The Rich Man And Lazarus
Here our Savior gives us a view beyond the grave. He reveals that bodily death is but introduction to eternity; that the very person separated from the body arrives at either a) Abraham’s side, where he “is comforted,” or b) hell, where he is “in torment,” desiring pity and relief from the agony of the fire, but receiving neither.
These are the props–as real as bushels of wheat, lost coin, or lost sheep in other parables–through which the Savior builds this drama with its three scenes.
As the curtain opens, we see the familiar doorstep where millionaire and mendicant had nothing in common. This first scene is but introduction to the rich man who glutted his appetites, and to Lazarus who could well have desired more than table scraps and needed more than sympathetic kisses from wandering hounds.
Second scene: when God closed the beggar’s time or torment with a merciful release, angels were sent to carry him (note that this is still Lazarus in his death-surviving personal being) to Abraham’s side in heaven. Thus the Savior leaves no doubt that Lazarus was a true son of Abraham, a believer in the Messiah, for he was claimed as such by the God of Abraham.
Then the spotlight shifts to the rich man, who “also died and was buried.” This is not the end of his biography, for here opens the central scene of the quintessential tragedy for any soul–eternal damnation in hell where there is no hound to sympathize, no respite from torment, and heaven is not moved by his begging a drop of moisture easily spared from God’s oceanic supplies; and even when hell’s beggar seeks to prevent the damnation of others like himself, his proposal is turned down as worthless. How tragic! How depressing! How hellish!
Moses And The Prophets
Though rich man and Lazarus had been sharers in life (both Jews; each had the Scriptures available, and God had treated each fair and square), we know their essential difference. The millionaire had a richly-done Bible at his sideboard, but he did not treasure what God offered him (and sustained Lazarus) through Moses and the Prophets. And inasmuch as God’s Word meant nothing personal to him, we understand why he heartily disagreed with Abraham about the effectiveness of the means of grace and why he figured that his ungodly brothers needed stiffer treatment to jolt them into contrition and conviction.
Through the voice of Abraham, our Savior sets the record straight: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” And that’s the end of the story. The curtain closes on the rich man still in hell, the Bible still on the sideboard, the brothers still on earth, and hell’s victim unable to reach them.
No reader can miss the point, big as a barn door. What’s MY attitude about the Bible? Do I treasure what God speaks to me on every page? Am I making good use of this time of grace? And if I find it in my heart to pray God to please do something with a hellbound relative to straighten him/her out before it’s too late . . . well, whom do I expect God to send with His Word?
He lays it on my door step on this side of the grave that I have a privilege which He denies to those on the other side.
So take your Bible off the sideboard and read the text again.
You are on stage for the next scene.
You know the score and have been rehearsed.
God bless your upcoming performance. Amen.
–Paul R. Koch