By Ian Cotton, Retired Pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
The closing scenes of this Earth’s history are portrayed in the closing of the rich man’s history. The rich man claimed to be a son of Abraham, but he was separated from Abraham by an impassable gulf – a character wrongly developed. (Luke 16:19 ff.)
Abraham served God, following His word in faith and obedience. But the rich man ignored God and the needs of suffering humanity. The great gulf fixed between him and Abraham was the gulf of disobedience.
There are many today who are following the same course. Though church members, they are unconverted. They may take part in the church service, they may chant the psalm, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1); but they testify to a falsehood. They are no more righteous in God’s sight than the worst sinner.
The soul that longs after the excitement of worldly pleasure, the mind that is full of love for display, cannot serve God. Like the rich man in the parable, such a one has no inclination to war against the lust of the flesh. He longs to indulge appetite. He chooses the atmosphere of sin. He is suddenly snatched away by death, and he goes down to the grave with the character formed during his lifetime. In the grave he has no power to choose anything, be it good or evil; for in the day when a man dies, his thoughts perish.
Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6.
When Jesus returns the second time and the voice of God awakes the dead, the rich man will come from the grave with the same appetites and passions, the same likes and dislikes, that he cherished when living. God works no miracle to re-create a man who would not be re-created when he was granted every opportunity and provided with every facility. During his lifetime he took no delight in God, nor found pleasure in His service. His character is not in harmony with God, and he could not be happy in the heavenly family.
Today, there is a class in our world who are self-righteous. They are not gluttons, they are not drunkards, they are not infidels; but they desire to live for themselves, not for God. He is not in their thoughts; therefore they are classed with unbelievers.
Were it possible for them to enter the gates of the city of God, they could have no right to the tree of life, for when God’s ten commandments (these define sin according to 1 John 3:4) were laid before them with all their binding claims they said, No. They have not served God here; therefore they would not serve Him there. They could not live in His presence, and they would feel that any place was preferable to heaven.
To learn of Christ means to receive His grace, which is His character. But those who do not appreciate and utilize the precious opportunities and sacred influences granted them on earth, are not fitted to take part in the pure devotion of heaven. Their characters are not molded according to the divine similitude. By their own neglect they have formed a chasm which nothing can bridge. Between them and the righteous there is a great gulf fixed.
– Adapted from Christ Object Lessons