Lazarus and the Rich Man
[A Scriptural Journey Through the Intriguing Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man]
L. Ray Smith
Before reading my opening statement there will be many who will find fault with this paper. "What parable?" they will ask. Contrary to all the Scriptural proof that Luke 16:19-31 is indeed a classic example of a parable, there are many who deny this fact. The reason for so many desiring to take this parable literally is an attempt to add credence to the heretical teaching that God Almighty is going to torture the vast majority of all humanity who has ever lived by burning their flesh with real fire in a hellhole of insane pain for all eternity. But even if we take this parable literally, it still does not support such an absurd and evil teaching. When the truth is seen, the Rich man is overcome with great emotional torment by whatever "this flame" represents, but he is not physically being burned or barbecued in this flame..
That the Rich man is in a most distressful situation, there is no argument. But he is not "burning in eternal hell fire." That Lazarus is being comforted, there is also no argument, but neither is he presently basking in the sunshine of heaven. The two main figures in this parable represent whole nations of people who are either being shown the spiritual things of God or are being blinded to the spiritual things of God. The situation looks particularly grim and bleak for the Rich man, but certainly not hopeless as is taught in the pulpits of mainstream Christianity.
Unfortunately, the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man has become a sort of theological passport to the annihilation of hundreds of plain and exact verses of Scripture. Next to the gross error in translating the Greek aion (a period of time with a beginning and an end) into an English eternity (no time at all, neither having a beginning nor an ending), I know of no greater misrepresentation of any section of Scripture than this parable. I will be using both the KJV and the Concordant Literal New Testament when quoting Scripture in this paper.
Can those who teach that Luke 16 is not a parable, prove their position? No, they can not. Can it then be proved by the Scriptures that this is a parable? Yes, it can. Quite easily, I might add.
Let me give you a technical definition of a parable followed by a more simple definition: (1) "Parable: [Greek, para bole'= BESIDE CAST]--A statement "cast beside" or parallel to its real spiritual significance, a figure of likeness in action." GREEK-ENGLISH KEYWORD CONCORDANCE p. 216. (2) "A short and simple tale based on familiar things meant to convey a much deeper and profound moral or spiritual truth," WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY. In Old English it was called a "near-story."
Jesus spoke in parables throughout His whole ministry. In Matthew chapter 13 we are given seven different parables. No parable is literal or historical. The second we make a parable literal, it ceases to be a parable. Jesus spoke ONLY in parables (not true life or historical stories) among the masses of people who followed Him wherever He went.
I am going to some length to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of teaching this parable of Lazarus or any other parable as a literal and historical event.
PARABLES MAY MENTION IDENTIFIABLE PERSONS
Is Luke 16:19-31 a "parable?" Many in orthodoxy say that it absolutely is not a parable because a person is mentioned by name and identified as a specific and particular person. The mention of an identifiable person is not, however, the test of a parable. Besides other parables do mention identifiable persons, but they are still parables:
JESUS SPEAKS TO THE MASSES IN PARABLES ONLY
Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and multitudes in parables:
Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables ONLY:
Jesus spoke in parables so that his listeners would not understand Him:
Not even the apostles understood these parables (Lk, 16:14)! Jesus had to explain their meaning to them in private (Mat. 13:18, 36), (Mat. 15:15), etc.
The fact that Jesus spoke to the masses in parables only, ought to be sufficient Scriptural evidence to anyone that Lazarus and the Rich man is indeed a parable. There are, however, many many more proofs.
A FIVE-PART PARABLE
What is the setting of this Lazarus parable? Actually it is the last of a five-part parable beginning in Chapter 15 of Luke. Here is the reason for these five parables in a row:
Jesus then gives them FIVE parables, one after the other. The phrase "THIS parable" certainly is not limited to the next, one, parable only!
These are ALL parables and most scholars recognize them as parables.
My Oxford KJV even has at the top of the page over the parable of the prodigal son, these words: "The parable of the prodigal son." The text does not call it a parable, but certainly it follows that it IS the third part of a five-part parable.
Notice the transition that Jesus uses between the lost sheep and the lost coin? He says, "Neither..." Some translations have "Or..." This word certainly connects it to the previous parable! Now notice Chapter 16 first verse, "And He said ALSO unto his disciples..." "Also" refers back to all that went before in this five-part parable, and now Jesus is continuing with the same train of thought with the fourth of this five-part parable.
Notice next the introduction of the third, fourth, and fifth parables:
Again, it is clear that these are THREE parables of a five-part parable!
PARABLES MUST ALWAYS BE INTERPRETED
Parables are not to be taken literally. They are to be understood "figuratively." The real meaning is not in what they literally say, but in what the symbols and figurative language represent. That's why they are called "parables." This is axiomatic!
Let us turn to some parables for proof of this point:
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:32)
Comment: He wasn't literally "dead." He came home again "alive." God did not resurrect him from the dead. The Resurrection is yet future.
So the prodigal was NOT literally dead, but from the perspective of his father, he was as good as dead or he could have been considered Spiritually dead.
Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:3-23)
Comment: This parable isn't teaching horticulture. It's about "the word of the kingdom" and how different people receive it! Birds don't literally devour the words of God.
Sowing Ideal Seed (Matt. 13:24)
Comment: The enemy "came." Past tense. Is this, therefore, an historical fact? No. Read verse 39: "Now the harvest is the conclusion of the eon." This eon hasn't come to an "end" yet. And the "harvest" is people not grains and vegetables.
Parable of mote in brother's eye (Lk. 6:39-42).
Comment: A beam is a long piece of timber. How is it possible to have a long piece of timber in one's eye?I know people who could fit it into their mouth, but eye, never. This parable is about morality, not body organs and building materials.
Is it not obvious that the literal, physical language in all parables must be interpreted as a higher, spiritual lesson?
If the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is both literal and an historical fact, then it contradicts not only the laws of physics and logic, but also literally hundreds of plain verses of Scripture.
People are taught that the parables are real stories that Jesus told to help the people understand His teaching better. That's partly due to the fact that with many of the parables we are also given the INTERPRETATION! How many would understand these parables if we were not given the interpretation of them? Who would have known Who the sower of seed is? Who would know what the stony places are? Who would understand what the birds represent? Who would know what the good soil represents?
Sure, it's easy now, Jesus TOLD US THE ANSWERS! But He ONLY told His disciples the answers, NOT THE MULTITUDES to whom He spoke!
THE PARABLE OF LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN
According to the popular teaching of this parable, the Rich man is in an eternal Hell of torture and Lazarus is in eternal Heavenly bliss. Well let's be sure then to pay special attention to those traits of character that have separated these two individuals into two entirely different realms.
Below is listed in each column the exact "literal" facts regarding each man's character, virtue and deeds that is the reason for a supposed fate of either eternal Hell or eternal Heaven:
Examine these two columns closely. Is it not obvious that what is literally revealed here does not lend itself to an eternal life of torture for the Rich man or an eternal life of heavenly bliss for the poor man? Where else in Scripture do the character traits in the left column come under eternal condemnation? And where else in Scripture do the character traits in the right column bring a promise of salvation in Heaven? Seriously, WHERE?
From what is literally stated about these two individuals it is hard to find condemnation or praise for either party. We know for sure that the Rich man is in a state of condemnation and that Lazarus is in a state of consolement, but there is nothing in the narrative to tell us why this is so.
If taken literally, this parable consists of statements that are illogical, unscriptural, contradictory, and impossible. But, when we understand the symbolism of this parable, it opens up our understanding to God's dealing with all peoples on earth! We must know the real identity of these two individuals before we can know that their treatment is a just treatment based on their lives and based on God's grace.
The Rich man received "good things" in life and Lazarus received "evil things" in life. That is obviously true. However, neither of those is Scriptural grounds for either being rewarded or condemned. Where? Present a Scripture. Christ said that it is difficult for a rich man to inherit the Kingdom, for example, and that certainly is true. But it is not the fact of being rich that makes this so, but rather the power that wealth has over the soul to keep one from pursuing spiritual things. Some people are "rich" and are right with God. Other people are "rich" and are not right with God. But the bottom line is how God has constituted the person himself that makes the difference, not the fact that he is wealthy.
Don't suppose that I am siding with the Rich man at the expense of Lazarus. I am not. I am merely showing how ludicrous it is to insist that this parable is "literal."
A VERSE BY VERSE ANALYSIS
Verse by verse now we will see if this parable can possibly be taken literally. Luke 16:19:
DOES A WELL-DRESSED WEALTHY MAN SPELL SIN?
Many reading these words immediately conclude that being rich must be a sin. This is the one outstanding feature of this man--he is RICH. Is that a sin? Abraham, just talking distance away here, was very rich (Gen. 13:2). Isaac was rich, Jacob was rich, Joseph was rich, David (a man after God's own heart) was rich. Job was the richest man in all the East (Job. 1:3). And it was God Who blessed them, that's why they were rich. Being rich is no character flaw or sin.
Besides, the Scriptures say:
[Gk bussos = COTTON] probably of a fine quality, perhaps a cloth with cotton in the warp and flax in the woof.
Why should we care what color or what fabric of clothing he wore? Fine clothing are not a sin. What does that have to do with a man's character, virtue, or deeds? If taken "literally," nothing. But since this is "symbolic" it then is THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE WHOLE PARABLE!
The description of the Rich man's clothing and the position of Lazarus in Abraham's bosom are the two vital keys in understanding this whole parable.
Is having a cheerful and glad spirit a sin? I don't think so. Paul says: "...that I may be of good cheer..." (Phil. 2:19). David's heart was "glad" ( Acts 2:26). And the angels dressed "splendidly" (Acts 10:30).
IS POVERTY AND SICKNESS A VIRTUE?
Being poor is no virtue! In fact the Scriptures have a lot to say about poverty:
Many Scriptures show poverty to be the direct result of sin.
Again, Gal. 6:7, II Cor. 9:6-7. It is God Who makes both rich and poor (I Sam. 2:7).
Why should we know his name if this is literal? Lazarus was a common name. And who would ever want to be named "Helpless?"
We are not given the name of the Rich man. What does it matter one way or the other what his name is if this is a literal story and we don't know which Lazarus this was anyway. Ah, but since this is a "parable" it does matter, and we CAN know which Lazarus this really is and who the rich man really is.
Being thrown out into the street is no virtue.
Being sick and diseased is not a virtue. Diseases associated with "the botch, open sores, boils and ulcers" are very often a direct curse from God in the Scriptures. See: Ex. 9:2, Job 2:7, Deut. 28:27, 35, Rev. 16:2, and many others.
It is no virtue to be begging for bread. "Crumbs falling from a table" is an idiom, not literal. I have eaten at "Rich men's tables" myself, from $25,000 a place setting of China from the Ming Dynasty, and I assure you that scraps of food were not falling from that table--Rich people do not eat like pigs! A few "crumbs," is possible, but crumbs are not enough to feed a hungry ant, let alone a grown man.
Besides, if Lazarus is a godly man why is he begging food? Read Psa. 37:25:
There is absolutely nothing in the discription of Lazarus that would indicate he was a godly man. But when we identify him, there is much to show that he was a godly man, and that his poverty and sickness was not that of a literally diseased beggar in the street.
It is a dog's nature to "lick sores," but they didn't come to this man's house for that purpose. They came there to get "scraps" of food as well.
However, think for a moment. What does this bit of information add to our understanding of this story if it is to be taken "literally?" Nothing! I mean Jesus could have told us that, "the sky was cloudy" or "the cock was crowing" or "there were holes in the street." So what? What do "wild dogs" add to our understanding, if it's literal? But we learn in Scripture that "dogs" represent something totally different from four-legged animals that bark and bite. Here is a real clue as to who Lazarus and his dog companions really represent. And as this is a parable it was not physical scraps of literal food that Lazarus and the dogs desired. Who then is this Rich man, who being tormented, nonetheless, possessed and disseminated (albeit it small portions) of life-giving food to the poor?
The Rich man, regardless of his character or lack thereof, was obviously blessed of God:
He got "good things in life" and the Scripture plainly tells us that
Lazarus was obviously cursed of God:
He obviously sewed sparingly and reaped even more sparingly. When one is homeless, hungry, and diseased in the street; it doesn't get much worse than this.
CONTRADICTIONS OF A LITERAL INTERPRETATION
If this parable is taken literally, we will find more than a few hundred major problems with the rest of God's revealed Word.
One will have to use a black marker or cut from the Bible most verses dealing with spirit, soul, body, death, resurrection, immortality, grave, hades, sheol, sin, punishment, chastisement, firstfruits, rewards, justification, reconciliation, prophecy, grace, salvation and the sovereignty of God, just to name a few! All of these contradict the idea that this parable can be literal. All of them.
Impossible. This statement if taken literally is neither historical nor Scriptural. Many say this represents Lazarus in Heaven. How, pray tell, could Lazarus be in Heaven while his Lord was still on the earth?
Abraham wasn't the "firstfruit." Lazarus wasn't the "firstfruit." JESUS CHRIST WAS THE FIRSTFRUIT OF THEM THAT SLEPT! The latter fruit, Paul tells us, "are [still] reposing."
Jesus plainly said, not only had David not ascended into the heavens, but that
Teaching that this parable is a literal historical fact makes Christ out to be a liar. When our Lord was alive on this earth giving us this parable, He said: "...NO MAN HAS ASCENDED UP TO HEAVEN..." So how can it be said that at the same time our Lord was telling us that no man has ascended up to heaven, that Lazarus and Abraham are already up in heaven? This is not just an interesting sidelight or opinion of Ray Smith. THIS IS ABSOLUTE, INFALLIBLE SCRIPTURAL PROOF THAT WHEN JESUS GAVE THIS PARABLE THERE WAS NO MAN NAMED LAZARUS LIVING IN HEAVEN WITH ABRAHAM OR ANYONE ELSE!! So here then is just one of the hundreds of problems with the Scriptures if we insist this parable is literal.
There are many Scriptures that tell us where a person goes when he"dies." The Scriptures say he "returns" from where he "came." So if he goes to Heaven, then he "came" from Heaven; if he goes to Hell, then he "came" from Hell. But Scriptures do not teach that people "RETURN" to heaven or hell when they die. Read these plain and simple verses that tell us exactly where man came from and where he goes when he dies:
Will any of my readers seriously contend that BEASTS return to either heaven or hell when they die? Have we not just read in Ecc. 3:18-21 that "ALL [both men and beasts] go unto ONE PLACE?" And aren't "heaven AND hell" TWO PLACES rather that "ONE PLACE?" Am I going too fast for anyone?
For sure our Saviour's words are so true--the babes in Christ (minors) can understand these spiritual things, but the wise in the wisdom of this world cannot understand them.
Here is irrefutable Scriptural proof that when a person dies he returns to the dust. Messengers or angels don't take dead people anywhere when they die. If this is literal, then they would have had to carry a "dead" Lazarus into the ancient cave of a "dead" Abraham. The "resurrection" is yet future (I Thes. 4:16:18).
Remember how Paul told us of Hymeneus and Philetus who "...swerve as to truth, saying that the resurrection has ALREADY OCCURRED [as defenders of a literal interpretation also contend] subverting the faith of some." (II Tim. 2:18)? Lazarus was carried (in the parable) into Abraham's bosom. Abraham's bosom is not the reward of the saved. Abraham's bosom is not Heaven. Furthermore, no more than one person could fit into Abraham's bosom. It's a parable.
When Jesus gave this parable was Abraham alive in heaven or dead in his grave? First notice what Gen. 25:8-9 says:
When Jesus was teaching these parables Abraham was still dead. "Abraham IS DEAD" (John 8:52)! After Christ's crucifixion and resurrection (nearly 30 years after) Abraham was still dead.
Abraham had not yet as of the writing of the book of Hebrews received the promises God made to him. Besides Abraham was not promised Heaven, but this earth along with King David (Jer. 30:9) and the Twelve Apostles who will be ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel on this earth (Rev. 5:10). And the "City," New Jerusalem, comes down from heaven to the New Earth.
By the way, after Christ's resurrection, we read that King David as well was also still dead.
So consider: At the time Christ taught this parable, Abraham was STILL DEAD, David (a man after God's own heart) was STILL DEAD and the Scripture specifically tells us that David DID NOT ASCEND INTO HEAVEN. Then to remove all doubt and speculation regarding heaven, Christ plainly stated that, "NO MAN HAS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN!" Which part of the word "NO" is it that theologians do not understand?
Impossible. He died, was entombed, and lifted up his eyes? Where did he get a body in hades, seeing that they just sealed his body in a tomb? Have you never heard of exhuming a body from a grave? Six days, six months, six years after death, when they open a grave, the body is still there. And it's usually rotten and the "eyes" are decayed away.
If, as theologians teach that the grave is one place and hades is another place, then no man can have his body "entombed" while at the same time the eyes of his body can be lifted up in a place called "hades." And we know his body was still in the tomb, so how can he be simultaneously in hades with a new body?
And how could this man "literally" lift up his eyes in "hell" seeing that hell is the translation of the Greek word hades which means the UNSEEN or IMPERCEPTIBLE? To "see" one can't be in the UNSEEN, nor can it be a place of NO perception. The parable says that he "died" and was entombed, but that he "lifts up his eyes" in hades. He can't be literally dead and literally alive at the same time and in two different locations.
Hades is a Greek word (and is synonymous with Sheol in the Hebrew O.T.) and it has a meaning. The elements are "UN-PERCEIVED." It can be properly translated into English as "unseen" or "imperceptible." Now how can one "see" in the unseen?" It's ridiculous. How can anyone have "perception" in the "imperceptible?" The dead can't "see," It's a parable.
There is no consciousness in [Heb: Sheol] or [Gk: Hades](Psa. 146:4)--none. "Sheol" and "Hades" are synonymous in Scripture.
In Acts 2:27 hades is translated from the Hebrew word sheol. Look carefully at these two verses:
"Device" [Heb. mchesh- bown--contrivance, intelligence, reason]. Do these two verses in Ecclesiasties sound like "dark sayings?" or "tricky proverbs?" or "difficult parables?" or "deep mysteries?" They are plain, simple statements of facts that any child can understand! But notice how they absolutely contradict the "consciousness in hades" theory.
One more Scriptural proof on this point.
So from verse 22 onward, the beggar and the rich man are IN DEATH! Now Psalm 6:5
So, is it possible to take this parable literally without violating Scripture after Scripture after Scripture? I think not.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS IN HADES?
In the center column we have seeing, feeling, hearing, talking, and reason. In the right column we have nothing. The center column is based on one parable that should never be taken literally while the right column is quoted right from the Scriptures.
DEATH IS LIKE SLEEP
I have heard many jeer the idea that souls "sleep" in death. Although the phrase "soul sleep" itself is unscriptural, the idea that the dead are "sleeping" is most Scriptural.
Get this one: David said
It is said even of our own Lord:
Now I believe all of these Scriptures. Either Abraham is dead, buried and sleeping with his fathers, just as Moses, David, etc., or these Scriptures can't be trusted.
By the way, where do we read of "heaven" in this parable? There is not the slightest hint of the word heaven in this parable! Abraham's "bosom" is no more heaven than my bosom is heaven.
Interestingly, not only did all these patriarchs go to sleep, but they went to sleep with their fathers, and many of their fathers were idolaters!
So there we have a dozen Scriptures stating that God likens death to sleep. In what way is being conscious and tortured in the flames of Hell analogous to "sleep?" God says death is "sleep." Now in what way is conscious torture in Hell fire analogous to "sleep?" In what way is a blissful life in Heaven analogous to "sleep?" Well, of course, it's not analogous at all. Yet God plainly says, many times, that death is "sleep" God awakens dead people out of sleep.
Therefore, the teaching that the dead Rich man and dead Lazarus are not asleep is wrong and unscriptural. It is only in the figurative language of a parable can it be said to be different.
Let me give you a Scripture that will "lay to rest" (pun intended) this issue once and for all. What happens after one dies:
When a person dies, he must: WAIT ... FOR APPOINTED TIME ... TILL CHANGE COMES ... GOD CALLS ... WE LIVE AGAIN...
When Jesus taught this parable there were no Greek Scriptures. So when this "rich man died" he went to Sheol [Heb. the unseen or imperceptible, the abode of the dead, the grave] It's the same sheol that Christ's soul went to at death:
This verse is quoted in the New Testament Greek:
Sheol and Hades are synonymous. The Old Testament says Christ's soul went to "Sheol," the New says His soul went to "Hades."
We know that Christ was the "firstfruit" of them that slept (I Cor. 15:20, 42, 43, 52, 53, 55, I Thes. 4:16-18). The "dead in Christ" are now "ASLEEP" according to the Scriptures.
WHERE DID CHRIST GO WHEN HE DIED?
Read I Cor. 15 again.
All right, let's be Scripturally exact.
Now, back to the parable:
NOT ALL PAIN IS PHYSICAL
What are these "torments" that the Rich man is experiencing? Is it physical pain from having his skin burned off of his body by real flames of fire? What a marvelous thing it is that we can have access to the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts from which our modern language bibles have been translated. We can check every word that has been translated into our English bibles. And now, dear readers, we shall do just that.
In verse 23 we have the word "torments" In verses 24 and 25 we have the word "tormented." These three words are not translated from the same Greek word, however. And there is a great reason why. This one point alone will demolish any such theory that this Rich man is actually and literally having his flesh burned by real fire.
Let us now see if Jesus gives us any indication whether or not this Rich man will ever come out of this place of torments and what these torments really are:
Though the Rich man may, indeed, be suffering discomfort or pain, it is not from fire burning his flesh, but rather from being tested and proved through chastisement. .
It is an interesting fact of Scripture that except for Paul "punishing" the church, there is only ONE SCRIPTURE in the whole new testament that uses the word "punishment." All others use the word "chastisement" which always carries the connotation of correction and bringing things back to what is right again. Chastisement by it's very definition CANNOT be eternal. There is always a purpose and goal in mind with the use of the word chastise.
In Verses 24 and 25 we will likewise see that the word translated "tormented" does by no means carry a meaning of being physical pained or physically tortured.
Impossible. The man is enveloped in "flames" and can clearly identify two personalities from "afar" across a great chasm? Not with human eyes.
Impossible. Proof: Psalm 31:17--"...let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave [Heb. SHEOL]. There it is! There is no talking and no shouting in sheol. If anyone can literally "shout" in hades or sheol they make God a liar.
Impossible. If someone were in a literal fire they would not be asking for a drop of water for their tongue. Their skin and eyes would be in much greater pain than their tongue! The tongue is at least somewhat protected in the mouth cavity. Now if anyone is so silly as to debate me on this issue, let them jump into a fire and see for themselves which burns most--the eyes and skin or the tongue? Besides a drop on the tip of one's finger would be less than useless. It would have no effect. None. It's a parable. This language is figurative.
Impossible. Yes, it is possible to be "tormented [pained] in flame," however, it is impossible to calmly talk about it while it is happening! If his body were human so as to have a nervous system and feel pain, then of necessity that same body would burn up. It is the destruction of the skin cells that is causing the pain. Within seconds the skin no longer pains (it's dead). Now it is the deeper flesh that pains. But by then the man would pass out and soon die. I mean really, these are things that people completely unversed in the Scriptures understand. It is not literal fire that is causing him this pain or torment.
What kind of "torment" is God talking about in this parable? Is this physical pain from the flames burning his flesh as is taught in Christendom? Not at all! Note that he does not say "flames," but rather "flame," singular! The Greek word translated "tormented" in verses 24 and 25 is a totally different Greek word than is used for "torments" in verse 23. The Greek word here is odunao and it means to be sorrowful or pained, but not physically, but rather EMOTIONALLY! We can easily see how the Holy Spirit of God used this word in Scripture. Adunao is used only two other times in all Scripture and both times it has absolutely nothing to do with physical torture, but rather with emotional sorrow or pain.
Now then, does anyone believe that they were physically tortured when Paul departed? Does anyone believe the parents of Jesus were physical tortured in their flesh while they searched for Jesus?
Had the KJV translators been consistent they should have translated Luke 16:24 & 25 the same way. He was emotionally "pained" or "sorrowed" and not physically tormented or tortured! The same word cannot mean both "emotionally sorrowed" and "physically tortured."
The Rich man was emotionally pained or sorrowed by the flame (the testing and trials), not tortured, and that's why, as we shall see later, he wanted a drop [a symbolic drop of water] for his tongue and not a barrel of water to cool his body. Let's not be guilty of adding to the Rich man's woes.
If this Rich man is really being pictured literally in a hellhole of eternal torture, why then didn't Abraham say to him something like this: "Scoundrel, be reminded that you were a liar, cheat, robber, blasphemer, drunkard, murderer, ungodly, unholy, unrepentant, incorrigible, piece of slime in your life,so burn in Hell for ever." But no, the Rich man is accused of no such things.
Most governments do not sentence people to cruel and unusual punishment for minor crimes. Christian theologians would sentence this Rich man to all eternity in Hell fire and I don't see where according to what this parable "literally says" he did anything bad. He lived a life of "good things!" In the literal language of this parable no sin is attributed to him. Not ONE! The rich man got good things, and for that we are told he will have his flesh barbecued with real fire in an eternal hellhole of insane torture? Lazarus got evil things, and for that we are told he will spend eternity in Heaven? Is anyone in this parable said to be literally good or bad?
Quite frankly neither one is a pretty picture. That's because this is figurative and symbolic language, so of course it doesn't make sense literally! It's a parable.
Here then is the bottom line of the Christian interpretation of this parable:
Doesn't make much sense when we look at it literally, does it? You know, if this parable is literal, Abraham is on the wrong side! Abraham possessed many more of the qualities of the rich man than he did of Lazarus (not actually, but if we take this parable literally)! Abraham was very rich, loved his family, was concerned for the welfare of others, provided for his servants, was respectful of authority (especially of God), was tremendously blessed of God and had a life of many good things.
According to the majority of Christendom's interpretation of this story, Abraham should be in Hell!
Actually Abraham is in hades (sheol), as are all the "fathers." And all the dead ungodly people are there as well. They don't know it, however. It's very quiet in hades, no thoughts, no praise, no anything--it's "imperceptible" and "unseen."
Back to the parable:
If Lazarus is in heaven, where are all the saints? Where is there a reward? Where is Christ? Where is the happiness and joy?
Lazarus is "consoled." This word in Greek is used in conjunction with someone who is "in distress." So Lazarus is being "consoled in his distress." Doesn't sound like much of a Heaven to me. And the rich man is "in pain." Why? It doesn't say he did anything wrong, or evil, so why is he in pain? Who judged him? When? For what?
DOES GOD SENTENCE BEFORE HE JUDGES?
When theologians insist that this is a literal story, they place a huge blotch on the character of God! According to the Christian interpretation, this man is spending eternity in Hell fire, but has never had his day in court. He has been sentenced without being judged! This man could not have been judged, because when our Lord spoke this parable, "The Judgment" was yet future.
Now I never was good at grammar, but I don't think "will be" is in the "past tense," is it? And again,
The "evil" men of Sodom have not yet been judged. The "righteous" men of Nineveh have not yet risen or been judged. What are we to do? Get the scissors out and clip more verses from the Bible so that theologians can be at liberty to turn a parable into an historical event?
Besides, judging has to do with doing right or setting things right. Punishment is meted out according to the degree of the crime. Punishment is never eternal. And how does eternal torture in Hell fire equate to the punishment for "having good things in your life?"
I have heard theologians say, "No, he's in Hell for rejecting Christ's sacrifice." But it doesn't say that. And it is the theologians that demand that this parable be taken literally. Honestly, it doesn't literally say anything about rejecting Christ's sacrifice, does it?
Well, okay, let's look at that premise anyway. I heard a world famous evangelist say regarding the Rich man in this parable, "You go to Hell for rejecting Christ's sacrifice." But, he does err not knowing the Scriptures or history! Not only didn't the rich man literally reject Christ's sacrifice, but it was literally impossible for him to literally do so.
When Christ taught this parable (Luke 16) HE WAS NOT AS YET SACRIFICED (Luke 23)! So how, pray tell, could the Rich man have "rejected a sacrifice" Who had not yet even been sacrificed?
It is an amazing thing to hear world famous evangelists with audacity teach millions of people that our Merciful God has already sent millions of fellow human beings to an eternal burning hell to suffer indescribably in torturous agony, and horrifying pain without mercy, all without a "hearing" or "trial" or "just judgment" and for rejecting a Sacrifice Who had not yet even been sacrificed?
MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF WATER IN HELL
Impossible. "Thus also is the resurrection of the dead ... It is sown a soulish body; it is roused a spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:42 & 44). If Lazarus has a spiritual body in heaven, how can a gulf or chasm keep such a spiritual being from crossing it?
Notice this phrase, "...those wanting to cross hence to you..." What? Do you think that is translated correctly? I assure you it is translated correctly. So why, oh why, would anyone in Heaven be "WANTING" TO GO TO HELL? Isn't it is time that we concede that this is indeed a parable!
The last part of verse 26 should read as follows: "Nor yet those thence may be ferrying to us."
King James uses "pass" twice in this verse. They are different words, however. The first "pass" is [Gk. diabaino = THROUGH-STEP or cross]. But the second "pass" is [Gk: .Diaperao = THROUGH-OTHER-SIDE, and is used of passage over WATER] hence, "ferrying."
Here is water. Since there is water separating Lazarus from the rich man in this chasm, why doesn't the rich man just jump into the water? And the word "ferrying" also presupposes "ferry boats." Even if the Rich man can't swim it would be better to drown than burn.
DID THE RICH MAN EVEN KNOW WHO MOSES WAS?
Impossible. The rich man recognized Abraham on sight. Even called him "Father." How could someone who knows Abraham "...hear Moses...?" Moses didn't live until hundreds of years after Abraham? How could the rich man's "brothers" hear Moses? Moses didn't live until far into their future?
You see these are just some of the dozens of problems and contradictions we face when someone insists that this parable be taken literally!
And where in Moses and the Prophets does it warn that if one is rich and blessed of God that when he dies he will go to some eternal hellhole of fire and torture? Or that a poor man cursed of God will go to an eternal heaven of bliss? Now I have a few concordances, but I can't find any such verse. If this parable is literal, then somewhere in Moses and the Prophets it must warn of such a fate for being rich and also promise a heaven of bliss if one is sickly and poverty stricken. But where is there such a teaching in Moses and the prophets? There is no such teaching in Moses and the prophets. This is a parable.
Impossible. If Lazarus isn't dead. if he's alive in heaven, why didn't the rich man say, "No ,father Abraham, but if someone should be going to them from HEAVEN, they will be repenting?" How could Lazarus, who is alive, go "...to them from the dead?"
The rich man is now persuaded. Why wouldn't they also be persuaded? Because it will take more than Moses and the Prophets and more than one returning from the dead to persuade them.
DECLARE UNTO US THE PARABLE ...
I heard Matt Crouch say on international television that since the Jews were prophesied to not understand, Christ spoke in parables so that this prophecy would be apparently voided and they would understand. The Scriptures show just the opposite:
This is so simple a child can understand it. It wasn't Christ's explanations that none understood, it was his "parables" that none understood.
The multitudes did not understand Christ's parables:
If, as Matt Crouch suggests, Christ taught in parables so that the the masses would understand, then the Scriptures themselves would prove that He failed utterly.
Christ's own disciples did not understanding His parables when he spoke them anymore than the multitudes did!
Christ had to explain all the parables to them!
It is interesting what Christ said here. If his disciples didn't understand "this" parable, "how then will ye know "all" parables?" There is a continuity among most of the parables. They basically speak of the same peoples and the same events.
The disciples weren't so foolish, however, as to believe that this parable was to be taken literally, anymore than they believed any of the parables were to be taken literally! That's why our Lord explained all the parables to them in private. Read it and believe.
One can only take this parable literally at the expense of contradicting hundreds of other plain Scriptures! I have presented more than ample Scriptural proof that this is a parable and that it cannot be taken "literally!"
Like most parables, it was prophecy not history! If one persists in thinking this parable can be understood completely "literally" in contradiction of hundreds of plain Scriptures of facts to the contrary, I don't know what else I can say. Maybe the "Flat Earth Society" of Great Britain is still accepting new memberships.
Before I explain this parable, please notice something. The condition the Rich man now finds himself in was not something he had anticipated in "life." Abraham making reference to Moses and the Prophets, presupposes that the Rich man was familiar with these writings. However, nothing in these writings gives any warning of going to a "fiery place of torment" immediately upon death. Nor does the parable state that this condition of the Rich man [in torment] and Lazarus [consoled in his distress] is permanent or endless. Furthermore, being "not persuaded" by either "Moses and the Prophets" or "someone rising from the dead" does NOT preclude that there is nothing that ever will persuade them in the future! That is false opinion, not Scripture.
The truth is, there are many, many Scriptures that do tell us when and what actually will persuade the "Rich man," "his brothers," "all mankind," and "every celestial being" in the entirety of the universe!
It is that truth of the salvation of ALL that IS the gospel, the "Good News." God is operating to bring all to salvation, (Eph. 1:10-11, Phil. 2:10, I Tim. 2:4-6, 4:10) "These things command and teach" (Ver. 11).
PARABLE OF LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN
Before I go into the explanation of Lazarus and the Rich man, I feel a certain amount of background information is essential.
As most explanations and commentaries on this parable are extremely short (even by those who do understand it's proper setting), much of this material is my own research and, therefore, certainly could be better refined than I am presenting it. I can see now that one could easily write a sizable book in expounding this parable. Here, however, is sufficient evidence to set us on the right track of understanding this parable. The accepted Christian interpretation of this par- able is unscriptural and heresy of the darkest kind!
Who were these people, "His own?" Many would say, the Jews. And they are right, but who are the "Jews?" Paul was of the Tribe of Benjamin, yet he called himself "a Jew." How can this be? Today, for example, we have Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in the ancient land of Judea, in the nation of Israel, and it's occupants call themselves Jews. Where did all these names come from?
Biblically speaking there are two broad categories of people in the world--The Children of Israel and the Other nations. Later this designation was shortened to "The Jews and The Gentiles."
HEBREWS, ISRAELITES, AND JEWS
It all began with Eber [Heber] who was the forefather of all Hebrews (Gen.10:21). Abraham [Abram] was of this lineage and so is an "Hebrew." There were other lines of Hebrews also. God changed Abram's name to Abraham signifying that he would become a "Father of Many Nations" (Gen. 16:7-11). Abraham had a son Isaac, and Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.
God changed Jacob's name to "Israel" (Gen.. 32:28). And Israel had twelve sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin (Gen.. 35:23-16), who then became known as "The Children of Israel."
The "Children of Israel" became God's "chosen" people: "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6).
God's relationship with Israel was so close that He married them: "For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called" (Isa. 54:5).
The Tribe of Judah early on was chosen of God to lead in battle (Jg. 1:2). The various Tribes warred against each other during a period of civil wars. They finally became united under two powers, Judah and Israel. David was anointed King of Judah (II Sam. 2:4) and then later King over Israel (II Sam. 5:3).
In I Kg. 12:19-21 Judah (with the tribe of Benjamin) is again at war with Israel. Israel was then known as the "Ten Tribes." Many of the Priests and Levites left Israel and went to Jeru- salem under Judah (II Chron. 11:13).
And so the Kingdom of Israel (with its capital at Samaria), and the Kingdom of Judah (with it's Capital at Jerusalem) were separate nations for several centuries.
Eventually, Israel was destroyed and driven into captivity by the Assyrians (II Kg. 18:11) and later Judah was destroyed and driven into captivity by Babylon (Jer. 30:9).
Nehemiah comes to power and returns eventually to Jerusalem to rebuild it, and takes Priests and Levites with him (Neh. 2:1-8). Ezra also returns to Jerusalem with a large company of Jews (Ezra 7:8).
I doubt that many in Judea and Jerusalem even knew for sure which Tribes they came from by the time of our Lord's ministry.
To show how dominant Judah was in absorbing all these Tribes and passing on his name to them, look at Judges 17:7:
He was a Levite who was considered Juhah's family.
The Priests, of course, did have to know their lineage or they would not be qualified for the Priesthood. Paul was an extremely well-educated man and therefore did know his lineage. So let's see if this makes sense now. With all these things in mind, maybe we can better understand how these different names are used and applied to even the same person.
Paul, for example, was an Hebrew (Phil. 3:5) through Abraham (Rom. 11:1), and through Isaac, was an Israelite through Israel (Rom. 11:1), was a Benjamite through the Tribe of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1), from Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 21:39), was educated in Jerusalem, was trained a Pharisee, under Gamaliel, spoke Hebrew & Greek (Acts 22:2-3), was also a Roman (Acts 16:37), and also calls himself A JEW (Acts 21:39).
So here's what happened. In the Old Testament all Jews were Israelites, but not all Israelites were Jews. Like all Floridians are Americans, but not all Americans are Floridians. But, because Judah was always the dominant Tribe and Israel was once again gathered in Judea under Judah's leadership, and because many of the individual Tribes became so mixed in inter- tribal and interracial marriage, many became designated as "Jews" in the New Testament. Even today, many known "Jews" may really be "Danites" or "Reubenites" etc. Many thinking themselves Gentiles could really be descendants of Israelites or Jews or other lines of Hebrews and not even know it..
I always considered myself a "Gentile" until a recent trip to Germany and Amsterdam, where I talked to different people about the early immigrants to America. My last name was "Schmidt" two hundred years ago, but when I mentioned other family names in my genealogy they told me: "That's Jewish, that's Jewish, etc.," My father was David, his father was Charles, his father was Thomas, his father was Manuel, his father was Isaac, his father was Abraham, and his father was Jacob. They told me that "true Germans" almost never named their children with Hebrew names. So maybe I'm a "Jew." Only God knows for sure.
But the point I want to make is that at the time of our Lord, Judah (the Jews) dominated to the extent that all non-Gentiles were referred to as Jews, although "Israel" as their historical origin was still used. The name "Israel" is used some 120 times in the N.T., while "Jews" is used some 360 times. So they really are used interchangeably. They are all Israelites, but Judah has always dominated. It will be important to keep these things in mind as we discuss this parable.
When one looks at all the parables, as they are "literally" written they really are of little spiritual value, and often are physiological impossibilities, or don't tell us things we didn't already know.
Look at the parable of the tares: A man sews good seed. An enemy sews tares. A servant suggests they pull out the tares. The owner suggests that would pull out the good wheat as well.. So he says to wait till harvest and then separate the wheat from the tares, (Mat. 13:24-30). None of the parables are to be understood in their literal language. Some, like Lazarus and the Rich man, are physiological impossibilities if taken literally.
Interestingly, this parable of the tares can be taken literally. That is it makes sense even in its literal language, and does not contradict other Scriptures.
However, it was not meant to be taken literally, and if we take this parable "literally," what do we learn? Quite frankly, not much. Are you suggesting that Christ wasted His time giving little household hints and horticultural tips? Like, how to weed your garden? Come on.
When Christ explains this parable to His disciples, it takes on enormous meaning never even suggested in the "literal" story. Parables are in some ways like fine poetry. Marvelous word pictures having giant spiritual applications and ramifications can be presented with very few words, AND, it is God's purpose to conceal many of the truths of His Kingdom except to those to whom it is given to understand.
See the spiritual application of Matt. 14:37-43:
Now that's some pretty heavy stuff! This is no horticultural tip for would be farmers. I have already shown how utterly ludicrous it is to try and take Lararus and the Rich man literally, not to mention totally unscriptural..
Christ is not telling us about some "one" individual rich man and some "one" insignificant beggar in the street. Look at that parable of the "tares" again. Literally it is nothing. But what it represents in figurative and symbolic language is awesome. It has to do with the operations of God, Satan, millions of people and the very end of this age.
Through symbolism and personification, God often uses one some thing or person to represent many or even multitudes and whole nations of people:
The "image" represented King Nebuchadnezzar, but the "King" represented all Babylon and all the nations and kingdoms that he conquered.
This was not "literally" the voice of the one man, "Judah," but of his Descendants. Judah had "literally" died hundreds of years earlier.
Judah was dead, Simeon was dead, and two individuals could hardly "slay ten thousand men!" Clearly, Judah represents the children of Judah or as they are called, Jews. Remember this, this is important!
All of the parables have huge consequences. They depict giant events to come on this world. They deal with the future of millions and billions--not just a beggar in the street somewhere. Let's not cheapen or demean this parable.
There is a continuity running through most of the parables. Virtually all of the parables deal with punishments and rewards on the same people at the same event. Although the meaning of His parables were hidden, on one occasion Christ did identify Himself in a parable. Correctly translated thus:
And on one occasion the Pharisees did realize that Christ was talking about them even if they didn't understand the parable completely:
It is also important to note that a few verses before this parable it is stated that Christ was giving these parables partly because the Pharisees were "...inherently fond of money" (Lk. 16:14).
But in the parable of "Lazarus and the Rich man," surely they understood who it was that Christ was speaking of. In the parable of the "tares" no one could even guess who or what the "tares" represented without explanation. But in "Lazarus and the rich man" there are more hints and more identifiable symbols and facts given than in any other parable in the Gospels.
The Pharisees may have been hypocrites, but they, nonetheless, were highly educated and familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. They knew what "Purple and Fine Linen" symbolized. The name "Lazarus" wouldn't necessarily have meant too much to them (it was a common name) until we find him "in the bosom of Abraham." Now they knew for sure which Lazarus our Lord was making reference to. And when they were told that the rich man had "Moses and the Prophets" there was little doubt left. And this rich man had "five brothers." That clinched it. Surely they knew for certain who these men are.
And although they probably hadn't a clue as to the real meaning of the parable, there was no doubt that our Lord did not portray the rich man in a very favorable light.
I am not convinced that the first and second verses of this parable should not be a question. As in, "WHO was a rich man...? And, "WHO was a beggar named Lazarus. . ."
The Greek word translated "certain" is ti (neuter), tis (mas. and fem.) generally has the meaning of "any." However, the indefinite pronoun "any," used freely, especially in questions, where English uses "who,' "whose,' "which,' "what,' "why,' or with negatives, "(any)one', though, when possible, we seek to preserve its indefiniteness by rendering it "any,' "some,' or "certain.'" Greek-English Keyword Concordance p. 15.
So certainly we can render this word in this particular passage as "certain." That is if we use Webster's Third definition of "certain" which means "3. not named or described, though perhaps known." However, if we use Webster's First definition of "certain" it destroys this "questionable" character of the word: "1. Without any doubt or question; sure; positive."
Christ asked: "Who [tis] touched my clothes?" (Mk. 5:30). Certainly, the answer couldn't be "ANY." And, likewise, Christ asks "Whose [ti] is this image and the inscription?" (Matt. 22:20). Again, the answer certainly could not be "any image," or "a certain image." It was definitely "Caesar's" image. Let's face it, showing someone a famous "image" and then asking "who" it is, is a pretty big clue.
Now this verse is particularly interesting, because everyone or anyone would have known "whose" image was on the coin, yet Christ merely asked the "question" to confirm that fact! And in the same way I believe Christ asked "who" was this rich man and "who" was this poor man Lazarus, (with all the accompanying clues and symbols) to merely confirm in their minds that they surely already knew who these two personages were!
I firmly believe that the "who" of this parable is just as important or even more important than the "what" of the parable. Without knowing "who" is spoken of, the "what" makes almost no sense at all! The Pharisees undoubtedly did not understand the prophetic fulfillment of this parable any more than they did any of the other parables. However, just as in Luke 20 the Pharisees knew Christ was speaking about them, I believe they also knew full well the identity of this rich man and Lazarus .
Although I know of no translation that does translate this verse into a question, I nonetheless, do not at present believe it would violate any rules if it were translated a question. Hey, I'm a roofer not a scholar.
"Now who was a rich man...?"
"Now who was a poor man named Lazarus, who had been cast at his gate...?
Yes, "Who?" That is the question.
There were lots of "rich men" and lots of "poor beggars" and Lazarus was a common name. But "who" was this rich man and "who" was this particular Lazarus, that's the question! It is not necessary, however, to the explanation of the parable whether it should have a question mark or not. I just believe it lends itself to a question as do the other scriptures where "who?" is used.
THE RICH MAN IDENTIFIED
There is only one man who Scripturally fits all the descriptions of the "rich man" in this parable. Only one person who "personifies" all of the symbols and identifying clues given of this rich man. And that man is:
But not just Judah as an historical individual, but collectively. All Israel under the headship of Judah, the Jews. And the Jews were "rich."
Beginning back in Gen. 15:14 God prophesied that Abraham's descendants were to be very rich. "And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance."
Jerusalem had a standing army of 860,000 men! (II Chron. 17:13-18). And that didn't even include the fortified cities in Judah. (Ver. 19)
Hezekiah (King of Judah):
So yes, Judah was rich. And who to this day are universally known for having money and being successful in the financial world? The Jews. However, these were just some of Judah's material possessions. Judah was rich in another way--very rich. Judah possessed something far more valuable than all of these possessions. God bestowed on Judah a treasure greater than any other on the face of the earth, in the history of the world.
Prerogative is translated from [Gk. perisson' EXCESS, SUPERABUNDANTLY] Who has a diamond collection, an art collection, a string of corporations, or fifty Swiss Bank accounts that could begin to approach the value of the oracles of God?
So not only was Judah rich materially, but God bestowed on Judah His very word, and through Judah the very salvation of the world. Who but Judah possessed such wealth?
Imagine Christ asking His disciples: "Oh, by the way, would you fellows be interested in knowing what color clothing this Rich man was wearing just before he went to Hell?" Ridiculous nonsense!
But what is nonsense in the literal is the symbolic sign of this man's real identity!
Purple is: "A color used in garments of a bluish red, by a dye obtained from a shell fish, purpura. It denotes rank of royalty" (Greek-English Keyword Concordance p. 236).
Purple was worn by Kings (Judges 8:26). Even the Caesars of Rome wore Purple as a symbol of their royalty.
And who was to carry the royal line in Israel?... Judah.
David was of the Tribe of Judah and was anointed King of Judah. Our Lord was of the line of Judah (Mat. 1:2), and will be not only King of Judah, but King of Kings over all the world.
During our Lord's ministry, Judea was under Roman rule, however, there were still rulers in Judea--The Jews. There were Scribes, Pharisees, and Priests. Jesus said they had power and authority from God. "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do..." (Mat. 23:2-3).
God has always elevated Judah above the other Tribes.
In I Chron. 2:1-3 we read:
Notice Judah was the third born to Israel [Jacob] and is listed third, but when God gives their children's names He starts first with Judah.
To show Judah's dominance in Rulership, when the Tribes of Israel are enumerated in Revelation 7:4, Judah is put first at the head of the list. He was not, however, the firstborn!
The Rich man didn't just dress in "Purple," but "Purple and Cambric." He wore both. Cambric or Fine Linen is symbolic of the clothing that the priests wore (Ex. 28:5, 25:4). And of the interior decorations of the Tabernacle itself (Ex. 26:1).
Our Lord would not have told us that the Rich man wore these two specific types of garments except that they have great symbolic value in identifying who this man personifies.
But if "Purple" symbolizes "Royalty" and "Fine Linen" symbolizes "Priesthood," how can the same man wear both? Only our Lord is both, King and Priest.
Remember, the Levites and the priests were loyal to Judah through their long history.
When they got the opportunity, they went with Ezra and Nehemiah back to Jerusalem--back to Judah. They were part of Judah. They were called Jews. Only one, had both the Scepter and the Priesthood: Judah.
Notice this Scripture carefully:
There it is! Judah had both the royalty and the priesthood. And all these leaders of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, became who were known in Christ's time as "the Jews." And that's why, although the Apostle Paul was of the Tribe of Benjamin, nonetheless, he said of himself, that he was "a Jew."
In Judah were both the Royal Scepter (purple) and the Priesthood (fine linen). And that's the reason Christ took the time to tell us what the Rich man was wearing! And no other personality in Scripture has both these designations along with all the other identifying features attributed to the Rich man!
Judah could therefore legitimately call Abraham, "Father." Abraham was Judah's Great Grandfather. Abraham could legitimately call the Rich man, "Child." Judah was Abraham's Great Grandchild.
The Kingdom of Judah did have "Moses and the Prophets." They were the protectors and scribes of those very documents till the time of our Lord's ministry, when Jesus said that they "sit in Moses' seat." Judah was the very depository for The Law (Moses), The Prophets, and the Writings. Remember the Oracles were given to the Jews (Rom. 3:1-2).
There's a rule of Scripture study that is very sound, and I believe is applicable here. It goes like this: "Literal where and when possible." Most of this parable cannot be taken literally. Why? Because for one, it often contradicts the laws of science and physics. And two, it would contradict hundreds of other plain verses of Scripture. It's the "parable" that cannot be taken literally. That does not mean that certain facts contained "in" the parable are not "literal." Abraham is, undoubtedly, "literally" Abraham. Moses and the prophets are, undoubtedly, "literally" Moses and the prophets. They obviously represent themselves, not someone else.
With that in mind, who was it who had literally five brothers? Not that these "five brothers" cannot represent something else in the Scriptures. For example, there were five spheres where there were "Jews" who heard Christ proclaimed after His resurrection:
At first glance, you might think Judah can't be this "Rich man." Didn't Judah have eleven brothers? Yes and No. True, there were twelve sons of Israel, one of which was Judah, but not all by the same mother.
Judah's Mother, Leah, had
So who had five brothers? Judah.
That Judah (the Jews), is here personified in this Rich man, there can be little doubt!
But who then is this "Lazarus?"
The answer is not far to find when we see where he is: "in Abraham's bosom." Being in someone's bosom shows a very close emotional relationship and position of honor. Christ likens Himself as being in the "bosom" of His Father (Jn 1:18). And John, likewise, who was very fond of Jesus leaned back into Jesus' bosom (Jn 13:23). To be in the bosom of Abraham, or the bosom of Christ, or the bosom of the Father, are certainly positions of great honor.
The Jews coveted that relationship with Abraham. They were so proud of their Father Abraham. They knew that God thought highly of their Father Abraham, and they wanted to be connected to that lofty position themselves. However, they did not come even close to qualifying for such an honor. They loved to say: "We have Abraham for our father!" But as Christ told them, they didn't do the works of faith that their Father Abraham did.
So Judah is not in the bosom of Abraham, but Lazarus is. Why? Who is this "Lazarus" that he should have such a lofty position of honor with the Father of the faithful?
I said earlier that the Jews, undoubtedly, understood who Christ was referring to in both the Rich man and Lazarus. Remember that the Jews of Jerusalem knew Hebrew. Their scriptures were written in Hebrew. And they were a lot closer to these symbols and the Hebrew language than we are today.
"And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said
In chapter 13 God had already promised great land and possessions to Abram's seed. But Abram had no seed!
Abram told God that since he had no son, his chief steward, Eliezer, would be his heir and inherit all that was his.
Eliezer was so faithful a steward to Abraham that he was planning to make him his heir and give Eliezer all his possessions and inheritance. Eliezer would have been wealthy. He would have inherited the "promised land." He would have received the "oracles of God" Ah, but no, God had different plans. Abraham would have a son Isaac who would continue the Abrahamic line.
It appears that Eliezer will be left out. He lost his one big claim to fame. Now he's just a Gentile from Damascus. All his generations will be Gentiles (dogs). Eliezer knew he would inherit all of Abraham's posessions one day. And now, that's all gone. But he remains faithful.
Eliezer had ample opportunity to do away with Isaac on any number of occassions, but he remained faithful to Abraham. He even took a journey to get a wife for Isaac. Every step of faith and obedience that Eliezer took removed him just that much further from the inheritance he always thought would be his. He did all that a faithful steward should do. But every step of faithful obedience to Abraham caused his inheritance to slip further away.
Imagine just how faithful and trustworthy a steward would have to be for Abraham to leave ALL his possessions to him. Abraham was extremely rich. Why look for "another" to pass these blessings onto? Eliezer has already proved himself faithful. Abraham had already concluded that Eliezer was the only logical heir:
It appears that either Eliezer becomes Abraham's heir, or he receives nothing. Absolutely no spiritual promises or possessions were ever made by God to Eliezer If he is not to get Abraham's inheritance, which included all that Abraham already had plus all that God is about to bless him with on top of all his other possessions, then Eliezer is going to be poor as far as spiritual blessings are concerned. As a Gentile, all he can ever hope for are the spiritual "crumbs" that fall from the Rich man's table. Not to fear: Through faith God works many miracles.
FAITH OF THE GENTILES
So clearly this Syro-Phoenician woman was not asking for a small portion of food (crumbs or scraps), but rather a small portion of Christ's spiritual blessing. And clearly, Lazarus does not represent a street beggar in need of a small portion of food. He personifies something much greater than one single beggar in the street.
When Christ entered Capernaum a centurion [a Roman, a Gentile] asked Christ to heal his boy. Christ said He would come. The Centurion said He need only to "say the word" and he would trust Christ for the healing!
Why then, are the Gentiles relegated to "dogs?" Not in all Israel did our Lord find such faith as in these GENTILE "DOGS!" But "Judah" gets all the blessings while the "Gentile" dogs get the crumbs? Ah, just when we think things are going bad and God isn't fair, He shows us His strange and marvelous wisdom!
As Paul Harvey says, "And now for the rest of the story..." What was Christ's response to this marvelous exhibition of faith by the Centurion?
Christ is not telling us that "Jews" from the East and "Jews" from the West will sit down with Abraham, but that the "Jews" shall be cast out." That's contradictory. It's the "Jews" who are the "children of the kingdom" who are "cast out." And those from the East and West are "GENTILES." Christ is telling us who these "many" are because He is commenting on the faith that God has given to this Centurion Gentile.
Christ rarely spoke of the Gentiles in His ministry. But He did speak of them. And, although, He said He was sent only to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel, in His human ministry, He nonetheless, was making provisions for the Gentiles, as in this prophetic statement. As Christ's disciples were to be like "salt" to the earth, this Syro-Phoenician woman, Cornelius of the Italian squadron, the Roman Centurion, the Samaritan woman at the well, and others were certainly like "salt" among the Jews. The very first sermon of Christ's ministry foretold the calling of the Gentiles, and it nearly cost Christ His life (Luke 4:13-30).
When it comes to God's blessings, faith is thicker than blood.
God has not "cast off" the Gentiles!
So we find "Lazarus" [Gk: helpless] begging scraps from a rich man's table. Can "helpless" find "help?" Will God have mercy on him just as He did the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Centurion? Yes!
"LAZARUS" IS "ELIEZER"!!
The Greek "Lazarus" is from Lazaros [Heb. HELPLESS].
But in Hebrew "Lazarus" is Elazar or "Eliezer" from el [God] and azar [HELP]!
If Lazarus knew his Hebrew name, he would have known that help was on the way. The "God of Help" had already planned this whole marvelous drama from the time of Abraham.
Just as the Jews can look to their ancient "father" Abraham as a sterling example of faith in God, so now, likewise, can the Gentiles Look to Abraham's Steward, Eliezer as a "father" of rare faith. Truly there is no partiality with God--it only appears that way when we let the relative get in the way of the absolute.
It is the Gentiles that God is primarily dealing with today! Paul says there is to be only a "remnant" of Jews. His calling was to the nations. However, Paul knew that God was still calling a "few" of the Jews. "If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh [Jews], and might save some of them" (Rom. 11:14).
For nearly two thousand years now God is calling primarily the Gentiles..
GOD'S CALL IS NOW TO THE GENTILES
It was the "Gentiles" who were not allowed into the Royal and Priestly House of Judah. They could go no further than "The court of the Gentiles." Any blessings they received had to come to them from inside where they were never allowed to go! Though designated as "proselytes," they were, nonetheless, like "dogs" who only got the "crumbs" or scraps! Hence we find Lazarus cast "at the gate."
Little could these Jews hearing this parable realize that in just a few short years all this would change.
And so today, the Gentiles don't have to stand outside the gate, or be separated by a barrier, or stay in their own court, and wait for handouts. They have direct access to God.
And who has been preaching the Evangel for the past two thousand years? The Jews? Hardly. It has been the Gentiles that have translated the Scriptures into nearly every language on earth. It is those called of the Gentiles that are accepting Christ Jesus as their Savior, not the Jews. It is really a rare thing to find Jews accepting Christ as the Messiah. And that's why we find Lazarus [Eliezer--the Gentiles] in the bosom of Abraham, and the Rich man [the Jews] engulfed in flames of Anti-Semitism for the past two thousand years.
Lazarus is not full of sores in Abraham's bosom. He has been healed. In fact, that's what "salvation" meant in New Testament times. "Salvation" is a beautiful sounding Latin word, however, it was never part of the New Testament Greek Vocabulary. Not until six or eight centuries ago did the word "salvation" come into translations. Before that time it was "health" that was one's salvation. And all of the very oldest Anglo-Saxon Scriptures translate it "health" not "salvation." So for Lazarus "health" in the bosom of Abraham was salvation!
Lazarus doesn't represent materialistically poor Jews, but spiritually poor Gentiles. That's the whole point here in the parable. Judah was rich and knew it! They were like the Laodiceans who said:
In figurative and symbolic language the Rich man asks for a drop of water on the tip of Lazarus' finger. How appropriate! Who was it that refused to help the "poor" with so much as their little finger?
Now Judah begs the assistance of a finger from a poor man! And not just a poor man, but a poor Gentile! It was custom for pious Jews to cut a section of their garment off if it were so much as touched by the finger of a Gentile. Now the rich and lofty personification of God's chosen people begs for the assistance of a Gentile FINGER.
It isn't his flesh that he wants cooled from this flame, but his tongue. This man is frightened. His tongue is swelling. And well it should be. When people are petrified from fear their tongue dries and swells. That's why some inexperienced speakers often need a whole glass of water just to get through a 10 minute speech.
Well, God brought Judah back from Babylon to Jerusalem, but Judah didn't have the same heart as King David. He failed to remember. David said:
It was because of Judah's "tongue" that Jerusalem was destroyed in the first place:
So in the parable we find Lazarus (Eliezer--a Gentile) in the bosom of Abraham, and Judah, who should be there, on the other side asking for mercy. But Lazarus can't come over to the Rich man even if he wanted to, because of this "chasm."
WHAT IS THE GREAT GULF?
Earlier I showed you from the Greek that there is water in this gulf or chasm. What could this be all about? Certainly there is no literal chasm between hades (unseen) and Abraham's bosom. What or where is this great chasm? Does the Bible speak of a great chasm that has anything to do with salvation or rewards?
When the Children of Israel made their exodus out of Egypt, they were on their way to the Promised Land. After receiving the Ten Commandments at Mt Sinai, where they stayed approximately one year, they headed north to Kadeshbarnea. They sent men to spy out the land. They were very close to Canaan. But God sentenced them to thirty-nine more years in the wilderness for their unbelief. How different they were from their ancient Father Abraham. After thirty-nine years they again headed north, only this time through Edom and Moab and approached the Jordan from the East. To get to the Promised Land they had to cross over the Jordan River Valley.
The River Jordan runs through a great chasm (or gulf).
From Mt. Nebo Moses could see the Promised Land. The Jordan is in a huge chasm. It's a "far" way to the other side. This chasm, in fact, is so large that it may well be one of the largest fault lines on earth! It starts on the southern boundaries of Turkey and runs through Palestine, through the Dead sea, trough the Red Sea, through Africa to Lake Victoria. But some scientists and geologists believe it continues through Africa and the South Pole and reemerges again in the Pacific Ocean. Now that's a "Great Chasm."
Because of Moses' sin, God did not allow him to enter the Promised Land.
Crossing "over Jordan" has always been used symbolically as a type of "salvation." But just as Israel couldn't cross the Red Sea except by a miracle of parting the waters, so too, God supernaturally dried up the Jordan so that they could cross over. So literally, they didn't "get wet" crossing the Jordan; they didn't "get baptized." And neither did most of the rulers of the Jews "get baptized" at John's baptisms either!
It is always "God" who determines boundaries. Moses could not cross that chasm. And no one else could cross over except it were God's intention. Just as Israel looked to the crossing over Jordan as their salvation in a new land, so we too, are looking for a future complete manifestation in Kingdom of God. And God alone determines who will and who won't be in that Kingdom at this time.
In a real sense we too go into the Kingdom of God by way of the Jordan! Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan (Mat. 3:13). And
Mortality kept the majority of Israelites from entering the Promised Land. The generation that started on this journey died in the wilderness. Only a remnant crossed over Jordan under the leadership of Joshua. And likewise, today, God is calling only a "remnant" to salvation:
Mortality kept most of Israel out of the promised land, and by immortality we will enter the Kingdom of God in full spiritual glory:
And we enter the Kingdom under the new Joshua (Jesus) the Christ!
No matter what this gulf or chasm symbolizes, it is only "man" who cannot cross it. Nothing is impossible with God. And God has given His Son authority over EVERYTHING. It is blasphemy to even think that there is a gulf that cannot be bridged by the Almighty Jesus Christ!
Though not a place of eternal torture in fire, there is, nonetheless, a realm called "hades." It is an enemy of man and there are "gates" (not literal iron bar gates, but gates in the sense that passage is restricted to all who go therein). There are also gates and bars and locked doors in human prisons and penitentiaries.
But there are guards and wardens who have "keys" to these doors and gates--they CAN BE OPENED. Well guess what? There are also "keys" to the gates of hades and it is NOT SATAN WHO POSSESSES THEM! IT IS NOT SATAN WHO HAS POWER OVER LIFE AND DEATH AND RESURRECTION! Rev. 1:18:
It is senseless to boast in having "the keys" if those keys will never be used to open the locks on the gates! Not only does Christ have the keys to all doors, HE IS THE DOOR! When we enter HIS door, He enters OUR door and we dine together. One day Judah will knock on Christ's door and He WILL OPEN to them.
Let's read the good news:
Judah had the "promises," the "Oracles" of God, the "Royalty," the "Priesthood," the "Seat of Moses," the "Temple of God," the "Ark of the Covenant," enormous "wealth and riches," the "Possession of the Land," and the prophesied "Messiah." But they crucified their only Savior! For this they will certainly go through many "tormenting" trials and afflictions, but the fire of God's Holy Spirit will cleanse them of their sins and they WILL BE SAVED--ALL OF THEM!
So sad that the Scriptures are not believed and the gospel rarely preached. People accuse me continually of teaching that unbelievers, and evil unrepentant and unregenerate sinners will be saved in THAT condition. I have never even suggested such a repugnant thing. God WILL CHANGE THEM. And it all begins in THE HEART! They will repent at the goodness of God.
If we would but believe these simple and profound Scriptures there would never be such distortions of God's Word being taught as is the case with this parable.
THE RICH MAN'S SIN
Judah [the Jews] proved to be totally unworthy of their high calling. Their heart's turned from the declarations of God. Claiming Abraham as their father did not exonerate them either.
Not only were they no longer "...of the faith of Abraham," but they had, in fact, utterly corrupted themselves. After King David, Solomon broke God commandments and covenant (I Kg 11:11).
King Rehoboam said:
And King Manasseh, of Judah, went from bad to worse:
HISTORIC AND PROPHETIC JUDAH
According to a "literal" teaching of this parable, the Rich man did nothing to deserve his torment. But once we identify this Rich man, however, we find a mountain of sins and evils that are attributed to him:
When John the baptist saw these same descendants of the Jews, the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptisms, he remarked: "progeny of vipers."
Our Lord used the most derogatory language possible in describing the Jews of the first century:
Yes, there is more than ample reason for "Judah" finding himself in a "place of torment!" Can we see how God combines them all together? Christ said:
So why shouldn't Christ picture the Jews in hades viewing this disaster of their race? Of course it is figurative! God often uses just such figurative language
In Revelation chapter 6 the dead souls of those slain for the Word of God are crying out. This too is figurative. God wouldn't allow His Conscious Saints to be all piled up on a bloody heap under an altar for thousands of years. Jonah was literally in "...the fish's belly" (Jonah 2:1), but figuratively he called it "...the belly of hell [sheol=IMPERCEPTIBLE]" (Jonah 2:2).
And so we have the Rich man (Judah) "crying out from hades." Figuratively, it has great emotional power. The Jews corrupted themselves. In the person of Judah they see the result of their ways. Notice that the Rich man never said one word in his own defense. He knew what kind of a people he was. I find it hard to believe what I am reading when I see the terminology our Lord used against the Jews and their forefathers. Really, consider His words: adulterous, evil, transgressors, faithless, perverse, hypocrites, murderers, blind guides, fools, generation of snakes.
The Jews were given so much by God, but showed ever so little appreciation to God! They have suffered like few races of people have ever suffered. Lazarus, on the other hand, lived an untarnished life of faithfulness, and yet is promised nothing from God--neither material blessings nor spiritual blessings. In life he received "evil things." Abraham considered him worthy of inheriting all his possessionis. God, on the other hand, disinherited him. This was an "evil" to Eliezer. It was God's wisdom in bringing this evil on Eliezer.
Little did these Jews know at the time that Christ spoke this parable, that it would be only thirty some years future that their beloved Jerusalem would once again be destroyed. But this time, God would also take from them the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant as well. And little did the Gentiles know that Saul [Paul] was already being prepared to take God's spiritual blessings "to the nations." It will be Eliezer himself who will be the first Gentile to not only justify God in His actions, but glorify Him for the marvelous blessings that God has bestowed on the Gentiles.
For nearly two thousand years the Jews have been without the ark of the covenant or a Temple. The Jews have wandered from country to country for centuries never even having a country they could call their own until 1948 They have been persecuted everywhere they lived! This greatest persecution and slaughter took place during Hitler's death camps when reportedly six to seven million Jews were exterminated!
The Rich man said " I am tormented in this flame." If one checks all the parables it becomes evident that most of them were prophecies. And therefore "flames" is most appropriate in describing the plight of the Jews through the millennia. Not just the "Flames of Anti-Semitism," but even literally--remember "Hitler's ovens?"
I remember the words of a Jewish teenager after the Holocaust, bemoaning: "The world stood still while the Jews burned. The pain! The pain!" Yes, Judah is still crying out from the unseen.
And so the Rich man's thoughts turn to "his father's house" and his "five brothers." What will happen to them? Even if they didn't hear Moses and the prophets, surely, if "someone should be going to them from the dead, they will be repenting."
Well how could Abraham know that for a fact? Because it is really Christ who is speaking, and it's a parable, and it also is a prophecy of things to come, and Christ knows all.
Ironically, the only person ever resurrected from the dead that we know by "name" at this time was Martha's brother Lazarus. Did that miracle persuade the Jews? Actually, yes, many.
Yet when other Jews reported this miracle back to the Pharisees
It seems like it's always the religious leaders that have the most trouble believing!
But how many of these "many who believed" stayed faithful? When Christ began teaching them really "spiritual things," many could not handle it. Christ told them that "The flesh is not benefiting anything" (Jn 6:63). That was more than they would tolerate as most "Christians" today do not tolerate such a thought either, and therefore:
This parable, however, is not speaking about Lazarus' resurrection, but Christ's resurrection from the dead. All of Judea did not know of the resurrection of Lazarus, but everyone heard about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not only the Jewish leaders who killed Him, but all Jerusalem, all of the Rich man's brothers and everywhere the descendants of his brothers were scattered: (1) Jerusalem, (2) Judea, (3) Samaria, (4) The limits of the land (Acts 1:8), and (5) to the dispersed among the nations. And the message sent to all these Jews, everywhere, was that the Christ whom they crucified has risen from the dead.
JEWS STILL REJECT JESUS
Judah did not obey God through most of their long history. The Jews as a nation did not repent at the preaching of John the Baptist. They killed their own Savior!
But Christ forgave them before He even died:
He commissioned his apostles to herald the good news of His resurrection and the coming Kingdom of God to them again, but again, as a nation, the Jews rejected Him.
So now what? So then Christ calls Saul to be "Paul." And so Paul preaches and teaches in Jerusalem. And what kind of reception did Paul and his message receive?
Just as Christ prophesied
The Scriptures do plainly state that the Jews shall yet find salvation through Christ's Sacrifice, because it was God who blinded them in the first place so that they would not and could not understand and repent! Isaiah prophesied that they would not repent and so Christ did not heal them (Mat. 13:1915). "...us [Gentiles], whom He calls also, not only out of the Jews, but out of the nations also..." (Rom.. 9:24). And
Yes ALL PEOPLE will be GOD'S PEOPLE!
If that thought doesn't bring joy to our hearts, I don't know what could. And
Since the time that Paul said "From now on I shall go to the nations," the Jews have, except for rare and individual cases, rejected Christ risen from the dead. But millions of poor rejected people like Lazarus have been brought into Abraham's bosom, into a close and intimate relationship with God Himself.
THE BLIND CAN'T SEE
What about these Jews then? Is the Rich man [Judah, the Jews, the whole house of Israel] going to suffer in a fancied Christian Hell of devils and flames of torment for all eternity? Why can't we believe the Scriptures? And not just one or two, but hundreds and thousands of Scriptures that point to the fact that all is of God. God is operating all.
Many years ago I learned something most profound: "The "blind' can’t see!"
Not many theologians believe that. Surely, if we present it in just the right way, they will see. No, they won't. If they get sick enough of their life and sins, then they will see. No, they won't. If we tell them often enough and with enough conviction, with hundreds of scriptures, and with charts and diagrams, and with analogies and examples, surely then at least "some" of the blind will see. No, they won't. I’ll tell you why. Because the blind cannot see. I told you it was profound. You can hold it closer to their face, you can shout, you can shine a bright light on it. It doesn't matter, "The blind can't see!"
Christendom teaches that if people want to see and understand, then they can. It's all up to them. No it's not. I know people who are physically blind, and they want to see, but they can't because the blind can't see.
When God Almighty "blinds" someone, they cannot see. I do not entertain any such notion that this paper will persuade anyone who is blind, to see it's truth, unless God uses it to open their mind and remove the blindness. Let the Scriptures speak:
Who calloused them? Who is operating all? Now pay close attention to this next verse. I just checked twenty-six translations and the Greek Text to be sure I'm right on this point, and they all say same the same thing.
"Till this very day," was written 2000 years ago, and yet "till this very day" today, as a race, as a nation, as a religion, and as a people, the Jews have universally rejected their only Savior Jesus Christ.
Yes it was "God" Who did these things! Why would God do such a thing? Is there some purpose to it all? Yes there is.
SALVATION OF THE RICH MAN (JUDAH & ISRAEL
Well, since it was "God" who blinded the Jews and caste them away, will He ever take them back and remove their blindness?
Look at Ezekiel 37 beginning in verse 13
GOD IS OPERATING ALL
How could anyone possibly believe any one of these verses and yet believe that unbelieving Jews God will burn in Hell for all eternity. Let's be Scripturally honest here:
God blinded Israel (ver. 8).
God used their offense to bring salvation to the nations (ver. 11).
God caste Israel away so that He could conciliate the whole world (ver 15).
God will take back these unbelieving and sinning Jews (ver 15)
God will give them life from among the dead (ver. 15).
God will save all Israel (ver. 26).
God will not burn them in hell for all eternity, because they will be sinless: "Whenever I should be eliminating their sins" (Ver. 27).
It is GOD Who is in control of the destiny of the human race, not MAN!
Perverting a parable to such gross extremes as to nullify hundreds of plain and exact verses of Scripture (that are not parables) is a damnable thing! Consigning billions and billions of human beings to an eternal Hell of torture for all eternity is unspeakable. Not to mention totally unscriptural.
God's punishments and chastisements are severe enough without multiplying them a trillion times to the power of infinity. That is truly INSANE!
This parable, like all the others, has great and enormous consequences. This is not the story of a single, nameless rich man and one poor beggar in the street named Lazarus.
Christ preached the kingdom of God.
Christ likened Himself to a "bridegroom" (Lk. 5:34). Now look at all of the parables, and see how they point to the coming Kingdom of God when the Bridegroom will make a great feast and hand out rewards or punishments according to the "faithfulness" and "stewardship" or lack thereof, to His servants.
But time and again, those initially invited to this Great Feast are rejected and those who had no claim to attend such a feast are invited in.
But, "...none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper" (Ver. 24).
How amazing the workings of our God are. First it looked like God had forsaken the Gentiles--He did not. Then it looks like He has forsaken His own people (the Jews)--He has not. It's God’s way. This is God's wisdom. And it is so much higher than puny man's ability to ever fully appreciate or comprehend.
When God removes all blindness, gives faith to believe, removes all sins, and convicts the heart of the greatness of God and nothingness of our own selves, ALL WILL BE PERSUADED! We can doubt it all we want, but we are not our own achievement. But rather:
How dare any doubt God's own ability to fulfill and accomplish His own will? (See Isaiah 46:10-11).
FATHER OF THE FAITHFUL
If God cannot accomplish and fulfill His own will, what hope is there for us? It is a gross lack of faith to believe that God will not accomplish His own will. And whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
The reason Abraham is in this parable, is because Abraham is the "father" of the faithful. Abraham BELIEVED GOD.
Now listen to Paul's admonition very carefully:
Yet most Christians think faith is the one thing, for sure, that they must contribute on their own to be saved. To believe such a thing is not only unscriptural, but vane as well.
All of the haughty arrogance of Christendom would vanish over night if they would just believe and comprehend this one beautiful and profound verse of Scripture:
We must be thankful that God is calling us (the Gentiles), and to not be haughty. Does any think that we are special but the cast-off Jews are not? No! The Jews are very special to God. The Rich man asked for "mercy," and he will yet receive mercy. "...God is able to graft them in again." (Rom. 11:24).
God gave Abraham that kind of faith. God gave Eliezer that kind of faith. Faith that doesn't require substance, evidence, and proof. Every step of faith that Eliezer took put him that much further from his inheritance. Eliezer's faith wasn't in the "visible evidence," but in God. In Abraham's case the "evidence" (he and his wife's old age) that God would give them seed, was a faith destroyer. There was nothing in the visible evidence that would have given anyone faith. Abraham's faith wasn't in "evidence" but in God. Children need proof; the mature live by faith.
I am sure that there is much more that can and will be learned and understood regarding this unique parable of Lazarus and the Rich man. However, whatever we teach regarding it must at least stand on solid Scriptures and not contradict. The real truth of this parable is not nearly as morbid as it may appear at first glance. God has a plan that eventually brings all the Jews and all the Gentiles to salvation. The very heart of the Gospel is the salvation of the Jews and Gentiles, the salvation of the WHOLE WORLD!