Study 10 THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
TEN OF OUR LORD’S PARABLES
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Luke 16:19-31
This concluding study is very solemn. It is about a rich, self-indulgent man, and a poor man who was in need. Both men died – one went to heaven and the other to hell. Do you wonder that this parable is unpopular? Some people say this is not one of our Lord’s parables at all – it is the story of two men whom our Lord knew. That may be so, but to say it is a parable in no way lessens the certainty and solemnity of the Lord’s teaching. If it is figurative, figures speak of facts, and we may be certain that Jesus, who was the most tender of men, would never utter any statement or use any figure of speech, or metaphor, or illustration that would needlessly hurt the feelings of His hearers; it is also certain that He never indulged in talk that was merely fictitious or imaginary.
Here, then, we have a photograph of the other side of the grave, and it is significant that this inspired picture refutes seven popular errors concerning death and eternal issues:-
1. The first error: that we can know nothing certain about life after death.
But we can! – for we have God’s Word for it. In this portion of scripture the Son of God Himself tells us about life and death and heaven and hell. Of course, if we reject the inspiration of the Bible we are left without any authoritative word about the future destiny of mankind. Our loved ones die, and we will die – in dread and uncertainty! Let us beware of the blasphemous suggestion that in this parable the Lord was merely expressing the ideas and opinions that were current at the time – that He, the Son of God, was accommodating Himself to the popular views of His day, though they were untrue! Look up John 8:26 and 28. If we cannot rely upon this parable spoken by the Lord, we cannot rely upon any of His statements.
2. The second error: that death ends all.
So some would have us believe, when they say, “There is nothing beyond the grave.” But quite apart from God’s revelation which, of course, puts the lie to this idea, it is most unreasonable and hard to believe that death ends all. Human personality is wonderful. The mind, memory, the genius of man – does God mean that all these will be lost for ever at death? We can be quite certain that there is continuity of existence beyond the grave – Jesus said so! Read Luke 16:19-20 again. The man of verse 19, and the man of verse 20 were still the same men after they had died; their bodies had been buried, but they were still alive – very much so! Look up Hebrews 9:27, and notice “after that”! When you die, your soul will leave your body and immediately be in heaven or hell.
3. The third error: that when we die we simply go to sleep.
Read verse 22 – then verses 23-26. Does it look as though these two men were asleep? One minute after you die you will be awake – either in heaven or hell – yes, awake! Of course, your body will “sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). After death, the rich man saw, felt, cried, pleaded, heard and remembered (verses 23-25) – he was awake alright! And Lazarus was “comforted” (verse 25) – so he was awake!
4. The fourth error: that there is no such place as Hell.
How many like to think that hell is a myth, a figment of the imagination – what wishful thinking! The interesting thing is that many who are unwilling to believe in Hell do believe in Heaven! How illogical that is! They stand or fall together, and as the Lord Jesus spoke about both destinies, they will both stand, whatever men may wish or think to the contrary. He spoke of Hell as a place of torment, of pain and of memory. Read verses 24, 25, 28, and compare Matthew 13:42; 23:33; 24:51; 25:30; 25:46, and be warned before it is too late!
5. The fifth error: that there is a second chance of salvation after death.
Read verse 26 “a great chasm…fixed…cannot…nor can anyone…” So there is permanence of destiny beyond the grave. Look up John 8:21. Why should there be a second chance for those who have heard the gospel in this life (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7)?
6. The sixth error: that there is no recognition beyond the grave.
Will we recognise and be reunited with our saved loved ones after death? Look at verse 23. The rich man recognised Abraham (though he had never seen him), and Lazarus. The redeemed will recognise each other in heaven, just as Peter, James and John recognised Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). Look up 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – where would the encouragement and comfort be if we are not to recognise our loved ones? Paul tells us he looked forward to seeing his converts in heaven – 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:19.
7. The seventh error: that the unbelievers would believe if they saw signs and wonders.
How concerned the rich man was for the salvation of his brothers (verses 27-28)! Such concern is good, but useless after death. Read verses 29-31. The fact is that God has given men a demonstration of His love in the gift of His Son (John 3:16); He has died for us (Isaiah 53:6), has risen from the dead (Luke 24:34). What more can He do? Will you be persuaded now? Hebrews 12:25.