This study is based on Luke 16:19-31, “19 — There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And 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. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
1. It is important to remember that this is a parable. Many people use this teaching and make it literal. How do we know that this is a parable?
- In verse 19 it says “There was a certain rich man.”
- Normally when it states it like that, it is usually a parable. The characters are ambiguous.
- Luke 14:16
Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
- Luke 15:11
And he said, A certain man had two sons
- Luke 16:1
And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
- Where does Lazarus go when he dies?
- Luke 16:22
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
- He goes into Abraham’s bosom (chest). If everyone that dies goes to Abraham’s bosom, then his bosom must be pretty large!
- Luke 16:22
- So when we read this, we must remember that this is a parable.
2. When a person dies what actually happens?
- Ecclesiastes 9:5-6
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
- They are unconscious, dead, sleeping.
- Throughout scripture, it points out that when a person dies they are simply asleep. That is another study for another time. Please follow this link for a study on that.
3. Who are the three main characters in this parable?
- The rich man, Lazarus and Abraham.
- Where does the rich man go after he dies?
- He goes straight to hell.
- Where does Lazarus go?
- He goes to heaven, to Abraham’s bosom.
4. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. When the rich man is in hell, what happens?
- Luke 16:23-24
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And 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.
- He has a conversation with Abraham and asks Lazarus to dip his finger in water and reach across and cool his tongue.
- Now if you see Lazarus and you’re in hell and it’s hot, you wouldn’t ask just for a drop of water, you’d probably ask for a cup or a bucket!
5. What was the reason that the rich man ended up in hell?
- Luke 16:25
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
- This text seems to suggest that the reason he ended up in hell is because he was rich. But that’s not the situation that was given at the beginning of the parable. Let’s go back there.
- Luke 16:19-21
19 — There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
- The rich man saw that Lazarus the beggar was sitting on the floor of the rich man’s table and he never fed him. He didn’t even give him the crumbs. How do we know? The text says “desiring to be fed with the crumbs.” He wanted the crumbs but never got it.
- So he saw his fellow brother in need but he never helped him. That was the reason why the rich man ended up in hell.
- Note: in this parable we don’t know what Lazarus did and how he ended up in heaven. He is not the focus. It doesn’t mean that every poor person and beggar is going to heaven.
6. What do we understand about the rich and the poor?
- James 2:5
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
- The poor of the world are what? They are rich in faith.
- And in its opposite, if the poor are rich in faith, then the rich are what? They are poor in faith.
- We see that in the world usually. The poor have nothing to cling on to. So it is easier for them to hope for the future immortal life and have a stronger faith, isn’t it?
7. Remember, where does faith come from?
- Romans 10:17
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- Faith comes from the hearing of the word of God. Many times the poor cling on to the word of God because they have nothing else.
8. What do we understand about the rich man’s faith?
- James 2:17
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
- James 2:20
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
- James 2:26
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
- Faith must go with works.
- We know nothing really about Lazarus’ life. We don’t know how he made it to heaven. The parable doesn’t focus on him.
- But the rich man, he was a Christian. How do we know? He knew Abraham and he called him “Father Abraham” (Luke 16:24). So he was a Jew, a Christian.
- The problem with the rich man is he had faith without works. Which means he really didn’t have faith. Because true faith would work.
- He saw the poor man sitting on the floor under his table, or maybe he saw him sitting outside his house everyday but he didn’t do anything to help him. He had no works.
9. The first request from the rich man in hell is that he would be comforted with some cool water. What is his second request?
- Luke 16:27-28
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
- He is asking for Lazarus to be sent back so that he could warn his family about making sure to avoid hell.
- What is the reply of Abraham?
- Luke 16:29
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
- They have Moses and the prophets, it is enough.
- Luke 16:29
10. Why does Abraham talk about Moses and the prophets?
- John 1:17
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
- Moses is connected to the law.
- What about the rest of the prophets? They wrote the rest of the Bible.
- So basically Abraham is saying that they have the Bible. It is more than enough.
11. When you read Moses and the prophets, what will you find?
- John 1:45
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
- You would find the Messiah. You find Jesus!
- If you go back to John 1:17, what did Jesus bring? Grace and truth. It would be enough to be saved because we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8).
12. How does the rich man reply to Abraham in learning that Moses and the prophets is enough?
- Luke 16:30
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
- What is he saying? He is saying that the Bible is not enough for people to believe and to avoid the fires of hell.
- What do they need instead? They need miracles in order to repent. Some sort of supernatural showing that will tickle the senses.
- Do you know that many of us are like that today? The Bible is too boring, and it’s not enough. We need something that will speak to our senses.
- But this is not what changes us. It is not miracles but rather Moses and the prophets.
Do you know why the poor man in the parable is called Lazarus? Because there really was a character in the Bible during Jesus’ day named Lazarus and he really came back from the dead. Jesus was the one that resurrected him. You can read John 11 about it.
13. At the end of the story after Lazarus resurrected, what was the reaction of the chief priests and Pharisees?
- John 11:53
Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
- Miracles are not enough to convince people to live righteously or to change their evil habits. What we need is the writings of the prophets, the Bible.
- Luke 16:31
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
- This is exactly what Abraham said to the rich man.
- People pray for signs sometimes and they still don’t change because signs are not a changing agent. The word of God is.
The rich man asked for water to cool his tongue in hell. Even in hell he wanted a blessing from heaven. But Abraham said no.
We only get one chance in this life. When the rich man died he couldn’t get any blessing from heaven. Don’t let anyone deceive you. You are saved by grace through faith, and where did grace come from? Jesus Christ. The change in your life is the result of your faith. And the only time to build on that faith is when you are alive. Right now, right here while you are living and breathing!
So the challenge that we face today is spending that time with Jesus. Because true faith will work. The rich man was a Christian, he went to church every week. But his faith was not deeply rooted in his life. It wasn’t his priority. We know because of how he treated the poor man under his table.
Today we have Moses and the prophets and even more! Don’t wait for a miracle to base your faith on because at the end of time, miracles will deceive us. Especially when someone comes back from the dead and it is not your loved ones, it is the devil!
Let’s make that time. We must think about it today. Right here, right now. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Even spending time in God’s word is not going to come automatically. How can we re-adjust our schedules to make time for God’s word today? That is the question that we must personally ask ourselves in this coming week. And only we can answer it.