Searching the Scriptures
“Search the Scriptures…they are they, which testify of me.” John 5:39
Author: Bob Moses
The Rich Man and Lazarus
This “Story” has come before us on several other occasions in these “Studies”. To the extent that I feel it important for us to examine it more closely. It is to be found in Luke 16: 19—31. First let me establish that this is not a parable as some suppose, but rather a true “Story” as told by Jesus himself, to His disciples. We know this for two reasons; generally when Jesus told a parable, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus spoke “this parable”; secondly, in a parable we are being taught a hidden biblical lesson using vague yet logical terms, and usually spoken in front of the public. In this “story” Jesus is speaking to his disciples, and uses the actual names of the people involved; the rich man, Lazarus and Abraham; and He speaks of an actual place where the event took place.
Let us begin. “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 (the gate of the rich man) 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 received 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 would send him to my father’s house: For I have five bretheren; 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”. (Luke 16: 19—31).
Verse 22 tells us that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried. What an interesting contrast we have here. The beggar was “carried by the angels” into Abraham’s bosom. How many stories have you heard of someone on the brink of death and they proclaim that they see an angel? I think there is a deep lesson here. Those who are spiritual or have faith, have the angels waiting for them at the time of death. On the other hand we have the unfaithful or unspiritual being buried. Both of our subjects wind up in the same place, but one has angels carrying him to Abraham’s bosom; the other has no guidance, no one to greet him, no comfort to be had and no mercy.
In verse 23 we see the rich man in hell and lifting up his eyes, being in torment, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. The bosom applies to a person who so reclines at the table that his head is brought almost into the bosom of the one sitting next above him; which was the way they ate in those days, they actually laid on couches to dine with the table within reach. To be in Abraham’s bosom signified to occupy the seat next to Abraham to enjoy the same felicity (prosperity, eloquence and happiness) as Abraham. Abraham’s bosom also speaks of the state of bliss after death. Abraham was to the Israelites, almost as the Virgin Mary is to the Roman church. He was constantly invoked as through he could hear the prayers of his descendants, wherever they are; and he is pictured standing at the gate of paradise to receive and embrace his children as they enter, and the whole family of his faithful descendants is gathered into his arms. (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).
Hell is also known in the Scriptures as Hades. The place of the unseen world, and is revealed as the abode of departed human spirits between death and resurrection. Hades or hell, before the ascension of Christ was in two divisions, the abodes respectively of the saved and the lost. The former was called “paradise” and “Abraham’s bosom.’ Both designations were from the Talmud (Jewish Scriptures) but adopted and confirmed by Christ in the story before us. The blessed dead were with Abraham, they were conscious and comforted. The lost were separated from the saved by a “great gulf fixed”. The representative man of the lost, who are now in hades, is the rich man. He was alive, conscious, in the full exercise of his faculties, memory, etc. and in torment.
Verse 24: “And he (the rich man) 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. (25): But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life time received good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented”. Keep in mind that Lazarus sat at the gate of the Rich Man, and the Rich Man undoubtedly passed by him every day, going to and fro; yet the Rich Man had little or nothing to do with him. Lazarus laid at the gate “full or sores”, but now the Rich Man is begging Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue. Now, he thinks nothing of licking the finger of the man full of sores, he would more than willingly do so. Why? Because things have changed. It is amazing how man will vilify the circumstances around him, and easily claim what he will or will not do, under different conditions. Nevertheless, when true reality hits him, he is quick to change his tune. This is the case with the Rich Man and Lazarus, even Father Abraham says to the tormented one, “remember that thou in thy lifetime received good things and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.” In other words Mr. Rich Man, you could have helped this poor soul, he was willing to eat the crumbs which fell from your table, but you ignored him. Yet now, you would gladly suck the water from his finger tip. Some today would call this Karma; for every action there is a reaction. The Scriptures say it is consideration and love for your fellow man; for caring and placing other’s, before your own interest and selfishness.
Verse 26: “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.” Abraham says there is a great gulf fixed, or a large gap or chasm placed, between Abraham, Lazarus and the Rich Man. This separation is so well fixed that none can go from one side to the other. What this partition is, we do not know, but apparently they can see each other, and speak to where both can hear one another. Scripture refers to the one side as hades, or hell, and the other side is known as paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom. It is quite obvious that the Rich Man is in the hell portion, while Abraham and Lazarus are in the paradise section. One is tormented and the other are comforted. Thus we now know that hell or hades, was divided into two compartments, or two divisions. Everyone who died from Adam to Christ went to either one or the other.
The death of Jesus the Christ changed everything. We will get back to this momentarily. However, let us first return to the narrative. Verse 27: “then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou would send him to my father’s house; (vs. 28), for I have five bretheren (brothers); that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. (29) Abraham saith unto him; they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. (30) And he said, nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. (31) And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
This exchange between Abraham and the Rich Man takes us back to our “Study” on the Body, Soul, and Spirit. At this juncture the Rich Man still possesses all three of these, even though he is in hades or hell. All, in this unrevealed area, or as some have claimed, the underworld, are still whole in some type of spiritual, though no longer a fleshly body. Obviously, Abraham had been dead for centuries, yet each recognize one another. They still have a soul or the personality of the natural man. The soul being that part which simply means a living being; because Abraham reminds the Rich Man that he enjoyed the good things of life, while the beggar received poor or evil things. The Rich Man, even in hell, still has conscience, memory, reason, and affection, because he invokes Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers, who are still living on the face of the earth, that they might avoid his plight. Furthermore, it is needless to say, that all three still possess their individual Spirit.
Let me go back to my earlier statement that the death of Jesus changed everything. Remember the prediction of Jesus in Matthew 12: 40, “For as Jonas (Jonah) was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man (Christ) be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus is telling the scribes and Pharisees that upon his death, where he was going; i.e., to spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth or Paradise. The same section in the earth where Abraham, Lazarus, and all other saints from the Old Testament took, their abode upon their deaths. This is also where the Rich Man and those unspiritual fellows went upon their deaths, however they went to the Hell or Hades division. It is obvious that Jesus went to the Paradise section and preached to his saved people; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Job, Elijah, John the Baptist, and a multitude of others. Thus, when Abraham stated to the Rich Man; “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them”. He was speaking the truth. Moses wrote the Pentateuch (the first five Books of the Old Testament), we have the Book of Joshua, the Book of David, the Book of Daniel, the Book of Job, etc.; (Moses, and the prophets). Then when Jesus arose from the dead he took all of these with Him up out of the earth and into heaven.
Should you find this hard to believe, let’s see what the Scriptures have to say; Matthew 27: 52, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” Notice it was after His resurrection, it certainly could not have happened before His resurrection. This is also known throughout Scripture as the “First Fruits Resurrection”. The “First Fruits” being the first to leave Paradise and go with Jesus into heaven. And also refers to those who shall arise from the dead upon the return of Christ, known as the rapture. When He shall meet His Church in the air, just before the Tribulation era upon the earth begins. See Unger’s explanation Page 363; “This feast is typical of resurrection, first of Christ, then of “them that are Christ’s at His coming” (1st Cor. 15:23, 1st Thess. 4: 13—18). When the priest on the day of Christ’s resurrection waved the sheaf of first fruits in the temple, it was before a rent veil; and the shadow had passed away. In other words the shadow (the waving of the sheaf’s which signified the first fruits resurrection) Ref. Leviticus, 23: 9—14; had been fulfilled by the true picture of Christ arising from the grave. Joseph’s empty tomb proclaimed that the great first fruit sheaf had been reaped and waved in the heavenly temple. This feast has been completely fulfilled in Christ.” Yet another example of the New Testament enfolded in the Old and the Old Testament unfolded in the New.
First Peter 3: 19, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison”; in Paradise or Abraham’s bosom. This was not by chance, it was foretold in Isaiah 42: 6 & 7, “I the Lord have called thee (Jesus) in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles: To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison…”.
To name yet a few others: Psalms; 16: 10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither will thou suffer thine Holy One (Jesus) to see corruption.” Acts 2: 29—31, “Men and bretheren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption”. And one more: “Rev. 1; 18, “I (Jesus) am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death”. You can readily see now how the death of Jesus changed everything as it relates to those in the heart of the earth”. To the further edification of our Lord, note that the Rich Man said unto Abraham; “nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent”. Jesus did indeed arise from the dead, yet most did not, and still do not, believe, nor repent. This poor soul of the Rich Man deluded himself, what he claimed would happen, did not. To this day those who die physically, pass on to either Hades or Paradise, depending upon their walk upon this earth. This earth is a testing ground for man. He will either walk as the natural man or the spiritual man and his destiny depends on which one he chooses. It is what the Bible refers to as the freedom of choice. Yet another doctrine, which we hope to explore in a future “Study”.
Since the Paradise section was emptied upon the risen Saviour, and all the inhabitants thereof arose with him, (Matt. 27: 52, as mentioned above) where do we go now when we die the physical death? Paul supplies the answer in 2nd Corinthians when addressing the Church and the Saints of Corinth, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: For we walk by faith, not by sight: We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (Vs. 6—8) Jesus states in Revelation 1: 18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and have the keys of hell (hades) and of death.” When Jesus left the Paradise section of hell or hades, he left the door of Paradise open. He has the keys, and he left the door open for us, so that when we die a physical death, we no longer must reside in the heart of the earth, but we go directly to be with the Lord in His heavenly realm. Paul says; “we are confident, and willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord”.
There you have it. If we are absent from the body, we are then taken to be with the Lord, wherever He may be. And from all accounts it will be an angel who takes us there. Praise the Lord; Amen and Amen. In 1st Thessalonians Paul tells us in Chapter 4; 13 & 14; “But I would not have you be ignorant, bretheren, concerning them which are asleep (dead), that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For it we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”. What a solid affirmation, for the brotherhood of Christians!!!
To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord!!
Littera Scripta Manet
“The written word endures”