The Rich Man and Lazarus, Part 1

The Rich Man and Lazarus, Part 1


There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom.

Then 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 in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:19-31)

While these scriptures are clearly to be taken as a parable it is generally treated as if it were a literal statement, by the Orthodox Church, and so most professed Christians regard it. However to regard it as such, as the majority do, especially those who believe in the theory of eternal torment for nearly everyone but themselves of course, involves any one of a number of absurdities; for instance:

  1. It is stated that the rich man went to hell simply because he had enjoyed many earthly blessings and gave nothing but crumbs to Lazarus. Not a word is said about whether or not he was good man or an evil man; the fact is there is no mention at all of any wickedness on his part. Again, Lazarus is blessed, not because he is a sincere child of God, full of faith and trust–not because he was good, but simply because he was poor and sick. If this be understood literally, the only logical lesson to be drawn from it is, that unless you are a poor beggar, full of sores, you will never enter into future bliss, and if now you wear any “fine linen” and “purple,” and have plenty to eat every day, you are sure to go to hades and be tormented forever.
  2. The plain fact is, there is not a single word in this much discussed parable about the Rich Man being a wicked man or of the Poor Man, Lazarus, been a good man. Merely being good will not save us, “for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. “ (Gal 2:16) We are saved through faith in our redeemers “perfect works” in our behalf. There is no mention of Lazarus having faith in Christ, of his having been a believer, of having accepted the one name under the heavens by which we may be saved. On what grounds then to we have in saying that he should go to heaven? Are we to believe that there is another way not made known to us?
  3. Why must the “Rich Man” be alive in torment when he is supposed to be DEAD? Is it not written, “The wages of sin is death” how then is it that he died and was buried and yet is conscious of his condition? Is it not likewise written that the dead know nothing, that “there is no work or device or knowledge (awareness) or wisdom in the grave where thou goes?” (Eccl 9:10) If “hell” is a place of “forgetfulness,” (Psa 88:11, 12) how could the “Rich Man” remember his “five brothers?”

This parable, rightly understood, does not in the remotest degree teach the monstrous doctrine of eternal torment.

  1. Also note the place of favor is stated to be Abraham’s bosom; if the whole statement is literal, then the bosom must be literal too. Abraham’s bosom could not possibly hold the millions of sick and poor people from the earth. Poor Abraham would experience considerable difficulty in clasping all of the poor to his expansive bosom!

Why consider these absurdities? All unprejudiced minds must recognize it as a parable.

“As a parable, how then shall we understand it? We answer, that a parable is one thing said, another thing meant; we know this from some of the other parables explained to us by the Lord. For instance, the parable of the “Wheat and Tares” from his explanation of the parable we learn that when in that parable he said wheat, he meant “children of the kingdom;” when he said tares, he meant (to those who would understand the parable) “the children of the devil;” when he said reapers, angels were to be understood, etc. (See Matt 13) So you will find it in every parable explained by our Lord; the thing said is never the thing meant; consequently in this parable “a rich man” means something else. Lazarus and Abraham’s bosom are not literal, but represent some class and condition.” (R283) “In this parable the rich man represents a class, and Lazarus another class; and the narrative applies to these classes.”

“The rich man represented the Jewish people which up to and at the time of the parable “fared sumptuously,” as the special recipients of God’s favors. As Paul said, the Jews had “much advantage every way, chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God” (the Law and Prophecy). The promises to Abraham and David invested that people with royalty, as represented by the rich man’s “purple.” The typical sacrifices of the law, constituted them in a typical sense, a “holy nation,” represented by the rich man’s “fine linen“–symbolic of righteousness —Rev 19:8.” (R1087)

Continued with next post.


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