The Book of Luke, The Rich Man And Lazarus - Lesson 187
We are studying a passage where Jesus Christ is dispelling minds that are fixed regarding those who are the saved and those who are the lost.
For the Pharisees had so organized their religion to place themselves, and others like them, in the kingdom of God and had excluded those of the nature of the beggar who was laid at the rich manís gate.
Religion is like that for every religion constructs its own ways to enter into its heaven and this includes the exclusions from that heaven it also creates.
The interesting thing about this is that Jesus Christ said in Mark 10:31 and Matthew 19:30 that many that are first shall be last and the last first.
This story is an example of that turn-around.
There are going to be many surprises as to who the saved meet as they enter heaven.
There are going to be many exclamations coming from the lips of Christians saying ďI would not have thought in a million years that he or she would be here!Ē
We can even imagine from our present perspective someone saying: ďIf Iíd have known that person was going to be here I donít know if Iíd have come!Ē
But the thing to remember is the fact that we have nothing to do with who is there for who is in heaven is Godís business for he deals with the heart from which we are excluded.
But the Pharisees thought that they were in the choosing business and that they decided who would go and who would not go and they had decided that the rich man would go to heaven and the beggar would go to hell.
They were in for a surprise when Jesus Christ opened their eyes to the story of these two men as he told of their after death experiences.
Luke 16:19‑31, 19There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich manís table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abrahamís bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my fatherís house:
28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
As we have already said our Lord tells this story of the rich man and Lazarus because the rich man was the kind of man that was highly esteemed among men and Lazarus was the kind of man that was thought of as a blight on the land.
Jesus Christ has told the Pharisees to their face that they are they which parade themselves before men in an effort to receive the approval of men.
But in so doing they place themselves in the category of that which is an abomination in the sight of God.
God hates that which the Pharisees love for the Pharisees love the esteem of men rather than the esteem of God.
The esteem of men is a good thing only if it is based upon the esteem of God.
If you please God and still receive the esteem of men that is good esteem.
So therefore Jesus Christ tells this story of the after death experience of two men for only by knowing the full story which includes what happens to them after they die can one know the heart of God towards these men.
If eternal life were determined by what men say about the departed at a funeral, heaven would be overflowing and hell would have a vacancy sign.
But one thing we can be sure of, is that we do not know the heart of those who have left this life except where God reveals this to us as in the case of the rich man and Lazarus.
What a reversal it was in the minds of the Pharisees for every fiber in their being demanded that the rich man should have been resting on Abrahamsí bosom while this despicable beggar should have been roasting in hell.
But Godís conclusions are final and this result that was revealed to the Pharisees was without appeal for death of the body fixes that which comes next.
Where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
I have pulled a partially tipped large tree back to its former position but I have never raised up a large tree that has fallen to the ground.
Where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
Some things are final and it was final with the rich man and Lazarus.
But Jesus Christ gives us a glimpse of the after death experiences of these two men, the only after death experience by the way which is valid, and in so doing shows us their destiny after their deaths.
They did not return and tell us this, Jesus Christ told us this!
This glimpse, of course, shows the Phariseesí judgment to be wrong for they had fully expected that the rich man would continue his luxurious life in heaven while the destiny of the poor man was surely to be in hell.
Now it was only after both men died that Godís judgment was revealed.
Here, the roles of the two men are almost exactly reversed.
Now, it is the rich man who is in torment, and Lazarus is the one who is blessed.
Both had met the appointment that all men will meet.
You may be late for other appointments but you can be sure that you will be on time for this one.
We can imagine that the funeral for the rich man was showy and grandiose.
But we can also imagine that Lazarus did not have any funeral at all and perhaps was carted off by the authorities and placed into an unmarked grave or even cast into the garbage pit.
One thing we can be sure of is that the grandeur or lack of grandeur of the funeral will have absolutely no bearing on eternal destinies.
God cannot be impressed by the grandeur of funerals for whatever transaction happens to the soul is done way before the ceremony of a funeral.
But as could be expected appearances most likely mattered to the rich manís heirs and to the Pharisees even after death for appearances were important even in how a dead body was disposed of.
From a heavenly viewpoint it was very different.
We are told that the soul of Lazarus was escorted to ďAbrahamís bosom.Ē
Of the rich man we are simply told that he died and was buried.
No doubt his burial included a long solemn procession to the grave site where the rich man was honored with the praise of men.
But contrast this procession with that of Lazarus for he also had a procession for he was escorted to a great place of comfort, that of Abrahamís bosom.
It must be very interesting to God when he observes the magnificent funeral processions that men provide for a man or women who at the time of the funeral have already been escorted to hell and who are in torment.
In this story, Lazarus is not said to be in the presence of God, but in the bosom of Abraham.
We must remember that this story is told to Israelites, from an Old Testament point of view.
In this period there seems to have been a kind of ďholding placeĒ for the souls of those who died.
And this holding place had two separate compartments.
One was reserved for the righteous, the other for the unrighteous.
Each compartment foretold the eternal destiny of the soul.
Abrahamís bosom was the place where the righteous were kept before making full entrance into heaven which is the place of God.
The other compartment was called in this passage hell which means Hades, the place of departed souls.
Both compartments appear to be somewhat temporary as to the time spent in each for there is another place to follow for each of the occupants of these compartments.
But one thing is sure there is no travel between the two places.
The old adage that says ďYou cannot get there from here!Ē certainly applies to going from hell to heaven or vice versa for there is no transport between the two, no train, no plane, no bus, no taxi, no super highway!
The rich man and Lazarus are therefore each in their own place and neither may go from one place to the other.
But we are witness to the fact that from his place of torment, the rich man was able to call Abraham ďFather Abraham.Ē
Also please note Abrahamís response to the rich man for Abraham called the rich man, Son.
This calling of the rich man Son, was a sharp revealer to the Pharisees that even though there was a father-son relationship between the rich man and Abraham the rich man was still in hell.
So we see that not all of Abrahamís sons, according to the flesh, are going to heaven.
As we see in Luke 3:8 the Pharisees believed that all a man needed to get into the kingdom of God was a birth certificate which proved he was a physical descendant of Abraham.
But here is a rich man, an offspring of Abraham, in hell.
What a shocking way this was to remind the Jews that being a descendant of Abraham was not a guarantee of a manís salvation.
But the place of bliss at this time was ďAbrahamís bosom.Ē
Jesus implied this was a destination of many in Matthew 8:11.
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
Lazarus was pictured in this story as reclining in Abrahamís bosom and most likely the occasion was at the meal table.
We know that John did this at the last supper as reported in John 13:23, Now there was leaning on Jesusí bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
The rich man had dined sumptuously every day and now it is time for role reversal.
The rich man lived in luxury, Lazarus lived in agony.
But in this all important scene after death we are allowed to see their positions reversed.
The rich man now lived in agony while Lazarus is dining at Abrahamís table.
The rich man was afar off from Abrahamís bosom, but was aware of what was taking place there.
Lazarus, who had struggled in order to get the scraps from the rich manís table, was now reclined at Abrahamís table, leaning on his bosom!
While it was formerly Lazarus who looked upon the bounty of the rich man, but did not share in it, now it is the rich man who sees Lazarus filled with blessing.
It would seem that the rich manís ďhellĒ is something like solitary confinement in a prison.
There may be others there with you, but you are hardly aware of them as there is no real fellowship.
What you are aware of is the bliss of the righteous.
It is as though hell has a one‑way picture window, and each resident of hell is allowed to look through.
The wicked can then witness the joy and bliss of the righteous, but there is no indication that the righteous are aware of the suffering of the wicked.
The two requests come from the rich man and not from Lazarus for contentment is only found in Lazarus and he no longer has any requests of the rich man.
The first request of the rich man had to do with his personal comfort, while the second was for the eternal well‑being of his five brothers.
It is interesting to note that both of his requests are that Abraham send Lazarus to do something for him.
The rich man still looks down upon Lazarus, viewing him as a kind of servant, not as a superior.
The rich manís first request was the result of his torment, his suffering.
The flames were causing him great discomfort.
He pled for mercy, asking that Lazarus be sent to him with the smallest quantity of water, to cool his tongue.
His request was denied, based on two factors.
First, the rich manís destiny was just for he had gotten just what he had deserved.
He chose to have his ďgood thingsĒ in life without the goodness of God.
Now, justice demanded that he get what he deserved.
His suffering was a just penalty.
And justice would not allow Abraham to reduce his suffering for Abraham did not have that authority.
Secondly hell and Abrahamís compartment are divided, with no movement between the two.
There was, Abraham said, a great fixed chasm, located between the two locations.
The wicked could not cross over to the place of blessing, and the righteous could not cross over to hell even to show mercy.
Hell is the irreversible destiny of some, with the choice of entering it being made in this life.
This shows us that mercy is for this life and will not be shown in hell.
The rich manís second request still involves the service of
Lazarus, but this time he does not request that Lazarus ease his suffering, but that Lazarus go to his five brothers to warn them not to come to this place.
The rich man now understands that menís choices must be made before death, and that the results of their decisions remain after their deaths.
His brothers were still alive and they had hope of which he had none!
Abraham again said ďnoĒ to the second request.
There was no need for someone to be sent from the grave to warn the lost.
Moses and the Prophets were given by God to extend his arm of mercy to his brothers.
Let his brothers listen to the Old Testament revelation.
The warnings of Moses and the Prophets, Abraham preached was much more then anyone would ever need.
They were to look to Godís word.
But even to this there was protest from the rich man for the rich man wished signs and wonders for his brothers.
He insisted that a more successful message to his brothers would be a message of a man who had returned from the dead.
They thought that accounts of after death experiences would do the job!
They thought that ďsigns and wondersĒ could do more than the Word of God.
Abrahamís answer was short and to the point.
He said that if his brothers refused to listen to Moses and the Prophets, they would not be convinced by a spectacular appearance from the grave.
This answer reveals to us a very important principle for the failure of man is not due to the lack of evidence but due to a closed heart, a heart that regardless of the evidence will not believe.
The problem, to put it differently, was not a lack of external evidence but a willful rebellion of the heart against God.
The hearts of this man and his five brothers were unbelieving.
Such unbelief would not solved by increasing the evidence, but only by a change in the heart.
Once again, the outward appearances are not the issue, but the heart is the issue.
Jesus would soon be crucified, and He would soon rise from the dead.
That empty tomb in Jerusalem did not result in a multitude of conversions, for it was not appearances which were the problem, but the hardness of menís hearts.
If men were to believe in Christ for salvation, they would have to believe in the Christ of which the Old Testament Scriptures foretold.
You will get saved Godís way or no way.
God is one way about that and that way is Jesus Christ!
Religion says Iíll do it my way and the rich man continued to try to do it his way as he lifted up his eyes in hell.