross, and this river is in other words the river of sin. Thus, if a person has sins, that person can never go across to Heaven. No matter how strong or smart the person may be, that person will never be able to cross that river of sin.
Then, to be able to say we believe in the righteousness of God, how must we believe? To profess such faith, we have to know first how the righteousness of God was fulfilled and then believe it. Jesus has remitted all our sins by coming down to this earth, taking on all the sins of the world by having received the baptism from John the Baptist, and vicariously dying on the Cross for all our sins. Jesus had fulfilled God’s righteousness through these righteous acts. We have to have such faith of believing in the righteousness of God. True faith that allows us to receive salvation from our sins isn’t the faith of believing in mammon or superstition, but rather, it is the faith of believing in the righteousness of God. This is the faith that enables us to receive salvation from sin.
In this world, there are many people who say they believe in something or another, and there also are a large number of people who say they believe in God. Take for instance South Korea. Most people have a religion. Christians and Buddhists are the two largest religious groups in Korea. If we were to divide up those people with religion once more, a third of them will be people who believe in Christianity and another one third of them will be those who believe in Buddhism. If so, among those who profess to believe in God, just how many of them do you think genuinely possess the faith of knowing and believing in the righteousness of God? We need to think at least once about whether or not they sincerely believe in all the righteous acts carried out by Jesus like Lazarus who was carried to Abraham’s bosom. The faith of believing in the righteousness of God is the one that saves you from sin and allows you to enter Heaven. There has to be such faith inside of us: the faith of believing in the Lord having made us to be the born-again righteous people, that is, the faith of believing in Him having taken us in as children of God.
“By granting me the gospel of the water and the Spirit, God made me His child, and thus, He will give me blessings and take care of me.” We should possess this kind of faith. Such faith is precisely the same faith as that of Lazarus which enables us to enter Heaven. All people can go to Heaven only if they possess a faith like that of Lazarus. And once people possess such a faith, they must hold fast to that faith and ruminate over this faith every day lest they should lose that faith.
Take the beggar Lazarus for instance. He probably died a beggar until his death. However, that is not what is important. Although he had begged all his life, it is important that when he died, he was carried to Abraham’s bosom. Clearly, this is what the Bible writes. God does not have much interest in carnal things such as wealth, prosperity, honor, and health pertaining to our lives in this world. I think He had allowed Lazarus to live in a bit of want in this world because He was going to compensate him with much better things and make him live more richly. It means that He does not consider worldly things important.
In the end, where did Lazarus go? He went to Heaven. He was able to enter Heaven because He had believed in God well. He went to Heaven because He truly believed in the Word of God. Even though in his life he was under the situation of begging for food in front of another person’s gate and lived off of that, but in the end, he entered Heaven because he got to hear the Word of God and believed in the Truth that God had blotted out all his sins by the water, the blood, and the Spirit. He believed in the Word of promise that God would make anyone who believed like that as His children. He got to receive the remission of sins because He believed. And after having received the remission of sins and having lived believing in God, He could be carried to God’s bosom when He had called him.
Dear fellow believers, can you imagine how happy Lazarus was? Let us live a successful life like Lazarus. In today’s Scripture passage, we saw the rich man and Lazarus. Between these two men, the conclusion is that Lazarus had lived a successful life but the rich man had lived a worthless life. Hence, can you imagine just how much happier Lazarus must have felt, for he had gone to Heaven just by having believed in God even though he had lived so miserably like that while he was alive?
Even though Lazarus was lacking, he was nevertheless suitable to abide in Heaven for he had the faith of believing in God. Because he had received the remission of sins by believing in the Lord, it was only right for him to attain eternal life. The Lord probably said the following: “Beloved Lazarus. Until you came to Me, you had the faith of believing in Me. Therefore, it is only fitting for you to be coming here. It is only fitting that you stay here with Me. But, you, the rich man, did not have the faith of believing in Me. Did you not live out your life enjoying all the pleasures of the world without believing in Me? For that price, you have lost your qualification to come to Me, and for the price of not believing in Me, it is right that you should go to hell. What do you have to resent? You have enjoyed much wealth and prosperity. And then, you came to this afterlife empty handed. Therefore, it is only proper that you are cast into hell. Did you pay for the cost of fuel for your eternal residence or for anything else? So you should only be thankful for living in fire right now.”
Because God so loves us people, He planned from the days of Genesis to take us in as His people. Because God has created us with such purpose, people who believe in the Word of God’s promise that shows His love and intention in their heart will be blessed by Him, and they will be granted eternal life dwelling together with Him. Therefore, we should possess the faith of believing in God more than anything else while you and I go on living in this world. I am saying that we must believe in the Lord. And even that, we must believe with our hearts. And we must also keep and defend that faith. When we do so, our lives become a success. Anything else isn’t a successful life. So long as we possess the faith of believing in God, our lives will be a success. If we don’t believe in God, our lives will be a failure, but if we do possess the faith of believing in God, our lives will be a success. Anyone who realizes this simple truth will also be able to realize it is only proper that one must believe in God. We must always live by faith. We must go to Heaven by faith. We must receive the remission of sins by faith. We must receive heavenly blessings by faith. We must receive resolutions to all our problems by faith.
Solution to problems actually lies in the proper faith. For this reason, I continue to tell you that we must believe in the Word of God. And, we the saved have to keep that faith until the end. We must live out our faith by believing in the Lord. If we could only live out our faith by cherishing the faith, then there is nothing we cannot do. You may well ask, “How can I believe in the so-called righteousness of God which can neither be seen nor heard?” All you have to do is to just believe in God Himself, don’t you? If you believe in God, you can fully believe in the righteousness of God. Believing in God is the cornerstone of our faith. If you believe in God, you can believe in what He has planned, what He has done, and what He will carry out upon us in the future, in all.
We Must Lead a Successful Life by Believing in the Righteousness of God
If we want to succeed, we must first believe in God. If we want to fail, we do not have to believe in God, but if we want to lead a successful life, we have to believe in God. Is there anyone in this world who does not hope for success? Thus, I am saying that everyone must believe in God, regardless of who they are. The Lord told us, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We have to believe in God, no matter what we do in this world, no matter how we live, no matter what kind of situation we live in, and no matter what kind of work we do and go on living. Henceforth, we must live out our lives keeping that faith.
People who do not believe in God are all bound to be destroyed. On the other hand, people who believe in God are bound to succeed. Believers in God will receive the strength to live out their lives in this world, but unbelievers in God will not be able to live out their lives. As we live in this world, what that makes us troubled is not having faith in God. So once you start believing in God, there won’t be any hardships and agonies. We all should go on living with such faith. You and I in all have to live out our lives by having faith. In short, it is only right that all people have to ultimately believe in God. Only then, will people succeed. And especially for those who have received salvation, they must keep that faith well. The faith of believing in God must always be inside your heart. The faith of believing in God must genuinely have its place inside your heart. Only when there is that faith, can you become a successful person and be able to live happily. Without faith, everything is useless. The Lord says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Do you believe? Yes, please do believe.
Dear fellow believers, I hope there won’t be anyone among you dying of thirst after having come to the fountain. For the fountain of life is right before you, all you to have to do, therefore, is to drink the water from that fountain. I hope you won’t become someone dying of thirst just because you do not drink that water. Surprisingly, there are many people like that. Despite having come to God’s Church and hearing the Word of God, there are lots of people destined for hell because they do not accept that Word into their hearts and believe. There are people who go on living under the curse of God because they do no believe. I am saying that there truly are many people like that. I hope there will be no one among you who are like that.
This Church is none other than God’s Church. The Word of God is preached to you through this Church. And also, numerous people pass by here. But among those numerous people who pass by the Church, some believe, but some do not. What happens to the unbelievers? For they do not believe, they will go to the very place where the rich man mentioned in today’s Scripture passage had gone. After death, especially in hell, family tree and the sort mean nothing. If a person does not believe, then that person is bound to go there for sure.
“Alas, then allow Lazarus to visit my home. I have five brothers, and among my siblings, I am the eldest. So, please let those five brothers know that their eldest brother is in hell now, and tell them that they must go to Heaven without fail by having faith. If You make Lazarus to say those things, then my brothers will all believe.” Like so, the rich man implores.
To that entreaty, God answers like this. “Even if I were to give life back to Lazarus and send him to your brothers, they will still not believe.”
“No. They will surely believe. They will believe if Lazarus were to rise from his tomb and clarify that he is the very beggar who had died not too long ago. All he has to do is to say to them that as he died, he found himself in Heaven, but across the hollow, he saw their eldest brother gasping for breath in the burning fire of hell. Just let him say to my brother, ‘Actually, I came because your eldest brother had implored before God to send me here. He begged before God never to let his younger brothers to come to hell.’ If he says something like this, my younger brother will surely believe.”
Such words by the rich man who has fallen into hell are all useless. You all know that no matter what one does, someone who isn’t going to believe won’t believe, right? Also, God has said that He will never do so. What will happen if someone like Lazarus here dies and goes to Heaven after having lived truly in want on this earth but then has to come back once more to this disgusting world in this loathsome flesh? I guess if the Lord were to allow these things to happen anyhow, then there wouldn’t be any unbelievers. No mission workers would be needed on this earth then. I guess the Church would not be needed on this earth, too. It is because if a believer dies and goes to the Kingdom of God but then after having lived there, receive a command, come back to life and say, “Believe,” everyone will believe. If so, what need would there be for the Church on this earth? What need would there be for servants of God to preach the Word of God? There wouldn’t be the need for us to lead a life of faith. God can do all that by Himself, and it would suffice. God Himself has created all things, so He can preach the gospel and all else by Himself. If God were to preach the Word through someone who had died and come back to life, then isn’t it true that we don’t have to do the Lord’s work so hard like this?
But, God told us that He is the Head of the Church and the believers on this earth are the body, that is, His hands and feet. If the Lord were to do all the work, then we wouldn’t have any work to do. If we were to die the moment we believe in Jesus on this earth and if we were to go Heaven the moment we die, then this earth will be nothing but a cemetery.
As long as He doesn’t do so, the role and duty of the saved is therefore very important. We have to believe in the Word of God. As for people who haven’t received salvation, they are like that because they don’t have the faith of believing in God. They go to hell because they do not believe. Dear fellow believers, must you go to the United States to believe that the United States does exist? Even though God and what He has done through the Word cannot be seen with our naked eyes, if we were to look spiritually, we can see everything. People who are spiritual can believe the Word fully. Dear fellow believers, do you believe in the righteousness of God? Believe. God has saved you and me by His righteousness. So that we may not fall into the great pit, He has given you and me, the believers, salvation and eternal life by completely blotting out the sins of the world as well as all our sins.
If you live out your life by believing in God and in His Word, you will get to receive salvation, gain eternal life, and be clothed in His grace. Yet, why do people not believe in God and act so stubbornly? There is nothing for us to gain by denying God. If one can go to a good place after having lived well without believing in God, then, there would be no need to believe in Him.
It is written, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Dear fellow believers, this is what faith is. I want you to know that just because what we believe in cannot be seen with the naked eye it does not mean that it is merely a sweet illusion. Rather, I want you to know that one can see the reality of everything by opening up the spiritual eyes through faith. By believing in God, we arrive at the true and genuine faith, the only single thing that is absolutely indispensable to us in this world. Dear fellow believers, let us therefore live out our lives by believing in the righteousness of God.