THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
A man was walking on the beach one afternoon kicking up the sand, discussed with
certain things. There on the beach was a bottle and as he walked he kicked the bottle into
the surf. POP>>>> Out of the bottle came a mysterious being... a Jeannie. “Because you
have freed me you are granted three wishes...but be advised that with each one your
mother-in-law will receive double what you ask for.”
Thinking seriously the man responded, “ I would like $10,000,000.”
“Granted and your mother-in-law will received twenty million.”
“Next wish”.....I would like 10 new cars, Corvettes, Ferrari, Vipers,
“Granted but you know your mother-in-law will receive 20 new cars.” Great.
“This is your last wish now so think about it seriously”.....
The man thought and thought and finally he responded, “I wish you would beat me half
Is the story true? Could it possibly take place? A silly little joke but many son-in-laws
might say Amen.
We laugh at the story line but in reality the little joke reveals a hidden truth about some
man at least...he really did not care for their mother-in-law. He who laughs the most
probably......I’ll just leave it at that.
Biblical parables are much the same way. They reveal hidden truths concerning the
Kingdom of Heaven, Judgment, behavior and/or Biblical principles. An interesting thing
about the Parables that Christ taught is the fact that what He often seeks to reveal is
masked. What might seem to be the obvious is not necessarily what Christ is saying.
In studying the parables of Jesus it is most important to follow sound principles of
interpretation, of which there are seven.
1) A parable is a mirror by which truth can be seen; it is not necessary truth itself
2) The context in which a parable is given---the place, circumstances, persons to whom it
is spoken, and the problem under discussion---must be taken into consideration and
made the key to interpretation.
3)Christ’s own introduction and conclusion to the parable generally make its fundamental purpose clear
4) Every parable illustrates at least one fundamental aspect of spiritual truth. The details
of the parable are significant only as they contribute to the clarification of that
particular point of truth.
5) Before the meaning of the parable in the spiritual realm can be understood it is
necessary to have a clear picture of the situation described in the parable, in terms of
the Oriental customs and modes of thought and expressions. Parables are vivid word
pictures that must be seen, so to speak, before they can be understood,
6) In view of the fundamental fact that a parable is given to illustrate truth, and usually
one particular truth, no doctrine may be based upon the incidental details of a parable.
7) The parable, in whole and in part, must be interpreted in terms of the truth it is
designed to teach as set forth in literal language in the immediate context and elsewhere
Over the long history of interpretation of parables three major images emerge which
describe the ways in which people have understood the rhetorical functioning of Jesus
parables. They are the CODE, VESSEL, and OBJECT OF ART.
1) The code: Some of the parables if allowed to control the reading process will lead us
to read them as allegories. We will find ourselves saying things like, “The tenants
represent Israel. The beloved son is Jesus” and so on. The figure of speech known as a
metaphor is used. A metaphor symbolizing something. While we must be careful to
avoid reading every parable this way, it is important to note that some parables are
constructed as codes, and these parables themselves steer us in this direction.. EX.
Sower., The Prodigal son.
2) Vessel: Other parables control the reading process by employing the dynamics of the
Simile...a figure of speech in which something we do not fully understand is said to be
like something we do understand. “ She is like a bird.” Does she fly...No. Does she eat
seed...probably not. Is she graceful perhaps. Does she sing like a bird...with
melody...maybe that is the meaning. The simile joins the known and the unknown in one
juncture. Jesus addressed the Kingdom parables this way. “The kingdom of heaven is
like....The response of the reader is “yes I see.”
3)Object of Art: If in the simile one says A is like B, a metaphor says A symbolizes B.
In an object of art parable the reader goes to the parable and is drawn into the story
expecting to experience the claim of the parable itself. The metaphor produces a shock
to the imagination which induces a new vision of the world. The reader of the object of
art parable says neither, “Ah Yes I know “ nor Aha, I see!’ but rather, I never imagined.
Not every parable is pure Code, Vessel or Object of Art but they invite us to read them in
more that one way. As a result there can and will be different interpretation of
Much of the interpretation accepted by Christians has been to translate the parables as
Example: Prodigal son parable. Parable of the Sower
Father---God the Father
Return son---one who returns to God
Son who remained at home---one who was in the church the whole time but really
was not faithful in his relationship with the father.
Strange as it may seem authors and writers who have studied the parables for years come
to the conclusion and maintain that the distinction between parable and allegory was
unknown to the Semitic (people of the middle east) mind. The allegorical interpretation
of parables came to be the accepted method of interpretation only after the apostolic
church was past. (Augustine---third century)
Our sermon this morning focuses on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus,
Luke 16:19-31 (DO NOT READ YET)
Looking at the Rich Man and Lazarus we must ask the question, Is this a parable?
Context and comparison should give us an indication.
What about context (Rule 2)? The Gospel of Luke is loaded with the parables of
Jesus but just to turn back to Chapter 14 and continuing on to chapter 16 we find 7
parables in a row.
In the beginning of Chapter 16 we have the parable of the Unjust Servant spoken to the
disciples in the presence of the Pharisees.
Comparison of structure, beginning and ending with other parables: Rule 3
1) Parable of the Great supper Luke 14: 16-24 Starts out with “ A certain man....
2) Parable of the Landowner... Matt. 21: 33-40 “There was a certain man...
3) Parable of the Vineyard owner... Mark 12:1-11 “A man planted a vineyard...
4)Parable of the Lost Son...Luke 15:11-32 “ A certain man.....
5) Parable of the unjust servant Luke 16: 1-13 “There was a certain rich man....
***^) Rich Man and Lazarus Luke 16:19 Starts out... “There was a certain rich man...
By the comparison it falls into the start just like many other parable.
Vs. 14 Christ turns to the Pharisees and rebukes them for their love of money and
immediately in vs. 19 He presents the Rich Man and Lazarus. Enjoy the story and
for a few minutes and then we will address theology.
Rich Man: Clothed with purple--royalty, Linen , Lived in luxury everyday, He was
buried meaning it was an extravagant funeral, Had five brothers, He was a Hebrew
claiming Abraham as his father most of the people in the middle east can claim that but
we verify he is a Hebrew because he had the Law and the Prophets.
Lazarus: Beggar, Sick, poor, covered with sores literally dropped at the gate of the rich
man , Never mentions a funeral... but he had a name or at least for the purpose of the
parable Christ gives him a name El’azar meaning God has helped. I do not think it
was by coincident that the name was Lazarus
VS 22-24 Carried to Abraham’s bosom Abraham’s Bosom was a common Jewish
idiom meaning Paradise much as some today refer to Saint Peter as the guardian of the
gates of heaven. We can understand the bosom concept if we look at the last supper and
the seating arraignment of the disciples. It describes John as leaning against the breast of
Christ. The couches were open seats where one could lean against another.
The rich man is buried and finds himself in Hades (grave) looking up and seeing
Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and he cries out,
“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.”
Interestingly enough the term used by Jesus as to where The Rich Man went is Hades or
the grave, not Gahanna which is the word for the place of flames or hell.( Matt 5)
Nevertheless it comes across the same the man is in torment and Lazarus is in paradise.
Not only that, it gives the impression at least that reward or punishment of the righteous
and the unrighteous comes immediately upon the death of the person.
This idea that at death men go to a place where they suffer torments is utterly foreign to
the Scriptures which teach plainly that “The dead know not anything’ Eccl 9:5 Jesus
himself compared death to a sleep ( John 11:11-14) To conclude from this parable that
Jesus was teaching that immediately at death the wicked are taken to a place where they
undergo “torment” is to make Him here contradict His plain teachings on that very
subject. Not only that it would be a contraction to the combined teachings of the Bible as
we studied last week.
Why would Jesus open up such a can of worms?
In this parable Christ was meeting the people on their own ground. The doctrine of a
conscious state of existence between death and the resurrection was held by many of
those who were listening to Christ’s words. The Savior knew of their ideas, and He
framed His parable so as to inculcate important truths through these preconceived
opinions. He held up before His hearers a mirror wherein they might see themselves in
their true relation to God. He used the prevailing opinion to convey the idea He wished
to make prominent to all--that no man is valued for his possessions; for all he has belongs to him only as lent by the Lord. A misuse of these gifts will place him below the poorest and most afflicted man who loves God and trusts in Him.
Many of the people had come to believe in the dualistic concepts that we discussed last
week of the immortal “Soul” with the body remaining in the grave and the Soul or spirit
going to paradise or hell. Dualism as we found out was taught by the Greeks and the
Romans alike and the Jews during the time of Christ were under Roman rule. One of the
Hebrew groups that believed and taught this same philosophy was the Sadducees.
Matt.22.23-33 The People were astonished, why? Because they had lost the truth
In the parable today Christ had to get the point across to them that there was a
consequence for one’s behavior.
We begin to see the purpose of the parable if we look at the context, who it is being
delivered to and the problems faced. (Rule 5) Jesus is comparing the opportunities of
this life and the use made of them, with the rewards of the life to come. Destiny is
fixed at death, and men must make use of the opportunities of this present life if
they would enjoy the privileges of the next.
Vs. 25 clearly states the situation.
For those who would say that immediately upon death the rewards are given out, one
must ask the question, “Is the parable given to establish a Biblical Doctrine or is it given
to illustrate a Biblical Truth.” (Rule 6) Doctine, that is theological belief is based upon
accumulated study of all scripture. The Doctrine of the State of the Dead being a state
of Sleep until the Second Coming of Christ is formed from a total study of the Bible
comparing text with text, verse with verse and coming to the conclusion that one is
unconscience during death, one does not know anything and all love, praise , thinking is
gone until the Lord comes.
But, what if one believed that the “Soul” went to heaven or hell immediately at death,
and you take this parable to support that view inspite of all the other Biblical texts to the
contrary. Would this parable support that view? One who believes in dualism , the
immortal soul, say that at death that “spiritual soul” is separated from the body and will
be reunited with the physical body at the resurrection when Christ comes. The soul
according to that belief is a spiritual entity.
Because Christ was a spiritual being it was necessary for a physical human body to be
prepared for Him. Hebrews 10:5 I must ask the question then, can there be
physical torment for a spiritual being without a physical body? IF the answer is No,
the parable cannot support dualism because the parable speaks of physical qualities of
both Lazarus and the Rich Man such as a literal finger and the tongue. IF one were to say
yes to the question, then that spiritual being must have a physical body and there is
absolutely no need for the resurrection and for that matter the Second Coming of Christ.
It is interesting in the Rich Man’s plea for mercy, he cries to Abraham. This story is a
reflection or mirror of the trust that the Israelites placed in being a descendant of
Abraham. They naturally believed that because they were from Abraham’s seed then they
were assured salvation. Not so. Salvation and mercy comes only through the Lord Jesus
Christ. For one to seek salvation or eternal mercy through another human being is in
direct contradiction to the teachings of the Bible. Ps 62:6 “He only is my Rock and my
salvation , I shall not be moved.”
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to
every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Vs. 26-30 The great gulf is the gulf of sin that separates the redeemed from the lost at
the end of time. Rev 19:11-21; Rev 20: 11-15
The gulf cannot be reached across.
The Rich man seems to be arguing with Abraham about his brothers. Vs. 30 He is
insinuating that if one would have come forth from the dead then he personally would not
be in the distress that he was in. Facing eternal destruction. Just like Adam and Eve when
they had fallen in the sin in the Garden the blame was cast back upon God. The
unconverted sinner will always seek an excuse for sin. The unrepentant will never have
enough evidence, never enough opportunity, never enough mercy. Even as Christ hung
on the cross and after seeing all the evidence of this divinity in the healing and even
bringing the dead to life , the nation of Israel still cried, “ If He is the Son of God let Him
This parable is not only a lesson story it is prophetic. Vs 30-31` Christ was
saying to the people at that very moment, “you will not believe even if one is raised
from the dead.”
I believe it is not coincidental that one Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha had the
same name as the beggar in the parable. With his resurrection from the dead the
Pharisees were only stirred more to destroy Christ . John 11: 45-53
(Call to commit to believe Jesus on the basis of what He says by Faith)