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Rich Man & Lazarus

Scripture: Luke 16:19-31, John 5:28-29, 2 Peter 2:9
One of the most controversial texts in the Bible is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. People ask whether this is a story or parable. Do people go directly to heaven or hell when they die?
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Today we want to consider the same theme that we've been dealing with for a number of days on the broadcast. We want to look into one of the most controversial texts of the Bible. It's a parable Jesus gave although some people don't believe it is a parable. Today we're going to establish from the Scripture itself that this is a parable indeed. It's found in Luke 16:19-31. We'll read a little bit of this story in order to acquaint you with the details. "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And 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. But 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. And 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. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Now there's the story, friends, and it's often read to prove that the good go to heaven and the bad to hell and the very next minute after death. But it should be remembered that never can parables be used to contradict other plain statements of the Bible which are not parables. Jesus taught in another place that the wicked are not punished and the righteous are not rewarded until after the resurrection. This we find in John 5:28, 29. "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Now, notice friends, that Jesus declares all, both good and evil, are in the graves, and when the time comes, both shall come forth, not from heaven and torment but from the graves. Second Peter 2:9 plainly teaches that the wicked are not at present in a place of torment. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." Now since the day of judgment has not yet come, it is plain that the lost are not suffering in torment now. This would be gross injustice even on the part of a human judge. But we can't imagine the God of the universe dealing in something like that.

Now let me kindly remind those who read the story of the rich man and Lazarus to prove that man has an immortal soul, that the words "soul" and "spirit" are nowhere in the Bible mentioned at all in relation to eternal existence. And the words soul and spirit, are not used anywhere in this story. The subjects here have physical bodies with eyes, fingers, tongue, etc. Since this is the case, no one should read this story to prove that man exists in a bodiless state after death. This man who is in torment has a body, and he wants water to be placed on his tongue, and he lifts up his eyes; so this could not be proving man in a spirit form.

To those who would insist that all this is literal and pictures the actual condition of the saved and the lost after death, we ask: Do you believe that the saved in heaven and the damned in torment are so close to each other that they can see and hear one another and talk back and forth? The loved ones, for example, that are suffering in the torment, can their loved ones on the other side hear their pitiful pleading for somebody to relieve them of their misery? If that is what Jesus meant to teach, then no one can deny that a mother in heaven, every minute of eternity, will have to listen to the pleading voices of son, daughter, husband, mother or father to "do something, oh, do something that will give me a moment's relief from this terrible agony." Could that mother be entirely happy and enjoy the peace of heaven, seeing and hearing the sufferings of her loved ones? If this parable is to be taken literally as many preachers insist, then there's no escaping of this horrible picture. If the suffering of loved ones now in beds of affliction keep us from being happy, will we contend that in the future life we'll be so hard-hearted that these sufferings multiplied millions of times in intensity would not disturb our happiness in the least? Who would wish to live in a heaven like that, friends?

To those who, in spite of all this, persist in contending that this story is to be taken in a literal sense, that it pictures what actually happens right after death, let's ask this question: Do you believe that all the saved go into Abraham's literal bosom as soon as they die? Now obviously, friends, that is a figurative expression. And it's not unfair for us to ask you whether you take that literal or not. So far we have been attempting to prove that this parable does not mean what it is often contended. It does not teach that the good go to heaven and the bad to torment the next minute after death. It does not teach that there is an immaterial spirit or soul which comes out of the body at death and remains in a conscious state. It does not teach that in the future world the lost and saved are so close to each other that they can see and talk to each other.

Now having found what it does not mean, let's see if we can discover, by comparing spiritual things with spiritual, just what Jesus meant to teach when He gave this story. I believe it can be proved that the rich man represented the proud, self-righteous Jews, and that the poor man represented the despised Gentiles; that Jesus was tactfully warning the Jews that if they continued to reject the Messiah of Moses and the prophets, the time would come when they would die to their national relationship with God as a chosen people, and that the Gentiles whom they despised and ignored would come in to take their place. The fact that he kept praying to father Abraham certainly proves that he was a Jew. None will deny that Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation and that they put a great deal of confidence in being Abraham's seed.

When John was appealing to them to repent, he added this: "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Matthew 3:9. On another occasion Jesus said to them, "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Their answer was, "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man." John 8:32, 33. It seems that this is quite sufficient to prove that the rich man who prayed to Abraham represented the Jewish nation.

This story says that the rich man fared sumptuously every day. No nation was ever favored with so many blessings as was the Jewish nation. Reminding them of this Moses said in Deuteronomy 4:7, 8, "For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" Friends, this is very, very true. And then notice how he continues. "Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of fire, as thou hast heard and live, Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation ... by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, ... and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, ... Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice." Verses 33-36.

Oh yes, friends, it was a purpose of God that they should share these favors and spiritual blessings with the Gentile people. There are plenty of texts to prove that God wanted the Jews to go out and preach these things to the Samaritans, to the Greeks, to the Romans, and to all the Gentiles. In the parable the rich man, instead of sharing his blessings with the poor man, he ignored him and looked upon him with scorn. This was precisely the attitude of the Jews toward the Gentiles. The Jews associated the Gentiles with the dogs and ignored them completely. We find an illustration of this in Matthew 15:21-28. "Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan (now this is a Gentile) came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." Notice next that Jesus assumed toward her the same attitude as did the Jews in order to teach his disciples how wrong it was. "But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me."

Now notice, friends, how she's acting the part of a beggar. "But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Yes, we remember similar language in the parable. She meant that she would be satisfied with just the crumbs of His service. "Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." Oh, how strikingly this illustrates the story of the rich man and the beggar. It will be remembered that the rich man had no dealings with the poor man, and it's a fact that the Jews had no dealings with the Gentiles. When Jesus spoke kindly to the woman at the well, she was surprised and said, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." John 4:9. This woman had Gentile blood in her and that's why the Jews had no dealings with her. Even the disciples were infected with this Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles, and they marveled that He talked with the woman.

When Peter was instructed in a vision to visit the Gentile family of Cornelius, when he went into the house, "he said ... Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation." Acts 10:28. So the very feelings of the rich man toward the beggar in the parable was to illustrate the feelings of the Jews toward the Gentiles.

The time came when the rich man died and lifted up his eyes in torment. Now what happened to the Jewish people, friends? We know that the time came when they died to their former relationship to God as a chosen people, and the Gentiles did come in and take their place. We don't have time in the last moments of our broadcast today to tell of the great sufferings that have come to the Jewish people and how those things were mentioned in the Bible even, especially in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28. God said that these torments would come to them because of the way they dealt with others and the great message of truth that had been delivered to them. They did not share it with others, therefore the Gentiles did come in. They were grafted into the tree and took the place of the Jews as far as the spiritual blessings of God were concerned.

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