The account is one that is well known and preserved in Holy Writ. Most people, however,
pay very little attention to the tremendous principles the incident so forthrightly reveals. A
poor beggar by the name of Lazarus, while living in this world, had a difficult time finding
food to sustain himself. He was in need of not only food but clothing and medical attention
(Luke 19:20-21). Lazarus died without receiving the help that he so badly needed.
A wealthy man who lived in the same locale as Lazarus had everything his heart desired. The Scriptures record: "he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day" (16:19). The only thing the rich man seemed to not feast upon was the Word of God. His riches, however, could not prevent the chilling hand of death, and he too passed from this life. We will do likewise one day, so let us remember!
Death in many ways is the great equalizer! It has an unique way of bringing everyone to a common level. Please observe that situations can and often do change after death. The rich man after death desires to be attended to (wanting Lazarus to cool his tongue with water) by the very one he did not take time to show mercy to while on earth (16:24). One thing is for certain — all will not be in death as it has been in this world! We need to remember this truth.
Things that were unimportant while living take on tremendous importance after death. The rich man died but did not lose his ability to remember and to feel pain. It is not true that at the moment of death nothing else matters! The rich man after death is very conscious of right and wrong. Righteousness now becomes important, and he desires to warn his five brothers in an attempt to keep them from suffering his fate.
But the rich man is too late! Some things are impossible! Once the hands of time have wound down, one will not be able to do good deeds or influence others for the cause of Christ. Abraham said, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:29-31). This principle is still true today. Some say they would believe and obey if Jesus were back on earth. The Lord's answer: "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Luke 6:46)?
Things can change dramatically from one second before death to one second after death. Lazarus' living conditions were deplorable while on earth but upon death he is comfortable in Abraham's bosom. The rich man was living "high on the hog" in this life, but upon death he was in immediate "anguish in this flame" (16:24).
There are many folk today who will never obey the precious gospel. For whatever reason, they simply never submit to the Lord's will (Matthew 7:21). Perhaps some people intend to obey the gospel, but they are waiting — perhaps waiting only for a time to remember. How tragic if such is the case!
Some who profess to be members of the body of Christ are not faithful (cf. Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 15:58). Lip service only is given to loving the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). These folk are at the services of the church only when it is convenient and they have the time. They are not interested in availing themselves of Bible classes and evening worship to further their knowledge of the Scriptures. One day there will be plenty of time for them to remember.
Other people live in willful sin. They drink, steal, embezzle, lie, dance, gamble, and commit fornication. Many divorce their God-given mates for some trivial (non-Scriptural) reason only to marry another and live in adultery (Matthew 19:6, 9). Yes, one can live in sin (Col. 3:7)! Those who practice such sins will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (cf. Galatians 5:19-21). The Scriptures do not matter to many people now, but one day the Bible will matter — and they will remember.
God's Word is truth (John 17:17). The same truth or Word will be our judge in that Day (John 12:48). But truth is rejected, neglected, or conveniently overlooked by many brethren and the majority of people in this world. One day these folk will have the time to remember, but like the rich man, the memory will only bring eternal torment.
Our memories in the hereafter will either torture or comfort us throughout eternity. What are you doing now to prepare for those memories? One cannot begin too early in life to prepare for eternity. God affirms this truth in saying, "Remember also thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).