WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT “THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS”

     “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.”

Luke 16:19-26 KJV

The Parameters:

Jesus had just given a parable about wealth and taught that you cannot serve both God and money. The Pharisees were lovers of money (Luke 16:14) and scoffed at Jesus. So He tells them another parable about trusting in money. He even begins it the same way he began the last parable – with the phrase, there was a certain rich man…

Jesus had also taught that while the Pharisees looked at the outside, God looks at the heart. (Luke 6:15)

Jesus made a comment in verse 16 about the law and the prophets being proclaimed until John.

Although most people think of future things when they think of the prophets, what the prophets primarily did was condemn Israel for oppressing the innocent and the poor. They proclaimed the importance of loving ones neighbor. This parable will portray one who does not do that.

Jesus also says he is preaching the gospel of the kingdom and makes a comment that everyone is forcing his way into it. This means that everyone is trying to get in. What we will see is examples of someone who gets in and someone who doesn’t. Jesus condemns the wrongful love of money in the Pharisees who thought that riches were synonymous with righteousness.

The Problem

We always talk about the attitude and question that Jesus is dealing with in his parables. In this one the attitude he is dealing with is the Pharisees attitude towards their wealth. They thought wealth was a sign of spirituality and blessing from God. They also thought that poverty was a result of sinfulness and cursing from God. They were sure that poor people were not going to go to heaven.

What is Gods attitude towards the Pharisees who were devoted to money and took great pride that they had it? Would they enter the kingdom of God? What does it take to enter the kingdom (i.e. go to heaven)?

The Progression

Chronological or Logical – there are contrasts between the two characters in their earthly life and the after-life.

Earthly Life

Rich Man – Dressed nice, ate well, lived it up every day. He was on the inside.

Lazarus – dressed in rags, hungry, struggled to survive, oozing sores — therefore unclean, too weak to fight off the dogs. He is on the outside.

After-Life

Lazarus – In Abraham’s bosom – in heaven – happy – banqueting imagery (reclining next to Abraham at a banquet). He is on the inside.

Rich Man – In Hades – tormented – on the outside.

Note the reversal of the earthly situation. Notice also that the eternal situation is irreversible. There is no second chance. What does this say about the Catholic doctrine of purgatory? The rich man is in Hades which is a place of torment – a holding tank for hell. Death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire. Rev… But you can’t get out.

Notice in vs. 24 that the rich man is still trying to order Lazarus around. He wants God to send the poor man to minister to him. His attitude hasn’t changed. I wonder what that says about repentance after death? Will there be any? Or will people in hell also burn with anger?

The Point

Social status and material possessions are no guarantee of ones standing with God. The only thing that matters is a right response to the Word of God.

The Relation of the Parable to the Kingdom of God

Entrance into the kingdom is dependent on one’s faith in Jesus to whom the Scriptures point, not on one’s relationship to Abraham.

The Pharisee did not listen to what the prophets said about the coming Messiah nor about how to treat their neighbors. It was the lack of love that illustrated he had no regard for the prophets. He was counting on his relationship to Abraham.

The Particulars

  • In present life there was no chasm between Lazarus and the rich man. In fact Lazarus was begging just outside the rich man’s gate. The rich man could have gone out and helped Lazarus any time he felt like it. But in eternal life there is a great chasm separating heaven and hell. Jesus uses space to emphasize that this gap is uncrossable and permanent. Notice also that it prevents those who want to go from heaven to hell (to show mercy) can’t.
  • Lazarus “laid at the man’s gate” which indicates he was crippled or lame. He was also poor. According to the Pharisees, people were poor, lame, sick, etc. because they were wicked. It proved not to be the case.
  • The rich man was not with father Abraham in paradise like he thought he would be. Jews – and especially the Pharisees – thought they were guaranteed entrance into heaven because of their physical relationship to Abraham.
  • The rich man did not listen to the law and the prophets which taught about how to love one’s neighbor (Micah 6:8). He did not love his neighbor. We know from the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 that loving one’s neighbor involved helping one who was down and out like Lazarus was.
  • The prophets also predicted that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, be the friend of outcasts, etc. (cf. Micah 5:2f; 4:6, Isa 61:1-2). This was also emphasized in Luke 14: and 15:1. The rich man rejected that truth also. He was too good to be the friend of outcasts.
  • The rich man knew his brothers weren’t paying attention to the OT scriptures either and thought they would be convinced if Lazarus came back from the grave. In fact, there was a man named Lazarus who was raised from the dead in John’s gospel. (This is the only parable in which a character is named and I’m certain Jesus did so because he knew he would raise Lazarus.4) It did not convince them. They wanted to kill him again. Jesus was also raised from the dead, and they were not convinced.
  • Rich man knew Lazarus in real life (we know that because he knew his name in heaven) but he ignored him.
  • Treatment of Lazarus on earth revealed the rich man’s true relationship to God.

The Principles

Catholic principles

There is an immediate consciousness after death.

Post death destinies are irreversible. There is no purgatory where you wait until your relatives bail you out.

Charismatic principles:

Signs are never a guaranteed cure for unbelief. If your heart is not open to the word of God now, a supernatural experience won’t help. That is what John Wimber and those in the signs and wonders movement are looking for – signs to make people believe. They have actually said, “If we can only get someone to come back from the dead…” My question is how many do we need? If it did happen, even true believers would be skeptical.

Faith comes by hearing and believing the word of God. Not from seeing miracles. Jesus said, “They have the law and the prophets…”

Christian Principles

  • True religion demands social compassion. We need to evaluate our attitudes towards those in need. It reveals our status and relationship with God. The problem with most evangelicals is that they have over reacted against the liberal “social gospel.”
  • The realities of the after-life include torment and blessing. Not annihilation or neutrality. Some people today are teaching a doctrine of annihilation.
  • Disappointment and disease are not necessarily a sign of God’s displeasure.
  • We need to evaluate our attitude towards wealth. What are we depending on? Do we think being rich means we are right with God? We need to worry more about eternity.
  • God’s word is our source of information. It is enough, don’t look for supernatural signs.
  • The decisions of this life are final and determinative. There are no second chances where heaven is concerned.
  • Luke 16 is not just about money or wealth. That is what everyone labels it. But when you really understand the chapter the key element in both the parables is personal relationships. With the parable of the steward the issue was making friends for eternity which would fall under the heading of evangelism. With this philosophy one of the most worthwhile things you can give to is missions. When you give a donation to sending Bibles to India or China or sending missionaries out, you are making friends for eternity. I have to wonder if when we all get to heaven if people saved through the ministry of some missionary are going to find the ones who supported the missionaries financially and say thank you. Ray Boltz has a song entitled Thank You where this guy gets to heaven and all these people come up to him and thank him for the time he took to teach Sunday school where they first heard the gospel…. Maybe God will give us the knowledge of all who contributed to our salvation so we can thank those that allowed themselves to be used by God. Think of the joy that will bring to you when someone comes to you and says, I wouldn’t be here without your help. Thank you so much!
  • In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man should have used his money to help Lazarus. But he only used his money for his own enjoyment. It says in vs. 19 that he dressed in the latest and best fashions and spent all his money on partying and buying expensive things for himself. Since Lazarus was the righteous one in the story, it is not about evangelism, it is about edification. It is about what the rich man should have done to build Lazarus up. He should have tried to help Lazarus.
  • If you remember the summary of the parabolic sayings, the last two were about the dragnet and the householder. Those two parabolic sayings emphasized the disciple’s responsibility for evangelism and edification. We see the same theme repeated here.
  • Both stories are really about whether or not we love others. One of the barometers of how we love is how we spend our money. The question to ask ourselves is – Who do I love? The answer can be found by going through our check register.

4 Some argue that this is not a parable because a character is named. But those who argue thus do not understand that minor variations from the literary motif do not mean it is not a parable. The variation is there to emphasize something. In this case it draws attention to Lazarus who was raised.


permission granted by David Austin Exec Director http://bible.org (worlds largest bible study site)

http://bible.org/seriespage/rich-man-and-lazarus

ALL SCRIPTURES TAKEN FROM LUKE CHAPTER 16 (UNLESS NOTED) ****


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3 Responses to WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT “THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS”

  1. Ken Gilley says:

    I appreciate your remark about overaction to the liberal social message. As a Democrat I am perplexed that if is more difficult for a rich man to go to heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle, then why has most of the church fallen in behind the camel (the rich man). Our government would not be struggling to provide for the millions of beggars in this nation if the church had followed through with Levitical law and provided for these people. Our rejection of such charity after the hardline Conservative doctrine is depriving us of blessings from God the Father – just like the rich man in the story.

    • lnger says:

      I agree with you on the point about the Government not meeting their standards. Most of them, if not all, are not Christians. At least a real Christian. If so they would not be in the shape they are in now. Like the debt and other things. It is good that we are able to support people in other countries that need help because of hunger and thirst, but we still need to look after our own people. Now the comment about most churches fall under the category of the rich person, I have to disagree. I am not saying some churches fit that category, but speaking for my church, we use our money wisely. We use our money for our sponsored missionaries and other special needs, and we have a committee that keeps track of the money. The purpose of this blog was to explain about you can be rich and go to heaven if you are saved. But if you are rich and love money more than God, You are headed for destruction. “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Luke 16:13 KJV Now on the Levitical Law, I had to look it up to refresh my memory. Leviticus means Law. It was the law of the Jews at the time of the Old Testament. We (who are saved by grace from Jesus Christ) are not bound under the law. Romans 6:14 “for you are not under the law, but under grace.” It does not mean that we are lawless it simply means that the Law is complete and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Jews of the Old Testament, God’s old dispensation, were obliged to keep the Levitical law in its entirity. Jesus came and set us free from the Levitical law. Those who insist that the Levitical law is still binding having been known historically as “Judaizers”, Judaizerism being a heresy. “I did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it,” said Jesus. Yes, He came to fulfill the Ten Commandments, and the two new ones He added (Love thy God with all thy heart and love thy neighbor as thyself). He came to do away with the Levitical law. I hope this answers your question/misunderstanding on this blog I wrote. God Bless, Jeff

  2. lnger says:

    I am afraid you have missed the point of the message here. It is not about getting rich of money! There is nothing wrong with being rich, as long as you know where your heart is. You have to put Jesus first in your life before everything, I mean everything including MONEY, your family etc….You have to be Christ centered-keep your life focused on Jesus. It says in the Bible, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 KJV I hope this helps you see things much clearer now, instead of looking through a dark glass now you should be looking though a clear glass. God Bless, Jeff

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