1. The Parables of Jesus, James Montgomery Boice, Moody Publishers, 1983
2. The Parables of Jesus, R. C. Sproul, video series and Study Guide, Ligonier Ministries, 2013
Parables of Jesus, Part 2
Parables of Jesus, Part 3
Parables of Jesus, Part 4
Parables of Jesus, Part 5
Parables of Jesus, Part 6
Parables of Jesus, Part 7
Parables of Jesus, Part 8
The Rich Man (Dives) and Lazarus
“There was a rich man clothed in purple and linen who feasted sumptuously every day. At his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with scraps from the rich man's table. The dogs came and licked his sores. Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me; send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us is a great, and none may cross.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)
Well alrighty then! Let's start by looking at what JC (John Calvin) has to say:
In the person of Lazarus there is held out to us a striking proof that we ought not to pronounce men to be accursed by God, because they drag out, in incessant pain, a life which is full of distresses. In him the grace of God was so entirely hidden, and buried by the deformity and shame of the cross, that to the eye of the flesh nothing presented itself except the curse; and yet we see that in a body which was loathsome and full of rottenness there was lodged a soul unspeakably precious, which is carried by angels to a blessed life. (Calvin Commentaries)
This is a most disturbing parable. It’s the only text in the bible that describes the actual thoughts and emotions of someone tormented in hell. It is a contrast of contrasts, between the temporary worldly conditions of the two men and their final, eternal conditions. It is the ultimate irony: the rich man is poor, and the poor man is rich.
It is important to note: The rich man's riches do not keep him from heaven. And Lazarus’ poverty and pitiful condition do not save him. On the other hand, the rich man’s riches worked to his disadvantage (because they became his treasure) and Lazarus’ fate worked to his spiritual advantage (an indirect blessing) because—possessing nothing, he turned to heaven. Still we must remember: rich men go to heaven, rich men go to hell. Poor men go to heaven, poor men go to hell.
The Contrast in Life
- The Rich Man
- Dressed in royalty
- Feasted sumptuously daily
- Rich in material wealth, but spiritually bankrupt (A poor rich man)
- Was impoverished and a beggar
- Had to be carried about
- Longed for the rich man’s crumbs
- Even the (hated) dogs gave more comfort to Lazarus than the rich man offered
- In poverty but with invaluable blessings (A rich poor man)
The Contrast in Death
- The Rich Man
- Received a burial which we can assume was impressive
- Received no heavenly honors
- Awoke to torment
- Nothing is said of his burial
- There is no indication anyone cared
- He was escorted to heaven by angels in perhaps the most tender description of what awaits the saved.
The Contrast in Eternity
- The Rich Man
- suffered torment that could not be assuaged
- Did not cry out in repentance
- Still regarded Lazarus as beneath him
- Once he feasted daily, now he begged for a single drop of water. (Oh, if only one sin less!…)
- Prayed (to the wrong person)
- Was at Abraham’s side in eternal comfort—the roles have been reversed. (Even in the sense that now Lazarus shows no apparent regard for the rich man.)
What does it teach?
- Care for the poor
- Now is the time to repent
- After death, it is too late
- Scripture (referred to as Moses and the Prophets) is sufficient revelation
As a corollary, those who are lost would not be persuaded by a resurrected loved one (or son of God). How ineffective, then, are our arguments1 apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.
Who gained knowledge after death?
Not Lazarus. He awoke (we presume) to more-or-less what he expected. (Not in the details, of course). However the rich man, who must of thought his hell was limited to dying, suddenly gained the knowledge that he was very wrong. For the first time, it would seem, he cast his gaze upon heaven. Even if he could not see Lazarus or heaven, he would have seen with his understanding. The rich man also had a newfound knowledge of prayer, although he had a misguided target. He also learned that his prayer was too late. He did not gain a knowledge of repentance.
Too literal is problematic
For one, we have bodies for the rich man and Lazarus before the general resurrection. At any rate, the rich man and Lazarus are not real historic people, but representative of classes of people. A literal view implies not only visual contact but some sort of oral communication between heaven and hell.
This parable can be misused. More about that later.
† Arguments which we absolutely should keep making. Evangelism in light of the sovereignty of God is not puzzling: 1) God may be pleased to use us, 2) It’s about the message, not the response, and 3) We are commanded to do so.
[END OF PART 9]