Talking to Your Home Bible Study Student About Hell
John R. Rice
“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,” Luke 16:27, 28.
One of the most moving passages in the Bible is Luke 16:19-31, where Jesus tells us of the rich man who died, and was buried, and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” If we believe the Bible, we must take this account at face value. Jesus did not call it a parable. He gives the name of Lazarus, who lay at the rich man’s gate full of sores. Lazarus was a real person and the story is not fiction. The rich man was a real person. Doubtless, Jesus would have given his name too, but for the loved ones or friends of the rich man who would be grieved or embarrassed. This account is a true story of what happened to two men, one who went to Heaven and the other who went to Hell.
Many say they do not like deathbed stories, but such men will have one of their own some of these days. It is foolish not to face the fact of death, and the eternal certainties that are beyond death for the saved and the lost. Preachers should preach as Jesus did about a Paradise where the saved are comforted and consciously happy, and about a Hell where the unrepentant are “tormented in this flame,” as the rich man said that he was.
Those who would be Christians must believe, as Christ did, in a literal Hell of eternal, conscious torment for those who do not repent of their sins and seek salvation. No argument against a literal and eternal Hell of torment can weigh against the plain statement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who do not believe what Christ said should certainly not call themselves Christians, nor pretend to believe the Bible. And those who would win souls must carry in the background of their minds this fundamental fact, that men without Christ are lost, Hell-deserving and Hell-bound, and will lift up their eyes in Hell, tormented in flame, if they are not led to repent, to turn and trust Christ before they, like the rich man, die unsaved.
What Do People Think About In Heaven?
We are all mightily interested in the unseen world. Our interest in those we love does not cease when they die. We know from the Bible that the soul does not cease to exist at death. There is life beyond death. Even savages instinctively know that this is true and only the hardened, perverted, embittered and wicked cynic denies the eternal existence of the soul. The most natural thing in the world is to wonder what they are doing, these ones we have loved and lost awhile. Scores of times bereaved souls have come to me asking for light from the Word of God on what their loved ones are doing, whether they are happy, what they think, and whether they know what is going on here on earth.
The saved in Heaven are deeply concerned about the race we run here on earth. The millions of angels who are our guardians and ministering spirits come and go constantly between earth and Heaven, as Jacob saw them in his dream. The rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7, 10) is shared by the saints of glory. Heaven is concerned about soul winning. The love with which “God so loved the world” is shared by every redeemed soul in Heaven. The concern of Christ, the tender compassion of Him who poured out His soul unto death, the great love of the Saviour who is the Advocate and High Priest of every believer, are shared by the saved who are spiritually in the likeness of Christ. We know, then, that soul winning must be the chief concern of people in Heaven.
What People Think About In Hell
In Hell, too, people see things as they are; they face eternal verities. And that being true, people in Hell are concerned about soul winning. The rich man in Hell died as he had lived, an unrepentant sinner. He did not love God when he lived, and he did not love God after he died. People do not repent in Hell. People are not good in Hell. As the tree, when cut, falls in the direction it leans, so men in Hell are still the same kind of men that they were when they lived. God’s mercy is withdrawn and good influences are absent, but the wicked, rebellious, sin-loving, Christ-rejecting soul of the sinner is still the same.
The rich man when he lived loved his five brothers. When he died he still loved his five brothers. He evidently led them in sin while he lived. Now that he is in Hell, he does not want them to “come into this place of torment,” and he knows that unless they repent they ought to come and must come to the same torment and doom which had unexpectedly fallen upon him. Men see clearer in Hell than they do on earth. The rich man when he lived did not expect to go to Hell when he died; he did not see his own danger. But now that he is in Hell, he knows why he is there, and he is desperately afraid for his unsaved brothers who are not concerned, about themselves!
The rich man in Hell had two concerns. First, he was concerned to know if there was some way to alleviate the awful torment brought on by his sin. Second, even his own torment could not drown the cries of his scourging conscience. He felt accountable for his brothers, and begged that they might be saved. We suppose that in Heaven there are two concerns: first, the unceasing joy and glory of a blessed salvation in the presence of Christ and the Father; and second, an interest in the salvation of men on this earth. And so in Hell, we suppose there are two concerns: first, the awful realization and torments of the wages of sin; and second, a concern about those left behind on this earth. It becomes clear to the prayerful student of this account by Jesus, in Luke 16:19-31, that soul winning is a principal concern of those in Heaven and those in Hell!
Brothers! What a Tender Tie!
It is a part of the goodness and wisdom of God that children grow up in families. While beasts of the field are independent and self-sustaining in a few days or a few weeks after they are born, God planned that children should be under the nurture and care of parents for many, many years. Evolutionists are silly, illogical and blind when they say that marriage and the family are a product of evolution. No, marriage and the family are divine institutions! God gives time for the love and associations of father, mother, brothers and sisters to have their impact on character. God gives time for the ties between brother and sister, father and mother and the child to grow strong. Those tender ties ought never to be severed. God meant the influence of brother on brother for good. We do not wonder that the rich man in Hell remembered his five brothers!
God intended that always in good or evil we should remember our brothers-those of our own family. The ties of family are very intimate, very sweet; and very strong in lives that are truly Christian. The Bible teaches that children should honor their fathers and mothers, and that children should requite or care for their aged parents. Among Jews, it was the command of God that a man should marry his brother’s wife and care for his brother’s children. Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “a brother is born for adversity.”
God allowed the brother under Jewish law to be the avenger of blood for his brother, and slay the murderer if he could catch him before the guilty one reached the city of refuge (Num. 35:21). What lessons there are for us in the brothers of the Bible! The best and the worst of a man comes out in relation to his brother.
Cain, the first man ever born, in a frenzy of hate and jealousy, killed his own brother. Then Cain lied to God, and said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain was his brother’s keeper. Every man to whom God has given a brother is his brother’s keeper. Even the rich man in Hell realized that!
A brother can love or hate his brother with a terrible intensity. Jacob and Esau were brothers, twin brothers. Esau was born first, but Jacob by trading and trickery got the father’s blessing, though God had already chosen to give him the birthright, and it would have come so much more happily without his sin. What God had promised to give him, he seized by scheming. Hatred flared up in Esau’s heart and he swore to kill his brother as soon as Isaac, their father, died. Jacob ran away to the land of Padan-aram to his mother’s people, and was there for twenty years without a sight of his loved ones. It is a touching and beautiful story in Genesis, chapters 32 and 33, which tell of his penitence, his eager efforts to please and win, the favor of his brother, Esau; his long night of prayer, wrestling with the angel of God, and then of how he and Esau met and hugged and kissed each other. Jacob said that he had seen his brother’s face, “as though I had seen the face of God.” What sadness and bitterness when brother hates brother! What joy when they make reconciliation! What a tie is the tie of brotherhood, and how great is the influence of a brother!
Who can read the story of Joseph and his brethren and not weep, as Joseph wept when he sent everyone else out of the room and said to the brothers, who had sold him into slavery, “I am Joseph!” How he yearned over his baby brother, Benjamin, and laded his banquet plate with five times as much as the portion of the others! It is God that puts it into the heart of brother to love brother.
Memories of Youth, Childhood, Brothers
Abraham said gently but sternly to the rich man in Hell, “Son, remember!” People do remember in Hell! I am sure that the rich man wished he could forget, but memory is part of the haunting torment of Hell. The rich man did remember, and I am sure that in Hell today he still remembers, remembers, REMEMBERS! And memory could not go back far down the line, calling to mind opportunities wasted, sins committed, light rejected, gospel messages scorned, without coming face to face with the fact of his five unsaved brothers. Doubtless it was true, and doubtless the rich man knew it, that the five unsaved brothers were impenitent and lost because they followed in his footsteps.
I suppose the rich man was an older brother. He died first. This rich man had had his own mansion, his own wealth, and the beggar “was laid at his gate.” But the five brothers are back at their father’s home, and from Hell the rich man cried that Lazarus should be sent to “my father’s house; for I have five brethren.” This man in Hell was the oldest of six brothers, and now he faces the tormenting realization that he has led his five younger brothers in the ways of sin; that probably they, like himself, will die impenitent, condemned, and spend eternity in Hell.
In Hell one has plenty of time to remember, and the memories of childhood are strongest. Doubtless he remembered when each baby brother was born. He remembered their childish ways, their growing minds and bodies. These brothers had worked together, played together, and God knows that they had sinned together!
This writer has four brothers, one older and three younger than himself. We had a large family, and we five brothers had three sisters. I have thanked God many times for my brothers and sisters. The funniest things I ever knew to happen in this world happened to us brothers in the home on the farm. Many of the most tender memories I have are of those early days with my brothers and sisters. I do not get to see them as much as I wish I could. My heart longs all the time for these who are mine by blood. We have the same childhood friends. We have the same ideals imbibed in the same home. We wept around the same graves, and our hearts have been knit together by bonds that ought not to be broken.
My two youngest brothers, Joe and Bill, are preaching the gospel. I do not know, but I think it possible, nay, probable, that had I not preached the gospel, they would not have preached. An older brother has great influence. I well remember when I wrote my brother George, when I was in Baylor University. I said, “Come on down to Baylor, George. You can room with me in this little attic room, for which I pay $4.00 a month, with no heat in the winter. I will help you through the best I can. And I have a girl picked out for you!” So George came to Baylor University and we worked our way through together. I helped him all I could. A man is accountable for his brother. Incidentally, he married the girl!
When Joe planned to get married and didn’t have the money, I felt responsible for his happiness and raked up a few dollars for the necessary expense, so that the boy might not delay his happiness. A brother is responsible for his brothers. But with these memories are other memories which are sad. My brothers would have been better men had I been a better man. My influence has not been altogether and wholly good.
Brothers Should Win Brothers to Christ
The rich man in Hell remembered his brothers. He had lived his worldly, Christ-rejecting life before them, and they, too, were unsaved. The five brothers had followed the sixth brother. He had led them wrong. Throughout the ages of torment in Hell that rich man will remember his sin against his brothers. If those brothers went to Hell, as they may have done, can you imagine their meeting with the brother whose wickedness had led them to eternal torment? I am sure it was an awful and miserable meeting. Perhaps a brother’s love was turned to hate by the ruin which a brother’s sin had brought. They sinned, and they deserved Hell, but who knows; perhaps they would have sought and accepted the free mercy of God, but for the example of their brother.
Dear reader, if you have an unsaved brother, I beg you by everything that is holy, that you win him while you can. People sometimes say to me, “Well, Brother Rice, you know how it is. A man’s own family won’t pay any attention to him.” Oh, yes, my brother, they will, if he means business. That thought is a deception of the Devil. Brother will listen to a brother quicker than he will to an outsider. The ties of blood are stronger, and brothers can influence their brothers.
To be sure, we cannot influence our brothers if we live in hypocrisy. Lot could not influence his own sons-in-law, but I remind you, he could not influence anybody else, either. Any brother who takes Christ as his Saviour, and lives a transformed life in the power of the Spirit, can have influence over his own brothers.
When Andrew was saved, we are told in the Word of God that “he first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41, 42). Old stubborn-hearted, loud-mouthed, blustering Simon Peter must have been a pretty hard man to influence. He wanted to lead, not to be led. He had his own opinions, and was quick to express them. He was an old cursing fisherman. I have an idea that he was older than Andrew, though the Bible does not say. Certainly he was the stronger character of the two. But when Andrew came, the first thing after he was saved, and said, ‘We have found the Saviour,’ he brought Simon Peter to Jesus right away! O brothers, you can win your brothers in many cases, and I pray as I write these words that you will determine to do so, by the grace of God.
One Sunday morning, when I preached on this subject, and I asked how many in the audience had unsaved brothers, I suppose two-thirds of the congregation held up their hands. If Christians who read this would win their own brothers at any cost, what a revival would sweep the land! What rejoicing, what hallelujahs, what happy homes, what glory to Christ, if we would win our own brothers!
“And Thy House”
God clearly intends that every human tie shall be used in soul winning. Mothers should use a mother’s influence to win her children; so with the father. Sweethearts should win their lost sweethearts (though it is doubtful if Christians ought ever to have sweethearts who are unsaved. Certainly, the saved should never marry the unsaved). The teacher should win her pupil; the brother should win his brother.
When the jailer came trembling and fell down before Paul and Silas, and asked them, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), the inspired answer of the apostles was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The jailer was to believe, but the promise was not only for him, it was for his household! Even in the very act of salvation, the jailer was taught he must win his family, he must tell them the same story, and teach them to trust in Christ, as he himself had trusted Him. And the heart rejoices to read further on in the same chapter how that family, all saved and all baptized, gathered around the table past the midnight hour, after Paul and Silas had their wounds dressed, and ate their belated supper. The jailer and his family were happy, “believing in God with all his house.”
There once came to my office in Dallas, Texas, a man from Fort Worth who long had been a Christian. When he attended our Bible conference in Dallas, he told how he had come to Dallas to see a lost brother, and happily had led him to accept Christ. Now on this second trip, he told of the conversion of another brother. The second brother had been away out in California, and the Fort Worth man, Mr. Conner, began to pray for his soul. He asked his Sunday school class to pray. On Monday night they had a special prayer meeting, and prayed that God would save Mr. Conner’s brother. They prayed late and earnestly, and God seemed to hear. The next Wednesday morning, in California, the brother was strangely moved with a strong desire to see his loved ones back in Texas, and so he got in his car and began the trip. He came to Fort Worth. Now let Mr. Conner tell the story:
“I got him in my car and we drove out on the Jacksboro highway. I asked him why he came back to Texas, and he told me he just suddenly became hungry to see his brothers. I told him how I had trusted the Lord, how our other brother had been saved, and how we had prayed for his soul. Then I took the Bible and showed him how to be saved, and there in my car, he trusted Christ and we drove back to Fort Worth to tell the rest of the family.” Mr. Conner’s face beamed with joy as he told us the story of his brother’s salvation. Brother, do the same thing today! Win your brother while you can. See him now if possible. If not, write him a letter. Begin to pray earnestly for his salvation.
Two other worlds are concerned about sinners, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Heaven longs to see the salvation of your brothers. Christ longs to save them. This is the thing nearest His heart. He came to seek and to save the lost.
In Hell men are lifting their cries, begging that someone be sent to warn their brothers who live here unsaved. If in the eternal worlds of bliss and torment the principal concern is the salvation of sinners, surely you should win your brothers while you can. Do not depend on others; do your part today to win your own brothers; and the brothers of others who are pleading for them in Hell.
Decide for Christ Today!
Dear reader, why not persuade some unsaved people to read these scriptures, and urge upon them to confess their sins to God and trust Christ for forgiveness and salvation today!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” John 3:16, 17, 18.
This article “Talking to Your Home Bible Study Student about Hell” was excerpted from the book The Soul-Winner’s Fire by John R. Rice. Published by Sword of the Lord Publishers. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”