The Expository Files

The Rich Man and Lazarus
Luke 16:22-31

"...So it was that the beggar [Lazarus] 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 did 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.'"

Many people spend a life time wondering what will please God, and yet, they ignore and reject His word. They are looking for a sign or a special feeling, something or someone that will tell them that they are okay. What is worse is that some feel they have received such a sign, but Jesus has made it clear there is no hope without hearing and obeying the word of God. (See: Matthew 4:4; John 6:45; 14:15; 20:31; Romans 10:13-17; 2John 9)

The "rich" man whom Jesus spoke of is in a place of torment. He was a man who did not obey the Lord, even though he had all kinds of opportunities to do so. But Jesus tells us that there is concern on the part of this one who has died without obeying God. There is concern, specifically for those whom he has left alive; those who continue not to do what God wants them to do. He loved his brothers that were left behind, and so he is begging Abraham, "Please, let Lazarus go back, and if this person will rise from the dead and warn them, they will be convinced and they will change their ways; they will repent!"

This "rich" man is in such grieving agony that he knows that he doesn't want his brothers to come there; he doesn't want his brothers to make the same mistake that he did by refusing to obey the Lord.

But in essence, Abraham said that the means by which God has determined that salvation is obtained is powerful enough. Abraham tells him that even if a man were raised from the dead and went back to warn them, they would not be persuaded... "they have Moses and the prophets." In other words, what he is saying is that they have the word of the God! That's what Moses and the prophets delivered; the word of God, and His word is powerful enough! James once gave the exhortation that we need to "receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. And be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:21).

For those who want to be right with God, who don't want to end up eternally separated from God, they must hear what God has said and obey it. There is no other solution. There is no sense in waiting for miracles or signs to happen, or for some sort of special feeling inside. Even if someone could convince themselves of such a thing happening today, the divine principle that Jesus spoke remains true: "if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead."

By John Hagenbuch
 From Expository Files 11.8; August, 2004