Discover the Book - Apr. 1, 2008


The Rich Man & Lazarus

Look in your Bibles at Luke 16, as we meet someone who awoke to a horrible reality.  THE PEOPLE: A nameless lost rich man and a faceless sick beggar – Lazarus. THE PLACE: The grave moments after death. THE PORTRAIT: A foretaste of heaven and hell – of bliss and horror – of paradise and pain – of righteousness and unrighteousness – of comfort and torment. THE DETAILS:   Christ Jesus our Lord here gives a glimpse of the grave thru the door of death!  

So many people around us could die this year—unexpectedly and rapidly, and most of them LOST. They would enter at death the place called the grave, hades, hell, the pit, and sheol.

That is a place that has been feared since the earliest times of life on this planet. It is a dark place of endless night, a dreary place of never hope. Most people think about this place more and more the older we get.

There are dozens of verses in the Bible that take us through the door of death and let us tour the afterlife. We have toured heaven several times in our prophetic studies. Today I would like to take you on a tour of the grave--the destination of the vast majority of people that you live with, work with, and see around you in daily life. “You and I, everybody you meet, from the mailman to the guy next to you at work, has an eternal destiny. That destiny is either a joyful existence in the presence of God, or a Christ-less eternity in the place prepared for the devil and his angels. It is a real place.”

Now walk with me through Luke 16, Jesus tells of Lazarus and the rich man. Luke 16:19-20:

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,

  • Look what is missing. Jesus did NOT say, 'Learn the parable of the rich man' like we read in Luke 12 and in almost all of His other parables. No, He speaks in a different way, He said 'there WAS a certain rich man.' Jesus was speaking of a literal event of which He, as God, had knowledge.
  • Note also that it doesn’t say that the rich man was particularly bad. He isn’t a notorious sinner—just successful, well fed, well dressed, cautious about strangers, and mortal like us all. His only real problem was that he had those common sins that all people have—and he died in them, with them on him as he died.

Luke 16:22-24 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then 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.’

Here Jesus explains another truth to us.  Before the Cross when their Pardon was paid, the righteous dead, like Abraham, Moses, etc, did NOT go directly to heaven, as do Blood-bought Christians of the Church Age. Instead, they went to Paradise. The grave, sheol, hades was at that time divided in two, one a place of comfort, (Abraham's bosom) the other a place of torment, but both located physically in the grave, or hell as it is called in many places.

Note also that the rich man can see Lazarus, that he speaks of literal torment and literal flame. Abraham explains the division of hell, and that Lazarus cannot come to him.  Now look at the account again as the rich man cries out,

  • Luke 16:27-28 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

Note that the rich man remembers his life on earth. As he will for eternity. He remembers his loved ones, and is conscious of their destiny. He begs Abraham to do something, but Abraham simply tells him that

  • Luke 16:29-31 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”

Now note something in God's Word that is EXTREMELY revealing. It is in the names we find recorded.

  • Abraham is Abraham.
  • Lazarus the beggar, is Lazarus.
  • But the rich man has no name.

He has his memories, he has his awareness of his surroundings, he knows the hopelessness of the situation and the only thing he wants more than a drink of water is to save his five brothers. But HE HAS NO NAME!

Why is that so important? Because he doesn't need one. Nobody will ever speak it again. There is no reprieve, no visitors, no hope and no need for a name. To all intents and purposes, he is dead, although eternally aware of it.  He faced eternal, conscious, perpetual, lonely torment, being forever dead, yet alive. He was inescapably remembering the time when he could have escaped the torment.

That is what awaits the mailman, or the guy next to you, or your friends or relatives of whom we say, "I'll talk to him when the time is right" or when he says, "I'll think about it. Maybe tomorrow."

Then God says, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee."

These are the last days.  The Rapture is coming, the Tribulation is almost upon us, the King is coming! But He isn't here yet. And there are plenty of people alive today who won't be here then, either.

NOTE these Laws of Death For Lost & Saved

THE DETAILS:   Start in v. 22 as - No less a reporter than the Lord of Truth.   Christ Jesus here gives a glimpse of the grave thru the door of death! Note these laws of death for lost and saved. His points were:

  • PERMANENCE: v.22 Only the body dies, not the soul; Righteous go to bliss; Lost go to torments v.22
  • CONSCIOUSNESS: v. 23 In the grave we are conscious, we can see and remember or recognize people even ones we never met. Intuitive recognition of Abraham who died 20 centuries before rich man and Lazarus. v.23
  • SIGHT: They can see "far off" - long distances and have recognition of those they knew in their lifetime "saw Lazarus" v.23.
  • COMMUNICATION: They can speak v.23
  • SENSATION:   They can feel their body’s physical desires are still present v.24 like "Thirst"
  • PAINFULNESS: v. 24 In the grave the lost can still experience pain. Note the vivid contrast "that tongue that never lacked on earth calls for that hand that was unheeded at his gate..."
  • MEMORY: v. 25 In the grave events from Earthly life may be recalled. Memory seems to be unimpaired.
  • HOPELESSNESS: v. 26 In the grave there is no escape. "Great chasm" eternally beyond help "none can pass"
  • HORROR: v. 27 In the grave the occupants of the torment want no one else to come it is so bad. Reality of constant torment only drove him to have others flee.   [Recent punk rocker said wanted to go to Hell with friends and fun].
  • ISOLATION: No communication from the lost dead to living allowed, the dead have no influence in spirit world v.27
  • QUALIFICATION: Word of God determines the destiny of all, the rest passes away. v.29 Supernatural not always convince [note Christ's miracle and apostles and prophets only confirmed faith - never produces...]
  • INTUITION: v. 29 Abraham seems to know the events after his life 2166 BC, including Moses 1446 BC and the prophets.   Abraham knew history after his death [died 20 cent. B.C.] Knew Moses and prophets 600-1200 years after death.
  • FINALITY: No one goes back! v.31

So that is the content of the parable, but I think there is more. If you step back ask yourself, so what made the rich man so bad? Did he harm Lazarus? Did he commit gross moral sin? Was he a murderer, liar, or anything like that?     

If we look carefully at these 13 verses we see that every word, every phrase is chosen to communicate such depths of meaning. Jesus contrasts two characters.

First, there is the rich man, usually called Dives , which is the Latin for rich. Each new phrase builds a picture of this man. The point Jesus is making is about the luxury in which he lived. His clothing was purple and fine linen. If you remember our series in Exodus you know that is exactly the elements God chose for the robes of the High Priests. In modern terms those robes would cost about $75,000 to $100,000. Even today a normal person would never be able to afford a wardrobe in which each outfit would require an average person to spend his entire earnings from 6-8 years of full time labor per outfit!

But Jesus goes on, this Dives or rich man ate a luxury feast every day. In fact, the Greek word Luke uses denotes a gourmet feeding on exotic and costly dishes. And Jesus emphasizes that he did this every day.  Think of Bible times where normal people felt very fortunate to get to eat meat once in the week. And that was only after laboring for the other six days. But Dives not only didn’t have to work it seems, but he also was feasting. This paints a picture by Christ of indolent self-indulgence.

When Lazarus waited for the crumbs that fell from Dives’ table it is another insight into the   Biblical world.. In Christ's time most people had no knives, forks or napkins. They usually ate food with their hands. But in very wealthy houses, the rich would clean their hands by wiping them on chunks of bread, which would then be discarded by the servants into the trash.

Now enters Lazarus. He sat by the trash thankfully getting any chunk of used hand cleaner bread.

Consider Lazarus. Because Lazarus is the only character in any of Christ's parables who is given a name we are led to ponder whether this may be a true life account. Lazarus is the Latinization of the Hebrew name Eleazar, which means God is my help. So Eleazar or Lazarus was a totally helpless, sick, and starving beggar, covered with ulcerated sores; and so helpless that he was unable to keep the dogs that roamed the street from bothering him.

So life passes for both and the scene in the after life shows a drastic switch in their conditions.

Jesus tells us that Lazarus is in the glory of Heaven’s waiting room and Dives is in the torment of Hell’s waiting room. Again I ask, what can we find was the sin of Dives?

  • It wasn’t cruelty, the text doesn’t say he ordered Lazarus to be carted away from his gate.
  • It wasn’t hatred, the text doesn’t say he locked his garbage cans.
  • It wasn’t murder, the text doesn’t say he wounded Lazarus as he drove through the gate.
  • It wasn’t violence, the text never implies Dives was harming Lazarus at all.

The only sin we can see from God's Word is that Dives seems to never have even noticed Lazarus.

To Dives the Rich Man, this poor, dying beggar was just another clump of the landscape.

To Dives the Rich Man, it was “perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus should lie in pain and hunger while he wallowed in luxury. As someone said, It was not what Dives did that got him into heaven; it was what he did not do that got him into hell.”

So let me emphasize this, Jesus paints us an unforgettable picture. In it we see a man who could look on the world’s suffering and desperate needs and simply never feel the conviction of God. This Rich Man would look at a fellow human who was starving and deathly ill, and do nothing about it.

So Jesus paints the punishment of those who never noticed. When God's Word is not received, Christ's compassion is also absent.

But why was the part added that Jesus told about refusing to send a warning to Dives’ family? Could it be Jesus is saying that to those who are exposed to God's Word and yet when they see the pain, sorrow, and dying of this world, and it moves them to no feeling and to no action, nothing will change them?

The terrible warning of the sin of Dives is not that he did wrong things, but that he did nothing.

What happened to him? The word of God was never received, it never pierced the heart. When God's Word is received the life begins to change.

  • Self-centeredness begins to die
  • Self-indulgence begins to be disciplined away
  • Self-sacrifice begins to be pursued
  • Compassion, kindness, caring, and love take root and grow.


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