This study in Luke chapter 16 was given by pastor Barry Forder on 21st May 2023.
In this chapter, Jesus warns the disciples about the deceitfulness of riches. As Bible commentator Adam Clarke put’s it, “Riches promise MUCH, and perform NOTHING: they excite hope and confidence, and deceive both: in making a man depend on them for happiness, they rob him of the salvation of God and of eternal glory. For these reasons, they are represented as unjust and deceitful”.
The chapter begins with the parable of the unjust steward – a man who had acted deceitfully toward his boss, and as a result loses his job. But before he is dismissed, he calls all those who owe his boss. Using the authority of his position (while it lasts) he writes off much of the outstanding debt of these people – reducing the amount they individually owe to his boss, in the hope that his act of kindness toward them will be reciprocated to him when he is shortly to be looking for work!
Jesus uses this example to make the point that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light”. v8
“[Jesus] was not commending his unrighteous action or his sin, but only his wisdom in that, knowing the limited amount of time he had left he used his position to prepare for his future” – Arnold Fruchtenbaum
How much thought and care do those in the world give to their (earthly) future, their inheritance, and to maximizing their opportunities? In contrast, how much do the Children of God give time to their inheritance and maximizing their opportunities now? Is it not a sad reflection on the Church, in general, that it does not have the same zeal for Godly things, laying up treasure in Heaven, that the world has for material things and the acquisition of the world’s riches?
The lesson Jesus is teaching is twofold: Firstly, trusting in riches is a great deception. Secondly, his disciples should be as focussed on using our time, money and gifts for His glory and the coming kingdom as the children of this world are in their pursuit of worldly gain.
Psalm 119 gives us a number of insights into how our attitude should be toward riches:
- I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. v14
- Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. v17
- Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. v36
- The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law. v61
- The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. v72
- Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. v111
- I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. v127
We cannot serve (or pursue) money and God. Only one can be the overruling passion of our lives.
We then come to one of the most well-known parables in the New Testament – the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus!
The key point of the parable, in keeping with all that Jesus had been saying, was that you can live for the pursuit of wealth, gain the world, and lose your soul! – Mark 8:36
However, the parable also gives us a glimpse into the unseen world and what happens after death. Jesus taught that there were two eternal destinations for all mankind.
–Heaven or Hell
However, ‘Hell’ is a word that can refer to two different and distinct locations.
- Firstly, the ‘Eternal abode of the wicked’
- Also referred to as the ‘Lake of Fire’
- Rev 19:20 / Rev 20:13
- Also referred to as the ‘Lake of Fire’
We know from Matthew 25:41 that Hell (the eternal Lake of Fire) was not originally intended for man, but for the devil and his angels. God did everything possible to prevent any man ever having to go there; He sent His only Son that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but instead, have everlasting life! However, those who reject this offer of Salvation in Jesus will ultimately end up in this place of eternal punishment. According to Revelation 19:20 / 20:13, the first souls to enter Hell will be ‘Antichrist’ & the ‘False Prophet’ – at the time of the Second Coming. No other being will be confined to this place until the Great White Throne judgment as recorded in Revelation 20:11-15.
So, this begs the question, what happens to unbelievers when they die, until then? Throughout the Old and New Testament allusion is made to a ‘temporary holding place’ – seemingly at the centre of the earth – were all the departed souls will await the final judgment.
This place is also referred to as ‘Hell’, but is also referred to as:
- Ps 139:8 / 2 Sam 22:6 / Ps 16:10 / Prov 9:18
- Sheol (OT Hebrew)
- Ps 16:10 / Is 14:15
- Hades (NT Greek)
- Acts 2:27 / 1 Cor 15:55
- The Pit
- Num 16:33 / Isaiah 14:15 / Ezek 26:20
- The ‘low parts of the earth’
- Ezek 26:20
It is the place were all souls went upon death. It is the bottomless it of Revelation 17:8, and it is the place where Satan will be bound for 1000 years during Christ’s reign on Earth.
However, until the Cross, this ‘holding place’ was split into two distinct areas – as alluded to in this parable.
–The righteous section: Paradise / Abraham’s bosom
–The wicked section: Hell / Sheol / Hades / The Pit etc.
At the time of the Crucifixion Jesus descended into hell – but not the ‘bad’ part! – Acts 2:27 / Eph 4:9. He told the thief on the cross ‘today you will be WITH ME in Paradise’
But why did Jesus need to go to this place? –Certainly not to suffer!
From scripture we know that there is salvation in no other name! Only by accepting Jesus as Lord can you go to Heaven! But this is also true for Adam, Noah, David, Elijah & Daniel et al. They all had to put their faith in Jesus, which is why Jesus presented Himself to them following His crucifixion so they could believe on Him!
Then Jesus literally shifted ‘Paradise’ from being ‘captive’ within the Earth, to Heaven. We read in Ephesians 4:7-10: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
When Jesus ascended, He took that which had been help captive in the lower parts of the Earth and moved it to Heaven. Now when a believer dies they immediately go to Heaven to be ‘with the Lord’ – Phil 1:23 / 2 Cor 5:8.
What Christ has done for us is truly amazing grace! …and just as with Lazarus, though we may have endured hardship here on Earth, in Heaven we will be comforted and honoured.
“When we shall come home and enter to the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of time-suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.” – Samuel Rutherford
May you be blessed and encouraged by this study.