And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:27-31 ESV).
Too late, too late, too late. For the rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he realizes and understands all too late. He notices Lazarus too late. Rather than see him in the life on earth and serve him as he was commanded to do by Moses and the Prophets, the rich man partied in oblivion and ignored Lazarus’ plight. In all his living for pleasure, the rich man never took heed of the warnings of Moses and the Prophets concerning the afterlife. He notices the chasm only when he is suffering in the torments of Hades and unable to escape. Too late. Far too late. Once this realization is fully made, he worries too late about his brothers and the lives of pleasure like his that they lead, without regard to the Law and the Prophets. He wants to send Lazarus to them to warn them. But it is too late. Far too late. In the face of the torment of Hades, he finally comes to the realization that he should have repented, he should have heeded the call of the Law and the Prophets to that repentance. It is too late now, far too late. Not even if someone should return from the dead, not even if Lazarus should return to his brothers, will those who ignore the testimony of Moses and the Prophets take heed. It is too late.
Those people who ignore the testimony of Moses and the Prophets ignore not only the testimony of the Law, which brings us to repentance, but also the testimony that they give to Jesus Christ and His coming in grace and mercy. We are those people who risk it being too late. We put aside the portions of God’s Law that we find inconvenient and remain comfortable in our sins. We would prefer to take our pleasures and our comforts as we see fit. God’s Law says do not commit adultery? “Well, that only refers to a spouse physically cheating on their spouse,” we say. “I can have this internet dalliance.” Or “I can do as I please before I get married.” God’s Law says to honor your father and your mother? “Well, my parents are backwards and out of touch. Surely I don’t have to listen to them,” we think. God’s law says not to covet what is our neighbors? “Well,” we think, “I am a better person, and what they have should be mine. Surely it’s not covetous when the person who has what I want is a bad person.” So comfortable in our sins are we that we do not even think we need a Savior. If we can set aside the Law and the Prophets, if we have no repentance in us, then we can also set aside the One who brings us to repentance and offers forgiveness. And it will be too late.
Blessed are we, however, for we have had the full counsel of God proclaimed to us. Our pastors have faithfully delivered to us the sting of the Law and the sweet relief of the Gospel. They have not allowed us to go on enjoying our favorite sins. They have not allowed us to go on ignoring that of which Moses and the Prophets speak: God’s holy Law, our need for repentance, and the Savior who has risen from the dead. For there is One who returned from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through His gift of the Holy Spirit, He opens His Word to us so that we heed the message of Moses and the Prophets and see that they point to Him. In our Baptisms, we drown to those contented sinful selves and are raised to new life in Christ. Daily, we are brought to repentance and forgiven for our sins, so that it is not too late. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 ESV). He comes as the risen Lord to deliver the gifts of salvation and life that His death has won for us in Word and Sacrament.
And so we speak the whole counsel of God — both Law and Gospel — to a world in danger of its being too late. As missionaries, as children, as employers, as parents, as friends, as sisters and brothers, we speak in love the full counsel of God to all those with whom we come in contact. For Jesus Christ has returned from the dead, and in Him, for all those who believe, it can never be too late.
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, teach us and all people to heed the teachings of Moses and the Prophets and to look to You as our Risen Lord and Savior; bring us to repentance so that we may proclaim Your death and resurrection to a world in need…so that it will not be too late for the people around us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.