Q. Can You Please Explain the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?
A. 1. Luke 16:19-25 – “It’s important to notice this is a parable. It is the fifth of a series of parables. (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost boy (Luke 15), and the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-11). Parables are designed to teach great moral principles. Each feature of the parable is not to be taken literally. For example, we do not have wool and four feet like sheep. We are not metal like a silver coin. The question in each parable is what are the great moral lessons. We get in deep trouble if we attempt to take each detail of the parable literally rather than seek the lesson Jesus is trying to teach. Let’s assume that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a literal story. Do people actually have conversations between heaven and hell? Can those in heaven see people burning in hell? Can they hear their screams? Do souls actually have fingers and tongues as described in the parable? Abraham must have a large bosom to contain all the individuals who go there? To take the parable literally is to create huge problems. Heaven would be a terrible place if we held the constant, ever present suffering of our friends. Why did Jesus use this story? What lessons was He trying to teach? The Jews had a common story describing death as passing through a valley of darkness picturing salvation as fleeing to the security of Abraham’s bosom and eternal loss going to destruction. Jesus used this story to teach three lessons. First, the Jews believed riches were a sign of God’s favor and poverty a sign of displeasure. In the story, the rich man who the Jews thought was blessed of God ends up in hell and the poor man in heaven. Jesus reversed the expected outcome.
1. Riches gained by greed, dishonesty or oppressing the poor are not a sign of God’s favor at all.
2. The parable described a great gulf fixed. Jesus clearly communicated that there is no second chance after death. The decision made in life determines our eternal destiny.
3. Jesus points out that if the Pharisee rejected the clear teachings of God’s word regarding salvation, they would also reject such a mighty, supernatural spectacular miracle as one rising from the dead.
The Jews were always asking Jesus for a sign. He gave them the greatest sign. A short while later, He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:11-14, 43, 44). As the result the Jews became threatened and attempted to kill Lazarus (John 12:10). They also became so angry at Jesus – they were so deceived that they plotted to destroy Jesus as well. They had read the Bible with a veil over their eyes. (2 Cor. 3:14-16) They had failed to understand that ‘all the scriptures’ testify of Jesus (John 5:39). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they did not believe. His words in Luke 16:31 were prophetic: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.’ What an appeal! What an urgent warning. Scripture is our final authority. Jesus used a popular Jewish story to illustrate this powerful truth, thus all the Bible harmonizes beautifully.”
The information taken from a book entitled “Studying Together” by Mark Finley, pages 53-54.