The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man Luke 16:19-31 Craig A. Olson
After carefully studying this parable with the Holy Spirit, I have come to a much different conclusion than
that of tradition. The understanding of this parable boils down to one of two things: is it literal, or is it
satire? The more I look at it the more I see what Christ was doing with this story. The thing I cannot get
past is how the pharisees believed in this setting, that they would all be brought to their ancestor
Abraham's side when they die, although it was not taught anywhere in the Bible, or mentioned to this
point! Further study concludes that this belief came from Greek mythology, not the Word of God. I now
believe Jesus used their belief against them in the form of satire.
The Pharisees believed that their Father Abraham was in a Paradise, ready to receive every dying
Pharisee. They believed in this falsehood well before Jesus exposed it in this parable. And they believed
that since Abraham was their descendant, they were automatically included. Jesus blew that theory away
by using this belief against them, turning around the key players as if to say, "if it did go down like this,
YOU would be the one in torment and the beggar would be the one at Abraham's side in paradise." This
paradise Jesus was speaking of was in the minds of the Pharisees and is not Christian doctrine. There is
no Biblical teaching about this paradise, yet the Pharisees and Sadducees believed it. Abraham never
hinted that they would be going to a paradise because of their lineage. Abraham himself is not yet in a
paradise. In fact, Hebrews 11:13 and other passages reveal that Abraham had not yet as of the writing of
the book of Hebrews received the promises God made to him. But he will! The parable of the rich man
and Lazarus, if it really did support the idea that the mind separates from the body, which it doesn't, would
also teach us that dead believers have working eyes, tongues, chests, and fingers: in other words, they
are physically present in two places at once. It also would show that people in Heaven and Hell can
communicate with one another. This would force the Partial Resurrection view to contradict itself,
because on one hand, dead Christians are traditionally assumed to be present in Heaven non bodily; but
here we have them in a paradise bodily. Parables are illustrations or stories, not actual events. One can
use any illustration he wishes to teach a point to those who are actually listening and comprehending.
This did not include the pharisees. However, this does not diminish the validity of any parable. Here
Christ simply borrowed an illustration based on a traditional false belief of the Pharisees: that when they
die, they go to a paradise. Yes, there will be a paradise, but it refers to the Kingdom of God which is a
future event. It will follow the upcoming great tribulation period, will take place on earth, and will last about
1,000 years. With this parable, the Partial Resurrection (traditional) view unknowingly uses the items in
the parable to attempt to prove they will actually occur, completely missing the points of the parable, and
drawing their own unreasonable conclusions. If I used Mohammed as a character while talking with a
Muslim in an illustration about proper scoring of a volleyball game, a Partial Resurrectionist would then
conclude that Mohammed played volleyball. Believers should reject scriptural manipulation such as the
misapplication of the components of a parable, if he is truly seeking to be led by the Spirit. The whole
parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man is written in past tense. But we know people had not yet ascended,
based partly on Christ's statement in John 3:13: "No one has ascended up to heaven, but he that came
down from heaven." Jesus was spiting the Pharisees by using their own old beliefs against them. I believe
Christians should study the meaning of His spite, instead of actually taking on the beliefs of the Pharisees.
Some conclude that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not even a parable. Let's determine
whether it is a parable or not. "Then all the publicans and sinners came to him to hear him speak" (Luke
15:1). Was there a multitude present? Yes. "Jesus spoke all these things to the multitude in parables;
and without a parable he did not speak unto them" (Matthew 13:34). So, Jesus spoke only in parables to
the multitudes. Parable it is.
The clothing and faring of the rich man identified him symbolically with the pharisees. Lazarus was
depicted as a beggar, a description of the Gentiles who laid at the gate of Judah.
At His second coming, the Jews will be saved. At His first, the Gentiles were given the opportunity. The
name Lazarus refers to those Christ has helped, namely the Gentiles.
Also in this parable, Lazarus is shown to have immediately received the promise of eternal life. Yet the
author of Hebrews clearly tells us that Abraham, as well as all the other Old Testament saints, have not
yet received the promises given to them by God. I believe everyone will be resurrected at once, just as
Christ told His disciples, when He comes to get us, on the third day. By saying that the dead in Christ are
now in heaven, one is forced to claim that Christ has already returned millions of times.
The rich man in the parable identifies Abraham as his father, as did the Pharisees. The Jews represented
by the rich man in this parable are in their present state because of their unbelief, which ultimately
manifested itself in the rejection of the Messiah. This parable shows that the punishment and testing they
would undergo would not immediately lead them to Christ. Instead of calling on Him, the rich man calls on
his ancestor Abraham to help ease his suffering!
The fact that the rich man has five brothers is a vital clue to his true symbolic identity. Judah, the direct
ancestor of the Jews, was the son of Jacob through Leah (Gen. 29:35). He had five full-blooded brothers:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, and Zebulun (Gen. 35:23). This detail did not escape the notice of the
Pharisees and scribes to which Jesus was speaking. They thoroughly knew their history and were
extremely proud of their heritage. Jesus wanted those self-righteous Pharisees to know exactly who he
was referring to with this parable.
"And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 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.' " Jesus uses the last two verses of this parable as an amazing prophecy of the Jews' coming
ignorance of His pending resurrection from the dead. The rich man says that although his brothers may
not accept the scriptural evidence for the identity of the Messiah, they will accept the evidence of one who
is raised from the dead. But Abraham in the parable answers and plainly tells him that anyone who rejects
the Bible's teaching about the Messiah will also refuse to acknowledge the evidence of a miraculous
resurrection. This last verse is a sad prophecy about the Jews who, despite God's resurrection of His son
from the power of the grave, have failed to recognize Jesus as the prophesied Messiah.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man, long used by mainstream Christian ministers to teach about
their traditional rendition of hell, really has nothing to say about punishment or reward in the afterlife. I
believe it has been grossly misapplied. Jesus used this story, which fit the common misconception about
life after death in his day, to show the fate that awaited the Jewish nation because of the unbelief and
faithlessness which caused them to reject Him as the Messiah. They still suffer from that fate to this very
day. Yet the time is soon coming when God will pour out on the Jews the Spirit of grace and supplication;
then they will look on Him whom they pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son,
and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn (Zec. 12:10).
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