Man and Lazarus
PART VII: THE PARABLES ON WEALTH"There was a rich man who was
Some believe that The Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable,
and some believe that it is an historical account. I believe
that it is a true story, especially since the man Lazarus is
named. However, it has an essential message, so I have
included it. It is found only in Luke 16:19-31.
dressed in purple and fine linen and
lived in luxury every day. At his gate
was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered
with sores and longing to eat what fell
from the rich man's table. Even the dogs
came and licked his sores.
"The time came when the beggar died
and the angels carried him to Abraham's
side. The rich man also died and was
buried. In hell, where he was in
torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far
away, with Lazarus by his side. So he
called to him `Father Abraham, have pity
on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of
his finger in water and cool my tongue,
because I am in agony in this fire.'
"But Abraham replied, `Son,
remember that in your lifetime you
received your good things, while Lazarus
received bad things, but now he is
comforted here and you are in agony. And
besides all this, between us and you a
great chasm has been fixed, so that those
who want to go from here to you cannot,
nor can anyone cross over from there to
"He answered, `Then I beg you father,
send Lazarus to my father's house, for I
have five brothers. Let him warn them,
so that they will not also come to this
place of torment.'
"Abraham replied, `They have Moses
and the Prophets; let them listen to
"`No, father Abraham,' he said, `but
if someone from the dead goes to them,
they will repent.'
"He said to him, `If they do not
listen to Moses and the Prophets, they
will not be convinced even if someone
rises from the dead.'" (Luke 16:19-31,
New International Version).
Ralph Earle provides the following outline. (Turnbull,
Gen. ed., PROCLAIMING THE NEW TESTAMENT, THE GOSPEL OF LUKE,
by Ralph Earle, pp. 73-75).
1. TWO MEN IN LIFE (VV. 19-21). "There was a rich man..."
who was unnamed by Jesus, but named Dives (from Latin,
"wealthy") by someone later.
Dives was "habitually clothed" (meaning of Greek text)
in purple and fine linen. Purple dye (PROPHYRAN) was very
expensive, made from a special fish, and ranging in color
from a deep violet through a deep blue to a deep scarlet.
Alexander found garments 200 years old that had been dyed
with purple and were still vivid in color. Egyptian Fine
linen (BYSSUS) was so delicate that it was called "woven
air." It was almost transparent and felt like silk--it was
Dives lived in luxury every day. The Greek text
literally states that he was daily "making merry in
splendor." He had a luxurious lifestyle. [Marvin R. Vincent,
WORD STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1887-1977), 1:396-397.
Lazarus was a beggar--the Greek word denotes one who
is "utterly destitute." It is interesting to note that
Lazarus' name is an abbreviated form of Eleazar, which means
"God a help."
Lazarus was laid (Greek, "was thrown"--today, we might
say "dumped") at Dives' gate. Dives' gate was "a gate full of
artistry and exquisite beauty." (Morgan, THE PARABLES AND
METAPHORS OF OUR LORD, p. 224). Lazarus was "covered with
sores"--the one Greek word translated by the English phrase
of three words is a medical term meaning "to be ulcerated"--
the Greek word is found only here in the New Testament. It
is reasonable that Luke should use medical terms since he was
a physician. Lazarus was very hungry and would have eaten
what fell from Dives' table--what the dogs usually ate.
(Vincent, WORD STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, 1:398).
2. TWO MEN IN DEATH (V. 22). "The... beggar died.... The
rich man also died...." Lazarus died and the angels carried
him [his spirit] to "Abraham's bosom," a Jewish term
synonymous to Paradise. The word "Paradise" comes from the
Old Persian word PAIRIDAEZA, through the Greek words PERI
("AROUND") and TEICHOS ("a wall"). PERITEICHO was chosen to
translate the Garden of Eden (Hebrew) into Greek in the
SEPTUAGINT, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Paradise was a compartment of Hades, the place of departed
human spirits. (Hades is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew
Sheol). There is a possibility that Lazarus' body was buried
in the potter's field. However, Lazarus body was probably
A beggar of that type, completely destitute, alone,
covered with sores, at last breathing out his
spirit in all his poverty, in those times was not
buried. Almost inevitably the cleaners passed the
dead body, unknown, unclean, and hurried him away
in the early dawn until they came to Tophet,
Gehenna, the rubbish and refuse heap of fire, where
they flung the body in. That is a known fact of
the time, and the very fact we are not told he was
buried, leads us to suppose such an end for him.
[G. Campbell Morgan, D.D., THE PARABLES AND
METAPHORS OF OUR LORD (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H.
Revell Company, 1943), p. 225].
It is very interesting to note that Jesus used Gehenna
as a symbol of everlasting torment. The word Gehenna is a
transliteration of the Greek word GEENNA, which is a
transliteration of the two Hebrew words, GE HINNOM (Valley of
Tophet), located immediately south of Jerusalem. At one
time, ancient Israel sacrificed infants to the false god
Molech. The idol Molech was destroyed, the practice of infant
sacrificed was stopped and the area was made into a garbage
dump. It was not a sanitary landfill like we have today.
Bodies of humans and animals, plus filth were dumped there.
Because of the rotting material, perpetual fires were kept
going. Thus Jesus words, "where their worm [maggots] dieth
not and the fire is not quenched." Men consigned Lazarus'
body to the garbage dump, a SYMBOL of everlasting punishment.
Lazarus was dishonored by men.
Dives died. He [his body] was buried, probably with
much pomp and ceremony. Men honored Dives. His spirit was
carried into Hades also, but to the part for unbelievers. He
went into the REAL everlasting punishment.
3. TWO MEN AFTER DEATH. (VV. 23-31). "In hell...he [Dives]
was in torment...Abraham [was] far away, with Lazarus by his
side." Dives was in hades in ODYNOMAI, literally "in
anguish." (Vincent, WORD STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT,
1:399). This word is used only by Luke, and means "deep
sorrow, grief or anguish." The situations of the two men
were now reversed. Dives, who had lived in temporal comfort
and luxury, was now in anguish. He now became the beggar,
asking Abraham to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool
his tongue. Abraham responded that it was impossible for him
to cross the great chasm (Greek, CHASMA) separating them.
Dives then asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn
his five brothers not to come to "this place of torment."
Abraham responded that they would not believe someone coming
back from the dead if they would not believe the Scriptures.
Lazarus was now comforted (PARAKALEO, "called alongside"
Abraham and the Lord).In their earthly life, Dives was clothed in beautifulThe Interpretation
garments. Lazarus was clothed in sores. The physical realm
had become a delusion, a lie. For in the invisible or
spiritual realm, Dives was clothed in self-righteous rags and
Lazarus was clothed in the righteousness of God.
What was Dives' sin? Some may see his riches as being
sinful, but Jesus did not say this. It is hard for a rich
person to enter the Kingdom of God, but not impossible. In
fact, Abraham was a rich man. Trench identifies Dives sin:
For it ought never to be forgotten, that it is not
the primary purpose of the parable to teach the
fearful consequences which will follow the abuse of
wealth and contempt of the poor, but the fearful
consequences of unbelief, of having the heart set
on this world, and refusing to believe in that
invisible world, here known only to faith, until by
a miserable and too late experience the existence
of such an unseen world has been discovered. THE
SIN OF DIVES IN ITS ROOTS IS UNBELIEF: [italics
mine] the squandering on self, and contempt of the
poor, are only the forms which it takes. His
unbelief also shows itself in supposing that his
brethren, while refusing to give heed to the sure
word of God, would heed a ghost. .... It is most
important to keep in mind that this, the rebuke of
unbelief, is the central thought and aim of the
parable. (Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF OUR
LORD, p. 162).
Trench comments concerning Dives' second request:
There lies in it a secret justifying of himself,
and accusing of God: "If only I had been
sufficiently warned, if God had only given me clear
evidences of the need of repentance, and of this
place as the goal of a worldly life, I had never
come higher. But at least, let my brethren be
warned. (Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF OUR
LORD, p. 169).
There was another Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the
dead. Instead of listening to him, hardened religious leaders
tried to put him to death:
Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found
out that Jesus was there and came, not
only because of him but also to see
Lazarus, whom he had raised from the
dead. So the chief priests made plans to
kill Lazarus as well, for on account of
him many of the Jews were going over to
Jesus and putting their faith in him.
(John 12:9-10, New International Version).
The chief priests were Saducees, who did not believe in
the resurrection (Matthew 22:23). They refused to believe
someone who was raised from the dead, apparently because they
did not believe someone could be raised from the
dead--eyewitnesses' testimony did not matter!
Those who reject God and his Word will become more and
more hard. They will rationalize everything to fit their
choice of belief.
Some future day, Dives would leave the temporary hades
and be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). The
lake of fire is commonly called hell.
On the other hand, Lazarus' faith was in God and his
word. He would later leave the temporary hades and be with
his Lord forever in what is commonly called heaven.
The difference between an eternity in heaven or hell is
the simple choice of accepting Christ as our Savior and
believing in him:
Whoever believes in him [Christ] is not
condemned, but whoever does not believe
stands condemned already because he has
not believed in the name of God's one and
only Son. (John 3:18, New International
GOD REQUIRES THAT WE HAVE FAITH IN HIM.
It is God's will that all people trust in Christ and be
saved. Let us patiently witness to all concerning the
wonderful plan of salvation that our Father has provided
through his Son! END