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The Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus Made Simple

(Luke 16:19-31)

Luke 16:19-31 reads:

“There was a certain rich man that was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fed 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 to the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, was buried and bearing the torments of 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 might 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 there is a gulf, so that those of us 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 come to this place of torment.'

Abraham said to him, 'I have Moses and the prophets, let them heed 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 heed Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded that one rose from the dead.”

I came from here three hours ago, ready to go on with my series on parables of Jesus. I got my form out which listed these parables in alphabetical order. And this one was on the list. I got depressed and I said to myself, “I am too tired; I am going to go to bed.” But the Lord got me out of bed - I was going to sleep; God got me busy and now, three hours later I'm back out of bed, doing this parable.

The reason I felt like going to bed was that this is a parable about a subject I just don't like. I've lived as a Christian since I was 8 years of age. I'm 43 years now and I've never come to grips with the concept of hell. Not that I don't believe in it. Jesus spoke about hell more than nearly any other subjects in the gospels. I've heard about hell from preachers and other writers. It's just that, for me, the subject of hell is scary. I have a hard time with hell, and the consequences that are ahead of people who don't give their lives to Jesus and follow Him.

The parable says that there was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fed sumptuously every day. Jesus said in the Gospels that it's harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25). Some people say that there was a needle gate in Jerusalem and for a camel to get through it, it had to go through on its knees and you had to remove everything from its back. It would take a lot of humility and self-control for a camel to go through that gate. Other people have said there existed no such gate and Jesus was talking about a little sewing needle and saying it was near impossible. So, whatever school of thought, Jesus stated that it was very, very hard for a rich man to go to heaven.

And so, this man was rich. Often in life when you have a lot of resources and you're wealthy and prosperous, you seem to have no need for God. It's a proven fact with statistics, that when people are in poverty, they're more open to the Gospel and yet when they start to prosper, they seem to move away from God. That's certainly true in America and it holds true in places like India, as well.

I've met an Indian apostle who has spent a lot of time visiting India. He said that the Christians are very good at converting the lower castes, the poor, beggars, the working class maids and people that are in the lowest level in their class system. The Christians are very good at converting these types of people but have a lot harder time converting the rich. Don’t get this wrong; it is not an evil thing to be rich. Money doesn't hold any value; the Lord wants to bless His children. It's just that when you get to a stage where all of your needs are met and you can live in luxury, most often people choose that course instead of relying on Jesus. When we start living comfortably, we tend to forget the Lord.

But Lazarus was there, outside the gate begging bread. I find verse 21 interesting. He said he desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. He basically was not eating bread crumbs; he was eating the scraps off the table of the rich man. As the men and women of the house ate they collected the scraps of food and Lazarus was the bin.

Do you remember the Syrophoenician woman? The story was related in Mark 7:24-30. This woman asked Jesus for the healing of her daughter. And when Jesus told her to feed her children, she said that even the dogs get the scraps off the table. Jesus saw her great faith and healed her daughter that day.

It proves that Jesus was compassionate in that sense and it shows that there's always a need for the poor in this world. A lot of poor live in scrap yards and rubbish heaps; for some, it is their only way of living. And this is really sad. Many times we might think, “Well, these are for the rich people, the selfish and stuff.” But do you realize that we are the “rich” that this parable is talking about?

In the third world, just an old-age or disability pension is a fortune for a person. People who are poor in the West are tremendously rich compared to true poverty. So, when you listen to a parable like this, don't consider yourself as one who isn't rich.

In verses 22 and 23 of this parable, the rich man went to hell and being in a torment of Hades, He lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. Many Jehovah's Witnesses say there's no hell. Seventh Day Adventists say there is no hell. But people that are real Christians know there is a hell and it is really a place you don’t want to end up in.

You notice that Jesus, in all these parables, mentioned people and he doesn't say names, he just mentions the professions. This parable is different as he names Lazarus. This is not just a story; this is a true incident that was presented as a story.

So Jehovah's Witnesses will say there's no hell. Seventh Day Adventists will say that there's such a thing as soul sleep. When you die, you just stay in this sleep sort of state and we wait for the resurrection of the dead.

This is saying that there was a paradise, pre-Jesus' resurrection and there was a hell where people were actually burning and wanted a drop of water. It says in verse 24, “that he may dip the tip of his finger in the water and cool my tongue”, proves that it was very hot and just this drop of water would bring comfort to this person.

Rest assured that there is hell for the people who don't accept Jesus Christ. And essentially, this book of parables - Christ's message - is that we've got to be the light to the world. It's a hard thing to consider and I don't want to bear you down with guilt, shame and condemnation. But many of the people you know – friends, relatives and workmates - many of them are counting on you and your witness to lead them to salvation. There are people in every Christian's life that may end up in hell because the Christian didn't share the Gospel with them.

That's a sobering message for me to share and I don't mean to bring condemnation but Jesus left the job of salvation to the sheep. Many people rely on their Pastor or an Evangelist to share salvation to people. Pastors don't give birth to Pastors; but the sheep give birth to sheep. It's natural for sheep to give birth to sheep. And it's natural for sheep to go out to evangelize their friends.

So, that's how it is. The rich man said in verse 27 to 30, that Abraham was to send someone from the dead, send Lazarus to go and warn his brothers.

It's interesting that the rich man still had mercy on his brothers. He had some compassion. It's interesting that he had a memory in hell. Some people say we have no memory of our life but this rich man was fully aware that he had brothers who were destined to hell too. And he wanted to save them. It's interesting in verse 31, that Abraham said, “But he said to him, but if they do not heed Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded that one rises from the dead.”

That's very interesting because Jesus did rise from the dead yet so many people in the world don't believe that testimony. There are plenty of people being raised from the dead around the world. In the East, in Africa, in India, when it happens that people are raised from the dead, massive conversions happen.

I know a teacher that I've mentioned already. Andrew Womack raised someone from the dead in a church. And the church attendance went from about 14 people to 100 people in a town with just about 150 people. Raising people from the dead is possible and it always causes revival. So, it seems it does have an effect on people. People are subject to receiving Jesus or rejecting Him. And Jesus wants us to be the lights of the world. He wants us to reach out to people.

You would be surprised at how many people who do not profess a faith in Jesus, who do not consider themselves a Christian would be interested in reading a book about Jesus’ teachings made simple. Perhaps you might buy them a copy of this book and see if the words convict them and bring them some light.



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