The Gospel of Luke 16:19-31
What we highly esteem,
Notice that Jesus does not say this is a parable and Luke does not say this is a parable. However you interpret it, true history or parable, it is a story told by Jesus, about two men with polar opposite eternal destinations. Jesus on Hell.
Some people believe this story is nothing more than a lesson on treating people with compassion and does not teach us anything important about the afterlife. Jesus on Hell.
“clothed in purple and fine linen” - The rich man had all the trappings of great wealth. Its not a sin to be wealthy. It is a sin to trust in your riches instead of trusting God.
“fared sumptuously every day” - This man enjoyed his riches, just as Solomon said he should. He enjoyed his wealth every day. Do you enjoy every day, the blessings God has given you? Jesus on Hell.
Solomon said: “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.” Ecclesiastes 5:18.
Its interesting to notice that Jesus says nothing negative about the rich man. We know he is rich because he wears expensive clothing like Kings wear. We know he eats well because Jesus tells us he enjoyed fine food every day. So far, Jesus seems to be painting the portrait of a virtuous man because in the Jewish understanding, prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing.
Even when the rich man is in hell, Abraham doesn’t reproach him for being rich. Instead, Abraham reminds the rich man of the blessings he used to enjoy. Jesus on Hell.
“Son, remember that thou didst receive thy good things in thy lifetime.” Luke 16:25.
Nothing grossly sinful is pointed out about the rich man. Yet he dies and goes to hell and the beggar dies and goes to paradise or Abraham’s bosum. Jesus on Hell.
Lazarus is a shortened form of the Jewish name Eliezer or Eleazer which means “God is my helper.” (Exodus 18:4)
The Hebrew speaking Jews to whom Jesus told this story recognized the beggar as “the good guy” in the story based on the meaning of his Hebrew name (God is my helper).
“full of sores” - Jesus draws a remarkable contrast between these two men. One is rich and well cared for, with plenty of food. The other is physically repulsive, poor and hungry and covered with sores.
“the dogs came and licked his sores” - Dogs were not loved in Jewish culture like we love dogs in American culture. Jesus is pointing out to us that Lazarus had no friends to help him with food or medicine. He was alone and lonely in the world and only the stray dogs came and befriended him but no man cared for his soul or his body. Jesus on Hell.
“desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table” - Jesus tells us that the rich man did not drive Lazarus away from his gate but helped to feed Lazarus. Yet the poor starving beggar received only crumbs while the rich man ate sumptuously every day.
Thoughtful readers question why the rich man did nothing to help the beggar, except to allow him the crumbs from his daily feasts.
It was certainly within the power of the rich man to be a blessing to the poor beggar at his gate.
May we apply this story to our own lives? We are the rich man. Is there someone in our life who is a beggar, whom we have the power to help if only we care enough to do so? Jesus on Hell.
Both men die. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 2:14-16, reminds us that one event happens to all of us - we all die. Rich people die and poor beggars die every day. Jesus on Hell.
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died”
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement...” - Hebrews 9:27.
Each of us will die someday. And each of us will face what the beggar faced or what the rich man faced. Jesus on Hell.
What you face when you die and where you go when you die is up to you.
Do you remember when Jesus told us that the last would be first and the first would be last? That seems to be what happened in this story.
Jesus reminds His Jewish audience that appearances can be deceiving. If you judge based on outward appearances, you'll often be deceived. "Judge righteous judgment," Jesus said in John 7:24.
“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
If you could climb in a time machine and go way back two thousand years to visit the rich man and Lazarus before they died, what might you conclude by observing them?
God had obviously blessed the rich man so he must be the saved one.
And God obviously had not blessed the beggar Lazarus so he must be the lost one. Jesus on Hell.
“and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” - Abraham’s bosom speaks of paradise, the good place where good people go when they die.
Hades is the New Testament equivalent of the place known in the Old Testament as Sheol. It had two compartments. The good side, sometimes called paradise or Abraham’s bosom is where the saved go at death. Hell or the pit, the bad side, is where the lost go at death. Jesus on Hell.
Big problem for the rich man! According to Jesus, the rich man is in hell and he is conscious and in torment. His soul is not asleep. He is not unconscious, waiting in the grave for the resurrection.
Instantaneously, when he dies, he goes to hell. His living soul is separated from his dead physical body but he is still sentient and conscious.
According to Jesus, the beliefs many people have about hell are false. Jesus is unmistakably clear that the lost go to hell when they die, they are conscious, not unconscious, they are tormented in flames and they want out but cannot get out. Jesus on Hell.
“being in torments... I am tormented in this flame” If this is only a parable and if there is no place called hell as the destination of the lost, Jesus is telling a very strange story.
Not only that but the rich man can see into the good place and he must have been shocked to see the beggar Lazarus in Abraham’s bosum. Abraham’s bosum speaks of a place of honor, the place everyone would have expected the rich man to occupy but would never expect the beggar Lazarus to occupy.
That is the contrast Jesus draws, the more carefully to point out to the Jews their great spiritual need. The rich man is desperate to get out of hell but he cannot get up and go to the good place. Jesus on Hell.
According to Jesus, the rich man begs that Lazarus might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue for he is tormented in the flames. This is an awful story with a tragic ending.
Do you know for sure where you will go when you die?
The testimony of a man in hell, as Jesus tells the story, is that he is conscious, he is tormented in flames and he wants out.
But the rich man is told he cannot get out of hell, v. 26. Now the rich man in hell becomes evangelistic. He wants someone to go and tell his brothers about hell so they won’t go there when they die.
But the rich man is told that IF his brothers won’t believe the written scriptures (Moses and the prophets), they won’t believe if the beggar Lazarus rises from the dead and goes to talk to them - vs. 30-31.
The contrast between the rich man and Lazarus on earth was great but the contrast between Lazarus and the rich man in death was even greater.
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