A Story from Beyond the Grave

Posted: August 13, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 16:19-31, “A Story from Beyond the Grave”

Funerals are almost always somber affairs.  Out of all the many traditional things that are said & done at funerals, one of the most common is this: “If so & so were here, they’d love this…  They’d say this…”  Whether or not it’s true is beside the point.  We imagine it on their behalf, and we’re comforted by the thought.

Out of everything the Bible has to say about life beyond the grave, it gives us just a single example of what a person would say to his loved ones, if given one more chance: the story of the rich man & Lazarus.  Here, we do not have to guess what the rich man would or would not like, or would or would not say – Jesus tells us exactly.  And what He tells us might not be what we would expect.  The most pressing message from our departed loved ones to us has nothing to do with funeral arrangements or clothing, the food, etc.  All they want is one thing: for us to believe the testimony of the gospel!  All of the other stuff (with all due respect) is fluff.  The one thing we can know with absolute certainty that each one of our loved ones would tell us is that 100% of what the Bible says is true…so believe it!

That is the basic message of the story of the rich man & Lazarus.  You’ll notice I said “story” and not “parable,” because (although there is disagreement on this), it does not appear that Jesus told this as a parable.  Many of the normal indicators of a parable (apart from the very basic fact that Jesus tells the story) are simply not here.  (1) The story has no introduction identifying it as a parable.  By itself, this isn’t all that unusual, especially in Luke’s gospel – Luke 15 & 16 contain true parables that begin much the same way as this particular story.  Even so, an introduction would solidify the argument either way, but in this case there’s none.  (2) Parables typically put spiritual lessons into commonplace events.  A sower sows his seed…  A vineyard owner inspects his land…  A farmer hires workers throughout the day…  And so forth.  Again, Luke 15-16 show a similar pattern.  A shepherd seeks a lost sheep – a woman seeks a lost coin – a father waits for his lost sons.  A steward tries to get himself out of trouble, etc.  These are all very relatable events for the common person of 1st century Judea.  Yet in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, there is little “common” about it!  Aside from a contrast between a rich & poor man, the bulk of the story takes place in the afterlife, featuring things that 1st century Jews would have had very little knowledge of.  (3) Parables typically deal not only with generic situations, but generic people.  In this story, two characters are actually named: Lazarus & Abraham.  This alone sets it apart from any parable contained in the gospels, and is not a fact to take lightly.

By themselves, each one of these things might be a bit weak, but put these factors together & things tend to add up.  Thus, it seems better to think of this as an actual historical account, rather than a parable.  This is something that only the Son of God would know, and He encountered a situation with the Pharisees when it became necessary to share it.

This being said, many scholars assume this to be a parable, and it certainly is not a major area of doctrine where there needs to be division.  There is room for disagreement here.  No matter what one’s stance on the matter, it does not affect the main point/moral of the story – virtually the same application is going to be reached, either way you interpret Jesus’ words.  However, if we see this as a historical account, it does mean that we’re not looking for symbolism, or attribute some of the details regarding Hades or Paradise as simply background.  If this is a historical (though supernatural) account, then all aspects of the story are to be received literally.  That’s the difference the recognition of genre makes.  It doesn’t change the main idea, but it certainly affects the details we know of the afterlife.

Of course, none of that makes much of a difference if we don’t see the main point – and the main point of this story is completely wrapped up in its context.  Remember that tensions had been rising between Jesus and the Pharisees.  It wasn’t the first time it had happened, nor would it be the last.  These Pharisees were completely lost, alienated from God, and they were too blind to realize it.  What they did see was a bunch of sinners being received by Jesus (not recognizing themselves as just as sinful), and it caused them to grumble and complain.  Of course, the Pharisees had exactly the same opportunity as everyone else to be received by Jesus and to receive the word of God through Him, but they were unwilling to do so.  Thus, they were missing out on the opportunity to prepare for eternity.  They were too focused upon earthly things, like mammon & wealth, and believed themselves to be self-righteous already, never needing the work of a Savior.  (And they were wrong!)  Thus they ignored the witness of the Law of God regarding sin.  They used the Bible to justify themselves, rather than letting it lead them to Christ.  Even while they taught the Scriptures to others, they ignored the warning against themselves.

Jesus’ response?  He tells the tale of another self-righteous wealthy man who ignored the warnings of the Scriptures.  Like in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” where Ebenezer Scrooge receives a warning from the grave, Jesus gives the account of a different man who wanted to send a warning to his loved ones.  Only the difference is this: (1) the tale Jesus tells is real, and (2) no such warning was given.  Once the man was in the grave, his warning stayed with him.  He, like his family, had all the warning that was needed: in the pages of the Bible.  We have but one opportunity to believe the testimony of the gospel, and it is while we draw breath in this life.  Don’t waste your opportunity!  Believe, while you have the chance!

Luke 16:19–31

  • Living and Dying (19-23)

19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.

  • Although it begins like several of the other parables in Luke, it soon becomes clear this is not a parable.  At the very least, it is very different from any other parable ever spoken by Jesus.  But the beginning is fairly normal.  There is a generic “rich man,” who is incredibly wealthy even by the standards of his day.  To be “clothed in purple” is to say that he was clothed in purple garments.  Purple dye was extraordinarily expensive, made from certain fish & mollusks in the region.  It was so expensive that it became associated with royalty.  For a man to be “clothed in purple” was for him to be dressed as a king.  Not that purple cloth was his only fabric – he was also clothed in “fine linen.”  According to Vincent: “Some of the Egyptian linen was so fine that it was called woven air.”  Thus, it was as fine as silk – if not even more luxurious.  This was a man dressed to the nines – and this was how he lived every day.
  • Beyond what he wore was what he ate.  When Jesus said that he “fared sumptuously every day,” the description is basically that of a holiday feast on a daily basis.  Every dinner was a glorious, splendid meal, and those who ate were merry & glad every time they sat down.  Again, this was royal living – the rich man lived every day as a king in his hometown.
  • BTW – Is Jesus condemning wealth?  Not at all.  Certainly this particular man let his wealth blind his eyes to the needs all around him, as he selfishly lived for himself & his own glory.  But overall, Jesus doesn’t say anything critical about money in & of itself.  Throughout the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament), wealthy people were used by God for His glory.  All the patriarchs were rich men, as were Kings David & Solomon, and if it hadn’t been for a rich man donating his own personal tomb, Jesus’ body would have had anywhere to be buried.  Money is not the problem; the love of money is. (1 Tim 6:10)  Problems arise when we mis-prioritize money, and serve it, rather than God. (Lk 16:13)  Of course, this is what the Pharisees had done (16:14), and this was the primary reason Jesus told them this story.
    • How can we tell if we’ve come to a place where we’re serving money instead of God? (1) When money & the things we can buy are the first things we desire, and (2) when our spending is totally selfish.  If there’s one thing the rich man in the story demonstrates, it’s that he spent his great riches on himself, rather than having an open hand to God, allowing God to direct him on how to spend his money.  Anytime it’s “all about me,” we’ve got a problem.
  • This rich man is contrasted with someone else: Lazarus, vs. 20…

20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

  • First things first – we have a name: “Lazarus.”  The name is not likely to be symbolic, as it was fairly common in the day, being the Latinized version of the Hebrew “Eleazar.”  It is almost certainly not a reference to Jesus’ friend named Lazarus, whom He did actually raise from the dead.  First of all, that particular Lazarus did not seem to be overly poor, as he had a house & a tomb in which he was buried.  Secondly, that Lazarus did come back from the dead – the very thing the Lazarus in this story was not permitted to do.  That being said, it may not be totally unintentional that both men have the same name.  The Pharisees are first warned of their future through the account of this Lazarus, yet it obviously has little effect on them.  How so?  Because later when they actually do see a Lazarus risen from the dead, they don’t believe his testimony, and the priests conspire against him to kill him. (Jn 12:10)
    • That being said, we don’t need to read too much into the name – but we do need to recognize that an actual name is given.  This is in clear contrast to the rich man, although over time, tradition did give him a variety of names. (Dives, “rich” in Latin; Nineveh, via Sahidic mss; Phinehas, in the 4th century.)  Yet the original text is clear: the only name known was that of the poor man, Lazarus.  Whether or not the Pharisees knew of a poor man named Lazarus is irrelevant.  Jesus knew him, and named him specifically.  (Jesus knows your name!)
    • Simply the name itself provides a contrast between the two men.  The rich man who lived as a king among his neighbors is unidentified & anonymous; the impoverished man who had nothing was named by the Lord Jesus.  Which was more exalted in the eyes of the Lord God?  The community may have exalted the rich man, but God Himself is the One who lifted up Lazarus.
      • The most important thing in life is not how many friends you have, or how many people know your name; it’s whether or not your name is written in the Book of Life.  It’s whether or not Jesus knows you as His own.  There are many well-known people (even pastors!) who will one day stand before the Lord Jesus calling to Him for mercy, and He will reply, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”  Jesus knew Lazarus; does He know you? 
  • Not only is there a contrast in the name, but there is a massive contrast in the way the two men lived their lives.  One lived as a king; the other in abject poverty.  Whereas the rich man was dressed in purple & fine linen, Lazarus was dressed in “sores,” so to speak.  Like ancient Job, his body was covered in open wounds, causing him misery day-after-day.  And like Job, Lazarus was also seen by God as righteous, proven by his reception into Paradise.  Suffering in this life is not necessarily tied to our personal sin.  Disease is not indicative of divine punishment; it is simply one more reason to cling to Jesus.
  • Beyond the sores was Lazarus’ treatment by society.  To say that he “was laid at the gate,” is to say that he was thrown to the gate.  He was driven there, or otherwise placed there.  This was not a place Lazarus chose to be; it was the place he was forced to be.  As to why, we aren’t told.  Although our English translations typically label Lazarus as a “beggar,” (which is obvious from the context), technically the word used only refers to his poverty.  The contrast is between the unnamed rich man, and the named poor man.  But again, as to why he was poor, we don’t know.  Perhaps his disease was the reason people cast him away, but he could have developed the sores simply from years of living on the streets in the dust.  It is virtually certain he was not lazy, not wanting to work – that would have been seen as sin, considering God created us to work, and to take basic responsibility for ourselves. 
  • Finally, Lazarus barely lived as a human among men.  Unlike the rich man who feasted every single night, Lazarus was so hungry that all he wanted were the crumbs that fell from the table mere feet away from him.  He scrounged like a dog, with only dogs to keep him company.  In fact, the dogs were his only friends & medicine, as they licked his wounds, keeping out infection.
  • From the perspective of the Pharisees (and most of the people in that culture at the time), it would have been obvious who the hero was…and it wasn’t Lazarus.  To them, those who were rich were supremely blessed by God, having their righteousness affirmed, while those who were poor were being punished by God, receiving their just desserts.
    • This may have been the common thought, but it certainly is not what the Bible teaches.  Yes, sometimes God does bless people with wealth, but God’s blessing is not tied to wealth.  Again, the book of Job demonstrates this – that is actually one of the primary themes!  Sometimes, people just suffer.  Why?  Because we live in a fallen world.  This life is not what it should be – this world is not what God originally created it to be.  Once sin entered the picture, everything changed.  Work became hard, childbirth became painful, and mankind was sentenced to death.  But this is where the beauty of the gospel comes in.  Because of Jesus, everything changes again!  Although we still suffer in this world, all our suffering is limited to this world.  Those who believe in Christ do not have to expect pain & suffering in the future – that is completely removed for us because of the cross and resurrection.  Does God sometimes physically bless us in this life?  Yes.  But in eternity, we have a guarantee of God’s blessing.  The ultimate blessing is being in Christ Jesus!

22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.

  • Both men died, like all men do.  It might seem obvious to us, just as it surely did to the Pharisees, but it’s a fact worth pointing out.  After all, the lives of these men were vastly different, but there is a great leveler in the grave.  All people die.  Riches might delay death, due to surgeries & the best medical care, but riches cannot prevent death.  Apart from those who live to hear the trumpet of Christ & experience the rapture, all people will die.  It is inevitable. 
  • In their death, there is a third contrast: one was honored by men; the other attended to only by the angels.  The rich man “was buried,” meaning that he had a tomb and that his body was attended to by others.  He went through the burial process, just like Jesus would later do after His body was taken down from the cross.  Thus, the rich man’s body would have been packed in spices, wrapped, and carefully laid in a tomb.  As for Lazarus?  Nothing is said.  Most likely, his body was dumped in a common grave.  No human took any care in attending to his body – but he had something far better with the angels!  God cared for Lazarus in a way that none else could, and had him immediately carried away to “Abraham’s bosom.
  • What is “Abraham’s bosom”? This is the only time that the term is used in the Scripture, though the basic concept was likely understood by the Jewish culture at the time to be Paradise.  Recall that Jesus gave a promise of this place to one of the men hanging next to Him on the cross.  Luke 23:42–43, "(42) Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (43) And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”"  This isn’t necessarily what we might typically think of Heaven (a place with streets of gold, etc.), simply because that place is the New Jerusalem, described in Revelation 21.  That place does not appear until after Jesus 2nd Coming & the Millennial Kingdom.  However, Paradise is in the presence of God.  A similar phrase is used one other time: John 1:18, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."  This is where the pre-incarnate Jesus was, and presumably where Abraham, Isaac, and the other Old Testament saints went as well.  The whole concept of being in someone’s “bosom” was that of closeness.  During the Last Supper, the apostle John reclined upon Jesus’ chest (leaned on His bosom), as they sat at the table to eat.  Thus, the idea is of one of peace, comfort, security, relationship, and blessing.
    • Even though this is prior to the resurrection of Jesus, please note that when Lazarus dies, he is immediately in a place of comfort, seemingly right in the presence of God.  Even if our knowledge of Abraham’s bosom/Paradise is a bit sketchy, this is exactly the promise we have as New Testament believers, now that Jesus is risen from the dead.  When we are absent from the body, we are immediately present with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:8)  At our deaths, Christians are never alone, made to wait, nor forgotten – we are immediately in the presence of our Lord & Savior.

23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

  • A fourth contrast: one is in comfort, the other in torment.  Whereas Lazarus was apparently finally able to relax at a table for a meal with Abraham, this time it was the rich man who suffered…and he suffered badly!  He was “in torments” (plural!), and it means exactly what the word implies: severe pain, brought on by torture or other punishment.  It wasn’t the single burn of a flame – it was ongoing, never-ending (as implied by the present-tense).
  • Although the KJV & NIV state that the rich man was in “hell,” this is an inaccurate translation.  The word is literally “Hades,” (ᾅδης) and it is virtually interchangeable with the Hebrew concept of Sheol (the grave). Culturally speaking, the Hebrew understanding of Sheol is that this was where everyone went upon death – both the righteous and the unrighteous.  It was simply the grave, and all went there.  Even Peter speaks of Jesus as having gone to Hades (Sheol) when Peter preached to the people of Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:31)  That being said, there is no doubt that the area of Hades to which the rich man went, was one of absolute torment.  It may not be the future lake of fire, but it no doubt feels the same way.
  • Some have objected to this, pointing this out as one reason to interpret this story as a parable, saying that this description of Hades could not be literal, because it is in view of Paradise.  How could it be that the rich man suffered in this way in this place, and still be able to see Abraham, and even speak to him in this story? How could the rich man see Paradise, being where he was?  Remember a couple of things:
    • First, Jesus is describing Hades & Paradise; not what we typically think of Hell & Heaven in their eternal states (the lake of fire vs. the New Jerusalem).  Neither one of those locations will be used until after Jesus 2nd Coming.  Thus, we have to expect a few things to be different.
    • Even with that in mind, even eternal Hell seems to be in view of Heaven.  Speaking of those who take the mark of Antichrist & worship the Beast, Revelation 14:10–11, "(10) he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (11) And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”"  Notice where the torment takes place: “in the presence of the Lamb.”  The Lord Jesus certainly does not reside in Hell, but it will be in His sight.  As the omnipresent & omniscient God, it cannot be otherwise.
    • How can this be, when Hell is so often described as a place of outer darkness?  Darkness in one location does not preclude light in another.  The curses placed upon Egypt during the Hebrew slavery demonstrate this. (Exo 10)  People in Hades/Tarturus/Hell can still be in suffering & darkness, all while being able to see Paradise/Heaven in the distance.  They will be able to glimpse the things that they miss.  Surely that will be one of the worst parts!
    • Keep in mind, no one has to go there!  Jesus died on the cross for the specific reason to save us from Hell.  Hell was created for the devil & his angels; not for human beings. (Mt 25:41)  We aren’t meant to be there…so don’t go!
  • 1st Request and Answer (24-26)

24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’

  • Being in agonizing torment, the rich man asks for mercy – he asks for Lazarus.  This demonstrates a couple of things.  (1) He recognized Lazarus, knowing him.  It demonstrates that he knew Lazarus in life, although he did nothing to help him.  (2) He remembered Lazarus’ social status, asking Abraham to “send Lazarus” to him as a servant.  It shows that even in torment, nothing in his heart had changed.  The pain he experienced did nothing to transform his character; it was simply justice for what he had done in life.
  • BTW – “flame” seems to mean exactly what it says.  There’s no indication that this is anything but literal.  The fire was the cause of his torment and thirst.  Although it is understandable why some pastors and scholars want to dismiss the idea of a literal place of hellish torment, we do not have the freedom to change the plain meaning of the Bible.  Jesus repeatedly described hell (this part of Hades being included) with this same type of terminology.  It is a place of outer-darkness, of weeping & gnashing of teeth. (Mt 8:12, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30)  It is a place where the worm never dies & the fire is never quenched. (Mk 9:44, 46, 48).  Later, in regards to the lake of fire, it is a place where Satan, Antichrist, the false prophet & presumably all with them “will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev 20:10)  The torments of hell are not invented to “scare” people into obeying the church; they are real descriptions of a real place.
    • Don’t try to explain the torments of hell away; do what it takes not to experience them! As a Christian, let those things drive & motivate you to share the gospel. Help others avoid going there.
  • One other thing: please note that this was all the rich man had.  He was tormented, and that was it.  There is no Purgatory – no chance to work off his sins.  Even though this part of Hades will eventually be emptied into the lake of fire, there is no indication whatsoever that this rich man had any hope of leaving his torments.  He is resigned to eternal suffering, with this being only the beginning.  The Bible gives no indication of Purgatory – no indication of annihilation – no indication of soul sleep – no indication of any of the imaginations of men to make hell less awful than what it is.  Again, don’t reimagine hell; just help people be saved from it.

25 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.

  • A fifth contrast: the lives of the two men had been totally the opposite.  Jesus had given us the description earlier, but Abraham summed it up here.  One had “received good things,” while the other had received “evil things.”  Again – nowhere is wealth condemned.  It was actually a good thing!  What the rich man did with his wealth was the problem.  Lazarus’ poverty, on the other hand, was not considered good.  There was nothing sinful about Lazarus’ condition, but there was certainly sin in how he was treated.  He received nothing but suffering throughout his life – both through the actions of the community, and the inaction of the man in front of whose house he sat.
    • The point: God knew the difference!  None of the rich man’s opulence was unknown, and neither were any of Lazarus’ sufferings ignored.  Abraham knew exactly what each had gone through, which means the he must have learned it from the Lord God. God knows our sufferings! … God also knows our sin. …
  • A sixth contrast: the afterlives of the two men were totally the opposite.  Lazarus was “comforted”; the rich man was “tormented.”  We’ve already looked at this somewhat – but the important point now is that just as the torments were ongoing for the rich man, the comforts were ongoing for Lazarus.  The verb used is one we’re familiar with in regards to the presence of God: παρακαλέω, literally “called alongside,” the noun version being “Paraclete,” a term for the Holy Spirit.  Here, the verb is also in the present tense, showing that it is ongoing, without end.  IOW, Lazarus didn’t only have a nice meal with Abraham & sent on his way; he was continually comforted, always being in the presence of God.  The comforts of heaven last as long as the torments of hell: forever.  As believers, we will always be in the presence of our Lord!
  • Bottom line: what is demonstrated through all of this?  Basically what Jesus had taught earlier: the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. (13:28-30) The person who exalted himself was now humbled, while the person who was humbled was exalted by God. (14:11)  It is the glorious paradox of the gospel, where Jesus lifts up the one who was put down and the expectations of earth are reversed.  The key is simply this: where are seeking your glories – on earth or in heaven?  One is temporary; the other is eternal.  Seek first the kingdom of God!

26 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.’

  • Literally the “great gulf” = mega chasm.  It was impossible to cross!  Once someone dies, it’s too late.  All kinds of chances are given in this life for people to respond to the grace of God through Jesus Christ.  Once this life is over, all opportunities are gone.
  • 2nd Request and Answer (27-31)

27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

  • Most translations say “I beg,” but this is an editorial interpretation rather than a strict translation.  Technically, this could be rendered “I ask/request.”  Translation committees decided on “beg” to the context, but that word is inherently loaded, and might color our view of what the rich man actually said.  There’s no indication that the (formerly) rich man has submitted himself to God or to Abraham – he is still making as many demands in death as he did in life.
  • If he cannot at least receive a drop of water, he asks for a personal warning to be given to his family. Once again, he’s asking that Lazarus be the one to go.  He seems fixated!  Perhaps he was jealous of Lazarus – perhaps he was so stuck in his egotism that he expected Lazarus to serve him.  Either way, it’s interesting that out of all of the people in Paradise, the man could not take his eyes off of Lazarus.  It’s one more demonstration that his heart had not changed.
  • That being said, it was an understandable request.  He wants to warn his family members, so that they don’t suffer the same fate he did.  What he didn’t realize was that a warning had already been given.  Vs. 29…

29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

  • Abraham tells him clearly: they had a warning.  They had the Scriptures.  “Moses and the prophets” is basically shorthand for the entirety of the Old Testament.  What had been given in in the Hebrew Bible was more than enough for people to know how to prepare for eternity.  After all, the whole of the law could be summed up in two commandments: love God, and love others.  This wasn’t just proclaimed by Jesus – this could be known by any of the Jews.  Luke 10:25–28, "(25) And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (26) He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (27) So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (28) And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”"  The Scriptures testify to the goodness of God & to the value of men & women.  Thus, we are to love our Creator, and those He created.  That is evident throughout the pages of the Bible, from Genesis 1, onward.  Abraham was absolutely correct.  Moses & the prophets were more than enough warning to the man’s brothers.  God had given a warning…He had given 39 books! (We have 66!)
  • The man’s response is telling.  In his mind, the Scriptures weren’t good enough.  Even though what was written down were the very words of God – even though what was written was the clear proclamation of God concerning what He expects of men & women…it wasn’t good enough.  It wasn’t enough warning, it wasn’t enough evidence.  In the mind of this man, the things God had provided weren’t enough at all.
    • No matter how much God gives, for some people it’s never enough.
  • There is at least one good thing in the man’s objection (as stubborn as it was): at least he finally understood the need for repentance.  Without a true change of heart & life, his brothers would end up in the same spot he was.  They needed to change their direction in life.  Instead of living for themselves, they needed to live for the glory of God.  Instead of consumption of their lusts, they needed to open their eyes to the people around them that God loved.  But left to their own devices, they were headed straight for eternal torment – just like him – just like the Pharisees – just like all who are self-righteous.
  • In the end, the man’s request & appeal were denied.  Vs. 31…

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.’ ”

  • If Moses & the prophets were not heard, what difference would another miracle make?  Someone hardened to God’s word is going to be hardened to other testimony as well.  In ancient Egypt, one could have hardly received more evidence than Pharaoh.  He saw with his own eyes the hand of God, and his advisors pleaded with him to repent & surrender.  But Pharaoh’s heart was hard, and it cost him his son.  Someone unwilling to believe, won’t believe – no matter how much evidence is placed in front of him/her.
  • Sadly, this point is proved twice over.  When another Lazarus was raised from the dead (which ought to have been an obvious warning to the Pharisees!), they ignored that message.  And when Jesus rose from the dead, they tried to suppress His news as well.  Their hearts were already hardened to the point of no return…and they condemned themselves.
    • Beware a hardened heart!  Listen to the word of God – know the message of the resurrected Jesus!

Conclusion:
Whatever you believe about the genre of the text (parable or narrative), don’t miss the main point: we have only one life in which to respond to the grace of God through Jesus…don’t waste it!  Listen to the warnings of the Scriptures – know what God has revealed of Himself through His word – pay close attention to the gospel of Christ…and respond!  One life – one chance – that is all that is given to us.  Believe!

If you have, then you can do what was impossible for Lazarus: sound the warning.  Just like we have one opportunity to believe, we also have but one life in which we can tell others about Jesus.  Out of all of the things we do in this life, the one thing in eternity we will never think we did too much is to share the gospel.  If anything, as we gaze around in heaven & think about those in hell, we will think we didn’t do it enough.  Obviously you cannot save anyone – you cannot force anyone to believe…don’t put that level of guilt on yourself.  But we can be a witness to others.  We can tell them of the love of Jesus, and His free offer to save them from the horrors of hell.

So what are you doing with your opportunity?  Use it, for the glory of God!

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