Treasure of Scripture Over Experience of People :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

A Warning Summary: When the rich man in hell begged for Lazarus to be sent back to warn his family about avoiding his fate, Abraham reminded him that they had the Scriptures. Nothing else has ever been used of the LORD other than His Word to convict the sinner.

Whenever a real man of God stands behind the pulpit and preaches the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-5), he is to hold nothing back and never compromise the Scriptures for the sake of feeling, alleged offense, or cultural beliefs. No preacher worth his sacred calling should ever water down the power of the Scriptures to convict and change the hearts of even the vilest offender. You cannot take out those teachings and declarations made by Almighty God, His prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the apostles and put away whatever you think might get someone upset or bent out of shape as it pertains to the condition of their soul and eternal destiny.

Salvation through Christ is the only means by which any one of us can enter the portals of heaven when we take our last breath (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). No child of God should ever be afraid of what the world thinks of the Gospel message, nor of the consequences that face all of us who stand for the integrity of Jesus Christ and His mercy upon us. The Scriptures are sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21) and never instruct us to add “extra credit” of our own merit, which amounts to nothing more than a leper’s filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6), nor practice religious observations or rituals that appear to give further aid in the redemption process.

Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians (1:8-9) to refute such thinking. I say all of this to reinforce what may sound harsh to some brethren, but I say it with concern and care for the welfare of your souls. And that is that no amount of testimony, visions, dreams, signs and wonders by modern “apostles,” or “prophetic utterances,” “revelations,” or alleged “visits to heaven (or hell) that have been uttered or proclaimed by anyone, even with the best of intentions, would convince me if I were an unsaved individual that the claims of Christianity are true and valid.

If the Scriptures tell me about the reality of both heaven and hell, should that not be enough, or do you not believe what God has written?

Go back and re-read the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and pay attention to what was said in the last four verses of the account. The man in Hades realizes that he is never going to get out. He will have to endure the torments and thoughts of how he could have avoided this horrid place and that he deserves what he is getting — not for his neglect of the beggar Lazarus who now resides in the Bosom of Abraham, another name for Paradise (Luke 23:48) — but for the neglect of his soul before God. He is in the same predicament as the farmer with the abundant harvest whose soul is required by God and is woefully unprepared for that journey (Luke 12:13-21).

The Scriptures make it as plain as day that when a wicked person sins, he will have to pay for it at the judgment (Ezekiel 18:19-32; John 5:28-29; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15). Unless that individual has repented of their sins and rebellion before God, asked for His forgiveness, and turned to the LORD for salvation (Romans 10:9-10), they will spend eternity in hell where there will be no rest for them anymore (Revelation 14:9-11).

The Lord Jesus spoke more of hell than he did of heaven (Matthew 5:22, 29, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15,33; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 12:5, 16:19-31). Hell is described in Scripture as outer darkness (Matt. 8:12), eternal fire (Matthew 25:41), eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46), a place of eternal destruction (2 Thess.1:9), the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). It is the eternal home for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), the wicked of all time (Rev. 21:8), the disobedient (Romans 2:8-9), the beast and the false prophet (Rev.19:20), the worshippers of the beast (Rev.14:11), and all who reject the offer of the Gospel (Matt. 10:15). The rich man wants Lazarus to return from heaven and warn his five brothers about the horror of hades.

That sounds noble on the surface, but it is a reflection of how he treated Lazarus while he lived. This beggar was seen as nothing more than an errand boy, doing the work that he should have done for himself and his family when they were alive and kicking. Lazarus says nothing. Does he want to leave the comfort and beauty of heaven to satisfy the request of someone who did not care if he lived or died while they were both on Earth? Even if he did go back to Earth and confront the man’s brothers, would they react with terror or apathy? After all, this was a bum that had been lying by the gate of their home getting a bath of spittle from mongrels who licked the man’s sores. You know as well as I do that he would be rejected and sent away in derision, and it would be no different today.

Another thing to consider is that Lazarus’ story would not hold the same weight or authority as does God’s absolute and final Word. What would Lazarus say that was not already confirmed by the Scriptures?

It is for this reason that whenever I hear the latest tale of “trips to heaven” from preachers, pundits, and others, I tend to roll my eyes in skepticism and with a sense of sorrow. It is not because some malevolent unseen force is at work blinding my eyes to a “revelation from God,” but because every time I hear of these flights of fancy, I want to openly rebuke them because nothing they tend to say or produce is ever in line with what the Bible describes about heaven and its glories.

Every tale these folks tell is different and on the border of ridiculousness, and I have yet to hear them give me a description of the awe, majesty, holiness, and glory of the Living Sovereign Lord God Almighty receiving honor and praise from the heavenly host and the saints who now dwell there. All these folks are doing, whether they are aware of it or not, is making Jesus Christ a laughing stock among the wicked of the world and a target for parody and blasphemy. Their tales do not draw people towards God and His Word, but away, seeing the Bible as another in a line of fanciful tales and legends, not to be taken seriously.

Any teaching outside of the authority of the Word can and will be used by the devil to close the minds and hearts to the truth of what God has decreed and the fate of those who walk away from His free offer of grace and mercy. Fanciful stories told in the name of Jesus that are not rooted in the truth of the Word only disgrace and minimize His absolute, holy, righteous, and uncompromising character and take away the reverence that is due Him.

Jesus promised the thief next to Him as they were both dying that he would be with the LORD in Paradise due to the fact that he had sought forgiveness and had repented before it was too late. Jesus did not describe it to him, but it was promised, and that was good enough for him. I do not need a detailed itinerary of my future home to know that I will be with my LORD, in His presence for all time, and will spend eternity with my loved ones and all who, while on Earth, bowed their knee and surrendered their lives to Him. They believed the Gospel and not some “experience” that someone shared. I want to hear from the One who put it all into place (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:16-18) and not from a secondhand source.

If Paul himself was not allowed to share what he had seen in the third heaven, then I do not need any more information to know other than it must be so wonderful that our poor words cannot do it justice (1 Corinthians 2:8-9). Even as magnificent a description as John gives in the book of the Revelation of heaven and the New earth, it will not be until we see it for ourselves and thank the LORD for His saving grace, but also weep for not thinking on the things of heaven instead of the briefness of our lives on this wicked planet.

We will no doubt weep at the Judgment Seat of Christ for what we could have done (2 Corinthians 5:10) and weep as those whom we knew yet were not redeemed are sent to the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15), but He will wipe away our tears and turn our hearts from sorrow to joy (Revelation 21:1-7). The Lord Jesus is going to make all things new, including heaven, earth, and the entirety of creation (Isaiah 11:1-10). We will have an eternity to take it all in, and the description the Scriptures provide is satisfying enough.

I am redeemed, I am forgiven, and I am His for all time. No one has to tell me that, save for Jesus and His Word, thank you. His Word warns that anyone who rejects His offer of salvation will pay the consequences, and those who come to Him for salvation are His forever (Jon 10:28-30; Hebrews 13:5). The Bible tells me so, but you need to read it for yourself and let Him give you the details.