A Letter From Hell

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Pastor Jeremy Rhode of  Faith Lutheran Church in Capistrano Beach, CA has graciously allowed me to publish the text of his sermon A Letter From Hell. This sermon is based on the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus from Luke 16:19-31. Pastor Rhode offers what a letter from the rich man writing from hell may look like.

Though not a rich man, the materialism in the letter really hits home. It is scary just how easy it is to identify with the rich man. Yet it is eternally comforting that Christ offers forgiveness of those sins and a new identity for all who trust in Him by faith alone.

A Letter From Hell

My Dear Brothers,

How can I explain this letter to you?  How will you believe me … that this letter comes to you from the other side?  I can only pray to the One whom I’ve forsaken that it somehow reaches you in time.

My brothers, I beg you – each one of you, all five – listen to me as though your lives depend upon it.  No, my brothers, listen to me as if your very souls and all eternity depend upon it.  For the life that you now live, the security that you now have … it is nothing. It is over in the blink of an eye – an eye that does not open – irreversible eternity.

When I walked the earth with you, and lived as you now live, I was admired.  I was the man everyone aspired to be.  Distinguished and wealthy, I wore the deepest purples; the finest of linens lay against my skin.  I ate well and drank well.  I lived a life of luxury.

You know me, my brothers, I tell you the truth and do not lie, you know that I was a good man, a church-going man.  Abraham was in my bosom and Moses was on my lips.  I did not become wealthy through treachery or thievery.  I became wealthy and successful through hard work and honest labor.  I was a man of virtue and considered myself to be blessed by God.  I even sought to bless others.  The poor I allowed to rest at my gate.  How often I fed them leftovers from my own table, dear brothers, you yourselves know.

All who knew me knew my wealth, but they knew me to be a good man as well, rich in virtue.  In your eyes, dear brothers, in the eyes of all people, dear brothers, I was everything that a good man aspires to be.

And this is why I write! For your eyes, dear brothers, betray you.

For seeing you do not see.  When you see me, even now, in your mind’s eye, you see a rich man.  You see me as a man with many possessions, what you do not see is that those things possessed me.  You do not see that the money I held, held me.  You do not see that the wine I drank, drank me.  You do not see that all the good things I did for others, I did because they were good for me.  No, my brothers, living “eye for an eye” has left you blind.

I know of only one Man, dear brothers, who could see things as they were – one Man whose eyes did not lie to Him.  I met Him only once, but I pray that you have come to know His name.  He alone saw that the possessions I had, possessed me – and He alone offered me freedom, true treasures found in Him.  He alone saw that the wine I drank, had come to drink me … that the food I consumed, had begun to consume me – and He said to me that He was the Vine that is True, the Bread that is Life.  He alone saw my goodness and righteousness … for the filthy rags they really were.  And He offered me His own righteousness, saying that He would even lay down His own life.

O, My brothers, this Man has the words of eternal life … but I threw it all away … and I chased Him from my home, down the path.  And standing at the gate, one of the beggars, a man named Lazarus, looked up at Him and said, “Lord Jesus, My Savior and My God.”  And looking straight into my eyes, Jesus said to me, “that poor man lying there, Lazarus, … he has all that I have … and it will not be long before you see that Lazarus is not so very poor, nor are any who believe in Me.”

And so it was dear brothers, in the very moment you laid my body into the earth, the very moment that hundreds and hundreds had gathered to pay their respects, to sing their eulogies about me, the one man they had known who was truly rich and truly good – that very moment, dear brothers, when my life was being celebrated – I was first tasting the ash of hell, crying out for a single drop of water on my tongue, tormented by what can only be described as flame.  Hell is real, dear brothers, let no one tell you differently.  And I lifted up my eyes and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus with him there.  Lazarus, who once had nothing … nothing but Jesus … now possessed all things.  It is even said that Jesus once raised Lazarus from the dead, and will raise him once again.

I begged that Lazarus would dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.  But Abraham said to me, “Son, in your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus received evil things; now he is comforted and you are tormented.”  And so I begged that Abraham would send Lazarus to tell you, my brothers, what I now know too well … so that you yourselves will not come to this place, and to this torment.

Seeing you do not see, dear brothers.  If you did see, you would not aspire to be rich and successful, you would not aspire in the least to be what I am.  If you did see, you would not raise your children to be as I am.  For what did it profit me to gain the whole world, when now, I am a child of hell?

If seeing you would see, then aspire not to be as one who is rich, but aspire to be as one who is a beggar, as Lazarus was, and beg for God’s mercy and grace in a day that it may be found.  If seeing you would see, then look, as Lazarus did, to the one named Jesus.  It is said that just as Jesus once raised Lazarus to life, so Jesus will raise to eternal life all who believe in Him.

Look to the Lord Jesus, and even if you should find yourself one day lying in the streets, you will know that He is your Savior, that through Him, through His promises, you possess all things.  Look to the Lord Jesus, and even if you should find yourselves covered in sores and surrounded by dogs, you will know that He is your resurrection.  Your reward comes, for He Himself is your reward.

What good is it to be rich and successful, to have fine clothing and food, if tonight you will feast on the emptiness of hell?  What trouble is it, dear brothers, to have troubles and sufferings today, if this very night you will feast with your Lord in heaven?

I asked Abraham, dear brothers, if Lazarus could be sent to preach repentance and Jesus’ mercy to you.  Abraham refused, said you had Moses and the prophets, said that you would not be persuaded even if someone were to rise from the dead.  So it is dear brothers, that I write this desperate letter to you, this letter from hell.

For there is One who has died on a cross for your sins, that you may be forgiven by God.  There is One who has shed His blood for you, so that you might stand before the judgment seat of God – not as I did – I stood in my own purple robes, scarlet as sin.  But you will stand before him clothed in robes that have been washed white in His blood.  There is One who clothes you in His goodness and His righteousness, and He does it free of charge.  This is He who has risen from the dead, once and for all, the very same Jesus Christ.

He is merciful.  Even to do what Abraham, and Moses, and all the prophets could not.  And I have it on good authority that the Lord Jesus is allowing this letter from hell to come to you, that you may not come here – to come to you by way of a certain poor man, a fellow beggar. [His name’s not important – its something like Rhode, or Hodel, — no, Rhodel, that’s it.]  So please heed this letter when it comes, dear brothers: repent and receive absolution for your sins.  For today the Lord Jesus Himself has come into your midst.  Do not let your eyes deceive you, or the cares of this world to choke out your faith.  For He is there for you now: slow to anger and quick to forgive.

And seeing you will see, when you look to the Christ.  For you may not be clothed in purple, but you are indeed clothed in Him.  And though you may not feast sumptuously by earthly standards, He sets before you His Body as the Bread of Life, His Blood from the Living Vine – and there is no greater feast than this in all of earth and heaven.  Desire, then, with all your heart, to be fed these crumbs from your Lord’s rich table.  And though you may not have a great house with a gate, the same Lord Jesus has promised to prepare a place for you, a room in His Father’s house.  Seeing you will see, if only your ears receive His words.  Hold Him to His promises.

For the only thing in all of life that truly matters … is that there was a certain Rich Man, named Jesus, who emptied Himself, and came down from heaven, to tabernacle among us.  He emptied Himself.  He who was rich became poor, so that we who are poor might become rich in Him.  He emptied Himself, and hungered so that we might be fed.  He emptied Himself and thirsted, so that our thirst might be quenched by Him.  He emptied Himself, in His passion, and gave His body over to sores, shed His holy blood for the dogs.   He lied down outside the gate, so that all who die in Him, might enter His rest, carried there in angel arms.  Dear brothers, all these things He has done for you.

It is my deepest wish then, dear brothers, that you would never come to this place of torment where I am – for there is no reason to.  And if it is true that you will not hear Moses and the prophets, then by all means hear the One who comes to you from the dead.  Hear the Lord Jesus Christ when He says:  Your sins are forgiven.  It is finished.  Though you die, yet shall you live.  To His name every knee does bend and every head does bow, in heaven and in hell.

Because of Him and what He has done for you, my greatest hope, then, is that I will not see you again.  Amen.

Click here for the MP3 of this sermon.

(HT: Fighting for the Faith)

Pastor Jeremy Rhode

Faith Lutheran Church

Capistrano Beach, CA

9-26-2010

Amos 6:1-7

1 Tim. 3:1-13 or 1 Tim. 6:6-19

Luke 16:19-31

“A Letter From Hell”

My Dear Brothers,

How can I explain this letter to you? How will you believe me … that this letter comes to you from the other side? I can only pray to the One whom I’ve forsaken that it somehow reaches you in time.

My brothers, I beg you – each one of you, all five – listen to me as though your lives depend upon it. No, my brothers, listen to me as if your very souls and all eternity depend upon it. For the life that you now live, the security that you now have … it is nothing. It is over in the blink of an eye – an eye that does not open – irreversible eternity.

When I walked the earth with you, and lived as you now live, I was admired. I was the man everyone aspired to be. Distinguished and wealthy, I wore the deepest purples; the finest of linens lay against my skin. I ate well and drank well. I lived a life of luxury.

You know me, my brothers, I tell you the truth and do not lie, you know that I was a good man, a church-going man. Abraham was in my bosom and Moses was on my lips. I did not become wealthy through treachery or thievery. I became wealthy and successful through hard work and honest labor. I was a man of virtue and considered myself to be blessed by God. I even sought to bless others. The poor I allowed to rest at my gate. How often I fed them leftovers from my own table, dear brothers, you yourselves know.

All who knew me knew my wealth, but they knew me to be a good man as well, rich in virtue. In your eyes, dear brothers, in the eyes of all people, dear brothers, I was everything that a good man aspires to be.

And this is why I write! For your eyes, dear brothers, betray you.

For seeing you do not see. When you see me, even now, in your mind’s eye, you see a rich man. You see me as a man with many possessions, what you do not see is that those things possessed me. You do not see that the money I held, held me. You do not see that the wine I drank, drank me. You do not see that all the good things I did for others, I did because they were good for me. No, my brothers, living “eye for an eye” has left you blind.

I know of only one Man, dear brothers, who could see things as they were – one Man whose eyes did not lie to Him. I met Him only once, but I pray that you have come to know His name. He alone saw that the possessions I had, possessed me – and He alone offered me freedom, true treasures found in Him. He alone saw that the wine I drank, had come to drink me … that the food I consumed, had begun to consume me – and He said to me that He was the Vine that is True, the Bread that is Life. He alone saw my goodness and righteousness … for the filthy rags they really were. And He offered me His own righteousness, saying that He would even lay down His own life.

O, My brothers, this Man has the words of eternal life … but I threw it all away … and I chased Him from my home, down the path. And standing at the gate, one of the beggars, a man named Lazarus, looked up at Him and said, “Lord Jesus, My Savior and My God.” And looking straight into my eyes, Jesus said to me, “that poor man lying there, Lazarus, … he has all that I have … and it will not be long before you see that Lazarus is not so very poor, nor are any who believe in Me.”

And so it was dear brothers, in the very moment you laid my body into the earth, the very moment that hundreds and hundreds had gathered to pay their respects, to sing their eulogies about me, the one man they had known who was truly rich and truly good – that very moment, dear brothers, when my life was being celebrated – I was first tasting the ash of hell, crying out for a single drop of water on my tongue, tormented by what can only be described as flame. Hell is real, dear brothers, let no one tell you differently. And I lifted up my eyes and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus with him there. Lazarus, who once had nothing … nothing but Jesus … now possessed all things. It is even said that Jesus once raised Lazarus from the dead, and will raise him once again.

I begged that Lazarus would dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. But Abraham said to me, “Son, in your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus received evil things; now he is comforted and you are tormented.” And so I begged that Abraham would send Lazarus to tell you, my brothers, what I now know too well … so that you yourselves will not come to this place, and to this torment.

Seeing you do not see, dear brothers. If you did see, you would not aspire to be rich and successful, you would not aspire in the least to be what I am. If you did see, you would not raise your children to be as I am. For what did it profit me to gain the whole world, when now, I am a child of hell?

If seeing you would see, then aspire not to be as one who is rich, but aspire to be as one who is a beggar, as Lazarus was, and beg for God’s mercy and grace in a day that it may be found. If seeing you would see, then look, as Lazarus did, to the one named Jesus. It is said that just as Jesus once raised Lazarus to life, so Jesus will raise to eternal life all who believe in Him.

Look to the Lord Jesus, and even if you should find yourself one day lying in the streets, you will know that He is your Savior, that through Him, through His promises, you possess all things. Look to the Lord Jesus, and even if you should find yourselves covered in sores and surrounded by dogs, you will know that He is your resurrection. Your reward comes, for He Himself is your reward.

What good is it to be rich and successful, to have fine clothing and food, if tonight you will feast on the emptiness of hell? What trouble is it, dear brothers, to have troubles and sufferings today, if this very night you will feast with your Lord in heaven?

I asked Abraham, dear brothers, if Lazarus could be sent to preach repentance and Jesus’ mercy to you. Abraham refused, said you had Moses and the prophets, said that you would not be persuaded even if someone were to rise from the dead. So it is dear brothers, that I write this desperate letter to you, this letter from hell.

For there is One who has died on a cross for your sins, that you may be forgiven by God. There is One who has shed His blood for you, so that you might stand before the judgment seat of God – not as I did – I stood in my own purple robes, scarlet as sin. But you will stand before him clothed in robes that have been washed white in His blood. There is One who clothes you in His goodness and His righteousness, and He does it free of charge. This is He who has risen from the dead, once and for all, the very same Jesus Christ.

He is merciful. Even to do what Abraham, and Moses, and all the prophets could not. And I have it on good authority that the Lord Jesus is allowing this letter from hell to come to you, that you may not come here – to come to you by way of a certain poor man, a fellow beggar. [His name’s not important – its something like Rhode, or Hodel, — no, Rhodel, that’s it.] So please heed this letter when it comes, dear brothers: repent and receive absolution for your sins. For today the Lord Jesus Himself has come into your midst. Do not let your eyes deceive you, or the cares of this world to choke out your faith. For He is there for you now: slow to anger and quick to forgive.

And seeing you will see, when you look to the Christ. For you may not be clothed in purple, but you are indeed clothed in Him. And though you may not feast sumptuously by earthly standards, He sets before you His Body as the Bread of Life, His Blood from the Living Vine – and there is no greater feast than this in all of earth and heaven. Desire, then, with all your heart, to be fed these crumbs from your Lord’s rich table. And though you may not have a great house with a gate, the same Lord Jesus has promised to prepare a place for you, a room in His Father’s house. Seeing you will see, if only your ears receive His words. Hold Him to His promises.

For the only thing in all of life that truly matters … is that there was a certain Rich Man, named Jesus, who emptied Himself, and came down from heaven, to tabernacle among us. He emptied Himself. He who was rich became poor, so that we who are poor might become rich in Him. He emptied Himself, and hungered so that we might be fed. He emptied Himself and thirsted, so that our thirst might be quenched by Him. He emptied Himself, in His passion, and gave His body over to sores, shed His holy blood for the dogs. He lied down outside the gate, so that all who die in Him, might enter His rest, carried there in angel arms. Dear brothers, all these things He has done for you.

It is my deepest wish then, dear brothers, that you would never come to this place of torment where I am – for there is no reason to. And if it is true that you will not hear Moses and the prophets, then by all means hear the One who comes to you from the dead. Hear the Lord Jesus Christ when He says: Your sins are forgiven. It is finished. Though you die, yet shall you live. To His name every knee does bend and every head does bow, in heaven and in hell.

Because of Him and what He has done for you, my greatest hope, then, is that I will not see you again. Amen.

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tagged as in Gospel,Sermons,theology

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 WoundedEgo October 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Luke 16:19-31 does not mention a place called “Hell.” It refers to a place called hADES. Your KJV or whatever is not giving you the facts.

2 Mark October 12, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Two NT passages refer to hades as the place where the dead exist: Revelation 20:13–14 and Luke 16:23. In Revelation 20 hades is emptied of all who are in it (either all dead or the wicked dead, depending on one’s eschatology)—the resurrection is complete. When the wicked are judged and cast into the lake of fire (Gehenna), hades is also thrown in. Luke 16:23, however, clearly refers to hades as the place of the wicked dead. There the rich man is tormented in a flame, while the poor man, Lazarus, goes to paradise (Abraham’s bosom).

Hades, then, means three things in the NT, as it did in Jewish literature: (1) Death and its power is the most frequent meaning, especially in metaphorical uses. (2) It also means the place of the dead in general, when a writer wants to lump all the dead together. (3) It means, finally, the place where the wicked dead are tormented before the final judgment. This is its narrowest meaning, occurring only once in the NT (Lk 16:23)….
See also Dead, Place of the; Gehenna; Hell; Sheol.

Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (561). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

3 WoundedEgo October 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm

These are all of the NT verses that include the place name hADES:

Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell : for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Luke 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell .
Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell , neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell , neither his flesh did see corruption.
1 Corinthians 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave , where is thy victory?
Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Revelation 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Revelation 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

4 Jose Eduardo October 29, 2010 at 8:56 am

Mark

I see a post at Pyromaniacs about you and started to read your blog. I am a brazilian reformed christian, and i love this post.

Can i translate the letter to portuguese and publish it at may blog (http://coracaodecarne.blogspot.com/)? I will put the author and a link to your blog.

thanks
Jose Eduardo

5 Mark October 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Jose,

I’ve emailed the pastor who wrote the sermon/letter to ask him. I’m sure he won’t mind and there is no need to link back here unless you want to. That’s up to you.

I will let you know when Pastor Rhode replies. Thanks for stopping by.

6 Mark October 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Jose, Pastor Rhode said it was fine with him if you want to translate the sermon into Portuguese and post it on your site.

7 WoundedEgo October 29, 2010 at 8:53 pm

>>…When the wicked are judged and cast into the lake of fire (Gehenna), hades is also thrown in…

Gehenna was the name of Jerusalem\’s incinerator (a valley where they burned their trash).

>>>Luke 16:23, however, clearly refers to hades as the place of the wicked dead.

hADES is the name of the Greek guardian of the dead, and, by extension, the abode of the dead. Jesus went to hADES, and in the LXX, so did everyone else.

>>>There the rich man is tormented in a flame, while the poor man, Lazarus, goes to paradise (Abraham’s bosom).

Where is a flame mentioned?

>>> Hades, then, means three things in the NT, as it did in Jewish literature: (1) Death and its power is the most frequent meaning, especially in metaphorical uses.

Okay.

>>>(2) It also means the place of the dead in general, when a writer wants to lump all the dead together.

Yup. Keep going.

>>>(3) It means, finally, the place where the wicked dead are tormented before the final judgment. This is its narrowest meaning, occurring only once in the NT (Lk 16:23)….

In Greek mythology, the dead lived on under the surface of the land. Their mouths were full of dirt and roots. That is what this parable is exploiting. There is no flaming torment, and certainly not before the day when men are judged!

8 Mark October 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm

WoundedEgo, what is your point?

9 WoundedEgo October 29, 2010 at 10:25 pm

My point?

What if every time the name PETROS, JAKOV or MIRIAM appeared in the Greek NT your “translation” read “SYRIA”. Wouldn’t you be upset?

Well the English NTs all seem to think it okay to translate hADES, SHEOL and GEHENNA as “hell.” That disturbs me. Does this inaccuracy not disturb you???

10 Mark October 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I fail to see how your illustration makes your point. Even the portion of the Tyndale Bible Dictionary I quoted above explains the different uses of the word in question.

11 WoundedEgo October 29, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Oddly, the dictionary suggests that only 2 of the 11 appearances of hADES in the NT have any bearing on “punishment,” but they are pretty sure we should go with the rich man parable.

12 Jose Eduardo November 8, 2010 at 10:09 am

Mark

It takes time, but it’s done. When you learn portuguese, give your feedback: http://coracaodecarne.blogspot.com/2010/11/uma-carta-do-inferno.html (ehehe). Thanks

13 Mark November 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Jose,

OK, I’ve got my Portuguese-English dictionary. It may take me a year, but I’m going to check your work! lol

I sent a message to Pastor Rhode letting him know. I hope the people you translated it for are edified.

14 Lonnelle Harris January 31, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Please look at this article: http://www.jeremyandchristine.com/articles/Lazarus.html. VERY IMPORTANT

.

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