Summary: In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus presents the reality of Heaven and Hell through the story of a rich and poor man.
For many people, the prospect of entering a new year is one of excitement and hope. The slate of the old year is wiped clean, and there is a fresh optimism for what is to come. We tend to have concern as a person loses hope and plunges into despair. The concept of no hope would by most people’s definitions be hell. The person who talked most about Hell was Jesus Christ. He is also the one who provided to solution to Hell, so that people would be hopeful.
Some think that the idea of hell is cruel, unkind, unfair. What kind of a God, they ask, would send people into everlasting punishment? But God is never in the position of defending Himself regarding the truths He reveals in Scripture. His nature, works, and revelation define what is true, just, and righteous. The purpose of the divine revelation of hell’s horror is to warn sinners of its reality and the terrifying fate that awaits them there so as to motivate them to repent of their sins and embrace salvation in Christ. The biblical revelation regarding hell should motivate believers to defend the clear teaching of our Lord and the rest of Scripture. It should also infuse them with a sense of urgency in evangelizing the lost.
In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus presents the reality of Heaven and Hell through the story of a rich and poor man. The rich man is the main character in the story. The poor man never speaks; his role is primarily to serve as the contrast to the rich man. The rich man’s words give the only testimony from hell found anywhere in the Bible. The parable may be viewed from two perspectives: 1) The Contrasts between the two men, (Luke 16:19–26) and 2) The Lessons the Lord intended the parable to teach.
1) The Contrasts (Luke 16:19–26)
The stark differences between these two men can be grouped into three segments: a) Life, b) Death, and c) Life after death.
a) LIFE . (Luke 16:19-21)
Luke 16:19-21 "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. (ESV)
The story’s opening words, of Luke 16:19 Now there was a rich man, are consistent with the language with which Jesus often began His parables (cf. 10:30; 14:16; 15:11; 19:12). This is the fifth in a series of parables in chapters 15 and 16. It is a highly unusual parable because: it has no introduction, no explicit application, and a person is specifically named. Calling it a parable does not imply that it is not true to reality. (Bob Utley . Luke the Historian: The Gospel of Luke. Study Guide Commentary Series. New Testament, Vol. 3A. Bible Lessons International, Marshall, Texas 2004)
Although there are a lot of Godly people who see this as an actual story, the circumstances depicted in the story are unique to the parable. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that those in hell can see into heaven and converse with those who are there. Nor is the angels’ carrying the poor man’s body to heaven the normal experience of believers at death. It is best, therefore, to view this as a parable, a story created by the Lord to convey vital spiritual truth.
Jesus made the most obvious contrast in the earthly lives of the two men their economic status. The rich man He portrayed as extremely wealthy, one who every day/habitually was clothed/dressed in purple and fine linen. That he was clothed/dressed in purple means that his outer garment had been dyed with a Tyrian purple dye, which was extracted from sea snails. Because it was very labor intensive to produce, the purple dye was extremely expensive, and only the rich could afford fabrics or garments dyed with it. That he wore an inner garment of fine linen made from expensive Egyptian cotton further demonstrates his wealth. Like the rich man in another of Christ’s parables whose motto in life was, “Take your ease, eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19), this man feasted
sumptuously/possessed joyously living in splendor every day. Some people have nothing, while others can afford expensive underwear. This man celebrated life daily with great feasts (DARRELL L. BOCK. (LUKE VOLUME 2: 9:51–24:53 BAKER EXEGETICAL COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT. Baker Academic. 1996)
His lifestyle was a lavish one of self-indulgence and ostentatious display. His living day by day in dazzling splendor marks him as a show-off, a strutting peacock. He wanted everybody to know that he was rich. He was in love … with himself. (WILLIAM HENDRIKSEN. Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke. NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY. BAKER BOOK HOUSE. GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN. 1978).