Summary: The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 teaches us the necessity of repentance to escape hell and go to heaven.
Luke 16 deals primarily with the topic of possessions. The parable of the dishonest manager in the first part of the chapter deals with the abuse of possessions. And the account of the rich man and Lazarus in the second part of the chapter deals with the use of possessions. The rich man used his possessions in such a way that he enjoyed a marvelous life, and yet he ended up in hell.
Let’s read about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31:
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:19-31)
A majority of Americans believe in heaven and hell. However, most Americans believe that they are going to heaven rather than to hell. Sadly, many of them are mistaken and will realize that truth too late.
In a sermon titled, “The Lostness of Humankind,” Ravi Zacharias said,
[Hell] is sobering. When I was asked by Dr. Billy Graham to deal on this theme, I was not sure I was qualified. It is one of the most solemn truths in all of the Word of God. As I prayed and studied, I was reminded of what Robert W. Dale once said: “The only man I can listen to preaching on hell is D. L. Moody, because I have never heard him talk of it without breaking down and weeping.”
Jesus spoke about hell in today’s text. In fact, Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else. He spoke about it because it is a sobering reality, and every person should carefully consider his or her eternal destiny.
Before examining the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, I should make a comment about whether this narrative is a parable or an account of actual event. Scholars are divided on the question.
Some scholars say that it is an account of an actual event because no person is ever named in any of Jesus’ other parables. But there is nothing in the nature of a parable that requires that persons not be named. And, as we shall, there is a good reason for the name of Lazarus.
Other scholars say that Luke 16:19-31 is a parable because Jesus used a common parabolic formula to introduce the narrative. “There was a rich man” is consistent with the way Jesus introduced some of his other parables (cf. 10:30; 14:16; 15:11; 19:12). And second, some of the details in the narrative are not literally true. For example, nowhere in Scripture do we read that those in hell can see into heaven and speak with those there. In addition, Scripture does not elsewhere depict angels carrying Christians to heaven at death.
So, I am inclined to say that the account of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable designed by Jesus to impart spiritual truth to his hearers.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 teaches us the necessity of repentance to escape hell and go to heaven.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Two Persons (16:19-21)