TITLE: THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
Subtitle: The Contrast of Materialism and Spirituality
In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we find the Lord Jesus Christ ending a series of parables—short stories that teach spiritual truths. The last story that He relates is similar to the parables, but one main distinguishing point alerts us to the fact that it is not a parable. No one is ever named in a parable and this story has a beggar named Lazarus. It is entirely conceivable that this poor man was someone whom the Lord had met during His travels and whose life and death He used to make a very vivid illustration to others. Beginning in verse 19 of chapter 16, we read as follows:
There was a certain rich man, who (habitually) clothed himself in purple and fine linen, and reveled and feasted and made merry in splendor every day. And at his gate there was a (carelessly) dropped down and left a certain utterly destitute man, named Lazarus, (reduced to begging alms) and covered with (ulcerated) sores. He [eagerly] desired to be satisfied with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs even came and licked his sores. And it occurred that the man (reduced to begging) died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades [the realm of the dead], being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have pity and mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime fully received (what is due you) in comforts and delights, and Lazarus in like manner the discomforts and distresses; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who want to pass from this [place] to you may not be able, and no one may pass from there to us. And [the man] said, Then, father, I beseech you to send him to my father’s house, For I have five brothers, so that he may give (solemn) testimony and warn them, lest they too come into this place of torment. But Abraham said, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear and listen to them. But he answered, No, father Abraham; but if some one from the dead goes to them, they will repent (change their minds for the better and heartily amend their ways with abhorrence of their past sins). He said to him, If they do not hear and listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded and convinced and believe if some one should rise from the dead" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
This is a most interesting commentary given to us from the lips of the Lord Himself and contains many things we should ponder very carefully. I suppose the first thing that we should notice is that the earthly lives of two men are being contrasted. On the one hand we are introduced to "a certain rich man"—an unnamed individual, but certainly one representative of rich and influential men of that day. He may have even been royalty, because it is said that he habitually clothed himself in purple—a color traditionally and historically associated with royalty. Fine linen was also a feature of his robes and other clothing—very costly and befitting a man of his prominence. His life-style included everything a worldly man could ask for—parties, feasts, and hilarious good times in sumptuous and lavish surroundings—each and every day!
The rich man’s palatial estate was surrounded by a tall stone wall that provided security from unwanted visitors—and access from the street outside was by way of an ornate and costly gate, tended by servants. It was at this gate that some friends of Lazarus hastily dumped him, perhaps with the idea that he could beg table scraps or a few coins. To say that Lazarus was "down on his luck" would be an understatement. He was sick, hungry, unemployed, and had little chance for survival—let alone improving his circumstances. His body was covered with sores that were possibly the result of a vitamin deficiency brought on by starvation. In his pitiful predicament, he would have been very grateful for just the crumbs swept from under the banquet tables after one of the parties. And just when it seemed that matters could not get any worse, stray dogs are attracted to the smell of Lazarus’ running sores. These were not ordinary pets! Packs of savage dogs roamed the city streets scavenging for anything they could find and would eat anything that didn’t eat them first! They were probably trying to lick the bloody discharge from the sores and Lazarus was in danger of being eaten alive! For all we know, he may have been killed and eaten by the dogs, because suddenly we are told that he died. Our initial reaction is one of sorrow at this pitiful scene, but sorrow quickly turns to joy when we read that the angels carried him to "Abraham’s bosom"—a Hebraism for Paradise. Lazarus was one of God’s elect children who immediately left the trials and tribulations of this world for the glorious realm of the redeemed.
A quick word would be in order to explain the Old Testament concept of "Sheol" (Hebrew), or "Hades" (Greek)—the "grave" or abode of the dead. It was generally believed to be in the heart of the earth and all who died (righteous or not) went there after death. Some conservative theologians have concluded that Sheol or Hades was comprised of two "compartments"—one being "Paradise", the abode of the redeemed, and the other Sheol or Hades proper—their reasoning being largely based upon this story.
Next we have the terse statement that the rich man also died and was buried. No doubt he had a magnificent funeral befitting his lofty social stature and financial means. It is likely that professional mourners were hired to bewail his demise and laud his worldly achievements, while his body was carefully wrapped and placed in a very costly tomb carved out of solid rock. No expense would have been spared and his "send-off" would have been grand indeed. However, the rich man was not a child of God and immediately after death found himself in circumstances totally different from that of Lazarus! As the flames enveloped him and tormented him, he looked up and saw Abraham and Lazarus far off in the distance—in Paradise. I don’t know about you, but I find it very interesting that the rich man knew Lazarus—recognized him—and referred to him by name! We can only speculate as to what their earthly interaction had been, but I think it safe to say that the rich man did not take him in and care for him as he should have. These two men had been Jewish brethren—one of them rich and the other poor—and the Law of Moses made it mandatory that the rich provide for the needs of poor brethren. Obviously, the rich man had failed miserably in this responsibility (and we can only guess as to how many others). He "had it made in the shade" while he was alive, but now the situation is alarmingly different and search as he might—he cannot find even one credit card! He is yelling at the top of his lungs for his servants to come and rescue him, but they are not listening. The fire just keeps on getting hotter and he looks around for some of that expensive imported wine he always kept on hand to cool his swollen tongue, but that too is strangely missing. "Where are the gold and silver coins? Maybe I can bribe somebody to let me out of here —money talks, you know!"
But the flames are relentless. In sheer desperation he cries out to Abraham off in the distance, "Please send Lazarus here so that he can just dip the tip of his finger in water and place it on my tongue to cool it—man I’m hurting in these flames, won't you have pity on me?"
At this point I believe that I will "blow up" if I do not make this observation: These words found in the gospel of Luke were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and HE says that Hades (hell) is hot for those who will spend eternity there!!! The world’s most recognizable and renowned evangelist is on record as "not being sure about the flames" and therefore does not preach it. His concept of hell is that it is only separation from God. Can he not read? Pick up just about any translation or version of the Bible that you choose and they plainly speak of flames in this passage. If he’s wrong about this, where else might he "be out in left field". Hmmm?
Then Abraham is forced to break the bad news to old moneybags. "My child, you lived it up on the other side and Lazarus had it rough. Now the roles are reversed and the really bad news is that it’s never going to change back! There is a spiritual "Grand Canyon" separating us and Lazarus can’t come to you and you can’t come here." As Abraham’s somber words cause reality to set in, for once the formerly rich man thinks about someone other than himself. "Then please send Lazarus to my five brothers, because I don’t want them to come to this awful place!" And even in this seemingly selfless request he cannot find any peace, because Abraham rightly points out to him that his brothers have access to "Moses and the prophets"—the Old Testament Scriptures—and they must be warned through them. To this the anguished reply comes back, "Oh, if you will only send Lazarus to them, they will believe someone coming from among the dead". But Abraham has to tell him the truth—if they will not believe the Scriptures, they will not believe someone resurrected from the dead either.
Of course, we know that this really did happen, and not too long after Jesus told this story. On that Cross on Golgotha, the Son of God and Son of Man died for your sins and mine, so we would not have to spend eternity in Hell. Then, after only 3 days in the grave, Jesus Christ arose, and appeared to over 500 different people over a period of 40 long days! Yet, even Jesus Christ returned from the grave did not convince the majority of Jewish people, and virtually none of the Pharisees and Sadduccees. Thus, do not think that a person today is hampered in his or her ability to believe because belief is all a matter of faith, not sight. The people in Jesus' day suffered because they could actually see the miracles of Jesus Christ. I do not understand this part of human nature, but it is so true. People can, and do, look right at supernatural miracles and not believe, not even if a person were to come back from the dead.
As a further illustration of this phenomena, I call your attention to chapter eleven of the Gospel of John. In this chapter we find the resurrection of another Lazarus from the dead! This particular Lazarus, along with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were close friends of the Lord. When Lazarus died, the Lord brought him back from the dead in a manner calculated to prove beyond doubt that it was a supernatural resurrection. He had been dead for four days and the Lord intentionally waited that long—some commentaries say—because a Jewish superstition said that the spirit hovered around the body for two to three days after death. After four days, even this hope was gone. So when Christ called Lazarus out of the tomb, his body should already have been in the process of advanced decay with the resultant foul odor. However, when the Lord called "Lazarus, come forth!", Lazarus came walking out of the tomb wrapped up like a mummy! The Jewish method of burial involved wrapping the entire body with strips of linen cloth interspersed with embalming spices. The wealthier the individual, the more spices were used. The rule of thumb was that "no flesh was to touch flesh", so each finger, each toe, each arm and each leg were individually wrapped. The body was then wrapped up to the neck and the face and head were covered with a separate "napkin". This wrapping was so extensive, that Lazarus definitely needed help to free himself!
Just a short time after this wonderful incident—one which caused many Jews to believe on Christ—we see in the twelfth chapter of John where the Lord is attending a supper given by Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In verse 9 we are told that many uninvited Jews came and that they did not come to see the Lord, but wanted to see Lazarus who was resurrected! Isn’t that just like human nature? Rather than paying homage to their Messiah, Who had performed such a miracle, they were merely curious about the resurrected man! Then in verses 10 and 11 we find actions recorded which validate Abraham’s assertion that even though one rise from the dead, some will still not believe:
"So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also, (verse 53 reveals that they had already began their plot to kill Christ) because on account of him many of the Jews were going away—were withdrawing and leaving [the Judeans]—and believing in and adhering to Jesus" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, verse 53 comment mine).
These wicked men knew that the resurrection was supernatural and that only God could do such a thing, but they were so hard of heart that they totally disregarded the witness of Scripture regarding the Messiah and would not commit themselves to Him. As the old saying goes, "There are none so blind as those that will not see!" How is it with you? Are you a child of God, or would you have to admit that you have never been born into His family? To refuse to believe Jesus Christ and repent of your sin (not just sorrow for sins committed, but a corresponding change of direction in your life toward that which is right) according to the Bible will result in your joining the rich man for all of eternity! I implore you to seek the facts as presented in the Bible—the Word of God—and then pray and ask for forgiveness and salvation in Christ.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but have come to realize His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to accept His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can also do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you accept Him as Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order -- Kingdom of Antichrist -- in their daily news.
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