The Rich Man and Lazarus
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
Introduction: There was a “fad” several years ago, and it has not yet completely run its course, wherein there were a number of incidents publicized of people who had been pronounced legally “dead,” and who then recovered. Fascinating stories were written, and of course a movie was made, telling of what it was like to have died; telling what they saw, what they heard, etc. The movie was entitled Beyond and Back. If we were interested in giving an ear—pleasing title to this sermon, it might be called Beyond and Left There!
Is this a parable or an historical account?
1. Those who take it as an actual occurrence point to the fact that Jesus does not introduce it as a parable, saying simply, “There was a certain rich man...”; that there is a name given to one of the characters, which is not done in any parable; and that at least the second part of the lesson does not fit the definition of a parable as being “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”
2. Those who consider it to be a parable point out that the parable which opens Luke 16, “The Dishonest Steward,” begins with precisely the same words, “There was a certain rich man...”; that this falls in the midst of a series of parables within Luke, chapters 14 -18; that this account is in perfect harmony with the parable in Luke 16:1-12.
3. Whether it is a parable or not, the main point is this: the circumstances described within it are very real, and could have happened. The lessons to be learned are just as real either way!
I. Three Scenes
A. The scene of two men and how they lived.
1. The rich man clothed in purple (dyed to that color with an expensive dye, see Lydia, Acts 16:14) and fine linen (used for the under-garments); he fared sumptuously every day (never a worry about the next meal, which was always a gourmet’s delight.)
2. The beggar, named Lazarus (“God is my help”); laid at the rich man’s gate (‘‘right under his nose “ so to speak); he was full of sores, even to the point of the dogs licking his sores (whether in comfort or to add to his distress is not clear); and while the rich man feasted daily, Lazarus would have liked just the crumbs which fell from the table, (but there is no indication that he received even that much.)
3. The rich man is not said to have been guilty of anything other than self-indulgence, and lack of mercy. Riches, per se, are not evil, and will not automatically keep one out of heaven; but as the Lord once said, “It is hard for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”
B. The scene of two men and how they died.
1. “The beggar died,” but there is no mention of a burial. Was he even missed, or mourned? Poor, sick, weak, and alone, just as he was in life, so was he in death.
2. “The rich man also died...” Death is “no respecter of persons” (Heb. 9:27). Money cannot bribe the “grim reaper.” The rich man was buried, and it is not hard to imagine that, as he had luxury in life, so his funeral was attended with the very best money could buy.
3. The curtain falls on scene two, and another curtain is raised briefly, and we see
C. The scene of two men after death.
1. The beggar, though not attended by men even in death, was “carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.”
a. The expression is figurative in nature, but suggests deep fellowship which Abraham enjoys with his true descendants. (Lightfoot).
b. This refers to the spirit of the beggar, for “the body returns to the dust from whence it came” (Eccl. 12:7), but the “spirit returns to God who gave it.”
2. The rich man lifted up his eyes in “hell” (KJV), “Hades,” (ASV).
a. Actually, the departed spirits of both men were in “Hades,” which is the realm of spirits separated from the body, where they remain until the resurrection of the body (1 Cor. 15:35-38; 42-44; Acts 24:14,15).
b. But, in “Hades,” there is a distinction made between the place of the good and the wicked; Lazarus was enjoying bliss, “good things,” and so must have been in that place known as “paradise” (Lk. 23:43).
c. The rich man, on the other hand, was in “torments,” and experienced a foretaste of “gehenna,” the Greek word used by Jesus to describe the place of everlasting punishment. This section of “Hades” is described by the Greek word “tartarus,” the place where the wicked are reserved until the final judgment (2 Pet. 2:4).
d. After the final judgment, there will be no need for “Hades,” for it will give up all the dead! (see Rev. 20:11-15).
3. The third scene shows a reversal of roles!
a. The rich man becomes the beggar! (v. 24)
b. The beggar enjoyed the true riches, “which fadeth not away!”
II. Three Things Death Does Not Destroy!
A. Death Does Not Destroy Consciousness.
1. Both men knew exactly what was going on around them!
2. This is a death blow to the “soul-sleepers” theory!
3. See also Mt. 22:23-33 - “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
B. Death Does Not Destroy Identity!
1. Though the body was dead, both men knew who he was, and who the other was!
2. This is further proof that the “real you” and the “real ‘ is not just what this body is; and how foolish we are to take such good care of the body physically, and take no thought to the inner man!
3. The personality of the rich man was not changed, for just as he was self-centered in life, he was likewise after death!
C. Death Does Not Destroy Memory!
1. Abraham’s words, “Son, remember...”
2. After death, there will be abundant opportunity for those who suffer torment to remember the wasted, neglected opportunities!
3. “The power of memory will deepen and magnify the joys of heaven; and it will also agonize the conscience and intensify the regrets of those condemned in a devil’s hell.” (Lightfoot, p. 42).
D. Death Cannot Destroy Destiny!
1. There are only two rewards after death!
2. There is a great “gulf” or “chasm” which separates the damned from the blessed.
3. That gulf is “fixed,” which means literally “has been and remains fixed;” and thus the Roman Catholic doctrine of “purgatory,” which teaches that all must suffer some punishment in the after-life and then be transferred to the place of blessing is shown to be without Biblical support!
4. As they were separated in life, because of choices, so they were separated in death!
III. The Rich Man’s Condemnation
A. He was indifferent.
B. He was selfish.
C. He minimized the written word!
1. Men are not saved by the testimony of ghosts!
2. To the pleadings of the rich man, Abraham replied, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (v. 31).
3. In John 11, one named Lazarus was raised from the dead, but many still refused to believe.
4. Jesus was raised from the dead, but the apostles’ preaching emphasized that the resurrection fulfilled “Moses and the prophets.”
5. These who minimize the written word, who underestimate its value, put themselves in jeopardy of everlasting punishment.
Conclusion: What preparation have you made for death?