This will be my final and most comprehensive look for now at Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus. For those who are new, it has nothing to do with physical death, heaven, or hell. It has everything to do with the promise God made to Abraham, fulfilled in Christ and given to all men, the arriving of which reversed the roles of the spiritually rich and spiritually poor. Anyway, read on and it will make more sense.
Luke 16, NKJV: 22 So it was that the beggar (the Gentiles, those shut out of fellowship with God) died (experienced the ending of the season of the law and prophets at the coming of Christ), and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (began to partake of a new season of spiritual kingdom-seeking, typified by Abraham, whose promised blessing preceded and didn’t relate to law or Israelite ancestry). The rich man (Judah/Jews) also died (both died at the same time – the change in spiritual seasons happened to all simultaneously) and was buried (permanently lost all relevance and authority). Notice: ONLY the rich man was “buried“. 23 And being in torments (testing, affliction) in Hades (the unseen realm, place of blindness, powerlessness, death), he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom (Lazarus, not he, inherited the promises given to Abraham).24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham (Pharisees saw themselves as Abraham’s children because of their bloodline), have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water (get even a tiny amount of Truth) and cool my tongue (undo the effects of his perverse teaching which came from his perverse heart – see here); for I am tormented (literally: sorrowful, grieving) in this flame (intense affliction, purification).’ (Notice: in the old season Lazarus desired crumbs from the rich man, and now the rich man desires just a fingertip of water from Lazarus. There is a great role-reversal). 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son (Judah was Abraham’s great-grandson and the Jews were descendants of Judah), remember that in your lifetime (during the recently-ended season of the law and prophets) you received your good things (their life of “luxury” – the luxury of having opportunity to be a part of God’s people and partake of His covenant and blessings), and likewise Lazarus evil things (his life of spiritual hunger, lack and helplessness); but now (in the new season) he is comforted (desired, invited) and you are tormented (grieving, in anguish, sorrowful, mourning). 26 And besides all this, between us and you (between the season of law and season of fulfillment) there is a great gulf fixed (some say this is representative of the Jordan river, which divided Israel from the Gentiles),2 so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us (the change in seasons is irreversible).’27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house (Judah’s descendants, the Jews), 28 for I have five brothers (Judah had five physical brothers), that he may testify to them (declare the truth of the new season of the kingdom of God through Christ and warn of resisting it), lest they also come to this place of torment (affliction, testing).’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them’ (the law of Moses and the prophets actually pointed to Christ and the new season he would bring, but most Jews were shut out of it because of their religious pride, resulting in hard hearts, blind eyes and deaf ears). 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent (change their perception from natural to spiritual).’ 31 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.’” (Again, their religious pride caused the Jews to be ignorant or openly resist the very thing their precious law and prophets pointed to – the spiritual fulfillment arriving in Jesus Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead).
Jesus made a very telling and important statement immediately before he told this parable:
“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.”
These words, especially regarding marriage and adultery, seem to be out of place. But remember, in the Greek he starts the parable by using the word “now…” meaning the parable continues his previous thought. Therefore, divorce, remarriage and adultery somehow tie in with the ending of the season of the law and prophets and the beginning of the season of spiritual kingdom-seekers. It has to be seen spiritually to make sense.
If marriage is seen as an exclusive covenant of devotion between two parties, then the Jewish religious leaders were very much “married” to the law. With a new season arriving with Jesus, the Jews, particularly the religious leaders, faced a dire problem with two components:
- The only way out of their covenant/marriage to the old season of the law and prophets was for one of the parties to die (either them or the law).
- According to Jesus, it is impossible for the law to fail, or “die.” Therefore, as long as they were alive, those in covenant with the law could not relate to God within the new season of spiritual reality without being adulterers against their covenant of law.
Paul, a former Pharisee, understood and wrote about this predicament, most plainly in Romans 7:1-6:
(ESV) Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions (literally, the “sufferings of sin”) aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
So here’s a rephrase of what Jesus said: “Everyone in covenant with the law commits adultery by pursuing the spiritual kingdom of God outside that law. Also, since God is divorcing and ending the covenant of law in me in favor of a new, better covenant made with all men, from now on anyone who enters into covenant with the law will become an adulterer against the new covenant.” The good news is everyone is free from marriage/covenant with law, which only strengthened sin and death, not because the law passed away or died, but because in Christ we died! Every single one of us. Paul states this many times throughout the scriptures.1 This parable is just an elaboration of this truth, specifically given to the Jewish religious leaders, but very much applying to everyone. Our death with Christ and freedom from law is a very deep subject which I haven’t seen the depths of and won’t try to here, but it’s absolutely at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The question I have is what ends up happening to those (whether Christian or not) who don’t see or refuse to accept their death with Christ, and continue to live their lives? I do believe there will be great sorrow and anguish like the rich man experienced, but I’m not convinced it’s eternally permanent. I don’t fully know, but I don’t want to find out, and I don’t believe those who seek the kingdom need to personally worry about it.
Finally, lets look at Abraham. The name Lazarus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Eliazar.” In the book of Genesis, we learn Eliazar was Abraham’s chief servant, who before Abraham had sons and grandsons was going to inherit Abraham’s estate. Some have pointed out that by helping Abraham’s son find a wife, Eliazar was helping shut himself out from Abraham’s inheritance.2 That just strengthens the interpretation of Lazarus as those who desired God’s kingdom and promises but were shut out until the right season arrived. Lazarus being taken to Abraham’s bosom is the Gentiles, by faith, inheriting the promise made to Abraham’s seed, Christ. These aren’t physical blessings, but spiritual ones. Are you glad about that, or disappointed? The answer to that will tell you a lot about where your heart is. In Galatians 3, Paul wrote extensively about Abraham’s promised blessing superseding Moses’ law, which was only temporary until the fulfillment of that promise. Here’s some pertinent quotes from that chapter:
- “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.”
As convoluted or inadequate as they may be, I hope these blogs have helped you to see Jesus better and to hunger and thirst for God’s kingdom and righteousness on a more authentic and deeper level. Things are far different than most of us who grew up in Christianity have been taught. What God desires (and will get) is a household of sons and daughters with the mind of Christ, who worship in spirit and in truth, who walk in love, and who seek to establish the kingdom of God on earth. Religion may use similar words and make similar statements, but all that religion knows and promotes, be it ever so good and beautiful, comes from their own darkened mind which eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and cannot satisfy or please God. That’s hard to say, but it’s true. God would have us eat of the Tree of Life again, walking with spiritual understanding and no awareness of sin or condemnation (death) which come by law, but with an awareness of life – His spirit, presence and kingdom.
- Colossians 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:14, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6…