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THE GROANS OF A DAMNED SOUL -
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
John Bunyan was born at Elstow, Bedfordshire, England in 1628. He died near London in 1688, a few days after riding through a heavy rain to help settle a quarrel between a father and son. He is buried at Bunhill Fields Cemetery, in London. My family and I visited his grave, across the street from the house where John Wesley died.
John Bunyan is the most widely read Baptist preacher of all time. His book, Pilgrim's Progress, far exceeds in number all other publications in English which have ever been written, other than the King James translation of the Bible.
He spent twelve years in jail at Bedford for preaching without a license from the state. It was against the law at that time for Baptists to preach the gospel. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners is his testimony of salvation. He wrote Pilgrim's Progress while in prison. Spurgeon read this book more than seventy-five times, and illustrations from it appear over and over in Spurgeon's sermons.
I am going to read abbreviated comments by Bunyan on Luke 16:19-26. I have changed Bunyan's words to modern English, and have greatly reduced the message, to make it accessible to today's less literate minds. This sermon was written in 1658, two years before he was put in prison. It is a running commentary on the account of the rich man and Lazarus. Bunyan titled it, "The Groans of a Damned Soul." I hope and pray that this simplified version of the great preacher's sermon will awaken you to escape from the everlasting punishment so clearly explained in the Bible.
How many of our churches today could have this sermon given in one of their services? Few, I fear. That is one of the reasons there is so little true revival in our time. See whether you agree with me as you read an abbreviated, updated version of a portion of John Bunyan's "The Groans of a Damned Soul."
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (Luke 16:19-26).
This passage of Scripture was not given to us to show what happened to these two men alone. The purpose of these verses is to show us what happens to those who are saved and to those who are lost when they die.
Notice Luke sixteen, verses 19, 20 and 21.
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores" (Luke 16:19-21).
If these verses were the only thing that Jesus said about these two men, we would all think that the rich man was the happy one. Yet when you read the whole passage you find that no one was more unhappy than he was!
Next, you can see that outward appearances don't tell you who is blessed by God and who isn't. By reading only these three verses, you would think this rich man had everything! He had the best food, good clothes, and everything he wanted.
But if you read the rest of the chapter, you find that it is the beggar who had the best position, and the rich man was in the worst. Here is the purpose of this chapter - it is to show us that a person who does well can be a child of the Devil. A person may enjoy his life and yet be carried by demons into everlasting burnings. This is the trap in which the Devil has caught thousands of people, by getting them to judge God's blessings by the outward appearance, according to God's outward blessings.
But we should understand that the rich are often damned to Hell. It is the rich man who goes to Hell. Notice verse twenty-two:
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom" (Luke 16:22-23).
When wealthy people strut up and down the street, it seems like they think they are the only happy people on earth. But they generally miss Heaven. The Bible says, "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (I Corinthians 1:26). If they realized that very few rich people ever get saved, they would want what the poor man, Lazarus, got. Be very careful. Otherwise God may say to you, after you die, "Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things…" (Luke 16:25).
Many people want to be rich, but this is foolish. The Bible says, "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (I Timothy 6:9).
These two men show us the state of the lost and the saved, the ungodly and the godly. "There was a rich man." Why are ungodly people presented as a rich man? First, because Christ doesn't want rich people to think too highly of themselves. Second, because they are apt to be proud. Third, because Christ wants to comfort His own people, who are usually poorer than the lost. "But God hath chosen the poor, despised, and base things of this world" (I Corinthians 1:26-28).
When Christ says, "There was a rich man," He is actually speaking about all people who are lost, whether rich or poor. Everyone who is lost will go to Hell when they die.
Now look at verse twenty:
"And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores" (Luke 16:20).
This verse shows us that true Christians are really poor people. Real Christians are generally found among those who have less money. But they are also poor in spirit, begging for heavenly food.
He was "full of sores." This shows us the many troubles, temptations, persecutions, and afflictions which real Christians must face in the world.
Notice that the beggar was "laid at his gate, full of sores." He was laid outside, not in the rich man's house. That was thought too good for him. This shows us that lost people don't like to have real Christians close to them. "If they have to be near us at all," they say, "Let them stay outside." They don't want to be close to you because they are not in agreement with you in their hearts. Don't expect lost people in the world to help you or be nice to you. They will despise you, if you are a true Christian, just as this man despised Lazarus.
Look at verse twenty-one:
"And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores"
This shows that a true Christian will be content with anything, even the "crumbs which fell from the rich man's table." Paul wrote, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11). Notice that it says, "he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell…" He wanted the scraps of food, but he did not get them. The scraps from the table were saved for the dogs. From this we see that lost people love their dogs better than they love a true Christian. Think of how much money lost people spend on their dogs while they send nothing to feed starving Christians on the mission field. They would rather sit down and talk with a drunkard, a loose woman, or a dog than to be with a good Christian. That's why they don't want to be in church.
Then also "the dogs came and licked his sores." The dogs did him more good than the rich man. They cleansed his sores with their medicinal saliva. They helped him. But the rich man didn't even look in his direction as he rode by.
Look at verse twenty-two:
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried" (Luke 16:22).
The earlier verses show us how the ungodly treat Christians. They want nothing to do with us in this world. Now this verse shows us how both the ungodly and true Christians leave this life. The beggar died - that represents the true Christians. The rich man died - that represents the lost, those who are ungodly. This shows that both kinds of people die. Saved people die and lost people die. The Bible tells us, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Everyone must face God. Everyone must die. Not a single person escapes death.
Now, when it says that the beggar died and the rich man died, part of the meaning is that they no longer existed in this world. I say "part" of the meaning, and not all of it. That is the whole meaning when an animal dies - it no longer exists in this world. But when human beings die, that is only part of the meaning. When lost people die their souls are not extinguished. They are carried by the angels of darkness into the fire of Hell, where they stay until the Day of Judgment. They live on in Hell. But the saved are carried into Heaven.
Notice that there is no mention of the beggar having a burial. His body was undoubtedly thrown outside the city, on the dump site. But the verse tells us that the "rich man was buried." It would have been a great funeral, with many guests, and mourners paid to wail during the ceremony. Yet the beggar was received into Abraham's bosom, which was a term in the Jewish Talmud used to describe Heaven. This term describes a great feast, in which Abraham is the host. To lie in "his bosom" is an expression that means to be close to him, as an honored guest.
If people believed this one truth - that they must die and go either to Heaven or to Hell - they would not be as wicked as they are. King Belshazzar had no fear of God. He was having a good time at a party when the fingers wrote of his judgment on the wall. "Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that…his knees smote one against another" (Daniel 5:5-6). When Paul told Felix about judgment to come, it made him tremble. And let me tell you, whoever you are, that if you believed that you must die and face the judgment, it would make you tremble also. That is why the Devil does everything he can to keep you from thinking of passing from this life to another world. The Devil knows if he can keep you from thinking seriously about your coming death, he can more easily keep you in sin, and away from Christ. The Devil knows if he can keep you from thinking about death, he can more easily keep you for himself. You will not come to Christ if you do not fear judgment. As Job said, "Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them." Which makes them say to God, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" (Job 21:14). Because you have no fear of death and judgment, therefore you go on in a lost state, and in a moment, before you are aware of it, you die and fall into Hell.
Read the 22nd verse over again, and you will see a marvellous difference between the saved and the lost. It is the difference between Heaven and Hell, everlasting joy and everlasting torments.
Notice verse twenty-three:
"And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments" (Luke 16:23).
The ungodly do not go to Heaven. They are hurried by the demons into the flames. When the unconverted die, their misery begins. The demons come, like lions, waiting until they leave their bodies. Sometimes they are visible to the dying person, but sometimes invisible, but they always take the person who is lost to be tormented until the Last Judgment. At that time they will receive an eternal sentence from the righteous Judge, and at that time they are shut out from the presence of God into everlasting woe and distress, "being in torments." Notice, after he was buried "in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments." He went immediately to Hell when he died.
We see several things in this verse. First, there is a Hell to be tormented in when life is ended. Second, as soon as the unconverted die they go into Hell. He died and was buried, "and in hell he lift[ed] up his eyes." Third, many are so asleep that they will not know where they are until they realize they are in Hell, "In hell he lift[ed] up his eyes." He was asleep in his lost state before, but in Hell he finally lifts up his eyes and sees that it is too late!
Some may say that Hell is only in this life of sorrow, but I deny that. Verse twenty-two says, "The rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…" Let me tell you, whoever you are, that unless you get saved, you will discover that you are in Hell when this life has ended.
O sometimes when I think about you going to Hell, it has stirred me up to seek the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver me from it. We must not make a joke about Hell. "And in hell he lift up his eyes."
Again, think of these words, "and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments." O unspeakable torments! O endless torments! I will now show you the torments of Hell. First, by the names of it. Second, by the sad state you will be in, if you go there.
First, think of the names of it. It is called a never-dying worm (Mark 9:44). It is called an oven of fire, a fiery furnace (Matthew 13:42). It is called the bottomless pit, the unquenchable fire, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14).
Second, think of the sad state you will be in if you go there. One part of the torments will be that you will be fully aware of how you wasted your life. You will then see what a fool you were to reject Jesus Christ.
Another torment will be the guilt of your sins. In Hell you will have plenty of time to think about the many sins you committed while you were on earth. And the thought of your sins will torment you endlessly.
Also, you will be tormented when you think about the many times you could have come to Christ and been saved. But it will be too late to be saved then. You will even remember hearing this sermon, and how you disregarded it and refused to come to Christ. This will torment you - endlessly.
Another torment is that you will see people you knew in this church far away from you, in Heaven. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:28). You will see others you knew in Heaven, but you will be thrust out of it! O, horrible torment!
Again, you will be in this place of torment forever, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thessalonians 1:9). This one word, "everlasting," will torment your soul! O! I am not fully able to say all that I think concerning the torments of Hell! Yet, let me say to you, accept God's mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ. If you refuse Christ's mercy and forgiveness, I cannot completely express to you how horrible it will be when you say, "I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24).
Look at verse twenty-four,
"And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame"
The Rich Man sees poor Lazarus in Heaven. Who was he? Why, he was that poor Christian he saw by his gate but paid no attention to. He now sees that man in Heaven. He did not listen to Lazarus while he was on earth, just as you do not listen to Christians when they warn you to get saved. Now Lazarus cannot help him. It is too late.
Look at verse twenty-five,
"But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence"
Abraham says, "Son, remember." He does not offer the man in Hell any relief. He tells him to remember. And in Hell you will remember many things, including this sermon. You will remember all the opportunities you had to be saved by Christ. You will remember how little you thought about Christ. You will remember how rebellious you were to Christ. You will remember the good things you had in this life, but these memories will only torment you even more.
Look at verse twenty-six again,
"And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence"
"But beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed [a great chasm fixed]." O, I believe that if you thought about those words, they would be enough to make you fall down dead! I say, that these words are very terrible to anyone who dies without coming to Christ.
Now consider how you can escape from Hell. You must believe in Jesus Christ with all your heart. Turn away from your sins now, and believe fully and wholeheartedly in Jesus Christ. Christ will free you from the guilt of your sins by His most precious Blood. Give up your whole self to Christ. Believe in the Blood of Christ, shed upon the Cross, for the forgiveness of sins. Freely come to Jesus Christ. He will save you.
Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 16:19-26.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed?" (by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).
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