Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31
“Once there was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and live in great luxury every day. A beggar named Lazarus, who was covered with sores, was brought to his gate. He was always craving to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table. In fact, even the dogs used to come and lick his sores.

“One day the beggar died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In the afterlife, where he was in constant torture, he looked up and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus by his side. So he shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and to cool off my tongue, because I am suffering in this fire.’

But Abraham said, ‘My child, remember that during your lifetime you received blessings, while Lazarus received hardships. But now he is being comforted here, while you suffer. Besides all this, a wide chasm has been fixed between us, so that those who want to cross from this side to you can’t do so, nor can they cross from your side to us.’

“The rich man said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house- for I have five brothers-to warn them, so that they won’t end up in this place of torture, too.’ Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. They should listen to them!’ But the rich man replied, ‘No, father Abraham! Yet if someone from the dead went to them, they would repent.’ Then Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Possible Points of Jesus
  1. THE PARABLE ITSELF
    1. THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS IN LIFE…
      1. A certain rich man – Lk 16:19
        1. Clothed in purple and fine linen
        2. Fared sumptuously every day
      2. A certain beggar named Lazarus – Lk 16:20-21
        1. Full of sores
        2. Laid at the rich man’s gate, hoping to be fed crumbs from the rich man’s table
        3. Dogs came and licked his sores (adding to his misery, or providing what little comfort he enjoyed?)
    2. THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS IN DEATH…
      1. They both die – Lk 16:22
        1. Lazarus is carried away by angels to Abraham’s bosom (what bliss!)
        2. The rich man was buried (what an understatement by way of contrast!)
      2. The rich man in torment – Lk 16:23-26
        1. He is in “Hades”, but sees Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom
          1. The origin of the word “Hades” is uncertain…
            1. Either from IDEIN (seen) with a negative prefix A-, meaning “the unseen, invisible”
            2. Or from AIANES, meaning “gloomy, gruesome”
        2. In Classical Greek…
          1. Homer used the word as a proper name for the “god of the underworld”
          2. In other literature, it stood for “the underworld” as the abode of all the dead
            1. Which was divided into two parts (similar to Luke 16)
            2. These two parts were:
              1. The “Elysian fields”, the abode of the good
              2. “Tartarus”, the place of punishment for the wicked
        3. In the NT, “Hades” is found only eleven times…
          1. Ten times it is translated “hell” or “hades” (Mt 11:23; 16:18; Lk 10:15; 16:23; Ac 2:27, 31; Rev 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14), and once it is the “grave” (1Co 15:55)
          2. Some believe that “Hades” is the realm of ALL the dead (similar to the concept of the Greeks), and made up of two separate parts…
            1. With Paradise (at least prior to the Ascension of Christ) for the righteous
            2. And Tartarus for the wicked – cf. 2Pe 2:4,9
          3. Others believe the term “Hades” refers only to the place of the WICKED
            1. That it is not clear in Lk 16:22-23 whether Hades was just the abode of the rich man, or also that of Lazarus and Abraham
            2. And in Ac 2:26-27,31 we may have a case of synonymous parallelism, with only the resurrected body of Christ in view (“soul” being used to refer to the body, and “Hades” is referring to the grave, as “Sheol” in the Hebrew sometimes does)
          4. In any case, “Hades” is used at least on several occasions in the New Testament…
            1. As the place of the wicked – Lk 16:23
            2. As a place where the wicked are in torment – Lk 16:23
            3. As a temporary place, to be thrown into “the lake of fire” after the Judgment – Re 20:13-14
        4. The rich man pleads with Abraham for relief – Lk 16:24-26
          1. That he might send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue
          2. But Abraham reminds him how conditions have now been reversed
          3. Besides, there is a gulf that prevents one from going to one place to the other
      3. The rich man pleads with Abraham for his five brothers – Lk 16:27-31
        1. That Abraham might send Lazarus to warn them of this place
        2. Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets (i.e., the word of God)
        3. The rich man fears that will be inadequate to convince them to repent
        4. Abraham says that if they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded though one rise from the dead
  2. THE PARABLE APPLIED
    1. THE MAIN POINT…
      1. The importance of heeding the Word of God! – Lk 16:29
        1. Only by heeding the Word of God can one escape the torment of Hades
        2. The rich man had not done so; for his brothers, it would be their only hope
      2. If God’s Word doesn’t move you to repentance, a miracle won’t either! – Lk 16:31
        1. Some people say they would believe if they only saw a miracle
        2. But many people saw Jesus’ miracles, and did not believe; even His resurrection from the dead did not convince some!
          — This may explain why the apostles depended upon the Scriptures more than miracles to convince people Jesus was the Messiah – cf. Ac 17:1-3
      3. Just as with the apostle Paul, who did not consider himself worthy to be called an apostle – cf. 1Co 15:9-10
        — So rather than wallow in your guilt of the past, allow the great forgiveness Jesus offers to motivate you to love and serve Him even more!
    2. OTHER LESSONS TO BE DRAWN…
      1. A few points adapted from those listed by J. C. Ryle:
        1. A man’s worldly condition is no test of his state in the sight of God
          1. One may be rich, but not rich toward God – Lk 12:21
          2. One may be poor, but rich in faith! – Jm 2:5
        2. Death is the common end to which all classes of mankind must come (“the same event happens to them all” – cf. Ecc 2:14)
        3. The souls of believers are specially cared for by God in the hour of death (“…carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom” – Lk 16:22)
        4. The reality of hell
          1. This story depicts the intermediate state of the wicked, between death and the resurrection
          2. We learn that the wicked…
            1. Do not cease to exist (“he lifted up his eyes and saw”) – Lk 16:23
            2. Are aware of where they are, and what is going on around them (“I am tormented in this flame”) – Lk 16:24b
            3. Recognize others (“Father Abraham…send Lazarus…”) – Lk 16:24a
            4. Remember those who have yet to follow them in death (“for I have five brothers”) – Lk 16:28a
        5. Unconverted men find out the value of a soul, after death, when it is too late
          1. Jesus tried to teach the value of the soul before it was too late – Mt 16:26
          2. When we will learn? Now, or when it is too late?
        6. The greatest miracles would have no effect on men’s hearts, if they will not believe God’s word
          1. This relates to the main point of the story
          2. Which emphasizes the importance of heeding the Word of God, and not depending upon some sort of miracle!
      2. A lesson NOT to be drawn from this parable is that it is sinful to be rich…
        1. The rich man was not the only person in this story who had been rich in his life
          1. Abraham had been very rich! – cf. Gen 13:2
          2. But he was also very hospitable – cf. Gen 18:1-8
        2. The difference is that Abraham…
          1. Was a man of faith (which comes by heeding the word of God – Ro 10:17)
          2. Was a man who “made friends…by unrighteous mammon”
  3. CONCLUSION
    1. Why did Jesus tell this story?
      1. Was it directed to His disciples in particular?
      2. Or was it told with the Pharisees in mind?
    2. While the disciples would learn from it, I suspect the Pharisees were the intended audience…
      1. They were “lovers of money” – Lk 16:14
      2. They had just derided Jesus for His parable and the application of “The Unjust Steward”
        — The story of “The Rich Man And Lazarus” illustrates the folly of trusting in one’s wealth
    3. May this story also serve to remind us of…
      1. The reality of punishment prepared for the wicked
      2. The importance of preparing our soul for eternity
      3. The place the Word of God has in that preparation!

As James wrote in his epistle…

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness,
and receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only,
deceiving yourselves.
– Jm 1:21-22

Are you heeding the Word of God which is able to save your soul?


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