One would think that the occupants of Hell would have no interest in any evangelistic effort in this earthly life, but the Bible reveals in Luke 16:19–31 that after the rich man found himself in Hell, with no chance of relief or escape, he was possessed with a fervent desire for the salvation of lost souls on earth.
Regardless of what motivated this rich man’s request, he shows that his great desire was that someone testify to his five brothers so that they would repent and escape the torments of fire in which he suffered. “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.” (ver 27–28)
REPENTANCE IS NECESSARY
He realized, too late, that repentance was essential. John the Baptist preached it; Jesus preached it; he, no doubt, had heard it taught by Jesus or His disciples; and it was taught throughout New Testament times. “And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” (ver 30) This is what it would take to keep them out of Hell.
He probably reasoned within himself that since he had not responded to the simple and plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures, it was going to take something more to convert his five brothers. His philosophy was that something unusual or sensational must accompany the testimony of the Scripture to get the attention of his lost brothers so they would hear the message of salvation. “Send Lazarus…that he may testify unto them” “If one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.” (ver 27, 28, 30)
You could not get anything more sensational than this. Lazarus was known to these five brothers, for he had sat daily at their gate. They quite possibly helped get him buried. If he would come back from the grave and knock at their door, you can be sure it would be an emotional experience. They would probably shake in their sandals.
Remember, this plan came from Hell. It came from a lost man with no perception of spiritual truth.
THIS PHILOSOPHY CONTINUES
We can observe many today seeking to follow a similar philosophy in evangelism. Just look at church page advertisements which seek to reach the sinner with the unusual or sensational. You will see something like this: “The World’s Strongest Man”, “The World’s Tallest Man”, “Magic for Christ”, “Visit the Fastest Growing Church”, “See Ex-gang Leader”, “See Ex-dope Addict”, “See All-American Hero”, “Hollywood Star to Appear”, “World-Famous Singers to Perform.”
An article in the newspaper “Grit”, June 25, 1972, entitled “Baptist Barnum Promotes Bible” shows what the world thinks of churches using such gimmicks and attractions: “Recent extravaganza was Balloon Sunday”, “Luring people to church with promotions worthy of a P. T. Barnum.” You see, circus-type entertainment is the idea – It came from Hell!
These promotional schemes are not as sensational as resurrecting a dead man to preach next Sunday, but the same philosophy prevails. It is Hell’s philosophy, and the smell of fire is upon it.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER
The answer given to this rich man in Hell is the answer we need today. The lost do not need a sensation scene in which to hear the Gospel, for this will detract from its message. “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (ver 29, 31)
God gave man the message of salvation. This is sufficient! It doesn’t need to be clothed with the appeal of worldly attractions. It just needs to be proclaimed.
MOSES AND THE PROPHETS
These are Old Testament Scriptures, all that existed in that day. However, according to Luke 24:27, 44 and other references, these Old Testament Scriptures contain the message of the Gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who was to die for the sins of the world.
So the answer was that these lost brothers must hear the simple message of the Gospel by faith and believe it in order to be saved. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
If they will not hear that plain message, they would not be persuaded though one rose from the dead or through any other “gospel gimmick,” no matter how unusual. They might be persuaded to “come forward,” “make a profession,” “join the church,” “get baptized,” etc., but they will not be persuaded to REPENT, and, except they repent, they will perish in Hell! (II Peter 3:9)
THE POWER OF GOD
This message, the Gospel of Christ, is the power of God unto Salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). This Gospel is to be preached to every creature in the world (Mark 16:15).
With this message being cheapened by the use of Hell’s methods, and churches being filled with members who have never repented, our prayer is for godly men, filled with the spirit of God, to come back to a simple faith in the preaching of God’s Word as a sufficient means to reach the lost for Christ, for His Word is, indeed, the SWORD of the SPIRIT.
What more do we need, brethren?