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A Great Gulf Fixed

Lost people need to know. Luke 16.19-26

Luke 16 (5)

Pray Psalm 49.10-12.
For he sees wise men die;
Likewise the fool and the senseless person perish,
And leave their wealth to others.
Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever,
Their dwelling places to all generations;
They call their lands after their own names.
Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain;
He is like the beasts that perish.

Sing Psalm 49.10-12, 15.
(Sagina: And Can It Be)
See how the wise and senseless die, and leave to others all their gold.
Vainly forever they longed and hoped to have their names and glories told.
Man in his pomp will not endure; like any beast his end is sure.
Refrain 15
My God redeems my soul from hell!
His grace and mercy let me tell!

Read Luke 16.1-26; meditate on verses 19-26.


1. What did the rich man seek?

2. What did Abraham tell him?

In recent years arguments about the existence of hell have become fashionable among some theologians and pastors. One view is called annihilationism and contends that those who, by rejecting the Gospel, consigned themselves to hell, will at some point be altogether and finally destroyed. Their suffering will not be forever.

A second view, sometimes referred to as Christian universalism, holds that unrepentant sinners will suffer, but not forever. Ultimately the salvation which Jesus accomplished will be applied to them as well, so that all will be saved.

I cannot square these views with the justice of God and the teaching of our text. Unrepentant sinners will not be sent away from the judgment seat of Christ weeping and sorrowing for their sins, begging for one more chance to change their minds. They will go away cursing and unrepentant, scornful of Jesus’ suffering; thus, they will receive the condemnation God threatens throughout His Word. Whoever will not shelter under the wings of Jesus’ saving mercy and grace to love God and their neighbors will suffer the just consequences of their foolish choice.

Forever. The gulf that separates those souls graciously gathered to the Father and those who have been self-serving and Christ-rejecting all their days is “fixed” (v. 26). It cannot be passed in either direction. Those who are consigned to “torments in Hades” have freely chosen their eternal destination, tragic as that is.

The Good News that some will be saved must be tempered with the bad news that many will not. And those who will not be saved must be warned of the consequences of their decision. They may scoff and mock, but they will understand that the Scriptures teach that once they cross that eternal gulf into the torments of hell, there is no relief. Forever.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Christian, what do you believe?

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,

born of the virgin Mary;
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.
From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

(The Apostles’ Creed)

The communion of the saints is a glorious truth and one which I love to contemplate. Luke 16.19-26 speaks of communication between the living dead and the dead living. It is not a communion between saints, but it is indeed communion.

And whereas there is a great gulf fixed between those in heaven and hell, there is no boundary fixed between the living in Christ on earth and those living in heaven. Lest you think I am talking about something crazy like, “I see dead people” as in the movie, The Sixth Sense, all I am saying is that there is communion between all souls past and present who belong to God and are in His Kingdom. Who else would that “great cloud of witnesses” be? (Heb. 12.1) Believers, past and present, encourage one another to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12.1, 2).

Jesus told this story. This is His thinking coming to life in His parable. And although it is true that we should be diligent to live and speak the Gospel clearly so that no one in our Personal Mission Field is unaware of the horrors of being perpetually separated from God, it must also be true that encouragement from the saints and encouragement to the saints are always active and happening… “now he is comforted” (Lk. 16.25).

We can enjoy being encouraged by all the saints of God; and in turn, as we live out our lives on earth, we must let all that we do be done in love (1 Cor. 16.14). “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15.58). Encouraging one another.

“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22.32; Ex. 3.6).

We are all one in Him (Jn. 17.11) with no gulf fixed betwixt or between.

For reflection
1. How do you experience the “communion of the saints”? How would having more communion with departed saints in glory encourage you in your walk with and work for the Lord?

2. Why is it important we tell people about eternal judgment and the miseries of hell?

3. How will you encourage your fellow believers today?

A vast gulf lieth. These words describe the permanency of the future state, and denote, that the boundaries which separate the reprobate from the elect can never be broken through. And thus we are reminded to return early to the path, while there is yet time, lest we rush headlong into that abyss, from which it will be impossible to rise. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Luke 16.26

Pray Psalm 49.15-20.
Thank the Lord for your salvation. Call on Him to fill you with joy today as you serve Him among the people in your Personal Mission Field.

Sing Psalm 49.15-20.
(Sagina: And Can It Be)
Let the redeemed of God take heart, though fools and all their wealth increase.
Death shall deprive him of all he owns, the grave shall make his glory cease.
Thus though he boasts, no light he sees;  his end in hell shall ever be.
Refrain 15
My God redeems my soul from hell!
His grace and mercy let me tell!

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can download all the studies in our Luke series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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