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THE PARABLE

OF

LAZARUS

AND

THE RICH MAN

Jesus told many parables during His three and half years of ministry. There is no telling how many; but more than three dozen of His parables were recorded. He spoke of a man sowing good seed into a field, a grain of mustard seed, and leaven hidden in three measures of meal. He also spoke of a barren fig tree, a man who planted a vineyard, new wine in old wineskins, ravens, lilies, and many, many more.

A PARABLE is a short, fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle. Parables are never meant to be taken for the letter of their word. When taken literally, at face value, the entirety of its meaning is lost.

The Greek word for parable is parabole and means, something similar, symbolic, a fictitious narrative of common life conveying a moral (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance). The Hebrew word, mashal, is not unlike it, meaning, a sense of superiority in mental action; a maxim, usually of a metaphorical nature; hence a simile, or figure of speech (as an adage, poem, discourse. (Strong's).

It is interesting, of all the parables Jesus spoke, only one is commonly taught as being literal. What a wonder it is, that such a thing could go unnoticed for so long, and this in the ranks of intelligent people who claim they want the truth. That single parable has become a pervading factor in man's theology. It is a ruse that condemns the vast majority to a never ending realm of burning torment. That ill-applied parable, of course, is the one where "a certain beggar called LAZARUS, who, upon dying found himself in Abraham's bosom, and a certain RICH MAN in torment."

One reason for taking this parable at face value, as we have been told, is due to Jesus using the word 'certain' to express His thought: a certain man named Lazarus, a certain rich man, etc. In His discourse, it is argued, the word certain designates each person as being a certain 'real' individual. This is plausible; but it doesn't stand true in the light of many other times Jesus used the same term. We will cite a few, and on each occasion see how it always conveys His message in the form of a parable. Before we look at those verses, however, let us be reminded that when speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, as He was in Luke 15 and 16, He never spoke except in parables. The following verses make this clear:

"And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them" (Mat 13:10-11,34).

Without a parable spake He not unto them -- not even when He spoke of A CERTAIN householder, A CERTAIN king, or A CERTAIN man with two sons who he sent into his vineyard to work. Without a parable spake he not unto them about A CERTAIN rich man and steward, A CERTAIN poor widow, or A CERTAIN creditor. In parables also, spake He concerning A CERTAIN man who fell among thieves, A CERTAIN priest who passed him by, A CERTAIN Samaritan who helped him, and A CERTAIN man who made a great supper. And spake He likewise of A CERTAIN rich man, and a CERTAIN MAN NAMED LAZARUS.

No one takes any of the CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS in the above PARABLES as being literal. So why, we humbly ask, would we make an exception with A CERTAIN MAN WHO WAS A BEGGAR and A CERTAIN RICH MAN IN TORMENT? The strength of the argument on that point is lacking, to say the least. There is, however, yet another argument, which could have merit if what Jesus was saying had not been a parable. It has to do with the fact that He used a personal name to designate the beggar -- LAZARUS. It is maintained that this establishes the parable as being literal. But does it? Let us consider some things and see.

Lazarus is the Greek form of the the Hebrew name Eleazar, and like all Hebrew names it has a meaning, it tells something of the person it names. In this case it means, Whom God aids, surrounds, protects, helps, rescues" (Strong's & Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lex. to the O.T.) This is the name, i.e., the nature, or the character of Lazarus. The parable simply states the condition of those that 'Lazarus' represented.

With a little research it is also found that the story of Lazarus and the rich man is the fifth part of a five-part parable. It is the concluding point of Jesus' parable concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. Each part of the parable refers to the dispersion of the Jews and the salvation of the Gentiles. Jesus made His point by using five different ways to tell one story.

Andrew Jukes in his book, "The Restitution of All Things," wrote along these same lines. His book points out how the parable begins in Luke 15:3 and ends with 16:31. Another excellent work, and much more comprehensive, is the book, "Abraham's Bosom" by J. Preston Eby. Each treatise draws our attention to the truth of the matter, enabling us to focus on these two chapters of Luke as one parable. Hopefully, we can likewise see this ribbon of unfolding truth in this short study. [One Parable - five stories: J. Preston Eby]

After the Pharisees murmured against Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners, He spoke to them. This sets the tone for what followed. The subject matter had to do with those considered the ungodly Gentiles and contrasting them with the elect of God, which were the Jews. The first few words of verse three set the precedence. They established what Jesus said thereafter would be  one parable and not five parables. Those key words are: "He spake this PARABLE to them..." (Lk. 15:3).

When we follow Him through to the end, we see each part of the parable is about something either lost or rejected: the lost sheep and the ninety-nine sheep, the lost coin and the rest of the house, the prodigal son and the older son, the debtors and the unjust steward, and of course, the poor beggar and a certain rich man. One is oppressed, lost, and sought after until he is found and saved, while the other is seemingly left to his own destruction. Throughout the parable, each is very much the same as the Gentiles or the nation of Israel. As we notice this parable, let us also keep Luke 19:10 in mind, which discloses what His mission was, and still is for that matter. It simply states that Jesus came "...TO SEEK AND SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST." Thus, Luke 15:4 through 16:31. Luke 15:4-7...The ninety-nine sheep with a caring Shepherd is very typical of Israel as a nation before the advent of Jesus. After He is rejected and crucified by His flock, the Shepherd comes again at Pentecost; but this time His purpose is to find the one that is lost -- the Gentiles. From that point on, Israel had no one to guide them. All restraints were lifted, leaving them to their own evil devices. Their condition had been deplorable for a long time; but with the Shepherd away, their spiritual and moral state of being decayed to absolute putrification. Sedition became the norm, and thirty or so years of their constant insurrections, Rome could tolerate no more. In A.D. 70 Titus' army was set upon Jerusalem with such fury that the city was utterly destroyed. With this heavy blow exacted, and without a shepherd, the rest of Israel was dispersed and scattered throughout the world.

Luke 15:8-10...A candle is lit, and the house swept clean until the lost coin is found. The candle, of course, is the shining light of Christ in the hand of the Church. This commenced at Pentecost. Its fire set aflame the wicks of the 120, and the search began. Thousands were delivered from the kingdom of darkness and placed in the Kingdom of God's dear Son. From there the torch was passed on and carried down to this day, all the while, bringing light and igniting fires everywhere it went.

The ten coins is an eastern custom which carries great importance -- especially to a bride. The coins are handed down from family to family for one purpose. They are to be passed on to the eldest son when he marries. He in turn gives them to his bride, and although their monetary worth is insignificant, their intrinsic value cannot be measured. They are priceless. The coins begin as a part of the engagement process. In a solemn ceremony under a kitchilika tree (an exotic and fragrant species of orange which bears fruit as large as grapefruit), the couple sit facing each other as the young man drops into her hands the ten pieces of silver. The girls of that part of the world are taught, "He who places the ten pieces of silver in your hand is he who will love you." They believe that God kindles love in the heart of the girl at that very moment. This, then, is the beginning of love. It also signifies that the governing protection with which God had overshadowed her is now passed to the man.

By receiving the ten pieces of silver, the bride is considered to have now been purchased, just as Christ died on a tree and purchased us, the Church. "Ye were bought for a price." The coins are a testimony of her being bought for a high and precious price. At the wedding ceremony she will wear them hooked with little hooks into her hair. Thereafter, she must guard them with her life. And there is good cause for this. According to their thinking, when a woman loses one of her ten pieces of silver, God withdraws favor from the household, and the blessings which they had formerly enjoyed is lost. If she cannot find the coin, in disgrace, she will be put out in the street, an outcast -- put out to die! No wonder the woman desperately swept the house until the coin was found, and then called in the neighbors to rejoice with her, for she had just been saved from certain death. Jesus said, their rejoicing is like the rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. (Ref. Light Trough and Eastern Window, by K.C. Pillai).

We, as it is with the Word of God, shall not return void. Rather than failing to find that which was lost (the rest of the world), we will search until they are all secure. Brethren, they were placed in our hands when we received the earnest of our inheritance. Shall we not wear them as a crown of glory the day we are joined in marriage to Him? Shall we let even one slip away to never be found?

Absolutely not! With the fiery light of the Lord blazing, and His piecing eyes sweeping over the earth, everything that stands in its path shall be cleansed. The hunt shall continue until the job is finished. With His light in hand, we, shall never stop going about cleaning, seeking, finding, and saving that which was lost -- the lost coin -- the Gentiles. Our call is not one of empty-handedness. We will proceed until the whole house is thoroughly purged and all is found and reconciled to God, lest His Church is disgraced and put out in the street, an outcast, put out to die, for losing her most precious inheritance -- the Gentiles!

Luke 15:11-31...The firstborn son is typical of the Jewish nation, while the prodigal son is that of the Gentile nations. The Jews are envious of the repentant son who returns to the Father's house. The eldest son is supposed to receive the honor of the fatted calf, the signet ring of the Father's authority, the robe of royalty, and the Father's shoes to walk like Him, etc.; but the younger, the redeemed nations, receive all these things instead. We see the same scenario with Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, and also Joseph and his elder brothers. In each case the younger receives the inheritance while the elder resentfully loses it. Hence, the elder son and the prodigal son.

Luke 16:1-13...The unjust steward in these verses speak of the Jews. They wasted the Spiritual goods that God, the rich Master, had trusted to their care. They even wasted the most precious treasure He could have given them -- Jesus -- His own Son. This same parable, it appears, was told in Matthew about the certain rich Householder who planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen to care for. Each time He sent servants (the prophets) to see how things were going, they were killed. He then sent His own Son. Thinking they could seize His inheritance, He too was killed (Mat 21:33-42). Jesus concluded that particular parable with a strong proclamation: "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Mat 21:43).

The parable of Luke 16:1-13 continues: Upon seeing that the Master is very wroth, and will cast him out of the Kingdom, the steward quickly shows mercy to his Lord's debtors. Those debtors are the nations that the Jews had put under such a financial burden. This is in the hope, of course, that should they lose their prestigious position of authority, the Gentiles might show mercy and allow them refuge (16:4). (This has happened in Europe and other parts of the world, especially in the United States and Great Britain.) "And I say unto you. Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, (the Gentiles of the world); that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations (or, aeonian, agelasting habitations).

"If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:11-13)

During Jesus' parabolic discourse, I am sure the scribes and Pharisees were building up a full head of angered steam; for they knew full-well He had them pegged. With the symbolism He used, even they knew what He was saying, to a degree. The Gentiles, whom they viewed as dogs, would be taking their sacred place of honor -- and they didn't like it. They kept quiet, however, until He touched that which they loved the most -- money, i.e., mammon. This pierced to the core of their stony hearts. With such a pain-riveting word, they could keep their silence no longer. In open contempt the covetous Pharisees derided Him. (Deride in this verse means a rude, outright sneer.)

Jesus did not entertain their obscene gestures, but hit them instead in the midst of another tender spot. He spoke briefly, but very pointedly, about how they self-righteously justified themselves in the sight of men, and went about putting away their wives and husbands. He then picked up where He left off and concluded His parable of the Jews and Gentiles.

Luke 16:19-26...The rich man clothed in purple and fine linen is typical of the kings and priests of God -- Israel; while Lazarus (whom God aids) represents the Gentiles. We can't help from remembering Jesus referring to dogs once before. It was with the Canaanite woman who besought Him to cast out the devils from her daughter. In essence, He told her that the Gentiles were dogs, and His meat was not for the dogs. She then reminded Him, "...THE DOGS (not unlike those that licked the wounds of Lazarus) eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table" (Mat 15:27).

In torment, the rich man cries out to his father Abraham. Notice that he does not cry to God, not to Yahweh, not to Jehovah, and certainly not to Jesus; but he cries out to Abraham -- the father of Israel. He begs for Lazarus to be sent with a drop of water to soothe his tongue. He yearns to have his 2,000 years of scorching pain eased; the pain of scorn and hatred he has suffered under God's hand of judgment. He is told, however, that the gulf is fixed, that neither side can go to the other. This in no way suggests an 'eternal' condition to never be changed. It simply states that those who 'would' cannot cross over on their own. It takes more than human desire for Israel to be relieved from centuries of torment. The Gentiles must be brought in before the Jews as a whole can be released from judgment. Israel was rich in God, and fared sumptuously, but they squandered their wealth, killed the King's Son, and now they must wait until the proper season. Paul wrote so clearly concerning this:

"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:25-26, 27-36).

Luke 16:27-31...Lastly, the rich man begged Lazarus to be sent to his brothers to warn them. He was told that they have Moses and the prophets; "Let them hear them." But in desperation he argued, "Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though One rose from the dead." And of course, they didn't repent. For One rose from the dead -- JESUS -- and they did not repent, even to this day.

They, therefore, remain in torment. The gulf has been fixed, and this is for both the Gentiles and for Israel; but it is not forever. To the natural mind it would be the sensible thing to do, to hurry the process, to stop the suffering -- but it won't be. Until the appointed time Israel cannot span the wide chasm, and neither can the Gentiles in Christ cross that fixed gulf and save them. Regardless of how many missionaries are sent to the 'holy land', it will not happen before the time. The Jews are held in unbreakable chains of darkness, and this is by God's decree -- and man cannot circumvent or change it. They will remain locked in darkness until the Sons of God sound the trumpet of freedom, and they hear for the first time the Good News to return unto the Lord. Individuals may cross over as the Lord bids, which is a rarity, but not the nation. For "...Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible"; but praise God, He did not stop there. He then said, "WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE" (Mat. 19:26). God certainly "...turns man to destruction; and says, RETURN, YE CHILDREN OF MEN" (Psa. 90:3). Indeed, it is impossible for either the rich man or Lazarus to cross that fixed gulf; but the day will shortly dawn when God will make it possible. Get ready, O ye Sons of God, for your hour to sound the Word of liberty to those across the gulf draws nigh!

Without controversy, Jesus came to be the Savior of all (Jn. 4:42, 12:47, I Jn. 4:14, among 97 other verses. Scripture list available upon request). And as the Living Word, He shall not return to His Father void, but will accomplish and prosper in that which He was sent to do (Isa. 55:11). Nevertheless, many, we are sure, will still contend that the doctrine of everlasting damnation is God's futile plan for the majority of His creation. Some will even continue using the above parable in attempts to prove their point. I hope they don't, but from what we have seen in the past, they probably will. We are not being antagonistic, yet we know how difficult it is to change age-old mind-sets, regardless of their absurdities. Chains of tradition are not easily broken.

The influence of 1,700 year-old dogmas cloud people's thinking. Vindictiveness also hinders the truth from being known. It spills from the cold heart of pharisaical religion like poison from an apothecary's vial. This cruel spirit promotes men's unforgiving hatred as it maintains erroneous beliefs about God. The loathsome monster of self-righteousness, of course, stands well in the forefront of them all. But, brethren, it must not be with us. Let us break such godless yokes as we embrace the wonderful truths of our mighty King. Let us join with the myriads of saints in the awesome work of reconciling all unto God. Our call is set before us, this we know -- for we hear the sound of distant trumpets, and they are drawing closer by the day. Gird up your loins, dear Sons, and prepare yourselves to walk your destined call. The lost is waiting.

Elwin R. Roach

Suggested reading:

The Real Meaning of Lazarus and the Rich Man by the late Dr. Ernest L. Martin, founder of A.S.K.

Abraham's Bosom by J. Preston Eby, Kingdom Bible Studies
 


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